Since 2013 our vision has been to travel around the Cape Flats gang areas in a double decker bus, kitted out as a mobile youth and church centre. This August, after about a year of repairs and renovating, with many setbacks and delays on the way, it was finally time to kick off the project in Manenberg.
Manenberg is home to around 52,000 people and one of the most notorious areas for gangs, drugs and all the issues associated with them. Shootings between street gangs and the police are commonplace, with many people killed over the past few weeks. Manenberg is the place where we believe God wants us to start our new ministry.
It wasn’t a smooth start. As we were about to drive into Manenberg, we got a message from just a few hundred metres away, advising us not to come because the shooting in the area was so bad. Should we cancel and go back to our “safe haven”, or take a leap of faith and trust that God would go before us? After all, we wanted God to reveal himself and change the people carrying those weapons.
As a team we felt that we should continue and go into Manenberg despite the shooting – but that we should go in with prayer and worship. So first we drove up and down Manenberg’s main street playing out the song “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain” through the loudspeakers. The passers-by were a little surprised, but also glad to see us.
We parked on the pavement in an area right on the border between two enemy gangs and although the generator (which powers all our electrical equipment) packed in a few minutes later, we made the best of it and started to talk to the people around us. After all, the main thing isn’t music, coffee or a special programme, but the relationship between God and these people. There are lots of hurting and broken people living there who need Jesus’ truth and love so that they can be set free and can become an anchor of stability in their unstable environment. Although we could hear gunshots nearby, people stayed calm and continued to talk to us, instead of seeking shelter in their homes. We could really feel God’s peace there.
For the past few weeks we have been going to Manenberg twice a week, spending time with lots of excited children, some of whom haven’t been to school for ten years, with mums and their babies, with gang members and with drug addicts, showing them God’s love. And even if our generator doesn’t always work, it is really good to be there.
Our team prayed for one woman who had been in pain for years due to a broken hip. Afterwards the pain disappeared completely. Some people actively started to seek God, while others asked for prayer. There is a tangible hunger for hope in a place filled with hopelessness. In a few weeks’ time we will start a drugs course and later some other programmes too. And in all this we give thanks to God for everything that He is doing!