This article was originally published in the November 2016 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Several years ago, Stone Hill was a forgotten squatters’ camp outside Durbanville, South Africa.
Pushed out of society and marginalized, social issues multiplied. Violence seemed as unquestionably part of life as breathing. There was no reason to work, respect others or avoid drugs and alcohol. Life was cheap, and there was no reason to think otherwise.
Imagine a society without the common grace that still influences how our culture makes decisions. Common wisdoms like “save money” or “treat people with kindness,” - even though these are not always followed and seem to be disappearing in our own culture - are still considered and influential in our decisions.
In Stone Hill, those common grace wisdoms were once considered insane.
Restrain myself? Why?
Deny myself something now so I can have something later? That doesn’t make sense.
People are valued so I should treat them with basic courtesy? No they’re not. Why would they be? No one values me.
Work hard? I’ve never heard of that. No one does that. It’s not what we do.
These common grace concepts were completely foreign.
And life in Stone Hill was a hopeless web of broken relationships, poverty and violence.
Small Investments, Big Difference
A few years ago, a movement was started among believers in Durbanville, including ITMI’s Charl van Wyk and believers from his church, pastored by ITMI’s Mark Parris. It began by some believers going to Stone Hill once a week and doing activities with the youth. They offered crafts for the girls and wrestling for the boys.
Refreshing dilapidated shacks and providing mattresses for those who slept on the ground was another way the hands and feet of Jesus built relationships with the locals.
A Stone Hill young man happily greets ministry worker, Bradley Kuhn.
Mattress gifts for those who don't have anything to sleep on.
Inside a newly constructed shack in Stone Hill. Believe it or not, this is luxurious compared to many of the wooden structures in Stone Hill.
This is how Charl described this dedicated team: “It’s a team that will go where angels fear to tread – all for the sake of making the wonderful Name of Jesus Christ known to the entire world.”
ITMI and Charl helped raise funds to erect a ministry base in Stone Hill, where outreaches could be held year-round. The facility consists of three storage containers in a U-shape with a covered “courtyard” in the middle.
One container is a “gym” where youth come to lift weights. The Christian team builds relationships with those who come, and it provides a positive activity away from gangs, violence and drugs.
Another is a kitchen, where the hungry can be fed and outreaches are conducted.
Youth use the gym as a positive outlet, away from gangs, drugs and violence.
The Stone Hill ministry facility, before the cover over the courtyard was complete.
After years of faithfully visiting this settlement and investing in the lives of the youth, we’re thrilled to report that Stone Hill is a different place than it once was.
Years ago, one of Charl’s colleagues discovered a 12-year-old head of household, and built a relationship with the boy. Because of being “raised” by this Christian man and taught about Jesus, the young man and his family came to faith.
He underwent massive family pressure for rejecting ancestral worship. But he would not back down. Today, he is a ministry and community leader in Stone Hill. (A community leader is a person who serves the community by interacting with political structures on behalf of the town.)
Where violence once terrorized all, self-control and self-defense are demonstrated alternatives.
Where hate once characterized the eyes of young men, hope and love can be found.
Where laziness was the only conceivable way to live, the value of work is being realized.
Where gangsters once fought and stabbed one another over trivial matters, youth go on hikes and lift weights together.
Where sobriety was never considered, it is now practiced.
Where Biblical morality was outlandish, it is now permeating lives.
Where the benefits of discipline were never reaped, disciplined lives are emerging.
Where most were once barely capable of receiving and understanding the “foolishness” of the Gospel, they are now taking it to others!
A place that was once known for violence and lawlessness was recently referred to by an outsider as a “Christian Township.”
One direct cause of all this was getting the facility that allowed the ministry team to conduct Sunday evening services.
The Soldiers for Christ
A few months ago during one Sunday evening service, thirteen young men indicated they want to get very serious with the Lord and apply His Word in their lives and community.
Charl says of the boys, “They want to live out the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their personal lives, in their homes, schools and work places.”
The boys call themselves “Soldiers for Christ.”
People are noticing a big difference! Parents have asked the Soldiers for Christ Chairman what they are doing that has brought about such change in these boys’ lives.
Stone Hill's Soldiers for Christ
Charl’s recent report told their incredible story:
So where does one start with a bunch of rough kids, whose third language is English, who live in shacks, with dirt roads, little drainage, no electricity, surrounded daily by crime, and too often have little food on the table?
We start with God’s Word of course!
The African traditional religion these young men have been born into, and brought up to know, teaches that you need to slaughter a goat when you have sinned, as if you don’t “always” sin – the goat’s blood will apparently cleanse you of unrighteousness. Sprinkling holy water in your hut keeps the evil spirits away and a piece of plastic on a limb can bring healing.
Some of these young men are just a few weeks old as Christians. So, they are sent out immediately to start Gospel conversations to tell others about the Gospel of the Kingdom. Yes, they will make mistakes. Yes, they will mess up and yes, it is difficult!
We’ve taken part in a shopping mall outreach where some of our group got to interact with shoppers and hand out tracts and balloons with Bible verses for children.
We have also undergone training by self-defense guru Gerald Bailey of Suarez International, who kindly gave freely of his time to help our young men.
Soldiers for Christ members are on duty at our Gospel outreach services each Sunday evening. The ill-discipline, obviously tolerated in state schools, is a nuisance of the past. Jabbering, laughing and jesting during the preaching of God’s Word has come to an end. Drunkards, and those wishing to interrupt the sermon, are kindly walked away so that listeners may hear the Word.
Because of your faithful support, God’s Word “went out.” It has watered the earth and yielded fruit. And, as promised, it did not return empty!
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.