Most of us grow up under very difficult circumstances that threaten to define our destiny negatively.

Munatsi Sande is one such individual. He grew up in what is popularly known as “Majubeki” lines; those “ugly” flats we see, considered to be the “high-density area of Mbare”. Munatsi is the eighth in a family of 10 in which there were six boys and four girls. His mother was not educated and employed herself by selling wares on Mbare’s street corners.

His father was a long distance haulage truck driver and as a result was hardly at home, but on the road and in between countries’ borders. “My father was the bread winner and he worked very hard to try and afford each one of us an education,” said Munatsi.

Munatsi and his family occupied tree rooms at the flats. The six boys shared one room. While, the older brothers slept on the bed, the rest of them rested on the floor. Throughout his schooling life, Munatsi never had a new uniform as these were passed down from one brother to the next. New clothes were only bought for Christmas.

Because the financial situation was very bad, Munatsi and his brothers sold “mapotato chips” [fresh fries] after school which the mother made everyday to supplement the family income. “My mother did everything she could,” said Munatsi. “She taught us to be loyal, to serve, to keep together and to take care of each other”.

Growing up under such circumstances, sometimes it is very difficult to remain focused and when Munatsi was studying for is “O” Levels he became playful. That same year, his father got killed in a car accident and two months later, one of his brothers passed on. “I was devastated,” said Munatsi.

“My entire world came tumbling before me. Growing up in Mbare, I didn’t see any heroes. My dad had been my only hero and I had driven with him sometimes during the school holidays”. Munatsi failed his “O” Levels and decided to give his full commitment to Faith Ministries church, where the family had been attending since he was 10 years old.

Having been taught to serve all is life by his mother, Munatsi offered to help when the caretaker went on leave, and took over the duties of cleaning the 1 000-seater church. It is in this place, while cleaning floors and toilets, that Munatsi found direction and a new perspective to life.

It was because of people like Pastor Mkandhla who was the senior pastor of Mbare community church then and Dr Shingai Munyeza who was the youth pastor, that Munatsi’s life took a completely new turn. “For the first time in my life, I found people who believed in me, that I could be something. I was completely loyal to the church and I gave myself unreservedly to serving others faithfully. I didn’t realise that Pastor Mkandhla had been observing me.

One day he invited me to sit in the senior leadership meetings so that I could observe and learn about leadership. I was 18 years old then, and this year, I turn 38 and I am still sitting in those meetings. The only difference is this time, I am now the senior pastor of Mbare Community Church.

“I realise now that what matters is not where you were born or what you have. What matters is who you are,” said Munatsi, well-known as Pastor Natsi. “I sat under Munyeza for a number of years understudying him and he helped reshape my thinking. Today I am doing exactly that, reshaping the mindset of young people in Mbare. I see the potential in Mbare because I was once that potential until someone believed in me.”

Munatsi is passionate about leadership development and community transformation and has just launched an exchange programme in which young people will be travelling out of Mbare once a month to places where they get exposure aimed at challenging and inspiring them to see beyond their limited circumstances and to discover limitless potential that lies in each one of them.