I carried a knife around to rob people
Peer pressure drove Akhona to drinking and smoking when he was in high school. In grade eight, Akhona became involved in bad company where he did everything his friends did, because he wanted to fit in.
"I saved my lunch money to contribute when my friends bought alcohol. We went to night clubs and I came back home late at night. My mother complained about my drinking habit and late arrivals, but I was not bothered," said Akhona.
It only took Akhona six months to become addicted to alcohol and cigarettes.
"My lunch money was too little to feed my addiction. Together with my friends, we robbed people of their personal belongings and sold them to get alcohol money. I carried a knife wherever I went because I used it to threaten people before robbing them of their cell phones and money. We also broke into houses that we knew were not occupied and stole electrical appliances that we sold. We sometimes found our victims in the taverns where we drank," he said.
Unable to strike a balance between his studies and criminal activities, Akhona failed grade 11 because he sometimes bunked classes and went out drinking. In 2010 Akhona was able to complete his matric and enrolled for a course in civil engineering three years later.
The arrest of his friend after a botched house-breaking incident challenged Akhona to change his life.
"On that fateful day, I decided to stay home with my family while my friends went out to break into houses. Somebody saw them and called the police who arrested one and the other fled from the scene. I realised that the kind of life I lived was either going to land me in jail or the grave. I made up my mind that I was not going to rob anyone or break into houses anymore," said Akhona.
He was able to give up his criminal activities, but found it difficult to stop drinking and smoking.
When he was invited to the Universal Church in 2014, Akhona did not waste time but went to church immediately. He took part in the chain of prayers for his deliverance from alcohol and cigarettes.
"I stopped going out with my old friends and made new friends in the Youth Group at church. I applied the teachings of the church in my daily life. After six months in the church, I was able to quit alcohol and cigarettes. Last year I completed the course I was studying and I am now doing my internship. I realised that the only person I needed to belong to was God and I committed my life to Him. I now respect my mother because she knows what is good for me as her child. I stopped going to night clubs and I now use my time to develop my spiritual life by reading the Bible. There is no better place to be than in the presence of God," said Akhona.