When one of our #Stayers, Madeleine Cupido, told us how both she and her husband, John, had recovered from Covid-19, she also expressed her great love and admiration for her once drug-addicted, now Pastor husband.  Right away we knew we had to hear more about this couple’s story, and we’re so glad we did.  This is truly a story of transformation, of determination, and of seeing the good in one another. 

Tell us a bit about John’s background – where he grew up and how he got into drugs.

John grew up in Bishop Lavis, Western Cape, a gang-infested area where teenage boys are often recruited by gangs and used as drug mules.

In 1999 he met up with the wrong friends who introduced him to the drug crystal meth (Tik/Ice).  They used the drug in a big light bulb and sold it in a straw, but today it’s much more advanced in packaging and distributing. It seems more legalized as it freely moves on the streets.  

What about your own story – how did you meet John? What got you to that point in your life?

Growing up I faced a lot of challenges. I grew up in a broken home. My parents got divorced and my mom got married again. I started drinking after my matric year, became rebellious, met wrong friends and things just went wrong.

One day, after I had an argument with my step-sister, my step-dad and my mom said I must leave. I moved to Bishop Lavis where my brother lived. Since I didn’t have a job I was responsible for taking and picking up my nephew and niece from school. It was there that I saw John and we started talking, and eventually we started a relationship. After a few months I found out that John was on drugs and into gangsterism. Somehow I still felt attracted to him and knew there was a good inside of him. There’s good in everyone. 

What was it about John that made you realize there was more potential, that he had so much to offer if he could just get free from the drugs?

John had goals for us for the future. This told me that change was going to take place, and it would be a change for the good. He had a healthy future planned out for us even though he was on drugs. He always used to ask me if I would stick by him if he got converted, and that’s what I wanted because we both came out of homes where our family had been converted to Christianity.

You broke up for a while but got back together and eventually married. Do you use your journey and difficulties to help counsel others in similar places?

Yes, we do counselling sessions with couples going into marriage, and those that are already married. And we even counsel people that are on drugs. At the moment we have a Covid Support group as well where we support people that are infected with Covid.

John is now a Pastor. How did he decide to take that path after all he had gone through?

John has been called by God. At first he denied it, but eventually after all the prophecies he had to submit under God’s calling.

When were you diagnosed with Covid?  Do you know how you contracted it?

We were tested positive on the 2 May 2020. John, being an essential worker and working during lockdown, we assume that’s how he could have contracted the virus, plus we live in a community where the virus has spread significantly.

What were your symptoms and how did you manage to take care of your family while you were both sick.
We had migraine headaches, our bodies were extremely sore and we had a lack of appetite.  We also lost our sense taste and smell.

Before I was admitted into hospital I took care of the kids and also John while he was sick. Then, as soon as he got better, I got very sick and had to be admitted into ICU for 2 weeks. During that time John took care of the kids, even though he was still recovering.

How long were you sick?  Do you still have some lingering symptoms?

After being in hospital for 2 weeks then discharged, I had to isolate again for 14 days at my mother-in-law’s place.  

I do still have some symptoms, such as lack of sleep, diarrhea, emotional breakdowns and panic attacks due to my lungs being damaged. It’s a battle to move around like I used to.

If you could give a message to anyone fearing this virus, or to those not taking it seriously, what would that be?

To those infected with the virus just trust in God, put your faith in him as our healer. Without him we can’t make it. Rest a lot, and stay positive.

Those that don’t believe in the seriousness of this virus: You will only realize the seriousness once it hits home.

John and Madeleine are an example to so many in their community of commitment, compassion, and of caring for one another in sickness and in health.  They impact many lives through their counselling, and are role models to those who cross their paths.

From all of us at #ImStaying we say ‘thank you’ – thank you for putting yourselves on the frontlines of an area confronted with many of the issues which threaten to destroy our country – drugs, the disintigration of families, gangsterism, poverty, and now the fear of a pandemic.

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