To serve is to heal – by Adam Hughes

Adam, back centre, with friends from Tree of Life

My name is Adam. I’m an ordinary 25 year old from London.

I left school at 16 and trained to be a mechanic. I eventually found myself at a high-end car company in Chelsea. Life was good; I enjoyed my work and I was surrounded by great friends and family. I was very comfortable. 

Unsurprisingly, God had other ideas.

When I was 23, he made it clear he wanted me to move to South Africa. After deeply considering it, I ended up packing my life up and moving to a township called Manenberg in March 2020.

Addiction and trauma

To give you a bit of (very simplified) context, South African townships were born out of a white supremist regime called Apartheid. Historically, townships were ghettos; places to put ‘troublemakers’ so that ‘crime could be controlled’.

Many of the people who live in Manenburg were forcibly removed from their homes and communities. Unsurprisingly, this produced widespread trauma. Addiction, poverty and the formation of gangs started to run rampant.

This is the reality in which I now live. I am part of a church, Tree of Life, which tries to help young men leave addictions and gangs behind them. We are currently focused on setting up a safe house and a residential programme to help men find fullness of life.


Just weeks after I arrived, the country went into an incredibly strict lockdown due to Covid.  I could only leave the house once a week.

Some of the guys from the programme didn’t have anywhere safe to isolate, so the couple I lived with, who run the ministry, kindly opened their home to them. I ended up doing lockdown with 5 young men as they carried on their recovery journey.

INTENSE was the word! It was both the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. I experienced every emotion under the sun. We laughed, we cried, we had fights and we saw people delivered from demons which have plagued their life. You name it, it happened.

Raw community

I quickly learned that when you are part of such a raw community, your own brokenness gets exposed very fast. Being present to other people’s brokenness really shows up your own.

As we all did life together, I came to see that we were all carrying similar pain. We had all been looking for love in all the wrong places. They dealt with it through substances; I dealt with it through trying to be perceived as successful.

Shared brokenness

When I realised that we were all broken, any sense that ‘I can help because I have it all together’ got flipped on its head. I realised there is no hierarchy and I understood better the level playing field the Bible speaks about. 

We all struggle. We all fall short. We all need a saviour. In our community we embarked upon a beautiful journey of friendship and pursuing freedom together, with no one person better than the other. 

It’s when you really see people and allow them to see you back, that the beautiful process of redemption starts. In community, we welcomed God into the cracks of our lives and experienced his healing. 


I have had a few conversations with people that say ‘Wow, Adam, what you’re doing here is so radical.’

If I’m being honest part of me loves this because it makes me feel like a total legend. But, I realise this is just another example of wanting to look successful.

Labelling it ‘radical’ makes it seem like a special thing that only a few people will ever do. In fact, the opposite is true: all of us are made to be apprentices to Jesus.


We are all called to love and serve others. And this especially includes those who can’t or won’t love us back. Of course, living this way can be scary and counter-cultural, but I have found it leads to authenticity and healing.

We often assume healing happens in seclusion, away from busyness and when we are alone with our thoughts. But I’ve been starting to think that Jesus wants community to be where our healing starts.

I am just stumbling along, seeking to follow Jesus. But in Manenburg, I have found that when we live, love, serve, pray and journey with those that are drastically different to us, we can all find redemption.


In community, we get a fresh perspective on our wounds and gather courage to admit that we don’t always get everything right. Sometimes, we continue to act out of our pain.

But we gather the courage to admit that we can’t do this alone. We gather the courage to know how much we need a saviour. 

And so the redemption begins. To serve is to heal.

Adam lives in Manenberg, South Africa and is part of Tree of Life church

1 thought on “To serve is to heal – by Adam Hughes”

  1. This is a beautiful post, Adam. So moving, so insightful. “…looking for love in all the wrong places” is familiar to me. It took me much longer than you to understand that though! This paragraph especially touched me: “We often assume healing happens in seclusion, away from busyness and when we are alone with our thoughts. But I’ve been starting to think that Jesus wants community to be where our healing starts.” Very thought-provoking. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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