No Neutral Ground: The StoryPete Portal - 22 Jul 2019
Pete Portal is part of a 24-7 Prayer community in South Africa, and has recently released his first book “No Neutral Ground” (watch the trailer) where he shares the story of his journey from England to South Africa.
Here, he shares how the book came to be:
It’s hard to say exactly when the writing process the book began. In one sense I’ve been writing it for ten years – through diarizing my move to South Africa as I began to grapple with the complexities of living in Cape Town, a city of extremes.
I was a clueless 23 year old, just six months out of university, emotionally processing in fast forward.
Another answer is that it began as therapy. I moved into Manenberg, a township of Cape Town, and lived with a friend called Dowayne (who features in the book). He was struggling with heroin addiction, and I had no one to offload my trauma, failures and loneliness onto - so I turned to my laptop and just wrote and wrote.
Years went by, Dowayne got clean, began working with us, and the community grew.
And so I kept writing, in order to remember – the ups and downs, the despair and hilarity, the triumphs and the tragedies, the breakdowns and breakthroughs – and eventually I began to put all of it together in book form when Sarah (my wife) and I were on sabbatical in 2016.
I wanted to write something that combined the jarring experience of moving from middle class England where life was comfortable and safe, to one of South Africa’s most dangerous communities where life was dangerous and all too cheap.
I had never dealt with the pain of losing friends to bullets before.
I wanted to help readers create connections – between theology and real life stories, theory and embodied reality, the comfort of the few and the pain of the many, the cry of the world and the hope of the gospel.
Is what I’ve written, about what we are doing in Manenberg, describing our ‘mission’? Possibly. But are we missionaries?
The way we see it, we are just living life with dear friends we’ve made as we’ve reoriented our gaze away from career, privilege, and the Western myth of ‘quality of life’, to the flourishing of one small community as Jesus transforms people’s pain, far from the centres of power and privilege.
People sometimes say to me, ‘I could never do what you do.’ Not true.
We all have a choice which stories we live in. And if we choose to reorient our lives towards those Jesus put first – the forgotten, the vulnerable, the broken and marginalised – we will see a remarkable change in the stories we live out. Because they will be told from an entirely different perspective.
Which is just another reason why, whilst we aren’t all called to Manenberg, we are all called to follow Jesus’ call to the lost.
Photo Credit: Freddie Reed