Last week was an odd week. After an amazing trip up the Garden Route the week before it was like we were back to reality in Cape Town; work, food shopping, cleaning, cooking, you get it. But still I am on a holiday really. I’m not getting paid for what I do, I’m here for the experience more than anything. Monday at TLC was called off again. Sadly we had to work for Colleens mothers funeral. It was an awful day. I guess not many volunteers expect to go to their bosses mum’s funeral…well I didn’t.
At first I felt it was inappropriate for us to attend a memorial of someone we had never met or heard of before. Almost disrespectful as we couldn’t pay our respects to her life. But I guess every countries different. After the memorial service we gave something back to Colleen by serving the food and drinks at what we call the ‘wake’. All in all it was a heavy day. But we were really appreciated for the work we did for Colleen and her family.
The rest of the week was up and down, confusing and at times pointless. Our days at TLC didn’t start till midday leaving half the day behind already, and once we arrived at the police station there was little work to do other than planning the holiday programmes ready for the following week. The remainder of the week was very repetitive, although we came across some interesting but worryingly dangerous characters along the way. One morning we arrived and noticed a man waiting around for Colleen, who in the past turned up at TLC and stole one of the volunteers phones, in a police station of all places! He hung around for hours and as soon as he saw sight of Colleen he disappeared. Colleen caught him and told him firmly to never step foot on TLC grounds again. Something that is so vivid in Colleen is her passion and love for TLC, to protect its name, that their there to help and provide support to the underprivileged, not to just hand them over money and food whenever they beg for it. She makes them work for it. Her work ethos is extremely inspiring, and she is an incredible woman to come as far as she has with TLC.
Another man turned up the morning of this incident, which didn’t help the situation. He insinuated that he was here to help out and volunteer. Innocently we just guessed that was what he was here to do. Until he sat down and told his story. His hands and clothes were filthy, he was clearly living out an old battered duffel bag. But his story told differently. Originally from Johannesburg he travelled down to Cape Town to work in the IT business, and had planned to stay at a hostel for two nights when he arrived. However this was stopped after being mugged by a gang of four, stabbed in the neck and all his belongings being taken. The slashes on his neck were clearly years old and you could just tell from the way he was shaking, twitching his eyes and chewing on the local drug ‘tik’ that he was talking complete bull. Colleen finally turned up and immediately saw straight through him. Working with people just like this example Colleen explained that she doesn’t have time for their stories, but still offers help. However he never appeared again.
Wednesday evening TLC were invited along to the ‘new born’ church chain in South Africa and all over the world, CRC (Christian Revival Church). Colleen made it clear it was an important service, Harvester, and that a famous pastor was attending that they only see once a year. As we all rolled into a warehouse styled building, we took our seats in front of a stage that was set up like a concert. It reminded me so much of the church we used to attend back in the UK when I was younger. In a very non traditional, well not even church like building, with chairs set out for over 500 people, neon strobe lights, smoke machines and pop Jesus songs blaring out, it was definitely a different experience of church. The people who attended were so unexpected too. Young, pretty, handsome, worked out, well dressed people. I probably saw a total of 20 older men and woman. But I loved it. It was inspiring to see these young people to have such faith in a church like this one. Despite the pastor preaching about handing money over to the church which I completely disagree with, the experience was like no other and I’m glad I saw it. Religion is the most complicated and controversial topic on the planet so I wont say anymore.
Every Thursday night we join Uncle Bruce (Colleen’s brother in law) to help out on the streets with giving hope and the chance of a new start to the homeless. We started the evening in an abandoned skate park where we came across a number of street kids, some under the age of 20, sleeping in the most insane conditions, shielding the wind with just a wet piece of cardboard. One man began burning a crate of plastic over a flame to inhale the toxins from it, and he happily did so in-front of us. The smell was disgusting. Bruce continued to talk to him in Afrikaans, giving him hope and comfort, and he encouraged us to join in and huddle round. At this moment I felt extremely uncomfortable, invading into what they would call their home, disturbing their night-time and to top it off asking one of the homeless to take a photo on a fancy phone of the TLC group at work. The homeless around us in the skate park clearly did not want us in their space, as did I. Attempting to greet some of them they would just ignore and continue taking drugs or whatever they were doing.
On the opposite side of the skate park we came across a young girl at just the age of 20 who was desperate for some hope and enlightenment from Bruce. We all came together and prayed for her. Prayer is a big part of street ministry, and Bruce does it with such passion. It may be that some of these street kids live off the hope and dream of a prayer at night, so I felt Bruce’s inspiring work really did leave an imprint on the hearts of the homeless that night. The work he does is fantastic, just very heavy and devastating to see.