Warren Theys is a proud family man and pastor at the Pescodia Evangelical Bible Church of South Africa. He has spent the last 13 years championing Heartlines programmes and using its wealth of resources to improve the lives of his community in Kimberley.
Warren has shared the Heartlines message in schools, clinics, police stations and government departments. It began with showing the film Nothing for Mahala at his church and introduced it in small groups.
When the What’s Your Story? initiative was launched, Warren knew that this was an opportunity to reach people in a new way and was excited to share the film Beyond the River with his congregation and small groups.
“I came to realise that preaching could never be enough, that no matter how much we tried as the church to get people to connect, knowing and understanding each other’s stories is the best way to break barriers and build a community,” he says.
“As pastors we need to understand that it’s not enough to just feed people Bible verses and expect them to change, we need to listen to our people’s needs and empathise with them in order to be more effective leaders.”
Resonating with Fathers Matter
Today, he is most excited about the Father Matter programme because of his own story, growing up with an absent father.
Warren was born in eSwatini where he lived with his parents and four siblings. His father had a respectable job working as an electrician and they lived in a middle-class suburban home. His mother stayed at home to look after the children, but his father’s alcohol addiction tainted what appeared to be a perfect family life.
“My parents often argued about my father’s drinking that made him fail to uphold his responsibilities in the home because he preferred to spend his money on alcohol than buy food for the family,” he says.
The tension at home led to separation and Warren and his siblings moved to Durban with his mom.
“I had always been a good academic performer at school and I loved sport but when I was a teenager attending boarding school, I heard that my siblings had the opportunity to see my father again without me,” he says.
“My father and I were close when I was a child and his absence in my life left a gap. When I didn’t get the opportunity to see him again I realised how hurt I was for not knowing him,” he says. “ I became angry, rebellious and started drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and partying.”
It is this experience of father absence and understanding the impact it has on a young man that has motivated Warren to champion the Fathers Matter project in his community.
Hope for his community
“In my community in Kimberley, many fathers are enslaved to drugs and alcohol and it is the biggest cause of gender-based violence. Being able to address these matters in a church context has helped me understand that we can change the mindset of fathers, especially through Connect Groups,” he says.
He also aims to take the Fathers Matter project into prisons, where he says father absence has led to many problems that put men behind bars.
“Even if one finds themselves in an incredibly difficult situation like prison, it is still possible to learn to forgive and restore broken relationships,“ he says. “The Fathers Matter project has helped me understand the impact my role has as a husband and father to my family. Many young men in my community who have lived without a father figure in their life, follow drug lords. I look forward to getting my church to intervene, even if we reach a few men.”