We all know that gangsterism is a huge problem in South Africa, as youths fall prey to these dangerous law breakers. One can’t help but ask himself “when will all the killing end”?
Well we might have the answer, yet we want to tell you about Steve Sam a young man who joined the gangs at a very young age. Growing up Steve had the support of both his parents, yet the appeal of the flashy life gangs seemed to have was attractive to him.
Not knowing what he was getting himself into Steve became active in the gang life, looting shooting and doing all kinds of illegal stuff. At the tender age of 16 Steve ended up in prison that was in 2003.
Life in prison for Steve wasn’t easy as he lost both his parents while serving his 22 year sentence. Involved in the gangs still in prison, Steve realized that the life he lived led only to two things, either you die or end up in prison.
An unexpected thing happened in Steve’s life when everything changed. In his room the gangs were ruling but one nighttwo new converts held church for the first time in Drakenstein. As he lay on his bed there was a battle within his heart as he listened to his two roommates hold church in the cell he was in. It was not easy being a high rank in a gang, but he heard a still quiet voice speaking to him and urging him to go and join the church finally he stood up from his bed and joined the church praising and worshipping God for his goodness.
Ever since that day he gave his heart to the Lord and became one of the church leaders in prison. In that time God spoke to him about the state of our gang infested communities and joined the Message Enterprise Program , where he met up with like-minded people to do a gang awareness curriculum.
Last year we saw Steve been released after 14 years of prison. He returns with an idea that can change lives and decrease the gang activity in Cape Town. We are glad to see what God has for this young man. As his passion for the youith takes him to schools where he will work with our “mission in scools team”.
When I was arrested I lost all hope of becoming a law abiding citizen as I knew the implications of having a criminal record. My life was over, or so I thought; actually, my life was only beginning. Little did I know that God had His own plan for my life, and in that moment in my life when I was bereft of hope, He came and saved my life through Christ Jesus my Lord and Saviour. It’s only by His grace that I am where I am today.
My experience in prison wasn’t easy, but because of the Lords love who grants mercy to whomever He wants, I was privileged to study further and achieve my matric in prison with flying colors. Just when I thought I was finished with studying, the Message Trust brought a Job Readiness course into prison, so I joined up to bolster my CV; however, when I enrolled, I experienced God’s favour in an incredible and awesome way. As we extensively explored the cause of the problem in our lives, I was truly blessed to learn that everything that has ever happened in my life had grown from a root that could be pulled out to give way for new seed to be sowed into my life. Through this course I developed a good relationship with the facilitators of the programme. They really demonstrated the love of God in our lives.
In 2015 The Message Trust introduced a new course for us called the Message Enterprise Programme, which dealt with Entrepreneurial skills, Life skills and Spiritual development. It is a year-long course which required me to leave my section and join in a room with other 26 guys with whom I didn’t (yet!) have a relationship or brotherhood with. It was hard at first but when we grasped the vision we saw how powerful the programme was. Not only that but the fact that there is aftercare for when you get out of prison was a bonus because it showed me this organisation was really invested in my long-term development beyond prison. Today I’m on the outside and I still work with The Message Trust SA as a Social Media and Creative Intern and I’m growing in work that I love doing. All thanks to The Message Trust SA.
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@example.com
Look at the nations, watch and be utterly amazed. For I I’m going to do something in your days that you wouldn’t believe, even if you were told.
The Message South Africa hosted our first Academy Team from the UK in March. We were so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet 11 amazing individuals! The Academy consisted of a group of gifted individuals in the arts, who used their gifts not for their own selfish ambition, but to serve and bring glory to God who gifted it to them in the first place. The Academy Team gave 100% of themselves for two weeks. The team would come home at night and be exhausted but they were always in prayer and relying on the Lord to push them through. Even up to the last day of their visit the Lord used them in incredible ways. The team served with The Message Trust in Salt River, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Drakenstein Prison and Pelican Park.
While in Salt River the Academy met a group of 70 people living under a bridge. The joy, love and grace they showed the people of South Africa was beautiful. They beat boxed, shared testimonies, performed songs and spoken words on a daily basis, and were able to reach so many individuals in the town ships and prisons. Something that really stood out was the fact and reality that God makes us strong when we are weak. In 2 Corinthians 12:10 it states, “For the sake of Christ, I am content with weakness, out of old mattresses, bits of burnt wood and plastic sheets. All of which had been saved from when their houses were set on fire. Even with zero income these individuals painted a beautiful picture of joy and beauty amongst a heap of rubbish.
When visiting Nyanga, where we are in the process of establishing an Eden Team, they took part in a church service and was able to go on a prayer walk through the streets. While walking one of the Academy members, Naomi, had the opportunity to speak to a woman. The woman explained to her the crime rates and how there isn’t a week where one family doesn’t get robbed. Another girl said since she could remember she hasn’t had her Christmas presents for longer than a week because they get stolen.
When they visited Khayelitsha, they did different outreaches throughout the area with 14 young men who are involved with City Mission Group. They meet in a room that can only be described as a square tin can in the middle of the township. The Academy Team played music, performed and shared testimonies. At one of the locations they were able to speak with a group of youth aged between 15-20. Eventually a group of 100 school children ran over they visited in the morning, and then the prison actually opened up in the evening for us, which has not occurred in over 13 years. The prisoners listened to their performances for about two hours. They were so grateful for the Academy to spend time with them. When Preston preached that evening we watched 7 men give their lives to Christ and were able to pray for even more. It was an absolutely beautiful experience. The prison became in my eyes a place of freedom that night, not of chains and incarceration.
The last part of the trip the Academy Team spent in Pelican Park. It is a new area in Cape Town and not well known amongst those living in the surrounding areas. It will also be home to the Message’s second Eden Team.
The Academy was involved in their Easter Sunday service, as well as, a concert. They spent the day building relationships with people in the community and handed out flyers to spread the word of the upcoming concert. Over 100 people ended up attending and it was such a great night. At the end of the night there was a response time and children, mothers and friends ended up responding. The moment was magical to say the least.
Having the Academy Team come down from the UK was such a blessing. To see them transform the lives of those around them and watch their lives be transformed at the same time is a perfect example of Christ. Christ is always moving and if that isn’t encouraging I don’t know what is.