C. THE DOROTHEA MISSION MINISTRY
CAMPAIGNS ON THE FARMS
Once I got settled into the campaign work, Martie and I consulted and decided to request the Mission for her and the children to be allowed to join me during outreaches. Our request was granted and from then on we went out as a family to every campaign using two vehicles, the Opel which we had bought before Frans was born and a light delivery van which my brother had given me and was still in a very good condition. We considered all our possessions to belong to the Lord and were happy to use them in His service.
Although I was delighted to have my family accompany me, this brought challenges of its own. We were normally invited by Christian people, often by pastors, to hold campaigns in their areas and were accommodated by them or by members of their congregations. It must have been difficult for these folk to take in a family of four for a couple of weeks, as it was for us to lodge in other people’s homes with our two lively children aged two and four. Sometimes we had to sleep on the floor, which was not all that bad, but once we landed up in a very small bedroom and with all the suitcases laid out on the floor we could hardly move around; we had to step over our gear and sleeping children like trained ballerinas. We also had to have our quiet times in that very same bedroom and, in addition, it served as study where I prepared Bible studies for the team and messages for the meetings. Our host’s love and fussing over us, however, amply compensated for their inability to provide better accommodation. They were pasturing a Baptist church and the minister and I had a daily session of prayer in their garage where our souls were saturated with the presence of God.
MARTIE’S ACCOUNT OF ACCOMPANYING BEN ON CAMPAIGNS
“In the beginning the children and I were able to accompany Ben on campaigns and I enjoyed it very much. Sometimes we as a family stayed on our own, but not always. Once, when we arrived at the home of the people who invited us to hold a campaign, Ben was showed to his room which was inside the house but me and the children’s ‘room, was the garage. The place looked nice and clean, but I was very unhappy because we as a family were always together wherever we went and to be separated from each other, was just too much for me. We spoke to the lady of the house and though she was not happy about this, she placed another mattress on the garage floor so that we could be together. We appreciated it very much and thanked her for the trouble she took to please us. ‘For better or for worse …’ .”
Indeed, most of the time our hosts showered us with love and spoiled us in so many ways, like Boet and Annatjie van den Berg of the Lichtenburg district that had the most delicious food, including all kinds of puddings, cakes and tarts lined up on the table for us when we got home late at night after the evening meetings. They also deeply loved the Lord and after having had our seven course meal, we would sit down and discuss the great truths from God’s Word. Ministering at their farm was a feast in all respects.
Sometimes however, we coveted some privacy, especially because one campaign followed the other in quick succession with just three days in between. This meant that staying with other people was not exceptional but the normal thing we were doing month by month. On one occasion we were hosted by a pastor whose wife had not agreed with him to have us in her home and made life very difficult for us, especially for poor Martie. We never really complained and just went along with the arrangements for this provided us with a platform from where we could reach out to the lost. To live like that, one’s marriage has to be rock solid and your children need to be well disciplined!
THE DE AAR “COMMUNE”
At De Aar, in the Cape Province, we as a team of four (plus our two children), rented a couple of rooms in a double storied building. We had to share the kitchen and other facilities with the other residents. Once we had moved in, we discovered that a number of them were Jehovah’s Witnesses with whom we differed strongly in our convictions as to what the Bible teaches. This caused a bit of a strained relationship in our joint abode. In addition, the rooms just above our own, had plank floors and the young men living there were members of a rock group and were practising on their instruments all day long with drums thundering and cymbals banging. So we were caught between what Paul would probably have referred to as “false teachers” in front of us and “the world” above our heads; never a dull moment. We really had to keep a strict watch on our ears! The bright side of it is that at least one of the Jehovah’s Witness ladies came to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as One with God the Father and the Holy Spirit and showed a real desire to accept Him as Saviour.
However, this was like a five star hotel compared to what our African brothers and sisters sometimes had to endure. On a certain farm to which we were invited, the men were directed to a room in an outbuilding. I accompanied them to have a look at it for I expected it not to be all that comfortable. This proved to be correct for a layer of cut grass had been spread on the floor and covered with a thick, hard, unyielding double plastic sheet that just could not be persuaded to lie down flat on the grass; all over the floor it lifted up about thirty cm causing our men to have to lift their knees up high into the air like soldiers on the march when moving about. I had then just come from the farmer’s house where tension ran high between him and his wife for her inviting us to hold an outreach on the farm and I realised that the situation would explode if I were to raise the matter of better sleeping facilities for our workers. All I could do was to sit down with them and commit the matter to the Lord in prayer. We then decided to fold up the plastic sheet, placing it in one corner as a table for their small effects and spread their blankets on the grass which worked quite well. Where there is a will, there is a way. When one gets to heaven and see a group of residents with special luxury facilities, it will probably include some of our African co-workers.
The campaigns that stand out in my memory are those we held on the farms where very few of the African employees had ever heard the Gospel. When invited to hold a campaign on a certain farm, we also held meetings during the afternoons on the surrounding farms to get those employees interested to attend our evening meetings on the designated farm. We prearranged with every farmer to let his workers off work a while before our arrival to allow them time to freshen up and then gather together. Most of those farms had enormous barns which were put at our disposal. The farmer would stack some bales of hay for the people to sit on.
The employees were sometimes very distrustful of us. They would, for instance, suspect that we were police in disguise, hired by the farmer to find out what they had done wrong and then to arrest them. We were unaware of this in the beginning. What we typically did on arrival at a farm, was for me to direct a few words of introduction to the workers, their wives and children who were present and then leave it to our African co-workers to continue ministering to them while Martie and I would accompany the farmer to his home. There we would sometimes use the opportunity to minister the Gospel to him and his family for most of them were not saved. When returning to the barn later on, we were welcomed by open, friendly faces for by then the employees were convinced of our good intentions and were beginning to look forward to hearing more comforting and nourishing words. We would then invite them to the central farm for the evening meeting.
On returning to the central farm, we would have a hearty meal with the owner and his wife, then proceed to the barn, light our Coleman lamps and get the place ready for the meeting. As evening fell, Martie and I would stand outside and watch and listen as the tractors with trailers full of workers approached from all directions. Our African people love to sing and as the headlights moved along in the dark, the droning of the tractors was swallowed up by the hearty singing of the people on the trailers. As the campaign proceeded, sometimes for two to three weeks, more and more people would turn up for the meetings and sometimes there were so many that we had to build a gallery with the flat-bed trailers in front of the barn to accommodate them all.
The meetings always started off with a prolonged time of worship until the Spirit of God had softened and opened up the attendees’ hearts, allowing us to bring the oracles of God to them. What a privilege it was! As I said, many of those people had never ever heard the Gospel. They may have heard some of the laws of God through the ministry of the Zionist movement, but to be saved by grace without the works of the law was an entirely new concept to them. Many of them took a step to accept Christ as Saviour and they did so in great earnest, but I always wondered whether they ever continued to grow as Christians and reached any measure of maturity because once the campaign was over and we left, they would have no further opportunity of being instructed in the Word of God. What I did later on, was to prepare audiocassettes with edifying messages in the eight prominent African languages to leave with the farmer’s wife, if she was a Christian, encouraging her to get together with the people, sing and pray with them and play the cassettes to them in order that they might be afforded the opportunity of growing in Christ.
In all of this, Martie and our two children accompanied me and she often also ministered by giving her testimony of salvation, teaching about a Christian marriage, the role of the wife, the upbringing of children, etc. She is also very musical and would at times assist in the leading of the worship with her piano accordion. Her being present, also afforded me the opportunity of discussing the meeting with her afterwards. It was such a tremendous blessing to have her with me. As to the children, they were small and just fitted in anywhere. Before the meeting started, they of course joined in and played with the children of the farm workers although they could not understand one another’s language, but that does not make much of a difference to children, for they use body language and just seem to hit it off right from the start. During the meeting they had to be quiet but by that time they were sleepy and Martie would just spread a blanket and put them to sleep right at her feet. Some wives and families may see this as an ordeal, but to us it was a delight and we praise the Lord for having been afforded the opportunity to serve Him in this way and for having been enabled to reach out to people that were terribly neglected spiritually. Oh, how my soul just leaps up when I think of those times and how I long to have them all over again!
THE WORD OF GOD WILL ALWAYS YIELD A HARVEST!
Have you enjoyed reading this page, or do you disagree with what was said or do you have questions? Please share with us whatever is on your mind by using the “REPLY” window provided below.