Guest speaker, former gangster and convicted offender, Damien Jackson, now a pastor and motivational speaker, asked the more than twenty thousand young people who attended the events to think about what they are doing with their lives, where they are headed and whether the life they are living is the life they want. He suggested that too many young people are headed the wrong way and they need to fight for the life they deserve.
Pastor Damien urged everyone to stop looking for excuses and blaming someone else for their situation. He said: "We all have a choice. We can choose what we do with our lives. If you are not happy with your life, ask yourself what you need to do to change it. And then do it."
He outlined four general groups of people and asked everyone to identify with one of the groups. The first and smallest group are people who have a dream and are focused on achieving it. They don't make excuses and refuse to accept obstacles in their lives. They have made a decision that they will succeed and they strive to achieve their dreams. Pastor Damien encouraged everyone to work towards belonging to this group.
The second, bigger group, are people who have a dream but are distracted by current circumstances. They may have friends who are negative influences or they are pursuing a destructive relationship rather than working to achieve their goals. The risk is that they could lose their dream completely. Pastor Damien encouraged those who identified with this group to pinpoint the distraction and eliminate it, freeing them to refocus on their dream.
The third group are people who had a dream but lost it. This might be because of life circumstances, disappointments or abuse, but along the journey, they believed the negative criticism levelled at them and stopped believing that they could be something great. Now they don't know what they want, and often seek satisfaction in mind-numbing alternatives including drug and alcohol abuse, belonging to gangs, playing out their anger, frustration and disappointment through violence and crime.
The last group are people who never had a dream. They have been put down so frequently that they don't believe in themselves or in anything anymore and don't see a future for themselves. Tragically, these people are easy targets and often fall prey to criminal and antisocial behaviour. Pastor Damien urged these people to seek help and help find a purpose for their lives.
Ten thousand copies of Pastor Damien's autobiography "Shoulda Been Dead"
, were printed and sold out. Donations from church members made it possible to distribute the book free of charge at correctional centres and schools nationally. Copies were given to gang leaders, inmates, those in trouble with the law and to other vulnerable people wishing to turn from their lives of crime and addiction and work towards transforming their futures. "Shoulda Been Dead"
is an inspirational story of survival and renewal. It documents the tragic life of a young man who by the age of 11 was addicted to alcohol and drugs and involved in gangs, violence and crime. By 14 he had been rejected by both his parents and was living on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia where old abandoned buildings were his shelter and gang members his surrogate family. The easy money of dealing drugs and weapons put him in the crossfire of police shootouts, and he served numerous prison sentences, the last one for attempted murder.
In jail he reached rock-bottom and, sober for the first time in many years, he made a decision to change his life. Dealing in thousands of dollars of contraband made him dangerous, getting stoned on drugs and alcohol made him fearless, facing down the barrels of guns from police and rival gangs made him tough, but nothing required the level of courage it took to change his life.
Speaking to inmates at Westville Prison in Durban, Pollsmore in Cape Town and Johannesburg Central Prison, he encouraged them to follow his example and think about their lives and their choices while they are serving their sentences.
Encouraging young people at schools and the church events, he said: "There is always hope, even in the darkest situation. If you have not had good role models, are victims of peer pressure, are involved in a downward spiral of despair and hopelessness, fight for your future and make a decision to change your life."
The leadership of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is committed to helping people transform their lives and believes events such as the "Where U going?" campaign will help contribute to the moral regeneration of society and result in a brighter future for all South Africans.
For further information, please contact Nametso Mofokeng at the church's public relations department on 011 224 3400 or email email@example.com