Meet Saleem

Certain people stick with me after meeting them. And it seems that thoughts of them surface most often during my times of introspection. Take Gail "One Stamp" Winton for instance. The memory of her will remain dear to my heart for years to come. 

I marvel at people who overflow with simple wisdom—those who make the most profound statements without even realizing the weight of their few words. I'm certain God doesn't discriminate when it comes to bestowing this lofty gift. He uses people regardless of their age and ability. And regardless of whether or not a person knows he's a carrier of wisdom, others seem to take note... because wisdom always marks a life. 

I met a teenage boy last month. His name is Saleem*. His circumstance (and the way he's dealing with it) opened my eyes, softened my soul and transferred a mark onto my own heart. 

Last month, YEBO Life and Team Detroit headed into Lavender Hill to serve with one of our ministry partners. On the team's first day of ministry, during the children's nap time, we headed out to the nearest soccer field to kick a ball and unwind. It was there that we approached a group of four youth and invited them to join in on the fun. Saleem was visibly worse off than the other three.

  Soccer field in Lavender Hill // S ource: katherineaucap.wordpress.com

Soccer field in Lavender Hill // Source: katherineaucap.wordpress.com

Born in Lavender Hill, a community that's nicknamed "Gangland," Saleem started life at quite a disadvantage. Riddled with gang violence, Lavender Hill has a way of holding its youth prisoners in their own homes. By the time Saleem reached his early teens, he was swept up by the powerful clutches of a well-known gang in the Cape Flats. Pressured by the drug lords to operate as a mule (runner) for them, he dropped out of school and started a swift downward spiral into a life of fear and loneliness. Saleem earned $40 a week working as a mule. 

Whilst chatting, he pointed out his parents' house and told me something I still can't comprehend. "I stop by every once in a while, but I can't go back there." Saleem, at the age of 15, can't go home. He lives under a bridge and sometimes sleeps on one of the city's beaches. I asked him why. "I don't want to live the life of a gangster anymore, so they're on the lookout for me."

 Life under a bridge // Source: dovesandserpents.com

Life under a bridge // Source: dovesandserpents.com

In Cape Town there's one way out of a gang: Blood. Either your own or that of Jesus Christ. In other words, there are two options: 1) die or 2) confess your faith and live a transformed life. It's an interesting concept--the gangs bowing down to the authority of Jesus. The only tricky part is if they think you're faking it, they'll kill you. I know if I were in Saleem's shoes, I would've been dead years ago. 

 Gang graffiti in Cape Town // Source: media.capetowndailyphoto.com

Gang graffiti in Cape Town // Source: media.capetowndailyphoto.com

As far as I know, Saleem believes in the Lord, but I'm not aware of how the gang perceives his journey. 

I share about this young man today as I think about my faith in Jesus, about how He's transformed my life and about how privileged I am to be able to visit my family all over the world and live with such tremendous provision.

Join us in prayer as we lift this young man up to God and pray for his deliverance from the indescribable environment he currently lives in. 

*Name and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.