Where are They Now? - Resident Alumni Story

Written by Lindsay Shifflet

Over the next few months we would like to feature a couple stories of past East Mountain residents, highlighting where they find themselves now and what they are up to one, two or three years later. The mark of any great process or organization lies not only in how a mission is carried out in the present, but also by the mark of what legacy is left behind. One such legacy figure in the history of East Mountain is Siyanda Landzela. Hailing originally from the Eastern Cape, Siya has spent much of his life with his family in the township of Khayelitsha. Though Siya treasures the sense of community and support found in Khayelitsha, he recognizes the cycles of violence, substance abuse, and fatherlessness that continue generation after generation. A lack of positive male role models in homes is a pervading problem, and one that affected Siya personally as he grew up without a father.

Although he grew up attending Sunday school, the thrilling lure of soccer soon captured Siya's attention each Sunday. It is on the field that he met Dumisani, a pastor from Khayelitsha, and his life was radically altered. He played on the soccer team that Dumisani's church had and later started attending church as well. Both church and soccer became important areas of passion in Siya's life, especially because they introduced him to father-like mentor figures who invested in him. Up to this point, Siya had been following the direction and influences of his friends and peers. Encountering Christ in church helped him know himself better and consciously choose a more positive direction in his life. As he was poured into my various role models, Siya began wrestling with questions about who he was and what he wanted from life. The natural next question soon became, "How do I get that?"

One part of that answer came in 2017 when Dumisani informed Siya of East Mountain's six week Summit program. Siya's highlights from Summit were having a mentor hear his story and pour into him as well as having access to a fun, diverse, and caring community. Impacted by his Summit experience, Siya signed up to be a resident in 2018. Growing up in Khayelitsha where there is one dominant culture, Siya was surprised and challenged by the varied perspectives he found presented by the multiple cultures and individuals represented at East Mountain. He saw different forms of leadership than he had ever seen before, and was able to learn from those around him. He brought much wisdom and joy into the resident house, as well as screams of terror whenever he would hide behind corners and grab passerby's ankles, a favorite pastime of his.

Walking away from East Mountain, Siya marvels at how the programs offered can help any South African. East Mountain "takes you as you are," and trusts that God will work. He shares that his time at EM prepared him for his next season of life and gave him the tools to grow and live a life of leadership and impact. Being a part of East Mountain for him was, and is still, equivalent to being a part of a family.

So, where is he now? Glad you asked! Siya was connected by an EM staff member to a coding school in Cape Town where he is thriving and continually being challenged. He hopes to use this skill to impact the church. Yet his greatest desire is to be a role model for others in his community of Khayelitsha. Siya's life was changed by the Lord bringing role models into his life to invest in him, and now he is walking that same road with others to bring lasting change not only in the lives of individual people, but also in the church, the community, and the next generation.