The home into which Martin was born was a dysfunctional one, with his mother running a tavern from the family residence and his father in jail. Over the next few years this shoplifting escalated to housebreaking and mugging. Martin speaks about how he grew up around violence and saw that it was only the local gangsters rising above their circumstances, that kind of lifestyle being his only way out. A series of events unfolded that culminated in Martin being sentenced to six years in Leeuwkop prison, where Martin’s life would take a dramatic turn.
Having only ever attended church three or four times in his life, usually in the hopes of meeting women, he says, he found himself invited to Alpha in the prison where he was serving his time. After resisting at first, he found out that meals were served at every meeting, and he decided to go along. He describes how up until this point his life had felt devoid of love and he had given up on the idea of love. Alpha shocked him. Inside that prison, Martin says he discovered the love of God, and through the person of Jesus, he felt and experienced real love for the first time in his life.
The Alpha booklet was his first introduction to the Word of God. Prior to this, he had never owned or even read the Bible, but he says that at Alpha he received a foundation for the future and opportunities to ask questions and feel free. For the remainder of his sentence Martin assisted with the running of Alpha in the prison, and he even began to preach regularly to other inmates and at the prison chapel.
Upon his release Martin connected with a local pastor who recognised the passion and desire for God. He now runs his own business, regularly gets to travel and share his testimony, and is in the process of setting up his own ministry for other young men who have grown up in difficult circumstances. An invitation for a free meal ended up being an experience that has altered his life forever. Going to the difficult places and answering Jesus’ call to visit those in prison, Martin now lives a new life. As he reminds people constantly, from those who are forgiven much, much is required (Luke 12:48). ●