Early childhood

Ronald Abels was the by-product of pain, the result of rape. His existence reminded his mother of her pain and struggle she endured. It wounded him, he had no connection with his mother. He carried the pain of rejection he carried in his heart as his grandparents raised him instead. He was always the outcast in the family; the one who was just there. His mother could not look at him as a mother looks at a child. He felt that pain, but he had no idea.

“Where is my father?” he would ask, with no answers.

He never knew his father. He never knew his father was in fact, a rapist. He never understood why his mother called him a loser.

From being bullied to joining a gang

Ronald reflects on his early school years as he says, “from grade 1 til grade 9 I was bullied.” He was pushed around, shoved, mocked. He was tiny and tired of being the kid that got picked on. It was then when he decided he would no longer be labelled a loser, he would become the “best gangster that there can ever be” he says. It was then when he was determined to be the best and no one picked on him again. He was known in the streets; a man not to be messed with.

Inward battles

Imprisoned for armed robbery, he was in Pollsmoor prison three times, those times lasted a few months only. But he had his share of what it was like behind bars. The power that came with being in a gang did not remove the inward struggles of an identity that was loss, rejection and pain .
He saw close friends killed before him. He was busy with drugs such as Tik and it was all he could live for. He found himself homeless and on the streets. His children, out of wedlock, were made fun of by family members because their father lived on the streets.

How he overcame

One day, he decided to go to church. It was then when his life turned around. He walked away from the life he knew for a moment, the life of gangsterism. The pain he endured was healed and restoration began to take place. He was now a man of faith. He started to work at the church and it was there where he found love and acceptance. It was there where he grew.

Story of redemption

Where is Ronald now? He is a happily married man with four kids and has even reconnected with his mother. He is now a missional Pastor at his church and he runs various projects. He goes into schools, teaching them life lessons, telling his story knowing that the life of one boy might be saved through his painful past. He helps set up workshops for wounded women, abused children and the homeless.

Words of hope

Ronald reflects on his story, leaving everyone with this piece of advice: “It’s your life, own it. Own your story. Make it your story, despite of everything you go through, there is always hope at the end of the tunnel.”


Read about one nurse’s journey to reaching her dreams, here

Tell us: What can you learn from Ronald’s story?