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Reaching Cape Town one step at a time

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (BP)–Mike Boone noses his “bakki,” commonly known as an Isuzu truck, though narrow roads in one of Cape Town’s townships. In minutes, the scenery changes from a beautiful old city on the waterfront to miles of devastated townships.

An agriculturalist, Boone does church planting and development, focusing on children and young people. In South Africa, with 75 percent of the population under 30, Boone says he focuses on children because they are more open. Through the children, then, he hopes to reach adults.

Brown’s Farm squatters’ camp is a maze of tin and cardboard shacks. Tarps are draped over roofs to keep out sun and rain. Women carry water from a communal tap; a row of dingy sheds with buckets inside serve as toilets. The odor is overwhelming. Wires are spliced to power lines to steal electricity.

People roam the streets, lean in doorways, loitering in the few shady spots; some have lived here more than 10 years. Eighty percent are unemployed, yet many believe they eventually will find work. Hunger is pervasive and alcoholism rampant, contributing to another problem -– rough family life.

“The kids come from such abused backgrounds. Some of the situations they live in [are horrible],” Boone says. For men, the main problems are unemployment and alcoholism; for children, it’s physical abuse.

But some things are starting to change. The Boones have led some in the townships to Christ and found other Christians willing to work alongside them. Two students, Thanduxolo and Ntsikelelo from Cape Town Baptist Seminary, where Boone teaches evangelism/church planting and missions, help with an after-school program at Linge Primary School. Soccer and basketball are followed by a Bible lesson, using the chronological Bible storying method, which relates Bible stories orally.

“It is outreach, but I see it as discipleship, too, with these kids,” Boone says. “God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. That’s a crazy request. Sometimes God asks us to do things we don’t want to do. Will we trust God to provide for us? We teach them those kinds of things as well.”

Thanduxolo, who tells the Bible story, says children ask serious questions, such as “Who gave birth to God?”

“I tell them the truth –- no one gave birth to God. He was always there, self-existent,” Thanduxolo says. “We teach them what it means to be a Christian.”

Ntsikelelo adds: “We teach [them] to believe and trust in God, no matter what the circumstances. [These students] have a good foundation about salvation, and we are building on that right now, so it makes them strong.”

Another helper, Nomakhaya Matshaya, was led to Christ by Lucas Mpendulo, a pastor from a neighboring township. She lives in the Vuk’uzenzele township next to Brown’s Farm. She was the first in the area to become a Christian, and the Boones say she was the “open door” to their working in that township. Mike’s wife, Amy, works in the preschool Matshaya runs in Vuk’uzenzele.

On Thursday nights, Matshaya opens her house for worship and Bible study. More than 30 children squeeze into the small, two-room dwelling. They sing along with the choir, clapping and dancing to songs in English and Xhosa. A speaker system allows those outside to hear the worship. Prayer follows, as well as testimonies and a chronological Bible story that Boone leads.

Mpendulo often helps Boone in the service, hoping to encourage the children to receive Christ as their Savior.

“The message that has always come close to my heart is Jeremiah 29:11: ‘I know the plans I have for you,'” Mpendulo says. “So, if the people can hear everywhere that God has a plan for each and every person in the world to prosper [in their relationship with Him] and have a future, that is the message everybody needs to hear.”

Matshaya also is an integral part of a garden project in her township. Boone is helping four neighborhood women provide much-needed food for their families. Land once unusable because of open sewage is now covered by six wide rows of vegetables.

The garden project represents just one of Boone’s outreach efforts directed toward adults. He also tries to reach adults through weekly door-to-door evangelism efforts -– especially targeting Xhosa men, who feel that church is for women and children. Boone says Baptist ministry in the townships is seeking to change Xhosa men’s mindset toward the church, and local pastors are providing good role models.

Baptists also hope to establish community centers to build a better sense of community among people in the townships and provide training skills so people can find jobs. Reaching every township has proven to be difficult, but Boone plans to take it one success at a time.

“There are so many challenges,” Boone says. “There’s no hope in this kind of community unless the church steps in.”
Katherine Kipp is a junior journalism and English writing major at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

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