Even as South Africa faces another lockdown, our work in the area continues to grow and we are seeing many people coming to know Jesus.
In schools and in prisons, we are passionate about seeing young people walking away from a life of gangs and crime and instead finding their hope, security and identity in Jesus. And with youth unemployment a staggering 60% across South Africa, adding a criminal record to that makes it virtually impossible for those leaving prison to get a job so we are dedicated to changing this statistic and to support ex-offenders as they transform their lives.
In our three GangStar social enterprise cafes, we have gone from just working with men leaving prison to supporting women like Bulela too – our first GangStar woman! Wrongly accused and having spent time in prison, Bulela was struggling to find a job when she was released. After joining the team in GangStar and getting involved in our barista training, she got valuable skills, heard more about Jesus and is now managing our store in Philippi!
As well as supporting ex-offenders, we’ve launched a new Work4ALiving programme where we train 18 parolees in job readiness and help them to find work. Already, four have gone on to find new jobs and many have come to faith whilst taking part of the course too.
And it’s not just our prisons and enterprise work that is going from strength to strength in South Africa. Over in our creative mission teams, we have been running some stripped back Higher youth activities including a gig with 100 young people where 51 people responded to the gospel and gave their lives to Jesus! These young people are already stuck into discipleship programmes and plugged into the local church. One young person we met during these Higher events was Nathaniel who was so impacted by a Respect ME lesson he had in school that he came along to the Higher gig and recommitted his life to Jesus!
‘I grew up in a Christian home but ended up backsliding to quite a bad place. I first met The Message through their schools’ Respect ME programme, and I really wanted to find out more! So I came along to the Higher event where I accepted Jesus into my life again and now I am coming along to the Genetik Sessions the team are running as well as also helping with the Gang2Star gang outreach programme to share my testimony with others. I feel blessed to have recommitted my life to Jesus and I love having the opportunity to serve him by bringing others to him too.’