Gang leader ‘switched on’ to Jesus during citywide evangelism campaign

Pastor Kenny Nonkonyana (foreground, left) ministers to former, notorious gangster, Xola Ngxolo (leaning backwards) at a tent meeting in Zwide, Nelson Mandela Bay. In an interview with Megan Whatley of African Enterprise, , said his life of crime had been fuelled by drugs but he has now given himself wholeheartedly to God.

One of the blessings of the recent Switched On evangelism campaign in Nelson Mandela Bay was the salvation of former, notorious gang leader, Xola Ngxolo and members of his gang who all accepted Jesus during evening meetings in a tent in Zwide.

Ngxolo who was crippled after he was stabbed by a rival gang member about six months ago came to the tent about three weeks ago to seek prayer for healing and to surrender his life to the Lord, says Zwide pastor Kenny Nonkonyana who in his enthusiasm for the Switched On mission, pitched the tent and started nightly services two weeks ahead of the official mission week from August 16 to 22.

Whole group
“His [Ngxolo’s] whole group came as well when they saw their boss surrendering to the Lord. At first we thought we were being invaded,” said Nkonyana. The other gang members just observed that night but on subsequent evenings one by one they all accepted Jesus and now about 15 of them attend nightly services and some are being trained as ushers. He kept the services going after the end of the Switched On week in order to establish new believers who will now join his church in Zwide.

Pastor Kenny Nkonyana.

Nkonyana says the former gangsters assured him it was no longer necessary to guard the tent through the night, saying: “We were the robbers in the area. Now no-one will take anything.” He says he dispensed with the guards and nothing has been taken from the tent which is due to be taken down today (Thursday, September 3, 2015).

Nkonyana says he facilitated four tent crusades in two tents as part of the citywide mission in partnership with the churches of NMB and African Enterprise. His team of about 50 youth evangelists have also done regular “dawn broadcasts” in which they get up at 5am and pray for half an hour before walking through the streets of the neighbourhood preaching the Gospel. In an extension of their ongoing taverns ministry they also preached outside a popular sports bar at about 5am as revellers left the establishment and they did door to door evangelism in the neighbourhood. He says that people have come to Christ through all of these activities.

Heart for villages
This week Nonkonyana has also been getting into schools in East London to share the Gospel and he has been arranging a crusade in the Umtata area. He says God has given him a heart for the hundreds and hundreds of impoverished villages scattered across the Transkei hills. “Not many pastors are prepared to go to and stay in the villages but there are many souls there,” he says. He has already planted a church in a village and he is currently training missionaries in the city with a view to sending them to pastor new village church plants. He is 36 now, is married with five children, and says his life goal is to use his youthful energy to achieve as much as possible for the Lord by the time he is 50.

Evangelism encounter outside a sports bar at 5am.

He believes the Switched On mission has been strategic for the city and for himself. “Without it I do not believe I would be so committed to soul winning and crusades as I am now. Switched On has really switched me on!”

A little more than a week after the mission in which 400 local Christians underwent intensive evangelism training and the Gospel was presented at 75 events in the city and on the NMMU campus and at 125 outreaches all over the city, leaders who participated are busy with follow-up action to ensure that new believers become disciples.

Switched On Steering Committe Chairman Rev Rory Spence says: “We are opting to remain as a ‘Missions task force’ to lend our combined experience and resources to back selectively chosen future initiatives such as an annual men’s camp for the whole city, an annual citywide children’s camp, possibly an annual youth camp, and to assist the OM ship which will visit PE in mid-2016 by involving a whole lot of trained evangelists and looking for ministry openings.

Street evangelism.


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