by Jody Bennett
Maruwaan began experimenting with drugs from the age of 14, quickly becoming addicted to crystal meth and heroine.
Born on the Cape Flats in the dangerous township of Manenberg, Maruwaan Scullard modestly describes his upbringing as “not easy”. Born the middle son of six siblings, he was exposed to drugs, drinking, gangs and violence very early in his life. With his father in jail and his mother an alcoholic, Maruwaan began experimenting with drugs from the age of 14, quickly becoming addicted to crystal meth and heroine.
“I felt like I was on top of the world but I looked like I lived on the streets,” he recalls.
Maruwaan’s good friend, Dowayne Lamour, remembers him in those days. “Maruwaan started being aggressive and violent from the time he was about 12 or 13. He stabbed his mother’s boyfriend for hurting his mom.” He was often in trouble and nearly got killed several times while on drugs.
Leon Daames, who is a pastor in the area, met Maruwaan when he mugged him at knife point while Leon was walking down the street! Leon told him and the two other boys involved that Jesus loved them and could help them. Five years later, when Leon had long forgotten the incident, Maruwaan came up to him in church and told him how the pastor’s words had stayed with him and how sorry he was for robbing him.
Maruwaan’s journey to freedom from addiction began when he saw the remarkable change in Dowayne after he came into contact with Cru62, a program started in 2015 by Pete and Sarah Portal in Manenberg.
Cru62 gets its name for the promises found in Isaiah 62 in the Bible, and is aimed at helping guys get free from addiction and gang life, and discover their true identity as beloved and precious children of God, with purpose and hope. This is done in a live-in, family environment through mentoring, a 12-step course and support groups, as well as life skills training and daily Bible study.
When Maruwaan saw the complete transformation in Dowayne’s life and that he was living clean of drugs he wanted to be like that too.
“I didn’t want to use anymore. I didn’t want to hurt my family and those people around me anymore,” he recalls.
Dowayne, who is now a supervisor at Cru62, remembers that Maruwaan was in a bad way, begging, scrounging in bins and spending everything he had on drugs when he invited him to come and get help.
Even though Cru62 were just starting out and had much to learn when Maruwaan joined them, one thing they did have faith for, Pete says, was that Jesus was more powerful than any addiction.
After Maruwaan moved in he quickly began suffering terrible withdrawal symptoms – sweating, shaking and vomiting. By the third day he had had enough of the pain and decided he was going to run off and start using again. However, he knew that if he did, his life would never improve.
Sarah encouraged him to join them for the Wednesday worship service at the coffee shop around the corner instead and so, although a Muslim by birth, feeling miserable and wrapped in a duvet, Maruwaan joined the group of happy, singing people. They were singing a song with the words: “I’m no longer a slave to fear, for I am a child of God.”
“I realised I no longer wanted to be a slave to drug addiction,” Maruwaan remembers. “I no longer wanted to be a slave of the devil to hurt other people.” He dropped his duvet, walked into the group and said, “Pray for me.”
During the prayer, Maruwaan felt the touch of the power of God upon him and his body was instantly free of drugs. The pain, the cravings and fever left him and he began jumping around and dancing.
Maruwaan initially found the Christian discipleship program hard, but he could see how the love of Jesus was transforming lives. One day when a group of Muslims asked him if he now believed the Bible was true and he replied, “How can I deny the truth of the Bible when what I see in Scripture is the same as what I see in my day-to-day life?”
“I was feeling loved all the time. It made me want to hold onto recovery,” he said. When someone experiences and encounters Jesus, every-thing changes.
Then, on 1 September 2016, Maruwaan set out from Johannesburg to walk to Cape Town in order to raise money and awareness for the mentoring program. “I am grateful to be able to walk this walk and I believe it is going to change many lives. We’re not going to change the lives but Jesus will,” he said in a smiling interview as he set off.
The following day, on only the second day of his anti-drug campaign, Maruwaan was struck by a car and killed instantly. He was 21.
Pete, Sarah and Dowayne were devastated. “It’s crazy. I don’t get it. It was tragic. We’re still reeling,” Pete said later. “We have no answers as to why it happened but what we do know is that he died doing what he was passionate about. He could say that he was living for something that was worth dying for. And I don’t think there is any better way to go than that, honestly.”
Maruwaan leaves behind a legacy of great hope that addiction can be beaten, that an upbringing of violence, crime and poverty can be overcome and that no matter how bad or broken you are, change is always possible through Jesus Christ.•