This picture of Lonwabo was taken in early 2013 when he was 12. Three years later he is one of 8 boys who stabbed a man for a laptop, and gang raped a women in her late twenties. When we went to visit him at his pre-trial holding cell in Kraaifontein, memories of him started coming back.
We spent two years with our first youth group, and we were able to build good relationships with the most of them. Naturally, the younger ones outside the group started asking when they could join the youth group. We still keep a close relationship with some of the youth kids which includes Papama (my daughter), Lolo, Anathi, Sam, and Sionoyolo (who is in OLIA). However, it wasn’t time for us to expand the ministry, and we were getting busy with the ‘I’m Precious to Jesus’ campaign.
We were at a juncture. Spending the past three years in Zola had given us a good foundation, and enabled us to go further to understand a very important question, ‘Why the things are the way they are.’ However after two of the youth kids got raped within the first 6 months and witnessing toddlers getting raped almost every month, it wasn’t just an opportunity for a deeper understanding, but it was more of our moral obligation to help as someone who claims to understand Jesus’ love for them.
So we left Zola. God provided a good team, and we have spent subsequent three years going around the country and spending much effort in other areas such as Khayelitsha. We have developed children’s march further, planted Righteous Men Assembly, expanded the campaign into the rural areas (Transkei), and started Vukhukhanye, which is a community group practicing practical and indigenous Christianity. God has guided us and given us a glimpse of people’s hearts, struggles, hurts, and most importantly His heart for people.
Early this year, we have decided to refocus our effort onto Zola to centralize our ministries before we expand our ministry into the rural area. That was last April. Henceforth, spurring the first and the most recent case we heard from the newly formed Vukukhanye members was the rape case of the 8 boys including Lonwabo.
Lonwabo, was one of the kids who was going to be in the second youth group. We had an initial meeting; however, we then had to leave Zola. Sitting in a visiting room with him gave me an eerie feeling. He didn’t seem to have changed much, except his eyes now appeared to be a little blurd. After a few questions about the incident, his mom said, “If you hadn’t left Zola, it wouldn’t have happened to him.” I turned to him and asked him if this was true. He timidly gave me a skeptical nod and said, “I still have the Bible you gave me.” He is turning 16 in July.
According to a recent study by Optimus Study, ‘a total of 351 214 cases of sexual abuse has occurred among 15- to 17-year-olds in the past year alone.’ Lonwabo had joined the other side. We don’t have an explanation for the victims at this moment, but our work with him begins now. There are many things that needs to be sorted out before we commence further, but we will be working with Vukukhanye members to get his life in order and reintegrate him back into the community.