At 14, Sandile was a regular drinker
and smoker, now he is an exemplary soldier for Swaziland’s military
Popularity, getting high and being the strongest quickly took hold as
priorities in Sandile Thwala’s life as he began sniffing glue and
benzene with school friends when he was just nine years old.
However, one typical day in junior high school, Sandile’s plans to drink
beer with his school buddies after school were interrupted when a Christian
preacher visited his class and shared a message that hit Sandile between the
The preacher talked about those who are “useless giants”, and
14-year-old Sandile knew he was one of them, because, he confesses, “I
was violent and naughty in the night clubs and I hit people for no apparent
The preacher then explained that a true man is one who has received
forgiveness and strength from God to help others.
He read from Psalm 23: “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He
restores my soul… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
The writer David, one of Israel’s kings, concludes by saying that
because he has trusted in God “goodness and love will follow me all the
days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Sandile had never heard something so real and promising in his life.
The preacher explained that God will forgive
all our sin if we believe Jesus, God the Son, died on the cross for our sins
and accept Him as King of our life.
Sandile eagerly prayed that prayer, asking Jesus for this to happen.
“I will never forget the day I received
Jesus Christ into my life,” Sandile says.
“After school that day I ran away from my friends because I knew my
friends would have deceived me and convinced me to drink alcohol since I was
the one who had wanted to buy it. As the saying goes, ‘bad friends
corrupt good character’.”
The next big test of Sandile’s relationship with God came seven years
later when he joined the Swazi military.
“The last day before beginning my training, my mother wept vigorously
because she believed the life of a soldier would lead me away from
Sandile admits that the training was tough and challenging, “but I knew
God was beside me at all times and I did finish my training while remaining in
However, serving as a solder at the Swaziland border was an even tougher
He knew he had to respect and obey his fellow soldiers and superiors.
“But if their standards are different to my own, how do I maintain
God’s standard for living?” Sandile pondered.
During a deployment in Mshololo, south of the Kingdom of Swaziland, Sandile
discovered God’s answer while reading his Bible.
“I came across
Ephesians 6, verses 11-18, where a picture of a soldier
is revealed in the Scriptures,” he says.
The passage tells Christians to put on the full spiritual armour of God so
that you can stand your ground against the schemes of the Devil, the enemy of
Stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet
fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, the shield of
faith that extinguishes the flaming arrows of the evil one, the helmet of
salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and
requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the
Christian believers,” the Bible passage finishes.
Sandile continues: “These verses gave me courage and began to understand
that being a soldier was not a sin, but instead I have a ‘double
impact’ because I am a soldier physically and spiritually.
“This is a great advantage for me because I could preach the good news
of Jesus among my military colleagues and sometimes I was invited to preach to
the neighbouring churches around Mshololo.”
Many people came to these churches out of curiosity, Sandile says, because
they had never heard of a Christian soldier before.
“Thank God my life convinced a number of them that a soldier can honour
God in his career and many decided to trust in Jesus as their King and
“I thank God that I still preach about Jesus even today in the army
without shame as God is sustaining my life, He has been faithful to