OUR STORY – Chapter C11

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This is a very sad chapter for it deals with the ending of our involvement with the Dorothea Mission after 10 years of serving in its ranks. This is how it happened.

As the years went by and Mr and Mrs von Staden aged, some friction developed between them and some of the senior members of the Mission. To do all parties justice in recounting what happened, is easier said than done, for one cannot but convey one’s own perception of the events which may not be correct in every respect and putting it to paper in a book such as this, does not afford these dear two leaders of the Mission the opportunity of telling their side of the story, but let me at least give it a try for I need to explain why we left.

The first cause for friction was the way in which the administrative and other practical matters of the Mission were handled. No matter what the main function of an organisation is, its administrative side must run smoothly and effectively. Management has to appoint skilled staff to handle that side of the organisation and to modernise it, so as to keep up with the developing world. A badly administered organisation causes unnecessary delays and endless frustration to its staff. Whereas some of the Mission’s initial workers were fairly unskilled, workers that enlisted later on, graduates from universities or colleges or other people who had held senior positions in organisations, were more sensitive to inefficient and outdated administrative processes. Poor administration made them feel that the organisation in its totality was lagging behind and becoming ineffective. I must admit that my hands often itched to be allowed to get into the central and satellite offices to set up systems that would function smoothly and effectively and assist the Von Stadens in the execution of their managerial responsibilities. I most certainly never had it in mind to undermine their authority or take over their management responsibilities, but only to do what I had been trained to do in the Department of Justice, that is, assisting management, making it easier for them to run the organisation.

A second pebble in the shoe of the Mission, pertained to the Board which, for quite some time, consisted mainly of the Von Staden family and some of their close friends. Some of the workers that had been in the Mission longer than me, felt that the workers themselves had to be represented on the Board and be able to take part in discussions, for most of the Board members had no idea of what it entailed to go out on campaigns.

A third cause of conflict was of a rather more serious and tricky nature. At that time the Charismatic movement was burgeoning all over the country like an awakening giant, touching tens of thousands of Christians irrespective of the denominations where they grew up. The very conservative Dutch Reformed Church in which tradition played a major role and of which Mr and Mrs Von Staden were members, were hard hit by this spiritual revival and lost tens of thousands of its members to the different charismatic congregations that sprang up all over.

No Christian living in South Africa, could ignore what was happening in the spiritual world all around and many of us Dorothea workers that had given our lives to serve the Kingdom of God, attended Charismatic and Pentecostal meetings in search of something more than what we were experiencing in the Mission. No-one could deny the fact that the spiritual anointing that had rested on the Mission, had somewhat diminished and we were no longer seeing the earlier blessings. Some of the leaders even went to Mr von Staden, pleading for us as a Mission not to be left behind, as the wave of God’s blessing was sweeping over the country. (Martie and I were not really part of this group. We more or less just had our toes in the water, while looking around at what was happening to others.)

Mr von Staden was not impervious to the working of the Holy Spirit and often spoke about the baptism of the Holy Ghost, recounting stories of spiritual awakenings as in Wales and even nearer at home, in South Africa, under Dr Andrew Murray, but he was strongly opposed to the exercising of the gifts of the Spirit and I got the impression that he doubted the authenticity of the flowing in the gifts in the course of charismatic meetings. His concerns as to the practical impact this would have on the Mission, were twofold: firstly that it would split the work in two, with some workers being for it and the others against it and secondly, should the Mission join in this new movement, it would cut its own throat for it would most definitely lose the financial support of scores of Dutch Reformed Churches as well as of thousands of its members. It would possibly also have lost the support of many of its supporters in Europe. This certainly was a very, very tricky situation and a very difficult decision to take and Mr von Staden did not want to follow this route.

These then, were the issues that stirred up conflict. The conflict, however, was on a very personal level, between individual members and the Director. In reverence of God and respect to Mr von Staden, we seldom discussed these issues with one another and would never have dreamt of constituting a united action to approach him in this regard.

However, the time came when the simmering pot boiled over. Some of the workers were discharged from the Mission, while others thought it better just to resign. The older workers who had been with the Mission ever since it was founded in 1940, remained loyal to it and especially to Mr and Mrs von Staden. It was the younger group that had developed so well within the spiritual atmosphere of the Mission, created by the leadership of this great man and woman of God, who were the ones that sought other opportunities for investing their lives and the lives of their families in the Kingdom of God.

A ray of light in this dark situation was that wherever they went, they were accepted into leadership roles. One went to Operation Mobilisation; another became the moderator of a large denomination in a neighbouring country; a third headed up a theological seminary; a fourth became a pastor of a congregation and later on, a lecturer at a theological seminary after having completed his doctorate in theology, and Shadrach Maluka, of whom I spoke earlier on, founded a new denomination. These are just a few examples, but there were many more who left the Mission to minister in other organisations.

Penning this history is a painful operation even after all this time has passed. Why do such things happen in Christian organisations that should be models of love and wisdom? Why could not even the great apostle Paul and his long time co-worker Barnabas, come to an agreement when conflict arose on whether John Mark was to be allowed to accompany them on the next missionary journey? There do not seem to be any quick answers to these questions, but the following thoughts may at least be of some help:

  1. Founders of churches and missions are normally very highly motivated people and go through much hardship to get to the point where the organisation is firmly established and acknowledged. This causes them to have a very personal interest in it so that they set a very high standard for the leader to whom they would be willing to hand over the reins (somewhat like a mother in law’s expectation of her prospective daughter in law!). They should perhaps be more realistic, reflect on all the mistakes they made along the way and trust God to guide the emerging leader around all the pitfalls and to develop him to become an even greater leader than what the founder himself had been.

  2. Founders also want to be quite sure that the new leader will follow meticulously in their footsteps, that is, pursue the vision they originally received from God. Mr von Staden’s vision from God was to hold tent campaigns in the major African townships and wherever else opportunity would arise. For a departing leader to bind his successor to his original vision, closes the door for him to hear from God as to a possible change in direction. A leader should have sufficient confidence in his chosen successor to adapt to changing circumstances while not departing from the unique purpose of the organisation for which it was originally founded by God.

  3. A leader needs to sit back at times and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, identify the Joshua that is to take his place, then put special effort into the development of this person and allow him to take over one duty after the other even though he might not be able to perform them up to standard. In so doing, he will be able to guide him through the learning process as a loving father raises his son. This process should begin long before old age overtakes the existing leader. It will effect a smooth transition in leadership, allowing all the members of the organisation to gradually come to accept the emerging leader. King David probably waited too long and was still officially the king of Israel, though bedridden and incapable of fulfilling his functions. This almost ended in disaster which would have affected the whole nation. He delayed to take action till he was forced by circumstances to do so (1 Kings chapter1)

  4. A strong spiritual leader will normally raise up numerous strong, capable leaders and if the organisation is too small to accommodate all of them in sub-ministries where they can reach their full potential, the organisation will become top-heavy, implode or topple over and destroy itself. It is therefore the responsibility of a good leader to see this approaching problem well ahead of time and to take effective measures to prevent it before it arises. This could be done by guiding developing leaders into ministries outside the existing organisation or encouraging them to set up similar organisations in some other area or even in some other country. In this way God’s precious people will not be wasted and his Kingdom will benefit as it should.

Now let me hasten to get on with Martie’s and my story, for that is what we set out to do. We were part of those who fell by the wayside and suddenly found ourselves without a ministry, an income, a bank balance, a house and supporters but with two wonderful young sons that had to be cared for.

I arranged with Mr von Staden for me to remain with the Mission for an extra month to continue the training of a worker who had come into the radio and cassette ministry of the Mission some time before, for it would have been a catastrophe for that branch to have collapsed completely. I also negotiated with him to be allowed to take the master copies of the cassettes which we had produced, with me, so as to have at least something to set up a new ministry. He agreed to that because the Mission’s radio ministry was well geared to produce new cassettes within a relatively short period. We were very grateful for this concession for it gave us some hope and direction.

Since we were fairly well-known in some Christian circles, we were approached by other ministries to slot in with them. Firstly we were invited by the South African director of Trans World Radio to dine with him during which time we discussed the possibility of us joining their ministry. We highly appreciated what they were doing and had, for some years, been involved in producing programs which were aired by their transmitters, but we did not feel led by the Lord to become part of their ministry. Another offer came from a theological seminary for the Herero people of Namibia. They offered to pay for my flight there and back in order that I might see the work for myself and discuss our possible involvement with them. I really appreciated this kind offer, but, Martie and I having prayed about the matter, again sensed that this was not the direction the Lord wanted us to take.

How very, very important it is for Christ’s servants to hear clearly from Him, especially during times of trial for one might so easily grab at the most profitable opportunity and miss God’s greater purpose for one’s life. So, in the end, and before the completion of that month, we had come to the firm decision to further exploit the audio cassette ministry and possibly also begin with a radio ministry. This was a tremendous challenge for we hardly had the funds for food for the next two weeks.




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