I love innovation. Innovation speaks of something that is always moving, changing and being creative. In fact, since we founded The Message Trust South Africa, innovation was evident from the onset! Since we launched in 2014 we have grown from a team of 3 to a team of 26 people and hundreds of volunteers. We have reached tens of thousands of young people through our Creative Mission, Community Transformation and Prison and Enterprise initiatives. We have started bands that use music to share Christ with the hardest to reach young people in Cape Town. We have launched a social enterprise to employ young men out of prison, mainly because no-one wanted to take that risk! We have purchased a home to house young men who need a second chance in life. We have launched a Community Hub in Nyanga, a community dubbed the ‘murder capital’ of South Africa, because we saw the massive potential in the young people we work with. We have launched a football educational programme, creative art outreaches and life skills programmes that are reaching hundreds of young people week in and week out. I could go on and on, but I hope you get my point; The Message Trust is an innovative organisation and we will try anything (within reason..) to reach the most broken and hurting young people with the gospel.
The above is all wonderful, but what is fundamental about being innovative is that we serve an innovative God. We read in the Bible in Genesis that God created the world, everywhere we look in creation we see innovation. God must have had fun when he created Cape Town (where Message SA is based) as we get to gaze at the majestic Table Mountain every day and we are surrounded by both the Indian and Atlantic oceans, which meet together at Cape Point. The wildlife in the Cape is phenomenal as we have all kinds of beautiful creatures from the Cape Cobra to the Eagle to the Great White Shark and the Lion. God’s innovative juices were certainly flowing when it came to this beautiful city!
Innovation runs throughout The Message. Our keynote scripture is from Isaiah 43:18-20
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
God is always doing something new! He is always moving. The scriptures say he never sleeps or slumbers, he is always working things out for our good and calling people to himself. Brokenness and sin is evident all around us. We see it through broken families, abuse in all forms, poverty, violence, gangsterism, crime, disease… we live in a fallen world. So many people feel they are in the wilderness and the wasteland and there is no hope. I can see this evident in the lives of many of the young men we come across in prison. However, God is always doing a new thing! He has made a way in the wilderness, predominately through sending Jesus to die for our sin on the cross, so we could be restored to God. He has chosen his children to bring this Good News to the world and he wants us to follow his example and be innovative.
That’s why, at The Message, we love hiring people who have the apostolic gifting; the pioneers, the ones who think outside the box, who love to start new things, those who will think of new ways to reach the lost. That’s why I personally love being a part of this movement, as we are always thinking and trying new ways to share Christ’s love with young people.
One specific way I have seen this is through our Gangstar Café, a social enterprise that employs young men who come through our prison work in Drakenstein Correctional Youth Facility. Through working in the prisons, we realised that it is virtually impossible for anyone coming out of prison to find employment. Youth unemployment in South Africa is already over 35% and one of the highest in the world. Couple that with a criminal record and you can see how difficult it is for someone to make a success out of life. We saw many of our young men become despondent and some would even fall back into crime because of this. We had to come up with a solution. We knew God wanted these young men to have a second chance and to work, work is good and to have a job is a gift from God. In April 2017, we launched our first Gangstar Café and hired our first barista, Xola. We now have two cafés, two mobile units and employ 5 people. We also have seen how the testimonies of each one of these young men have impacted so many lives through selling coffee…….innovation! God did a new thing that has dramatically impacted the lives of 5 young men out of prison and their families and the many who have met them and heard their stories.
We can only give glory to God for this — we serve an innovative God that is always giving us wisdom and ideas to reach young people. We are far from perfect. Since 2014, we have started new things and they have failed, but I truly believe God wants us to have a go! As long as our hearts are right before him and we have the right motive, which is to reach young people with the good news of Jesus, then we will keep at it and keep being innovative in all we do.
I’m looking forward to the new thing God will be doing through the Message Trust this year and the years to come.
“See I am doing a new thing…do you perceive it?”
Written by Mark Slessenger, The Message Trust SA Deputy CEO