This year Straatwerk marks 50 years of regular outreaches on the streets of Cape Town. A Frontline Fellowship team joined in with Straatwerk's regular Friday evening outreach on the streets of the inner city.
50 Years of Ministry
Rev. Pieter Victor founded this dynamic evangelistic ministry in 1965. For 50 years Straatwerk has been mobilising Christians onto the streets of the inner city to win prostitutes, pimps, night club customers and other street people to the Lord.
After a praise and worship session at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, team leaders organised and equipped their volunteers for ministry on the streets. They explained that their focus is on humble servant evangelism to win the heart before they confront the mind. Each of the volunteers were given a neon yellow vest which boldly proclaimed: Jesus Saves, We are here to serve, You are valuable, Stop Abuse and other statements confronting human trafficking and abuse.
The leaders explained that our presence on the streets of Cape Town in these bright vests serves as a silent protest against the alcohol and drug abuse, human trafficking and prostitution industries, as well as identifying people that can be trusted and turned to for counsel and help.
Cleaning the Streets
Over the years Straatwerk has developed a number of creative ways to take the message of redemption and forgiveness onto the streets. We were each given a surgical glove for our left hands to pick up litter and refuse along the streets. "Just as our Lord Jesus takes away our sin, so we want to make a visible testimony by cleaning up the streets where we minister." One person in each team carried a large refuse bag each of which were full by the end of the evening.
Love in Action
Another team member was given a bag of food items and gifts to be distributed to people on the streets. This included biscuits, chips and chocolates. Special wrist bands, which had been made by people converted out of prostitution, were designed to explain the Gospel to people on the streets. These deeds of love are designed to go along with words of love. Each member of the teams were equipped with Gospel literature and encouraged to go out into the streets and seek to practically serve and demonstrate the love of Christ to the many broken people that we would encounter. "So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, it shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
Shining in the Darkness
Rev. Pieter Victor, the Founder of Straatwerk, wrote: "The night life of Cape Town introduced us to the darkness and sinfulness in the lives of people roaming around at night time. This was the lifestyle that many of our young people would be introduced to – some innocently and others with open eyes. Many of them would cross our paths. Some we would find in filthy, smelly dens, others in former reformatories, in police cells at police stations, jails, institutions for drug and alcohol addiction and at escort agencies. And some had to be identified in the state mortuary.
"It was so peaceful in the room where we gathered to chat and pray as friends in Christ. Exchanging the peaceful by walking into the dark unknown wasn't easy. Deafening music was playing everywhere and fed the uncertainty and rebelliousness of friends trapped in the clubbing. Late at night, conscious of our own inability and clumsiness in our outreaches to these people, we felt out of place. Yes, sometimes even scared in this weird world of pumping music, the smell of drugs everywhere and the sound of cuss words in our ears." (Met Christus Op Straat)
Rescue the Perishing
Last week as we went out onto streets there were over 100 volunteers from different congregations gathered for this special celebration of 50 years of Straatwerk bringing deeds of love and words of love in practical service to win the lost on the streets of Cape Town.
The Founder of this dynamic inner-city Evangelism ministry, Rev. Pieter Victor, was a good friend of our Mission. He often spoke at our Biblical Worldview Seminars and Summits, Great Commission Camps and missions rallies. Over the years we entrusted numerous of our Trainee Missionaries to Rev. Victor for evangelism and discipleship training on the streets. Rev. Victor was a courageous and principled man of immense integrity. He frequently had the courage to confront the highest powers in the land with their corruption and he boldly proclaimed the Word of God in some of the most unpromising and difficult situations. Several of the people that I spoke to of the Straatwerk team were themselves brought to the Lord by Rev. Pieter Victor. One woman related to me how she came from a background of abuse and had been led to the Lord by Rev. Victor in 1981. Many had testimonies of how the Lord had delivered them from crime, drugs and depravity. Now they are dedicated to winning the lost. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…" Romans 1:16
He Gave His Life to Save His Neighbour
Rev. Pieter Victor died saving a neighbour from a home invasion. When he heard his neighbour screaming, he rushed around to help. He found three armed men tying up this woman. He intervened and was shot dead by the assailants. Rev. Victor was 68 years old. It is ironic, that having survived decades of ministry in some of the most dangerous parts of the city, he was murdered in what we would consider to be "safe" suburb.
The Message of Pieter Victor
We praise the Lord for the dedication and evangelistic vision of Rev. Pieter Victor. He often said: "The middle letter of sin is 'I'. Selfishness is at the heart of our problems. The middle letter of lie is 'I'. The middle letter of pride is 'I'. The middle letter of Lucifer is 'I'. We are our own worst enemies. Selfishness is at the heart of sin. The only place that 'I' should be in the middle of is Saviour." "For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
To Seek and to Save the Lost
On the streets we had many interesting and frequently in-depth discussions with people going in and out of pubs, bars, night clubs and roaming the streets. We encountered many Nigerians, Congolese, and foreign tourists. Muslims, new agers, atheists, rastafarians, backsliders who claimed to be Christians even while being involved in blatant sin, people evidently on drugs or seriously drunk. Yet, most of the people we encountered were plainly respectful of each of us who wore the yellow vests. Evidently Straatwerk has earned the respect of many of the night life people who frequent Long Street.
Straatwerk believes that they are called to have a visible Christian present in the city centre. They are called to be of service to those who are in need, to ease their distress and to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Their servant evangelism focuses on deeds of love, words of love and the perfect timing of God. Straatwerk believes that God wants to end all forms of sexual abuse, prostitution and pornography, through focussed prayer and compelled action. They have a number of initiatives aimed at rescuing women out of prostitution. They also have an outreach ministry to the destitute and desperate, which involved a series of rehabilitation programmes for people who are not yet able to act productively and responsively. These people they mobilise to clean up the streets, removing litter, pollution, cleaning off illegal posters, graffiti – the grime that so often goes along with crime. One of their initiatives to combat human trafficking, sexual abuse and prostitution is the: Valuable to Jesus campaign, which includes a video presentation designed for screening at schools.
For more information you can contact Straatwerk at: email@example.com or phone them at 021-930-8055. Their website is www.straatwerk.org.za.
Who Will Go?
We praise God for this dedicated community who are shining the light of the Gospel in dark places of the inner city. Every church needs an evangelistic ministry into their local areas. We pray that more churches in Cape Town would train their members in personal, one-on-one evangelism and mobilise them to join Straatwerk in making a positive difference in the lives of broken people on the streets.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field." Matthew 9:37-38
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa