I live and work in a community called Manenberg on the outskirts of Cape Town. It’s fair to say that Manenberg is quite well known – potentially for all the wrong reasons. The prevailing view amongst most Capetonians about Manenberg is that it is a hopeless hellhole populated entirely by gangsters and drug addicts. In short, people are asking ‘can anything good ever come out of Manenberg’? (that should ring a bell…) Sure, I’m generalizing, but this generalization is based on six years of repeatedly attempting to justify the hope I have for Manenberg, to countless locals who obviously know better than this clueless Brit. You’ll just have to trust my ever-so-slightly-generalised assertions. I do know there are some gloriously hope-filled Capetonians around, too!
Fusion, the organisation I’m part of, working with young gang members and drug addicts, holds quarterly 24/7 Prayer Weeks. [Jargon alert. A 24/7 Prayer Week is simply non-stop prayer, night and day, for a week.] You sign up for hourly slots, and come to pray in our little prayer room in a dark corner of a tired community centre in the middle of contested gang turf. Sounds idyllic, right? Well, in this inauspicious setting, we’ve seen friends receive the gift of tongues whilst de-toxing off heroin, we’ve heard of Muslims encountering Jesus, we’ve witness people break down weeping the moment they entered the room, we’ve shared communion as bullets flew through our office window, and sometimes late at night we’ve fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion (don’t tell anyone).
Each prayer week has a theme. The most recent one was “Truth vs Facts”. In other words, acknowledging that whilst there are some fairly grisly facts out there, eternal truth trumps temporal fact. Every time. So, for example, it is a sad fact that drug related crime has risen in Manenberg by 600% in the last decade. Yet the truth is that drugs can only offer a dull counterfeit to Holy Spirit-fuelled community, and God is stirring Christians in collaboration with police and government to work towards sustainable solutions to addiction and its negative spill over.
Another fact is that fatherlessness and unemployment are two significant factors in young men joining gangs. There is a greater truth that trumps this – that God is father to the fatherless. Having opened a house for such young men just two months ago, we have seen God work in each of their hearts to especially affirm his love for them as father. These young men, whom we are ‘re-parenting’ as part of the discipleship process, have chosen to leave gang pasts behind and are now working two days a week in our coffee shop to learn how to become employable in the long-term. Sure, it’s very small scale at the moment, and there’s a marathon to run, but I’m learning to not write off the ‘day of small beginnings’.
We are told that God “calls into being things that [are] not” (Rom 4:17). This isn’t a call to gloss over the facts, nor is it a call to naïve ignorance. It is a reminder that followers of Jesus are privileged/entitled/empowered (whichever word you prefer, I think they’re all true) to live lives of generative hope, through the practice of feasting on truth (even – especially – that which is not yet visible).
When I, in my weaker moments, allow temporal facts too much airtime in my mind, I attribute to them a ‘truth’ status they do not deserve. I recently heard it suggested that ‘faith for the future generates power for the present’ – and here in our little corner of Manenberg, I’m learning the daily discipline of believing the best over fearing the worst.
And you? Where is your fact vs truth battleground today?