Working towards his dreams
“One day during one of my prison sentences I was in the courtyard, and I saw this man speaking to the guys, I knew he was part of a programme for offenders, and there were two voices in my head,” explains Cameron Jooste. “One said, what is the use? Don’t bother going there. But the other said, go and listen and hear what this guy is saying.” He went over and felt hope return in a small flicker that grew every time they connected. “That guy was Sibu – he was speaking life, hope, and I started joining in the programmes they offered.” That was the beginning of a turn-around for this young man who had been involved in crime since he was a teen.
“We moved around a lot when I was growing up,” he says, “And my mother had no home, so we were staying with family and then had to move again and again.” This disrupted Cameron’s schooling. When his mother died when he was 8 years old, he went and lived with grandparents in the Eastern Cape for five years. When he arrived back in Cape Town as a teen, he joined his peers in drinking and going to parties, mostly to fit in initially. It was not long before trying out marijuana turned to an addiction to mandrax. “I was no longer the same character, even at home they noticed, and stopped giving me money,” he says. He found ways to fund his new addiction, that involved more serious crime.
So began a cycle of criminality and prison that left Cameroon in despair. “I had no contact with my father, no mother, realised I was a bad example to my two younger sisters, and had missed so much schooling. After all I had been through and done, I thought I had no future, I had come to a place of hopelessness.” He had tried to break the cycle, exit the gang that protected him and provided for him, but it never lasted more than three weeks. That was the space Cameron was in when he saw Sibu in the prison courtyard that day in 2018 and took a chance on change.
“Then I found people who spoke life into my life, who spoke hope into my life. I realised I had robbed myself, of my own good life,” he says, “and I started to see there is life beyond this one I was living.”
Sibu had a massive impact on his life. “He was the one who influenced me, speaking positively into my life, words that transformed me. It was also the obedience to the Holy Spirit, who came into my life in the darkest of spaces. That time, I could not even see.” He says, and “then in February 2019 I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour, on my own, one night in my cell.” Later that year, Cameron’s sentence was served, and he went back to Stellenbosch, to a community who knew him and yet did not know the change he had undergone.
“It was tough to be back there and I realised I was not going to make it if I stayed,” he admits, “and one day I went to the Correctional Services and said, please can I make a call because if I stay I will either be back in prison or will die.” He called City Mission and he was fetched later that same day, supporting his attempt to ‘develop the change’ in his life. Cameron came to live and serve at Burns Road, Salt River, and so began his new chapter.
“If your basic needs are met – like food, transport, accommodation and clothing – you can work on starting again, and that is what City Mission has done for me. Without those things, it is so easy to end up back in a cycle of crime and prison,” Cameron says.
There are three dreams that Cameron has seen come to pass in his life during this past year. “I went back to school at an adult learning centre, I am learning how to play the violin and bought myself one, and I got my learner’s license,” he says smiling, “and I have discovered how much I love reading!”
At only 25 Cameron has a lifetime ahead of him – but it is a lifetime full of hope and love and learning and serving. He thanks God for this, first and foremost. “I always wanted to change my life and tried and tried, but always went back a few weeks down the line. I had no power. Until I surrendered my life to the Lord.” The strength he has received from God is what has given him what he needed to make the changes, but the people who walked alongside him on the journey, have helped him stay on the path of purpose. It is not easy going back to school at his age and takes courage, but Cameron is determined. “When life knocks you down you have to get back up again – are you going to stand up or stay down?”
“I was willing to make a small step, and put my hand up for help, as I did when I made that call once out of prison,” he says, “But then God took that one step and put people around me to help me develop the change I wanted to see, and the change I want to be.”
“I am excited to see what God is going to do with my life and there are so many ‘Camerons’ behind me, who I can help, who are going through the same thing as I did. That is one of the things that keep me going.”
|How one young man developed his inner change and is seeking a bright future with God, and love and support from City Mission and others.|