It was always about prayer, meeting God on the streets, in homes, for the community
It began with two friends walking and praying. As they prayed, they asked God to send the labourers for the harvest in Manenberg – people started to arrive and rise up locally, and prayer on the streets became prayer with people, introducing young men and women caught in drugs and gangs to the love of Jesus.
We started to meet regularly to worship, we began to eat together, we prayed together, we continued to love the broken into our community; we were a church.
It took a few years before we were really willing to admit this, but in 2013, we found our voice and Tree of Life was born. We had started life as an organisation (Fusion Community Trust) with a heart to love broken youth, but have become a family wanting to welcome those same youth, and their families, and their neighbours into our homes and lives.
We are planted in the community of Manenberg, Cape Town
Manenberg was established between 1966 and 1970, under the apartheid regime’s forced removals of ‘non-whites’ from the various suburbs of Cape Town that had been deemed ‘whites only’.
Many families were ousted from their homes at the foot of Table Mountain, split up, and thrown into substandard housing with little formal infrastructure, 20km out of town. Midst the trauma of family dislocation, fear, and loss of safe space, gangs formed. Brotherhoods of disillusioned young men rapidly spread throughout Manenberg and the Cape Flats. The rotten legacy of Cape Town’s apartheid past has given rise to violence, crime and drug abuse in pandemic levels.
Today, Manenberg suffers daily, and the effects are seen throughout the whole family, fractured relationships, high levels of domestic abuse and a home environment that does not provide a safe place for young children to grow up.
It is easy to see only this picture, but there is so much more, so much life and potential hidden beneath rusty burglar bars and rubbish-filled streets. The kids smile as they play, the streets bubble with activity, and there is music, noise and laughter. Manenberg is a place bursting with hope.