A notorious gang leader voluntarily surrendered his knife to a group of Christians and gave his life to Jesus during an anti-crime prayer walk in one of the worst violent crime hotspots in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
The dramatic street encounter in Kleinskool Extension 36 occurred after one of the prayer walkers, Pastor Tyrone Strydom, asked a group of known gangsters whether he could speak to them and then began to proclaim the Gospel to them.
The gang leader then suprised the prayer group, which included uniformed and plain clothes police officers, by stepping forward and handing over his knife, saying he was ashamed of what he had been doing and wanted to turn his life around. Another gang member stepped forward and handed over a stick of dagga, saying he too was ashamed and wanted to change. The prayer team then led the two gangsters in a prayer of commitment to Jesus Christ and Strydom undertook to continue seeing the young men.
Colonel Christo Gerber, SA Police Service Station Commander of Bethelsdorp, who was present during the encounter, said the gang leader who surrendered his knife had been one of the biggest trouble makers in the area. “It was brilliant. I believe God led us to that spot. If our action saved just one soul we were successful,’ he said.
Speaking to the congregation at a special police appreciation service at Dominion Ministries church in Chatty today, Gerber said the prayer walking initiative in crime areas was making an impact. He said there had been a great decrease in crime in Helenvale since a joint police-church prayer march there in March. He said that during the prayer walk yesterday there had been a remarkable sense of calm as they moved through the area.
He appealed to churches in Port Elizabeth to participate in prayer marches and outreaches to troubled communities. “We as the police can’t fight crime alone. I plead with the church. We have to go out to the areas and kick out the devil who is over the people.”
He said if the church would support the police by playing an active role in communities, “we will give our 200 per cent in fighting crime”.
SAPS Mount Road Cluster Commander, General Dawie Rabie, who has repeatedly called for the church to lead the charge against crime in the city, also addressed the service that was attended by representatives of a number of PE police stations. Rabie also took part in yesterday’s prayer walk and was present when the gangsters responded to the Gospel.
He said that about 18 or 19 people participated in yesterday’s prayer walk. There should have been several hundred, based on the number of churches in the Bethelsdorp area, he said. “We have seen a great spiritual hunger in the troubled communities where we have prayer walked. People have asked us to pray with them. They want to come out of their misery. Like Jesus, the churches should be out there seeking and saving the lost.
“The church in the city must get on board. If each church would just take on its own vicinity we can make a huge difference,” he said. “I believe that before the end of the year we will have had prayer walks in every part of the city. We can take PE for Jesus and make it a shining example to the rest of South Africa. And then we can take the province.”
He also called on churches to focus on uplifting and empowering poor communities. “If people have jobs they won’t have time to rob and steal,” he said.
During today’s service church leaders prayed prayers of thanks and blessing over the policemen and policewomen who attended. Dominion leader Pastor Strydom assured the local Bethelsdorp Police Station that his congregation would build an active relationship with its policemen and would visit the police on night duty.
The police appreciation service was the third in the city in recent months. Victory Ministries International and the Gelvendale Full Gospel Church have held similar events. SAPS Chaplain Alain Waljee challenged more churches in the city to support their local police stations.