Rediscovering life

Jonas Hallberg, who turned 32 this December, grew up in Rissne in Sundbyberg. He was a bit of a troublemaker at school, letting his emotions get the best of him, which soon resulted in fights and bullying.

- 'I've brooded a lot all my life, I was an introvert and therefore felt bad,' he describes growing up. The emptiness inside was palpable: 'Almost like being dead'.

- The body was alive, but it was like I was imitating life. I put on masks to hide the anxiety inside," he clarifies.

When Jonas was 12, his father died of a heart condition. He became even more introverted and alone with his thoughts. 

- My mother has always done everything she could, but to this day I don't remember what it's like to have a father. I don't remember that feeling.

What then opened the door to the abyss was drugs.

- The first time I drank alcohol, a whole new world opened up. I experienced the rush and asked myself: is this what life is like? 

The same treacherous feeling came up every time he tried harder and harder drugs, leading him deeper into addiction. 

Criminality came as a bolt from the blue. Jonas began to associate with more unruly people and had difficulty with empathy. Shoplifting, theft and fraud became the solution as he developed habits he couldn't afford.

- I had lost my apartment and was homeless when I received my first prison sentence - two months for drug possession," says Jonas. 

He was then arrested and remanded in custody for further offenses just before serving his prison sentence and was expecting 3-4 years in prison. Somehow, Jonas was instead given contractual care with 1.5 years of probation, including seven months at the Hatten treatment center.

- On the first day, a therapist named Mesut said: "This is your home now". I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, even though I had no plans to get saved or live a functional life. I didn't think I was capable, even though I had a small idea of trying the twelve points of the twelve-step program.

In late summer 2021, Jonas was invited to Heart Stockholm by a friend.

- When I entered the Folkkunga Church, I met this power described in the twelve-step program that is stronger than myself. I could almost touch it, but I didn't realize it was God. It was like a nice feeling of home, like finding home. Sebastian Stakset preached and Betz Assafa met him at the door.

- I thought it was strange how happy he was.

Jonas continued to go to Heart Stockholm meetings and during a service in September 2021, Börje Dahlqvist from LP preached, who at the end of the meeting said: "If you want this, come forward so we can pray for you".

- Suddenly I was standing at the front where Betz met me and said: 'Here is my phone number, we are doing this trip together'.

The next day, Jonas had panic attacks, felt very scared and everything felt fake. He thought about himself: "Do you think you're a church guy now?"

- For two months I tried to deal with the situation, with panic, anger and fear. Then came a meeting at Heart Stockholm where Betz Assefa talked about handing over your whole heart. After the sermon, he invited those who wanted to surrender everything to take the final step.

- I walked forward, got down on my knees and when I stood up, the anxiety, darkness, emptiness and lies were gone. I no longer had shaky legs. I knew then that I was saved," says Jonas. 

- It has been a journey. Not everything has been easy after this moment. I've had to learn to discover life anew, it's a whole new world that opens up. Many times things have gone wrong and I wouldn't have made it without the friends I have. Today, Betz is like a big brother and one of my best friends who has helped me a lot.

Jonas has since attended Bible school and now encourages others to get to know Jesus seriously.

- No matter what you feel or think you know about life, there is a God who loves you and a loving Father just waiting for you to come home. It's real, in Jesus there is real life. My life has taken on a whole new meaning," Jonas concludes.   

Text: Ruben Agnarsson Photo: Rickard L Eriksson

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