D. * is 21 years old. For almost two years he sat in the awaiting trial section of Medium A, the Juvenile prison of Pollsmoor. Pollsmoor, which is Cape Town’s huge prison complex, houses about 8,500 prisoners. His charge: jointly committed murder. And it was not his first one. Raised in an impoverished part of Mitchells Plain, a 300,000-strong Coloured township in the south of Cape Town, he has already seen a lot of things in life. He does not speak much about his childhood. Only that he was growing up without a father figure. Together with his drug-addicted and drug selling mother and a younger brother, he lives in a shack in the yard of another small house. Then, at the age of 12, came a big disappointment in his life and his life’s dream shattered. From then on it went downhill. He started taking drugs, dropped out of school and joined a street gang. He committed his first murder at age 14. He then changed to another street gang. Usually this means having to kill one of your own former gang-brothers – after all there shall be no turning back. D. got deeper and deeper into the world of gangsterism, violence, murder, drug trafficking and drug abuse and climbed the ranks as time went on.
Recurring times in prison are part of this life. During imprisonment he also became a member of the 26″ gang, one of the three notorious prison gangs in South Africa (26”, 27” and 28”). Also in the 26” he earned a rank over time. The last two years he has been back in pre-trial detention – a new murder charge. And for two years there has been the uncertainty: Am I going back home or maybe sentenced to 25 years in prison?
And then? We visited him for almost 2 years. And now, after all this time in which we have seen that he, who is inwardly hard as stone, with no interest in God or any desire to change his life, slowly begins to open up. Slowly he starts to reflect on his life and the desire grows to be able to break out of this vicious circle. What consequences his past life and his decisions and acts will have we can leave in God’s hands. We are there to show him the love and the power of God which has raised Jesus from the dead and which still can work in his life as well. So we walk alongside him, accompanying him on his journey to – and with – God, no matter whether outside or for maybe the next 10, 20, … years in prison. After all Jesus did not give up on us either and promises to go with us through thick and thin until the end of our days.
P.S.: By now D. has gotten sentenced to 22 years imprisonment and has been transferred to another prison. But also there we stay in touch and visit him, even if we cannot do that so regularly any more due to the distance. And also there the battle for his heart still rages on. There is more hurt, more hatred to deal with, as his oldest brother was shot dead by his own gang recently. And there is God, who still fights and woos for his heart, waiting with open arms: “Come, … I make all things new…”