For two weeks in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa, 15 Christians who God called from different parts of the United States through Believers World Outreach, linked arms with The Message Trust in the work that God is doing through them.
During our time serving with The Message, they put together a wonderful programme whereby we were able to serve alongside their Eden teams in the communities of Nyanga, Woodstock, and Pelican Park. Through an optical clinic we conducted in these areas, nearly 700 people were provided with free eye examinations and spectacles. We also ran a vacation bible school where children heard the Gospel message. We had the opportunity to minister at youth events where some teens accepted Christ for the first time, while other re-dedicated their lives to Him to be the author of their story.
Lastly, we participated in a day at Drakenstein prison with the Message Enterprise Programme, witnessing how prisoners are being transformed into mighty men of God who will lead their generation. Their freedom has brought liberty in our own lives; and their hope for the future inspires us to similarly persevere in hope.
During the two weeks, we witnessed the deep growth of discipleship in these communities and within the prison walls. The Message Trust is impacting this generation of young people, which is not only helping to transform their country, but has also ignited a fire in our hearts to bring this impact back to the U.S.A.
This experience has been so powerful and has changed our hearts forever. Having seen it with our own eyes, we are convinced that there is an expansive work of God happening through The Message! Heaven’s doors are opening wide and many are running to His open arms. We are so honoured to be a part of God’s great work. Until next year my friends!
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)
The organisation has existed for two years, assisting youth out of prison and gangs with job-training, mentorship and entrepreneurial support. GANGSTAR ENTERPRISES is a registered PTY Limited Company which is owned by The Message Trust South Africa (NPO) an organisation established in 2014 which is a Christ based organisation, which exists to raise up generations of Urban Heroes.
The launch which took place yesterday 31st March 2016 at Artscape, was to enlighten the public about GANGSTAR ENTERPRISES and all its initiatives. This year’s Artscape Spiritual Festival theme recognised the problem that many poor socio-economic communities face. GANGSTAR ENTERPRISES believes that all ex-offenders have the potential to go from being a problem in society to becoming the solution. The event was attended by business leaders, media personalities, government officials and the general public.
GANGSTAR ENTERPRISES main objective is to provide employment opportunities for GANGSTARs who have graduated through the Message Enterprise Program. We currently run three businesses:
·The Soft Machine: a gourmet soft serve food truck made from a reclaimed caravan
·GANGSTAR FURNITURE – furniture from redeemed wood/materials
·GANGSTAR GEAR – youth orientated socially conscience street wear
We are excited to collaborate and partner with like-minded entities.
Over 450 people attended our third annual Vision Night banquet hosted at Jubilee Community Church. Through the amazing cooperation of the Department of Correctional Services, 21 students from our in-prison Message Enterprise Programme (MEP) were among the guests. Angus Buchan, our key note speaker, had been into the prison earlier that day and shared the Gospel with around 300 offenders, as well as spending some time with the MEP class. “When I look at these young men I have hope for the future of our country… they’ve got fire in their eyes!” he told the Vision Night guests.
Vision Night provides The Message with an opportunity to share stories of what God is doing through the organisation, as well as show appreciation for our partners and supporters.
KineticIV kicked off the evening giving the audience a taste of how they share the Gospel with young people in schools and youth groups across the city. Following Uncle Angus’ inspirational address, Tim Tucker (Message SA CEO) shared about our goals to empower young people, equip the church, eradicate gangsterism and expand into Africa. “We want to see young people become role models, build strong Christian families, become constructive and positive citizens, and be empowered to shape the future.”
Chumani Ndzala gave insight into what this looks like in reality. He works in one of Message’s micro-enterprises – Gangstar Furniture. “My job reminds me of my life. I turn old wood into beautiful products… the things people cast off as rubbish, still have amazing potential. And that is what God has done with my life.”
The evening culminated in a powerful and emotional performance by the MEP students who led the guests in two worship songs. Many in the audience were in tears as they witnessed first-hand the transforming power of the Gospel in the lives of the young men.
Message UK CEO, Andy Hawthorne, closed the evening with a rousing challenge to support The Message and partner in raising up generations of urban heroes.
ON THE 25TH OF FEBRUARY 2016 THE MESSAGE TRUST HELD IT’S THIRD ANNUAL VISION NIGHT. THE MESSAGE TRUST VISION NIGHT IS A YEARLY EVENT THAT SHARES STORIES AND UPDATES OF WHAT GOD IS DOING THROUGH THE ORGANISATION. ONE OF THE BIGGEST JOYS OF THIS YEAR’S EVENT WAS HAVING 21 STUDENTS FROM OUR MEP CLASS COME TO THE VISION NIGHT. OUR STUDENTS PERFORMED TWO SONGS WHICH DEEPLY MOVED OUR GUESTS ON THE EVENING. ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT WAS HAVING ONE OF OUR STUDENTS CLINTON LE ROE AS THE MASTER OF CEREMONIES (MC) FOR THE EVENT.
HERE IS HIS EXPERIENCE OF VISION NIGHT IN HIS OWN WORDS:
“The man who fails, to fail, to failure, stands up and embarks on the journey of a thousand miles. On vision night I felt as if I reached my destination and stepped into my future. It was all playing out before my very eyes, many people listening to me, the guy with the mic. Never before have I been received by such a great audience as the guests who were at vision night. It was my first time to play the role of MC to such a large group of people. All I could see on the night was a dream coming true and despite my current status (of being a prisoner) I was not shaken or moved by fear, I accepted the challenge and faced every listener. It was an opportunity to show case the potential and gift God has placed in me.
I was humbled to be placed on such a platform receiving the respect of so many big names and people from abroad. One of my biggest highlights was being able to share the stage with Angus Buchan and knowing that my mentors at The Message Trust had my back.
The Message Trust has become my window of opportunity and given me a second chance to rectify my wrongs. I am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of Vision Night and what God allows me to step into, it’s shows his amazing favour upon my life.
The future leaders and our MEP class performed fantastically on the night and were a massive source of strength to me, they are my brothers in arms”.
Written by Clinton Le Roe – MEP Student and MC on our Message Trust Vision Night.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
MOBILISING EDEN TEAMS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH LOCAL CHURCHES
Read the latest news from the Eden-Network!
South Africa’s Eden teams work with young people from some of Cape Town’s hardest-to-reach areas. Read the latest news from what is happening through the Eden-Network as we seek to mobilise teams to work with churches across Cape Town.
EDEN SALT RIVER
Keanu’s home is in a row of houses that overlook the local soccer club in Eden Salt River’s area. On one particular Sunday Keanu’s neighbours could look out and see that one of their neighbourhood’s own kids was the cause of many people playing on the local community Salt River football fields.
It was a fund-raiser organised by Eden Salt River for Keanu and Zalen, one of Keanu’s Salt River mates. They needed money to pay for air tickets to get to a church youth conference overseas. The 14 teams involved were in a 5-a-side soccer tournament. Each team had to pay R350 to play.
Later that day when Grant Porthen, the Eden team leader was asked why were they doing this event, he said simply, ‘We’re a bunch of friends that want to help them.’ So, while each team member has been encouraged to help their partner church (Jubilee) in their active outreach programme, the focus of Eden as a team has been to first build the trust of their neighbours. This event was a great way to get to know people in the community and help two young people fulfil their dream to go overseas and represent Salt River in the UK.
EDEN PELICAN PARK – In Development
We’re thrilled that the latest applicants to join the Pelican Park team include a University of Cape Town student living Pinelands and a teacher from California! Here (together with our newly signed-up partner church, Cape Gateway International) we have just begun our final interviews with the other 11 applicants for the team in Pelican Park. The outreach in the community has, so far, involved doing a lot of prayer walking and chatting with people on the street!
As with Salt River, the Eden team has been getting involved with the church’s energetic evangelism in the area and has begun building links with the youth and schools in Pelican Park. Visiting Message bands have performed concerts at the church and Eden Pelican Park is currently seeking to get our SA band KineticIV into the local school as well. We can’t wait to have a team on the ground to really make an impact among young people in the community.
EDEN NYANGA – In Development
We’re all set to sign a Partnership agreement with New Crossroad Baptist Church to bring our third Eden Team to Nyanga. Vuyo Nyabaza, the church’s youth pastor was preaching the gospel to hundreds of school kids at an outreach with Message’s new band, Kinetic IV. We are very excited to have two converted ex-gangsters among the applicants to join Eden Nyanga!
Recently Kwanele, the pastor of New Crossroad Baptist Church met with the local Ward Counsellor, who was very positive about having a racially mixed Eden team in this predominantly Xhosa-speaking area.
Keep following the Eden-Network as we keep you informed of all God is doing as we seek to share God’s love and truth in communities across Cape Town.
Article Written By: Alastair Buchanan
For more information on Eden-Network check out our webpage and email Alastair on Alastair.Buchanan@message.org.za