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Night life outreaches after 50 years – my experience

Hannes van der Merwe

“Nightlife. It sounds so strange: Night and life. Is it not sun and light that brings life? Yet there is life that awakens on the streets of the city that only happens after dark. Is it night life or possibly night death? Our heavenly Father sends His Church, us, to offer these people new life in Him.” (Written by the late Reverend Pietie Victor to a small group who started the night outreaches 50 years ago.)

What does it look 50 years later? Come and walk the streets with us again and experience how we still reach out to those who live the night life of Cape Town.

That was the invitation.
Since I haven’t been on a night outreach in a number of years, this invitation stirred a curiosity in me and motivated me to be there for this special occasion.

The night
I was appointed as the leader for a group of former “Straatwerkers” and that in itself was already an interesting experience. We left to go on outreach, on the same mission, filled with memories of rich former experiences we had in the past. We even went to visit the old “Koffiekamer” in Breë Street. It’s hard to find the words to describe this experience.

The city and its activities were completely different to how it was in the old days. The way in which we reached out also shifted. In the old days the team was divided into two, and the starting point was clear: “Can we talk to you about the Lord Jesus?” And in those days, just as Oom Pietie taught us, we “threw the net as wide as possible” by trying to approach every one we encountered to see where it would lead.

Now we were a small group, dressed in brightly coloured bibs that had JESUS SAVES clearly printed on it. Armed with refuge bags in our hands, we walked along, picking up trash and looking for an opportunity to start a conversation with someone.

We didn’t approach everyone. Everyone on the team took initiative, acted on their own conviction and in their own way.

There were quite a few conversations that night. There were even people who approached us, which rarely happened in the old days.

I was a bit uncomfortable about what I had to say now when I approached someone, because I chose to not use the old way of trying to start conversations in this new environment. The experience, as always, was that it doesn’t look or feel very impressive to you and one can only trust God to make these moments count. It is only God who can make our words come alive to those who are hearing them.

Then a young man came walking along, alone in a secluded part of the city. I tried a different approach: “Where are you going?”

He answered: “I’m just on my way home”.

What do I say now?

I tried again. “Have you ever thought about following Jesus?”

He replied: “There was a time where I accepted Jesus and followed him”.

Silence.

He continued: “But now I am on drugs…” I could see the helplessness in his eyes. (Strange – this experience 50 years later: the same need, the same urgency to reach out!)

Excited, I replied: “Just earlier tonight we listened to testimonies, and two of them specifically said they experienced being liberated from drugs after making a genuine commitment to God and asking Him to help!”

He didn’t reply.

I continued: “This is also possible for you”.

He still didn’t say anything, and as far as I can remember, that was also our exchange.

In my heart and with hope, I saw him going where he knows there are people who love God. What he did and experienced in reality though, only God knows.

We ended our small team’s outreach with prayers and we pleaded with God to use what had happened that evening.

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 Straatwerk  / Night life outreaches after 50 years – my experience
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