For a change I’m not flagged down by men who brazenly charge up to the car window and elbow one another out of the way to offer me drugs.
In fact the men flanking the sidewalks on this busy Monday-morning in main road Windsor just keep a wary distance from the car.
It must be the presence of Patrick Khaoya – Pastor Patrick, as they call him here – towering next to me as we slowly pull into a parking area in the central business district of Windsor East.
“It’s when the gambling shop opened that things became really bad,” says Patrick who arrived from Kenya in this high-density western suburb of Johannesburg in 2004.
Now, he explains, young boys and men spend days doing nothing, hanging around the streets, gambling, sniffing glue or whatever drugs are on offer – “being useless” says Patrick, as we walk down a row of townhouses that now serve as illegal shebeens after dark.
“Just like I used to be useless – in fact even a useless person would have said I was very useless,” says Patrick, introducing his life story.
Born 51 years ag in the western province of Kenya, Patrick worked for the Kenyan army throughout his 20s.
A photograph in Kenyan defence force dress uniform adorns the wall in his home.
It’s in the army where he learned that you never show the enemy your weakness. It’s a lesson he learned so well that he showed no-one much of his true self at all.
Not even his gorgeous wife Connie, whom he almost lost when, by 2002, at the age of 34, he was such a confirmed alcoholic, that “I couldn’t even remember when I should bath,” says Patrick, “and people would call her to come and drag me home from wherever I had passed out.”
The steady downward spiral of his life led to a suicide attempt…but on that day, something unforeseen happened.
He met Jesus.
And it changed everything. He gave his life to the Lord at a Pentecostal church, got baptised in water and the Holy Spirit and pledged that he would buy out every opportunity God gave him to follow Jesus and make disciples.
Almost overnight, Connie saw her husband’s life radically transformed. She saw the man emerging that she always thought he could be.
“It made me realise God’s power and made me love Jesus all the more,” she says.
The Khaoyas have been on a roller-coaster ride ever since.
Within two years, with R30 to his name, Patrick arrived in South Africa to attend Bible College. Knowing how much he had been saved from, he worked doubly hard to make up for lost time and graduated with honours, all the while working at any job he could find – from construction to shop assistant.
He never had to pay another cent for his studies, as one bursary after the next followed his academic achievements. In August 2013, Patrick graduated with a PhD in Missions with a thesis on Poverty and the Church from the University of Pretoria.
But Patrick hasn’t only studied poverty – he’s lived it. Breathed it. Felt it. Understands it from the inside.
Once a week he ministers to inmates at Leeuwkop Prison on the outskirts of Johannesburg’s north west. The stories of men’s desperation in the confines of captivity break his heart.
In his years in South Africa he has planted three churches – two in Katlehong and Honeydew, both in informal settlements, where the combined tithing and donations from members are hardly enough to cover his taxi fare if he preaches. He walks alongside local pastors to disciple them. Both churches have continued long after Patrick left.
The third church is another story – one of many that break his heart. He planted a church in Windsor East where he lives in a townhouse with his wife and three children. From their tiny sitting room, church meetings soon moved into the recreation centre and then into a ramshackle hall that they cleaned up together – but when the owners saw the turnaround on the property, they raised the rent to unaffordable levels. Today it houses a nightclub.
Patrick says he has followed Paul’s example in the Bible who was a tentmaker and provided for his own living while making disciples and establishing churches.
In the face of tremendous set-backs, Patrick and his wife run a small business, selling beads and jewellery at markets and shopping centres.
He has worn out his car driving from Windsor to Kenya, hosting crusades and spreading the gospel and collecting merchandise.
But no matter what else is going on, if it’s Monday, it’s Patrick’s time to take time out for street evangelism in Windsor.
He shows me the meagre pavement stalls where young Zimbabwean women sell fruit and toffees.
“But the money they make is far too little for any rental – even where they live in sub-divided houses, it’s too expensive, and so they are easy prey for drug dealers who turn them into prostitutes,” he explains.
“And this guy,” he shakes hands with a young man squinting against the harsh sun, “used to be an excellent mechanic, but he sold his tools.”
As we trudge away, he continues, “he really knows cars that boy, but he just gave up…sold his tools for drugs…but I’m trying to invite him to join the soccer team I started team a year ago, all kids with problems, and they already won a couple of big game.
Now we just have to find a place to practice and more uniforms as more boys join off the street.”
Patrick brims with ideas for local business ventures – one has just been realized after years of persistent prayer.
The Windsor charity shop opened its doors to provide clothes and household goods to the Windsor community at reasonable prices and plough back the profits into Windsor – to keep the community clean, create jobs and support the soccer team.
It has long been Patrick’s dream to have this shop to connect with residents and minister God’s Word to them. His vision is that earnings from the charity shop will in time fund a rehabilitation home for the young drug addicts camped out on the streets.
The opening of the shop was supported by Tsepho Community Development Initiative(tshepo-cdi.org.za), a partnership of four local churches in Northcliff and Linden with the aim of developing programmes that will empower people to create sustainable livelihoods.