SPEAK OUT: STORIES ABOUT THE FUTURE OF INCARCERATED YOUNG MEN.
The Message Enterprise Program (MEP) proudly announces the launch of the inaugural #speakout2016 public speaking event in Drakenstein youth prison.
South Africa’s prisons are notorious for high rates of HIV, overcrowding, abuse, sexual violence and gangsterism. According to South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services (DCS), over 360 000 move in and out of prison per year with 80 percent coming back to prison after being released. Joblessness and poverty, rejection by family members and a lack of rehabilitation projects all hinder ex-offenders from successful reintegration. Upon release, they are pressured by their families to provide for them and when they can’t find an income, many will re-offend through the lucrative opportunities offered by gangsterism and crime.
Come and join our first MEP public speaking event where our very own incarcerated students will deliver powerful speeches from prison. These inspirational talks illustrate the power of transformation and hope and it is something you do not want to miss! These personal accounts encapsulate their transformational lives and lead the audience to engage in a conversation about restoration for our local communities.
The Message Trust In-Prison Program calls on the general public to join this event in Paarl on the 20th August 2016 from 09:00am-12:00pm. Entry to the event is free, but booking is essential. For further information go to our facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1147143668676583/. Drakenstein Prison will host the 2016 edition of Speak Out.
The partnership between The Message Trust and Department of Correctional Service continues to grow from strength to strength as we work to reintegrate ex-offenders back into communities as positive influencers. These young men have gone from being the problem to now becoming the solution.
The Message Trust hope that the event will give these young men the opportunity to use their past experiences and draw out lessons that the audience can learn from and bring a positive impact on the greater society.
KICK24 Soccer event helps raise awareness against gangsterism and crime
The Message Trust and Sports Chaplaincy SCZA teamed up to host a 24-hour soccer event at Ajax Ikamva Grounds from 12pm on Friday 3rd June through to 12pm Saturday June 4th. The objective of the tournament was to raise awareness against gangsterism and crime in our communities, and to showcase both of the charities.
KICK24 got off to a rousing start as the KICK24 ALL STAR team (consisting of professional players and local celebrities) showed The Message Trust team no mercy, trouncing them 15-0! From the moment the tournament started there was a great vibe, with the music pumping and good weather playing its part. 24 hours of adrenaline surged as teams such as Legal Wise, AD Properties, PEP Stores and ASD Cape Town took on the pro team. But the pros were up to the challenge presented by their opponents, with the All Star Team comprising such big name players as Ayanda Patosi (Sporting Lokeren), Travis Graham (Ajax), Ricardo Skippers (Santos FC), Jon Armogam (Vasco Da Gama), Nathan Paulse (Ajax), and many more. The celebs weren’t far off playing like pros themselves, having been joined by the likes of songbird Chad Saaiman and Goodhope FM’s presenter Carl Wastie. The 24 hour FIFA Tournament had everyone buzzing as Cole Alexander from Supersport United took a break from the game to grab a seat and join in on the fun. Kids from all ages gathered around the FIFA area eager for the opportunity to get in on the action.
On the hour, every hour, a fresh team was fired up and ready to do battle with the KICK24 All Star team on the Ajax Ikamva Field. At 1am on Saturday morning, teams from Dunoon township took to the field, and to witness the excitement of all the children as they played through the night was truly heart-warming. Their little faces lit up as they scored goals against The KICK24 team. The Tournament ended 24 hours after it had kicked off, precisely at 12pm on Saturday 4th June. Despite being tired, bruised and worn out, when the KICK24 All Star team were asked if they would do it all again, their unanimous reply was “YES.”
Recently we were privileged to have pastors from the Assemblies of God visit our Message Enterprise Programme (MEP) in Drakenstein. Read below a letter of reflection from Pastor Theo Roman and his experience to our MEP class.
To the Reader,
My name is Theo Roman and I am Pastor of the West Reach Assemblies of God (AOG) Church. I am also a father and a community leader in my residential suburb of Westridge in Mitchells Plain. Having lived on the Cape Flats for many years, I have been exposed to the realities of the societal challenges that plague our communities, and the resultant effect upon families, but particularly upon the youth. I therefore carry a burden for fathers and young people.
I visited the Drakenstein Correctional Facility (DCS) in November of 2015 and again in January this year as a guest of The Message Trust. Our perspective of life inside of the prison is formed mostly from second hand knowledge. Great was my surprise when I came into contact with twenty-seven young men who exude hope and discipline with the vision and resolve to give back to the communities that they once took from.
Listening to their stories, the common vein that runs through each young man is that of fatherlessness and the adverse effect this had upon their lives. Whilst they now take personal accountability for their past actions, one cannot shun the lack of proper mentoring and grooming that contributed to rendering these young men vulnerable.
The Message Entreprise Programme (MEP), coupled with the spiritual emphasis inculcated by The Message Trust, demands of churches and church leaders to embrace these young men prior to their release, and to ensure that they are correctly assimilated into society upon release and thereby break the cycle of re-offending.
My visit afforded me the opportunity to interact with these young men, share the Word of God with them and enjoy the Breaking of Bread as commanded by the Lord Jesus. My observation of them is that there is a sense of genuineness without ignoring the flaws inherent to the process of character formation in their past lives. Whilst it is difficult to overlook these, one is imbued with an enduring hope that should they stay true to the programme, and find themselves accepted within a community of people after their release, it will enhance their healing and restoration.
I believe that in communities where the pervasive culture of gangsterism and violence has caused a rift between fathers and sons, we have a mission field in which the 45 pastors that visited DCS desire to aid in the reconstruction of society and the family unit. The church that I lead, is poised to accept a newly released young man from DCS and the membership have been desensitised against stigmatiszation. We believe that we can make a difference and be a role model to other faith-based institutions.
I wish to reiterate my opening comments, by emphasising that I have a burning desire to be a father to sons who have lost their way in life, a father to sons who have need of a mentor. I’ve also surrounded myself with spiritual fathers with similar convictions, and my daily prayer is to see the hearts of the biological fathers turned back to their own sons, so that together we can restore the laughter and joy on the streets of our communities.
(Chairperson: The Assemblies of God, Association – South Africa)
Meet the newest member of The Message Team Ruan Toua.
Ruan has been employed as our Gangstar Enterprises manager and will oversee all our Gangstar Apprentices and Employees at The Message.
We are excited to welcome him onto the team!
1. Ruan welcome to The Message Trust! Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I have two amazing parents and a younger brother, and grew up in the northern suburbs, Parow. As a family we love camping and have been camping for as long as I can remember. I have always been very technically minded and love gadgets and building just about anything. I grew up in the NG church, and gained a lot of bible knowledge. I love spending my free time playing rugby or squash but mostly spending time in nature doing something that gets my adrenaline going!
The four values of The Message Trust are passion, church, innovation & community.
2.Tell us what you’re passionate about?
To be a Warrior for God. To grow His kingdom.
I have a massive heart for people and have always found people interesting, especially the uniqueness of every individual. I love working with people reaching out to others whether it’s in a group or as an individual. I have a strong background in teambuilding and love to watch the dynamics of a group. Teambuilding is my absolute passion, as I love games and seeing people have fun, learn and overcome obstacles.
I have a great passion for evangelism and outreach, as well as shepherding and developing others to be able to carry over what they have learned. I am involved in a number of ministries such as Straatwerk, Prison Ministry and CBMC (Christian Business Man Connection).
The Lord has laid on my heart to purse unity in South Africa through encouraging one another and mentorship. As the future of South Africa, our youth have a critical role to play in uniting our culturally diverse country. I believe that the diversity of our culture holds the potential of South Africa as our greatest asset. We have a lot of groups doing their own thing but we need to unite in God’s presence and fight the good fight together.
3.Tell us a bit about your church?
Urban Edge in Durbanville is my church community and spiritual anchor. The church has such a powerful vision which is “Connecting people to people and people to God”.
I am part of a Connect Group, and serve often. From the first moment, I have felt absolutely welcome at this church.
4.You mentioned you are from Panorama what does community mean to you?
I have moved around a lot which means that I have developed a broad perspective for community. My church is in Durbanville, Straatwerk is on the streets of Cape Town, CBMC is in Bellville and Kraaifontein, therefore community means “unity” for “the broad circles” I live in, to come together, to develop and thrive for the Kingdom of God. South Africa is my “Community” and I believe in the unity of this amazing country.
.The Message loves developing new innovative ways to reach youth – what was it that specifically attracted you to join The Message team?
Prison ministry; I wasn’t aware that The Message was working in the same prison that I was volunteering at, as a facilitator for the Alpha Coarse (at Drakenstein).
What stood out for me the most was Christ Centered Enterprise, incorporated with the goal of ‘Raising up generations of Urban Heroes’ by the joint effort of the 4 streams in The Message.
As an evangelist you often get faced with the question: “What happens when the Individual in prison gets saved? What type of support does someone that lives in poverty have that can help them grow to become the man that God wants him to be, rather than ‘back-sliding’ due to surrounding peoples influences and circumstances?”
A question that I asked myself so many times has been “What can I do to make a difference? What can I do to create more support for someone that comes out of prison or lives on the streets?”
One thing led to another, (“a chain of unexplainable coincidences”) and the Lord led me to The Message Trust, while I was doing prison ministry with Alpha.
6.If you could say one thing to the youth of South Africa what would you say?
You are the Future! No one can make a difference alone, but with God as our center and guide, together – “we can do this”!
For me, there has always been something captivating about South Africa. Before my trip with The Message, I had visited the country on other occasions and had fallen in love with its people, its landscape, its heartbeat. So when I made the decision to spend three months volunteering with The Message – a charity I also love – in South Africa, I was expectant that I would see a great move of God happening. The trip exceeded my expectations!
The Message SA operates out of a little office space in a business park, which in no way parallels the scale of the charity’s vision. I was immediately welcomed in to the Message SA family as if I had been part of the team since it began. The Message in South Africa follows the pattern of The Message UK, with its unashamed focus on evangelism and the power of Christ to restore but adapted it to be relevant to the culture of Cape Town.
Gangsters to gentlemen
Prison ministry is a major focus here because of the powerful grip of gangsterism on South African society. I had the privilege of attending a session of the Message Entrepreneurial Program in Drakenstein Prison. This is led by Jennifer Belcher, a trained lawyer who has been completely captured by the need of the young inmates in South African prisons and spends her time training them to be entrepreneurs. In this class, the men were discussing their own business models and learning to think like CEOs – they were incredibly articulate and most of what they were talking about was way beyond my knowledge level! I was deeply impressed. Some of the men also stood up and shared about their past experiences and were treated by their inmates with encouragement and respect. There was such a feeling of unity within the room. When they led me around their cell, a small room where around 25 of them stayed, I noticed Bibles neatly tucked under pillows and Hillsong posters on the walls. You can imagine how different this must have been to their previous lives.
I was so happy to meet with the guys again for their graduation ceremony, which happens when they have successfully completed a year on the programme. This was such a joyous event, with plenty of family and friends present in the audience and many sweet old mamas tearing up at the sight of their sons in graduation robes. The most memorable moment for me was when all of the class held hands and sung at the top of their lungs, ‘My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…’ It was so powerful seeing young men who were in true physical bondage, jubilantly proclaiming the freedom they have found in Christ.
What I truly love about The Message is their desire to provide support for these young men once they have been released from prison. This is not only spiritual, but practical help. I became close friends with several of the ex-offender that now work under The Message running small enterprises. These include a clothing range, an ice cream company and a furniture business. It was eye-opening learning about their stories – not only the struggle of township life that led that many of them to make poor decisions, but the fact that some of them used to be South Africa’s most wanted men. I couldn’t connect the violent, dangerous men they told me they were to the softly-spoken gentlemen that I knew them to be. Every time I spoke to them, I felt so proud to be part of an organisation that offered men like this such a radical second chance.
Community up close
A third area that The Message focuses on is community transformation, known as Eden. To me, this was all about restoring hope to communities that had long felt forgotten about. I was part of leading a club called ‘Thursday is Girl’s Day’ where the young girls from the local area were invited to the Eden team leader’s house after school. Instead of wandering the streets or sitting alone in their run-down houses, they were able to find a safe haven to socialise, share their hopes and dreams and make rainbow cookies! This soon turned into a Bible study, which was actually what the girls were most excited about.
Eden also partners with a local church to deliver the most amazing feeding scheme for homeless women and their children, the majority of whom live in the most appalling conditions under a railway bridge. The women collect recycling all week and are then able to trade this in for points to spend on toiletries, clothes and food items. This system is especially effective, because it gives the women a sense of dignity as they have worked hard collecting items all week in order to earn points. It further enables them to choose what is most necessary for them at that particular time, rather than being handed a general package. Even though the actual day of points trading was noisy, messy and absolutely chaotic, it was one of my favourite things to be involved in. I loved seeing the delight and appreciation when these women found a little shirt that perfectly fit their child or their favourite flavour of soup was on offer that day.
A dream come true
I also got a chance to see a childhood dream come true and pretend I was part of the Message South Africa’s first mission band, Kinetic IV. I travelled with them to the rural community of Citrusdal to partner with Hebron Community Project. Here, I saw them perform to 250 unbelievably excited children at Paardekop Primary School and lead a three-hour creative programme. The next day, we opened the doors of Hebron’s community centre to the whole village. Tiny infants, high school kids and grandparents came from far and wide for the time of worship, dancing and prayer. I was able to anoint sweet old ladies with oil and pray for healing, despite my inability to speak a word of their language! After our trip, when reflecting on the impact of this mission to Citrasdal, Neil Hall, the Chairman of Hebron exclaimed, ‘The Valley will never be the same again!’ It was evident that the message of Christ had stirred hope and excitement in so many hearts that weekend, and the villagers felt united to one another in a way they had not experienced before.
A final memory for me that I feel is worth mentioning was taking on the Three Peaks Challenge. As The Message’s annual fundraiser, we challenged ourselves to climb the Three Peaks of Cape Town (Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain) in one day – which is an extremely physically exhausting task. There were around 60 of us that attempted at least one mountain and there was such an incredible team spirit present the whole time. I valued every minute because as I climbed, I was able to learn many people’s personal stories – whether ex-gangsters, the charity’s director or an international volunteer just like me. Everybody pushed themselves to their own limit and we raised much-needed funds in the process. Reaching the top of that last mountain was an experience I will never forget and reminded me that achievements worth having take time, effort and overcoming hurdles.
I am forever changed by my experiences with Message South Africa and I am certain that I will one day return to this country and the people that I love so deeply.
If you would like to do a short missions trip with the Message Trust or a one year internship, please email [email protected]
One of the things we are passionate about at The Message is seeing the chains of crime, gangsterism and unemployment broken in the lives of our youth in Cape Town. We are passionate about sharing Christ’s love with young people and seeing this demonstrated in action. One of the ways we do this is through our prisons work with young people behind bars.
On the 26th of June we hosted a production at the Joseph Stone Theatre in support of our prisons programs. We had over 150 people attend from all over Cape Town. It was an amazing evening where the talented Lauren Hannie and Obed Paatjies performed two shows for the audience. Both shows presented powerful messages that spoke about the chains of gangsterism, crime and abuse.
On the evening we were privileged to have Siviwe Mjongile open the evening with a spoken word that he wrote especially for the event. Siviwe is a graduate from our job readiness class in 2014 and was released in May this year. The biggest surprise of the evening was to have fourteen of our young men from our Message Entrepreneurship Programme (MEP) in Drakenstein youth centre attend and perform “break every chain” for our audience.
God moved powerfully throughout the evening and there was a powerful time of worship and prayer at the end of the event. Our prayer is continuously that Christ will be made known across this city and in the lives of young people who are caught up in the evils of crime and gangs. We truly believe that these chains will and can be broken when young people come to the realization that there is a God who loves them and has a plan for their lives.
We would like to especially thank Lauren and Obed for their willingness to support our work in prisons and for their amazing performances. We would also like to thank the Department of Correctional Services and especially Drakenstein Correctional Management for all their support and providing the security and oversight of the MEP students on the evening. Finally we want to thank our prisons team leader Preston Jongbloed for project managing this event and doing such a fantastic job.
We are hoping to do further productions in the near future, so watch this space!
If you would like to get involved with our Message In Prisons programmes please email us at [email protected]
One of our goals in 2015 was to introduce monthly events to bring together ex-offenders from all over the Cape.
On Saturday 28th March we had 19 ex-offenders come from all over Cape Town to play a soccer match against a Message Trust selected team. The game was a fantastic spectacle and ended up as a 6-6 draw!
We were fortunate to play the match at Ajax Cape Town, which is one of the best facilities in Cape Town. This would of been the best pitch and venue any of our young men have ever played on. We would like to thank Ajax Cape Town management for organising the venue for this event.
What was more important than the score, the venue or the match, was the opportunity to catch up with the young men and have them speak encouragement and truth into each other’s lives. It has been encouraging to see some of the young men find meaningful work and study further.
However, we were reminded of why having a strong aftercare program for offenders is so important. Sadly, we heard some young men share about how hard life was and the many challenges they were facing since being released. Many ex-offenders face the difficulties of finding work, the temptation of going back to crime and adjusting to living again with their families (many who are dysfunctional).
After the match it was encouraging to hear testimonies and from our new Prison Team leader Preston Jongbloed and from Jade, one of our first Message Apprentices, an ex-offender working for the Message. Mark Slessenger also shared with the young men about the importance of making good choices. This included the story of an ex-offender who Mark has worked with and despite efforts to steer him into opportunities of hope, he chose his own path which unfortunately led to his death.
This sad news does not cause us to lose hope or faith but drives us forward to make sure we are doing the best we can to encourage and serve these young men. We have a deep desire for each young man to know Christ and experience the amazing plans he has for their lives. Making the right choice is not always easy. Matthew 7: 13-14 tells us it’s going to be tough: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
It is always our privilege to stand with these young men and to encourage them in their journey out of prison. We are constantly looking to partner with other like-minded organisations and the local church to see these young men come into the full life that Christ Jesus has for them.