I don’t quite have the words to express how I’m feeling right now. I don’t have the words to explain what I just witnessed, but I feel compelled to write, compelled to communicate what is happening so close to home, for many of us.
Everyone knows there’s gang fight in Manenberg, there always has been, it’s almost boring, right? At least that’s how it seems. But there is a war going on in Manenberg that is SO evil, SO unfair…so destructive to an entire community, and yet no one is taking any notice.
I’m calling the church to pray.
I don’t normally like to write so openly about Manenberg’s messiness, but we need you. We need you to know what’s going on.
On Monday morning, I woke up to a message, “be careful coming in today, there’s been heavy shooting this morning”. Great, no better way to start your week than a backdrop of gunshots. I got into the office as shooting broke out. Two of our staff members pulled up in the middle of the shooting and had to make the decision whether it was safer to sit in their car or make a run. They ran…cars really aren’t that safe, and in that split second where a decision was made, the thought also passed by “‘shit, I haven’t written my will yet”.
All a bit shaken, we had a check-in and began to worship. Let me tell you, there’s nothing sweeter than God’s presence when there is gang fight, and God meets us, we need him, we know we do, and it’s in that place of utter dependence we find our reserve to make it through the day. Worship and shooting continued for about an hour, continuously, and as the gunshots finally petered out, so we allowed our worship to draw to a close – energised and ready for the day, and thankfully, the rest of the day was quiet.
Today one of my colleagues got half way to work only to be told to go no further, a lady had just been shot. In between moments of shooting, she ran to work and got safely to the office. We’re learning to become more aware of trauma and what it can do to our bodies, so we did a body scan and released a bit of adrenaline through dance…
We began the set-up of our 24-7 prayer room which is kicking off on Sunday. Outside we see a bunch of women start to salvage all the metal and “steal-able” items from building site of one of the blocks of flats across the way from our office where refurbishments have been abandoned because of gang fight.
A couple of hours later I find myself alone at the office working on relatively boring stuff…
I hear a commotion from outside – I look out the window to see close to 100 people out on the street, most of whom are young, male gangsters facing off at one another, with the same bunch of women and a few more mums and aunties joining in. The press are there with cameras.
The noise turns into shots, the police are there, they have their weapons out, the gangsters normally don’t shoot when the police are present, but all of the normal “rules” seem to have gone out of the window… In all the gang fights I’ve witnessed, I’ve never actually seen the police have to use their weapons, they are now driving their vehicles with one gun-filled hand pointing out the window. For the next 20 minutes this chasing of young men continues, the community pointing the police in all directions – I’m not totally convinced they’re helping. The press stands on the road and takes photos – he doesn’t seem to be afraid.
While this is happening, aware that one of my colleagues is out visiting our girls, I call her to tell her to stay put, she can’t walk this side anymore, another colleague is trapped between two places of shooting and is having to reverse the car up and down roads to find safety. He finally arrives back, visibly shaken and frankly, we’re both over being there for now. We close up office and move our work elsewhere.
All of our prayer weeks have had gang fight connected to them, we’re used to that, but for the first time in the history of 24-7 in Manenberg, I find myself questioning whether we should cancel it, or move it. Maybe this is the weakness of my flesh crying out, well, it definitely is that…but it is also the fact that THIS IS NOT OK. We know and believe that our call is to pray, and we will pray, we will pray our way back to hope, back to the face of Jesus, back to a joy that sometimes looks like laughing at the devil but sometimes looks like weeping until we can find Jesus again, but what happens on earth? We can only hope.
Hope with us. Stand with us. Let’s get the worldwide church praying with us, for Shalom for this community, knowing that this is but one community in Cape Town with the same issue. Pray that the gangs not yet involved don’t join in, pray for revival. Pray that guns would jam, pray that the heavens would open and some sort of rain would come and cleanse evil away, pray for safety. Pray that we as a team would know peace, find joy, and learn what it means to be fearless…
The answer is Jesus, and a church willing to cross the lines and love and love and love