The Better Way: A response to an intruder, ARV’s, violence and cycles (March 2013)

(a response to my brother and his wife’s amazing way of dealing with an intruder in their home)

Today has been a wild day. 

I had tea this morning with a friend who has spent years working with high risk youth and gangs on the Cape Flats.  He has a wealth of experience and understands things that I don’t think he even knows he knows.  I am trying to get him to document his story, and the stories that make up his story into a book.  He knows more than “the numbers” and gang names.  He knows the faces, feelings and people behind the 26’s and 28’s; he knows what made a gang become a family as opposed to the biological family that a child, with the same potential as you or I if circumstances were different, was born into.

That isn’t what made the day wild though – as inspired as I always am after meeting with this friend. 

 What made it wild was that this friend and I met to talk about what it means practically to meet the world with hope through the work he is seeking to do; less than 24 hours earlier I had started formulating what I dream about seeing happen on the Cape Flats (an area known for its gangs and poverty).   Dreams that I believe can change the way children learn and grow and hopefully offer them a different way of life and being as they grow and develop.  Dreams that if we can get this right – the things he dreams of as well as mine – perhaps communities and children can consider a better way – a better way that does not involve “the numbers” : A better way that involves new concepts of family, community and justice rather than what is currently seen but not inspiring hope or a future.

What made it really wild was that in the early  hours of  this morning, a member of the “26’s” on the South Coast of KZN took off his jeans and jacket and climbed through a window in order to break into my brother, Mark’s  home.  Olivia heard a noise, and realised that someone had switched a light on.  Mark went to investigate and ended up rugby tackling and wrestling the wannabe thief.  Despite ending up covered in bite marks, numerous bruises and a wife who got punched, as well as bitten when attempting to stop the chap from attacking Mark (brandishing a wooden bowl as a weapon), Mark and Liv managed to restrain him until the police arrived.  He begged Mark not to let the police come. The police knew this guy.  His tattoos told some of his story without him needing to talk at all. 

It was wet, it was cold and as Liv said, something on the bucket list of things you never want to repeat, but in the midst of this Liv also had a clear sense that there was a bigger purpose and picture in all this that was going to unfold. 

Mark and Liv are involved in Southcity Cares  – the social justice outreach at their church.  They have been involved in advocating, in accompanying people to court for court hearings, in relief work and in wanting to see systems change and poverty challenged.  The guy that broke into their home comes from one of these communities.  It’s appears easy to be involved in a hard, challenging space when you can go home and debrief from the day.  It’s not easy at all when the space comes into your home with all the “what if’s” and craziness that we watch documentaries about.

 Love your enemy.  Act Justly, Seek Mercy and Walk Humbly. In this world you will have troubles.  For all have sinned and fallen short.  Bless those who persecute you.  Cry aloud, do not hold back – lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgressions, to the house of Jacob their sins.   God’s goodness brings us to repentance. 

Break my heart for what breaks yours.  Everything I am for your Kingdom’s Cause.

 Scriptures we quote and songs we sing.

Then something like today happens and we have to choose whether we going to do what seems radical and actually practice them, or retreat to what seems normal and manage life the way the text books say we should, our context says we should, our fear and anxiety want us to.

Today I got to witness what it means when the writers spoke of “love your enemy” and “cry aloud”.  I got to witness what it meant for someone to seek a story of redemption knowing that there wasn’t much likelihood of a “Hollywood happy ending outcome”).  Today I got to witness my brother and his wife, battered and bruised and sore, and very aware that grace covered this story, take goodness into a place where the police and prisoners were perplexed by their action.

Goodness was packing up the clothes that the guy left outside in the rain in order to get into the house in a bag and returning it to him.  Grace was sending dry clothes with so that he could get out of the shorts and t-shirt which were soaking wet by the time the police took him off to the police station.   Mercy was Liv proudly telling me how she saw something snap in Mark – and yet he controlled it- and didn’t use any force other than what was necessary to restrain this guy. 

Mark and Liv didn’t just pray and say “thank you for your protection Lord”.  They didn’t say that’s the end of that – let justice, whatever that looks like, take its course.  Today people who in our current context had every right to be angry and fearful both reflected how sad they were for the guy who broke into their home.  What person, who has any dreams or aspirations, within a healthy, secure childhood context chooses to live a life that is characterised by high levels of violence, very little hope and no easy way out?  Grace today was Mark and Liv seeing the man behind the number and the bruises and the bites.

Today wasn’t about the bite marks and bruising as awful as that is.

Today become about this one man’s life actually matters.  Today became an opportunity as Mark prepares his preach and thoughts around Easter to reflect on what it meant for us as individuals, as well as for the murderer next to Jesus on the cross. 

What started off as a day talking about macro issues needing hope and healing, and telling stories about this all became personal when the macro issue invaded my world. 

It became personal when my nephew’s parents are now on ARV’s and anti-biotics and are trusting that their home will once more be their safe place, where they can dream and rest and seek justice for the communities that they are involved in.  

Justice, mercy and humility.

With God.

This is what He asks of us.


The Better Way. 


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