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KM Book Club: No Neutral Ground

KM Book Club: No Neutral Ground

BOOK: No Neutral Ground: Finding Jesus in a Cape Town Ghetto by Pete Portal

RECOMMENDED BY: Jo (Training & Relationships @KM) 

Reading this compelling account combines the raw lashes of disappointment and stings of loss with a faith-fuelled optimism as real, tangible stories, solid biblical insights and vividly revealing thoughts are laid bare. In this book is a calculation – what it costs in joy and tears, in mind and money, in diligent study and politically astute policy creation, in the letting-go and holding-tight –  so that talk of hope has real names and faces on it  and not just ideals to serve, to love, to live, to give, to grow, to lead. – Lord Dr Hastings Scarisbrick CBE, Chancellor, Regents University London

After experiencing the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, the crowd asked: “What does this mean?”

Pentecost is the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise and it marks the spread of the Gospel to the whole world. Yes. But “What does this mean?” Really. For Pete Portal, the enactment of Pentecost began by recognising that although Jesus had come to bring life and life in its fullness (John 10:10); this is not everyone’s experience. Poverty, hopelessness and lack of opportunity has its grip on our world leaving so many of its people spiritually and materially destitute. This is not okay. 

“What does this mean?” took Pete and his South African wife from London to Manenberg, a ghetto in Cape Town created by the apartheid regime after the displacement of the coloured community in District 6. Even in South Africa’s rainbow nation, life in Manenberg is as marginal today as it was during apartheid. The main differences now are the rampant drug use and widespread gang presence.

Armed with God, hope and a desire to counter the traditional role of churches parachuting in and out of deprived areas and instead live as Jesus did (alongside the poor, lonely and destitute; praying, serving and discipling young men), Pete creates a family space for the vulnerable to be safe and to thrive – to encounter Jesus. And yet we know that in spite of the disciples living alongside Jesus for three years, listening to his teaching and witnessing healing and miracles firsthand, one still relapsed…

No Neutral Ground  is an account of the ups and downs of living a life surrendered to service and love, and developing a community for people wanting to follow Jesus. Pete’s commitment to help young people out of the gangs and off the drugs that trap them in a life of heartache and hopelessness is a story of triumph but also great despair. Pete describes and explains much of the sociological, economic and political traps and struggles that the Manenberg community face as well as the spiritual successes and failures over the years.

What makes this book different to many other equally incredible and inspiring stories is Pete’s challenge to the reader, which makes his story poignant for anyone responding to God’s heart for the least, the last and the lost. Here’s why Jo loved it:

As inspiring as this extraordinary mission and life of obedience and love in Manenberg is in an of itself,  Pete’s book always demands engagement from the reader, in terms of: “What does this mean where I live?” and “How am I (and the church I serve) bridging the gap for those not yet living life in its fullness?” This was the difference between this book and other inspiring books I’ve read about people working in extreme communities of violence, poverty and/or spiritual desolation. In No Neutral Ground I felt continuously prompted and challenged to  thinking about my community; my opportunities to embrace the costly life of living alongside people regardless of their ability to be consistent in the ways that our churches “expect” people to behave. Throughout the pages of the book, there is always the expectation that I am able to play my part in my community not just read and applaud Pete and Sarah’s brave calling. 

To be challenged, encouraged and reminded that winning small battles matters, get a hold of Pete Portal’s book on Amazon.

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