Mario Rousseau, ex-gangster and former prisoner, comes from a history of murder and violence.
Since a young teen in Bonteheuwel, or Bontas, as it is better known by its community, he has been involved in gang activities. He worked his way up to become part of the 26s and eventually earned the name “The Killer”, tattooed in his neck.
He relates how difficult it was to stand as a Christian for the first time, as the gangsters questioned his identity after his salvation.: “At first, I doubted. I could say I am a gangster…or I could say I’m a child of God and then they will give me ‘pak’ (punish him with violence).
“Previously, I was willing to lose my life for the gangs, but now I am willing to lose my life for Christ.”
He shares the taunts he faced from them, saying he will be back with the gangs soon. However, slowly but surely they started gaining respect for him because he was honest and upright. Mario believes this also paved the way for him to lead others to salvation.
“Sometimes when you start standing for your faith…people looks at the genuineness of your heart to see: ‘Are you for real?’ Once they see you are for real, only then, they will begin to trust you…and say we also want what you have.”
He feels surrender should not be seen as weakness, but that things only start making sense “when you put that white flag up and say now I surrender my life”.
On the topic of backsliding, he encourages anyone who feels like they have gone off-track to run to God immediately and put their sin in the past. The mistake would be to carry the guilt, and the previous things into your relationship with God, rather than leaving it behind.
“It’s not about how many times you fall down, but about how many times you get up,” Mario says.
He explains the importance of forgiveness as a liberating necessity which enabled his life to truly turn around. Unforgiveness keeps you imprisoned.
“To me it is one of the most crucial things after your conversion,” Mario says.
Identity is something which should be affirmed in Christ and not sought in your past, he firmly states. It is not about that which people says of you, but about what the Word says about who He knows you are.
Spending time with God is more important than doing things for God, he continues. “God created human beings. He didn’t create human doings.” Too many people are used to earn things with a performance mentality, which does not apply to God’s grace.
“Wherever you are…enjoy God in that moment.”
“God says, just be like a Mary and forget about the Martha mentality and be because that is where you are going to be enriched in your journey with God. Just come and spend time with Him, that will strengthen your journey wherever you are.”