OUR STORY – Chapter C1




Having completed my Bible School training at the end of September 1974, the Mission had to decide as to my field of service. Since I enjoyed Bible School so much and felt that I still had a lot to learn, I mentioned the possibility of continuing my studies for another year but my request was turned down because of staff needs in several areas. Firstly, Mr. Von Staden could do with an assistant to handle the administrative side of Head Office. Secondly, there was a need for leaders of outreach teams. In both of these areas I could be put to use because of my years of management as well as of administrative experience in the Department of Justice. Assisting Mr. Von Staden in an administrative capacity did not appeal to me, for my joining the Mission was for the purpose of reaching out to the lost and, after having been trained for two years, I felt that that was what I wanted to do. In the end I was appointed as team leader of an outreach team ranging from six to twelve workers.

This might not have been a good decision because I was spiritually somewhat immature to bear this responsibility. It was a burden that weighed heavily upon my shoulders for I was by nature somewhat of a perfectionist and this being God’s work, I pushed myself so much harder to achieve excellence. I also pushed those whom I was supposed to lead, equally hard. Many of them came from backgrounds where real hard work, strict discipline, punctuality, etc., were not the order of the day. As Christian workers, however, they suffered in silence, never letting on how much it cost them to serve in my “regiment”.

One of the earliest campaigns on which we were sent, was to Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape which was a long, long, way from home. Two factors that caused this campaign to be almost a nightmare for me, were the fact that I had to be away from my family for six weeks on end and that my team consisted of African people only, with the result that their conversation with one another was in their native tongues such as Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa. The result was that I could never join in conversations, whether we were driving in the car, sitting down to eat or just fellowshipping. The people to whom we ministered at Sterkspruit were all Xhosa speaking so that I could only speak and minister to them through an interpreter during all of the many hours and days we were doing house visitation. That was also the only language I heard during tent meetings. The Zulu I had learned at the Bible School was inadequate and I normally guessed more than understood what my team was saying. There were of course some of them that could speak broken English but we were not accommodated under one roof so I had contact with them only during the times of ministry. We were housed at a Mission station where there were a few Whites with whom I could converse in English or Afrikaans but I had very little opportunity of fellowshipping with them.

A further complication was that we were invited to campaign at Sterkspruit by the White members of the mission station and since there was tremendous friction between them and the African staff at that time, the African workers resented our presence and would not even allow us to minister to them. The leader of the mission station, for instance, asked us to minister to his medical staff at their daily early morning prayer meeting. Some of our workers attended the meeting but were ignored by those present and kept from ministering to them by their singing Christian songs and hymns for the full half an hour which the meeting lasted and then leaving the hall. They also refused to attend our tent meetings. We prayed much about this and our workers then decided to minister to them one-on-one to try and break down the animosity. After a week or so, this yielded good results and some of them started opening up towards us.

We of course also ministered to the residents of that vast nearby township. Right from the start we sensed a very real satanic opposition to our presence and to our ministry. However, we would not be daunted by such opposition and pitched our tent on a low hillock more or less in the middle of the township where it would be visible from every direction and to all residents. Since the area was very rocky, we toiled for hours with huge sledgehammers to drive in the pegs to hold our service tent upright. I always did my share in the practical work. Just before sunset we had it all nicely done and put in the benches, microphone stands and all that, then rushed home quickly to have a bath and dress for the evening service. At that time we always dressed in a collar, tie and suit.

On arriving back at the tent, a very strong wind suddenly sprang up and as we were watching, sucked the tent upwards, lifting it right off the ground, then letting it go so that it came tumbling down into a heap of canvas, poles and ropes. By that time it was getting dark and there were no electric lights in all of that area. We hastily lit the gas lamps, laid our jackets aside, untied the ropes, loosened and pulled out the main jumper pegs and started all over by lifting the main poles, hoisting the canvas, hammering down the pegs and tying the ropes. By the time we had finished, and the tent was ready for the evening service, we were as dirty as mineworkers after a day of hard toil. We were of course also very tired having pitched the tent twice on the same afternoon and not having had the opportunity to eat at all.

By then hundreds of people had gathered all round, watching and making all sorts of remarks as we were pitching the tent. There was no possibility of postponing the meeting to the next evening. They just streamed into the tent, sat down and shouted for us to begin with a meeting. It was not as if they were thirsty for the Word of God, no they were demanding to be entertained. We had not even had time to pray beforehand as we normally did, but just launched out trusting God to work through us. We decided to have a shorter meeting and then go home, so we started off by singing well-known hymns and at least managed to persuade the audience to join us. Once it had quieted down to some extent, one of us brought a message of about half an hour. Instead of being happy and enjoying to assist those whose interest had been aroused by the message, we sighed with relief that it was over and that we would soon be able to return home to wash, eat and regroup for the next day. To our dismay however, as the people to whom we had just ministered filed out of the tent, the hundreds that had gathered on the outside filed in, sat down and demanded their share. What could we do? We just had to hold another meeting which again lasted about an hour and a half. Only then could we disperse the multitude with the promise that the next meeting would be held in the tent the next evening at the same time. That was my first real baptism of fire into the holding of tent campaigns and specially in leading such a difficult campaign.

We hoped that the worst was past but quickly found that there were to be many nights like that, or even worse. Our tent could not accommodate the crowds that were flocking to it and every night there were hundreds of Xhosa men, some carrying knobkerries, surrounding the tent in the pitch darkness. I was the only White man amongst a sea of blacks and they often wanted to lure me outside on some or other pretext. Had I succumbed I would possibly not have lived to see the next day.

Being the leader of the team, I was supposed to do most of the preaching, so after a couple of nights, I felt that I had to take my turn and prepared a message as well as I could. On looking back, I realise that it was altogether the wrong message for those people; their hearts had not yet been prepared by grace to receive it. At that stage, most evangelistic preachers engaged in a fair amount of fire and brimstone preaching to bring people to Christ and I fearlessly brought the message. It was well intended but not well considered for I lacked in experience. I could just feel the resentment rising within that tent but felt no fear and I was ready to die for Christ if that was how it was to be.

However, God saw the plight of this son of his and came to his rescue. There was a man in the Mission by the name of Shadrach Maloka, a great man of God, full of wisdom and of the Holy Spirit. When we left Pretoria for this specific campaign, he was not available to accompany us but followed a couple of days afterwards. God, being in control of everything, directed it in such a way that he arrived there at Sterkspruit exactly on the night and at that time that I was preaching. He had walked from the station or taxi stand and still had his luggage with him but did not go to our accommodation. On approaching, he must have seen the masses of men milling around outside in the dark, heard me preaching over the loudspeakers and realised that this was a build up towards serious trouble, so he just slipped into the back of the tent. I did not even see him standing there. The moment I finished my sermon and closed my Bible he, in his booming voice started singing: “Reaoboka Morena” (We praise you Lord) walking forward at the same time. The people, taken by surprise, probably thought he was on their side and waited to see what he would do. He came right to the front, faced the audience, stretched his arms towards heaven and continued singing that song with all his heart. What happened next was unbelievable. The atmosphere suddenly changed. All over people were beginning to join in this song until the whole crowd was standing, singing and praising God. That is how my Father saved me, His ignorant son. Praise be to His name.

From that time onwards things began to improve. I retained my role as leader of the team but in fact Shadrach, whom everybody recognised as the real leader, took over in a very humble way so as not to offend me, at the same time steering the campaign in the way God wanted it to go. Soon after his coming, we also saw a real change in the attitude of the African people at the mission station. One of the main functions of the mission station was the running of a hospital. As time went by, many of the nurses working at the hospital accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of one-on-one ministry by our team members. After some three to four weeks we were thrilled to see the front rows of benches in the tent filled by nurses clad in their white uniforms, each with her own the Bible on her lap. Indeed the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for people of all nations, races and sexes.

Shadrach took me under his wing and, as he was fluent in English, we spent much time conversing on matters related to the work we were doing. I also walked with him in the afternoons doing house visitation and accompanied him when holding open-air meetings. It was very apparent that he was guided by the Holy Spirit. As we were walking down the streets, we gave out tracts and spoke to everyone that would listen. I, of course, was very eager to lead whosoever came across my way to Christ and felt guilty if I did not speak to each and everyone, for I felt that God would hold me accountable should that person that came across my way, die without having had the opportunity of accepting the Lord Jesus as Saviour. Notwithstanding all my zeal, I hardly ever saw anyone responding.

With Shadrach it was just the other way round. He would hand out tracts to each and every one, speaking a kind Word while doing so, but not engaging in conversation with them. Then, unexpectedly, he would suddenly latch onto somebody and spend two hours or more speaking to him or her. Unfortunately I understood very little of what was being said (they spoke Xhosa), but the expression on the listeners’ faces testified to the depth of the penetration of his words. It was not uncommon for him to lead such a person in prayer to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour. These he would follow up again and again during the following days and even without understanding their words, one could sense how they were growing and maturing. The sombreness on their faces and in the eyes made way for joy and laughter. It was clear that my mentor followed in the footsteps of his Lord, kept his eyes on his Heavenly Father and only did that which he saw his Father doing. In that way he saved himself much time and frustration.

I will never forget a certain open-air meeting which he and I together conducted a long distance from where the tent was pitched. We selected a spot where there were many passers-by, parked our vehicle and put up the audio equipment. We were not accompanied by any other members of our team, nevertheless the two of us sang a number of songs and then Shadrach started preaching. By this time twelve to sixteen women had gathered and as he continued, they listened more and more attentively, later on becoming totally enraptured by his message. At that stage it began to rain and I hastily gathered the audio equipment and stacked it in the vehicle. Shadrach, however, must have sensed that God was about to do a great working in the hearts of these people and, standing there in the pouring rain in probably the only suit he owned, invited his listeners to accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour. By that time deep puddles of water had formed all over, but the majority of the women knelt down, oblivious of the rain and the water in which they were kneeling and, lifting up their hands towards heaven, prayed out loud, confessing their sins, asking for forgiveness and seeking the face of Christ. Never in my life had I seen anything like this. We left that spot, not only drenched to the skin by standing in the rain, but drenched to the bone by standing in the awesome presence of God.

The Gospels tell us of how the disciples that were sent forth by the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel, were amazed to experience the signs and miracles which God worked through them. We too saw a number of things happening which could not be attributed to any natural causes. A certain woman shared with us her grief – her son had left her a number of years before and she had never heard from him since. She requested us to pray to God to let her come to know what had happened to him; where he was, or better still, to send him home. Many people were present when she made this request and heard Shadrach put the request to the Father in heaven. Within a couple of days the fear of God came upon that community as the electrifying message flashed through the village that the prodigal son had suddenly turned up at his mother’s home. Of course they all rushed there, wanting to know what caused him to suddenly return home. He looked perplexed and answered that he could not really explain it; he just suddenly realised that he must have grieved his mother terribly and felt an urge to return home and let her know that he was still alive. God works for those who wait upon Him.

Then there was an elderly lady who on one night came under a tremendous conviction of sin and a deep realisation that she was lost. Not caring what other people would think of her, she cried out to God in prayer, confessing her sin at the top of her voice and asking for His forgiveness while tears were flowing down her cheeks. This went on for quite some time. Some of the young people made fun of her and other people were annoyed, but she went on until, at last, God’s peace in her heart assured her that she had found grace in His eyes and that her sin had been removed. Her sobs subsided and from that moment onwards she was a new person and quite sure that she had become a child of God.

As I said, she was quite old and within about a week’s time, she passed away. When we received the tidings of her death, Shadrach used the occasion to point out to everyone present in the tent that night how important it was for each one of us to put things right with God when He affords us the opportunity; that is what she did, not counting the cost as to what others would think of her. Now, as we were gathered there in the tent, she was rejoicing with her Lord in heaven. Where would she have been if she had not taken that step? That night, as Shadrach made an invitation many, many of the young people of that township gave their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.

That campaign at Sterkspruit that had started off in such a tempestuous way, that had almost cost me my life, ended in tremendous victory as on the last night the tent was packed to capacity with hundreds of people on the outside listening to the loudspeakers and peering through whichever openings they could find, and scores of converts stepped forward to testify over the microphone as to their newfound life in Christ. In fact, the meeting lasted until well after midnight and then we still took down the tent and loaded it into our l.d.v. for some of us were expected back in Pretoria the next day and would have to leave before daybreak.



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