You Yi spent much of his youth behind bars. His purpose then was to live a day at a time, waiting to be released from prison, but he now lives each day with excitement - to serve God and His people!
I was raised by my grandmother until I was eleven years old. After I returned to live with my parents and siblings, I had more freedom - and it was then that I began to pick up bad habits such as smoking, from the neighbourhood boys. At the same time, some other boys began to bully me. After being a target of this bullying for a few months, I finally decided that I should not be a victim any longer. And so, my next step was to join a secret society. This group offered me protection and this was the beginning of my downward spiral of depravity, which eventually led me to becoming a drug addict.
At thirteen years old, I was arrested and charged as an armed robber, ending up at a boys’ home. This meant that while I was given the freedom to continue my studies, I was also under the strict supervision of the hostel guardians. Instead of becoming a better person from the discipline enforced, the home became a haven where vices abounded. I learnt about other criminal activities from the boys there and got myself into more trouble as I sought to follow in the footsteps of my peers.
When I was released from the hostel, I began experimenting with more varieties of drugs until I was eighteen years old, when it was time for me to be enlisted into National Service. However, army life did not change me - I continued using drugs, and would often be absent without official leave (AWOL). Consequently, I was sentenced to the Detention Barracks four times – and took a total of four years to finish my National Service.
I continued committing various offences even after I entered the workforce, and I was charged for causing hurt, drug possession and cheating. I also began taking “hard” drugs, some of which were life threatening - two of my friends even had fingers and legs amputated because of the effects of these drugs. I was dealt several prison sentences, and each time I went in, I simply lived a day at a time, until my release.
During one of my prison sentences in 2006, I met a fellow prisoner whom I had once sold drugs to. Due to the consumption of these drugs and side effects, his leg had to be amputated. Despite this, he did not blame me but instead, passed me a small bible which contained the four Gospels. He then invited me to join the group he was meeting with for fellowship and weekend chapel services.
I agreed, mainly because it was much more enjoyable meeting other people than being confined to my cell. Another reason I often joke about was that we never saw any women in prison, and there were actually women to be seen in the Alpha videos!
During the first session, I felt strangely moved during the time of worship. I continued to attend the chapel services and as time went on, began to be more open and share my thoughts and feelings with the group. At Alpha, we also learned how to pray. While I was not entirely convinced that this “worked”, I was surprised that some of my prayers were actually answered.
I once got into an argument with a senior inmate with whom I was working in the kitchen. While we did not get into a physical fight, I was fearful of what might happen the next day. I wondered if he would attack and possibly kill me with a kitchen knife. That night, unable to sleep, I prayed, “God please turn things around. I don’t want to be killed, and I don’t want to continue being in here because of another offence committed while in prison.”.
The next day, I was working in the kitchen with this man, but strangely, he did not attack me! Instead, he talked to me in a very gentle, patient way. I thought, “This is impossible!”. Right then, I remembered my prayer – itmust have been answered – and this must indeed be a real God!
While I slowly began to believe in God, I remained a self-centred person. After my release from prison, I secured a job and did well, eventually receiving a promotion and began to manage a small team. I would spend time talking with my staff, and also bring them out for drinks. However, my old vices, one by one - began to return. One day, while out with my colleagues, I started a fight that left me unconscious and landed me in hospital. When I next opened my eyes, I was on a hospital bed, with wounds inflicted by glass bottles. My brother was by my bedside, but informed me that my parents were too disappointed with me to visit. The doctor gave me painkillers to cope with the pain, but once I was discharged from the hospital, continued taking drugs. Eventually I overdosed, collapsing at work. As I recovered I asked myself, “Why have I gone down this same path, yet again?”.
That was my first struggle and first fall after accepting Jesus into my life. The difference this time was that in the past, I used to fear nothing except death, I now feared nothing except God. This fear struck my conscience, and I was driven to tears. Prior to this, I had only cried in my younger years when my grandmother scolded me, or when I experienced a break up with a girlfriend.
However this time, God’s love melted away the deep pain in my heart and I broke down, resolving to recommit my life to God.
I had been sentenced to prison again because of the fight, but decided that I would use my time there to share the gospel with the friends I had met during my previous incarcerations. I requested prayer from my Christian friends andcontinued going to chapel, keeping my focus on God and praying every night, asking Him to help me not to revert to my “old self”. This time, although I was behind bars yet again, I felt a freedom that I had not experienced previously.
After my release from prison, I told my parents that a halfway house would be a better place for me to live, in order to bring some discipline to my life. During my time at Breakthrough Missions, I joined an Alpha group and once again experienced peace and joy as I spent time with the Christian community there.
Since completing the rehabilitation program at the halfway house, I have re-entered the workforce, and was offered a new job in a managerial position. In my personal life, I enjoy learning and recently completed a one year Bible Study Programme. Currently, I am attending the Bible study Foundations course (BSF). In order to “give back” to the people who once helped me, I began volunteering at Breakthrough Missions, helping to run Alpha. While I am still a work in progress, I believe that God is constantly moulding me to be a better man each new day. I do continue to face struggles at work and in ministry, but in times of difficulties I know that my God is always with me - and I pray that He will continue to use me for His purposes!