David Grootboom was a gangster, yet today he is a church and community leader, and youth worker in Bloemendal, Port Elizabeth. He is eagerly planning to take a church and youth group to the Karoo Mighty Men Conference (KMMC).
Grootboom, who pastors the Heal and Deliver Ministry, has been planning the trip since he first heard of the KMMC last year. For many of the group it will be their first time out of both Bloemendal and Port Elizabeth.
When I was first meant to interview David he was unable to keep the arrangement as one of his youth group was stabbed to death by members of the gang that he used to belong to. Grootboom’s presence was needed to cool tempers and restore calm.
He explains that the community of Bloemendal suffers from the effects of poverty, gangsterism, violence, substance abuse, child abuse, and drug trafficking.
However, Grootboom has an effective and strong weapon against these debilitating evils.
“Prayer is our weapon and our protection. We conquer through the peace of prayer in the name of Lord Jesus Christ.
“I have about 20 members of the youth that accompany me every morning at 4am to the top of a nearby mountain where we start our day in prayer and intercession for our community.”
Grootboom traces his involvement with gangs and gangsters back to his childhood when he was badly burned and disfigured in a fire at the age of six.
“People used to tease me and call me names, because of the scars, so I kept indoors and to myself, but I was befriended by gang members who taught me the language and the ways of the gang.
“I acted as a courier and messenger for the gang from about nine years old and graduated to full gangsterism at 14.
“I eventually became a hit-man, drinking, smoking and lounging about during the day and working at night.”
One evening after receiving orders to assassinate a rival gang member, Grootboom went home to get his gun, but discovered the house locked. Knowing that he would find his mother at church, he went to get the key to the house from her.
Intent on showing those in the church his power and snatching the keys from his mother he entered the church, only to be flung to the ground by an unknown force.
“I found myself kneeling on the ground sobbing and weeping uncontrollably,” says Grootboom.
After the service, at which he found salvation in Lord Jesus Christ, he read the Bible throughout most of the night.
“For the first time the Bible made sense to me and I could not get enough of it. My mother eventually took it away from me in the early hours of the morning telling me that I must sleep.”
The next day Grootboom was approached by fellow gang members and asked why he did not meet them for the planned assassination.
He told them of his experience at the church and that he was a new child of God as in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
“I said to them a newborn child of God does not murder. They offered me a cigarette. I told them a newborn child does not smoke. They said: ‘come on let’s have something to drink’.
“I said: ‘a baby doesn’t drink alcohol’, so they left.”
Grootboom committed his life to the Lord, helping to bring healing to his community and leading his neighbours to Jesus to experience the same salvation and reconciliation with Almighty God that he did.
Today, he works as a long-distance truck driver and when he is not working he is involved in building his community through the establishment of a crèche, breaking the hold of drugs and gangs on the youth, and growing the body of Christ in Bloemendal.
“We are experiencing positive changes in Bloemendal and it is only prayer that is bringing it about,” says Grootboom.
“Lord Jesus Christ is working change in the community, because I now have more than 50 people working with me.”
While Grootboom and a group of about 20 people will be attending KMMC he says there are many more that would like to attend the conference, but do not have the funds. Anyone who is able to contribute funds can contact Grootboom on 078 669 6269.