Manenberg, like many of the Cape Flats townships, is a community that was formed in the 1960s and 70s as part of the apartheid government’s ‘Group Areas’ strategy. Millions of people were forcibly removed from the places where they had lived for generations and ‘resettled’ in places like Manenberg. Poor infrastructure and resources, and unimaginable emotional, psychological and spiritual pain have haunted Manenberg and hindered its development for the last five decades. Unemployment rates, poor education, and broken families, have left young men and women searching for order and acceptance. Gang life is alarmingly prevalent, and many young boys, anywhere from the age of 10-24, are lured into a life of crime and violence every day. In exchange for order, money, clothes, food, drugs, and father-like figures, the youth give their allegiance to gangs. These same issues drive young women into abusive relationships, even prostitution, and places of low self-worth and hopelessness. The young men and women who are most vulnerable are often unemployed, poorly educated, already involved in criminal and violent activities, or already labelled as ‘trouble’ by the community, and we identify these kinds of young people as high-risk youth.
The Fusion vision is to inspire, partner with and equip the church to see high-risk youth restored to Christ and community. We focus on the church because we believe that the message of the transforming power of the love of Jesus has been entrusted to the church, that they are best placed in the community to make a difference, and that transformation will come through the commission of Jesus being lived out – disciples making disciples making disciples.
For the last six years we have been working in schools, prisons, on the streets, with churches and alongside community residents to deepen our understanding of high-risk youth, and to develop a model for restoration that is teachable and replicable.
The cornerstone of all that we do is prayer. We are committed to praying together as a team and on the streets where HRY are, to introducing HRY to prayer and to calling churches to do the same.
We are committed to reaching out to high-risk youth through what we call ‘gateways’. These are the locations where high-risk youth spend time and where we can interact with them. This process involves four basic principles: to walk amongst (ie to be present), to relate to, to befriend (the relating should not be part of an agenda to merely preach to convert - it should be about friendship) and to reconcile (to God and to others).
As these relationships develop, we welcome high-risk youth into a Refuge Community: a network of young people formerly involved in gangs, drugs and violence choosing an alternative way of life, that now involves following Jesus, learning to love and be loved, and spiritual formation. They will be marked by participation in being discipled and discipling, and a shared rhythm of prayer, worship, work and service.
Work will be facilitated through the establishment of a community bakery that employs members of the RC, giving them work experience and teaching them employment skills. Many of the young people will need to be encouraged and assisted to continue their education, and to participate in activities that will aid their restoration (eg: counselling, rehabilitation).
The refuge community is not envisaged to be another church in the community, but it does recognise that:
1.we have to offer an attractive and viable alternative to the community and sense of identity and belonging found in gangs.
2.most HRY do not feel they will find that in the local church.
3.most local churches are not ready to receive and walk with HRY.
Even so, the RC will seek to maintain partnership with the local church acknowledging that we belong to the body of Christ. To this end we as Fusion are excited to be working closely with local churches in Manenberg to develop a community coalition to see young people being restored by the transforming love of Christ.
For wisdom and guidance as we map out the discipleship process for the refuge community. For the plans that we have to open a bakery in Manenberg which will be used to give high-risk youth employment and experience in a gracious environment. For the churches we are in relationship with – that they would catch the vision and get involved.