C. THE DOROTHEA MISSION MINISTRY
OPPOSITION AT NONGOMA
The challenges we faced at a place called Nongoma, were of quite a different nature. Nongoma is one of the larger towns in an area which was then held in trust for African people in the province of KwaZulu Natal. It is some 500 km from Pretoria. We had previously held a campaign in the town itself, but this time we were invited to reach out to the school for the sons of Zulu chiefs and headmen.
These were the leaders to be of the Zulu nation in the rural areas. In age, most of them ranged from 18 years to well into their 20s. At that time, in the rural areas of Zululand, the attitude was that school education was for girls, not for men. Therefore many of these young men had had very little schooling. The Zulus are a very proud nation and have a history of warring with all the surrounding nations, even those as distant as Lesotho and Zimbabwe (what used to be Rhodesia). These young men, though not well educated, but very much aware of their stand in society, had strong political convictions. That also was the time when political unrest was stirring in the hearts of young African people all over the country and not long before 16 June when violence erupted in Soweto. These young men therefore were in a state of anger against the White government and against Whites in general.
We were a small team that went down there. First of all it was us as a family, then pastor Gerhardt Engelbrecht, a German, affectionately known as “Thanda Bantu” amongst the African people, which means: “The man that loves people.” The third member was Shadrach Monageng, a Sotho-speaking African man, one of our Dorothea Mission co-workers.
On arrival there, Martie and I set up our caravan in the front yard of a house exactly opposite the main gate of the school premises. Having had a meal, we three men went to see the principal of the school to discuss our outreach. Both he and the vice-principal, who also had oversight over the hostel, were very friendly towards us and gave permission for our ministry to proceed, but were not willing to accompany us to the students’ evening meal where we would explain the purpose of our visit to them. After some persuasion the vice-principal eventually agreed to introduce us to the students but would not accede to remain for the evening service. He also offered us a room for brother Monageng in the dormitory where the students were housed. We then fetched brother Monageng’s luggage and got him settled in his room. Thereafter I took brother Gerhardt to the place where he would be hosted.
Some time before six that evening, we got together as a team and prayed for the evening meeting, sensing that we would be meeting with opposition. When the time came, we three men went to the dining hall where we met with the vice-principal. We entered the hall and sat down at a table having coffee while waiting for the students to finish their meal. The vice-principal then stood up, introduced us and said that we ourselves would explain the purpose of our visit. Having said that, he left in a hurry. Being the leader of our team, I stood up and explained (in English, which they understood) that we had come to share the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with them and were hopeful that it would be a great blessing to them. They were very sulky and the atmosphere was very tense. However, they did not do or say anything at that stage. Our impression was that they were waiting to see what we had to offer and would confer afterwards as to what their attitude towards us would be.
Since all of them were at school during most of the day, we could not speak to them individually the next day, so we stayed at home and spent the day in Bible study and prayer. When evening came, the three of us went to the dining hall to hold the first meeting. As soon as they had finished their meal and the dishes had been removed, I stood up, greeted them and then opened the Word and began reading from it. Then, the moment I started preaching, they began to shuffle their feet, speak to one another and make all sorts of noises to disrupt the meeting. Though it was very difficult to continue, I kept a straight face, or should I rather say, a smiling face, and spoke kindly to them. I brought a very short message and must admit that I, and I do believe my co-workers too, were much relieved when the service was over and we could return home.
The next day, we as a team again had our normal Bible study and time of prayer during which we fervently implored the Lord to overcome the resistance and to soften the hearts of these young men which were so important to win for the kingdom of God. Very soon evening came again and we returned to the dining hall. Just as on the previous evening, I opened the Bible and started bringing the message which the Lord had laid on my heart. They had however decided to have none of this and so they made every conceivable kind of noise, whistling, shouting, banging with their fists on the tables, stamping their feet on the ground, etc. In between the leader shouted in a deep voice: “Thandaza bhaba, thandaza,” which means: “Pray father, pray.” The next moment the lights went out and then there was total chaos. The whole dining hall erupted in violence. Although we could not see what was happening, we heard what sounded to us like them banging or throwing the tables and chairs around and wreaking havoc while shouting at the top of their voices.
I stood stock-still there with my open Bible in my one hand, just waiting to be struck down by a chair or stabbed with a knife. My brothers told me later on that they just remained seated where they were. It would have been useless for us to try and reach the door for it was right on the other side of the hall and we would not have been able to find our way there in the dark. What all of us did, was to pray with all our hearts that God would keep his hand over us. This went on for a couple of minutes and then, to our relief, the lights were switched on again. I was still standing in the same position but the hall was a sight to see. The furniture was in total disarray. Some of the students were in the process of leaving, but others remained behind, staring at us to see what effect their intimidation had had on us. God gave us grace not to panic for that would have been playing right into their hands. I just closed my Bible and the three of us left the hall and the premises and returned to our caravan just across the street, where we had some strong coffee.
We were of course very concerned for our brother Monageng who was to sleep in that dormitory that night and we decided to find other accommodation for him. We waited until the lights of the dormitory were out and the students presumably asleep. I then drove our vehicle onto the premises without switching on the lights and parked near to his room. He slipped in through the window, handed his luggage to me, slipped out again and we left in a hurry. We then took him to Christian brothers we had met earlier on and they were just too happy to accommodate him once we told them what had happened at the school.
Martie and I were of course concerned for the safety of our two little children in that flimsy caravan. Cell phones had not yet been invented and we had no means of contacting anybody if we were attacked. Those men were in a position to kill the four of us, burn our caravan, cremate our bodies without anybody knowing about it, but after having committed ourselves to the Lord, we slept like babies. Did not David, when surrounded by enemies, say “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” (Ps 4:8).
The next morning we gathered as a team. A decision now had to be made. Were we to acknowledge defeat and return home to Pretoria or what were we to do? We decided to remain there for a couple of days until we were quite sure as to what God’s will was for us to do. As the leader of the team I was very conscious of the responsibility resting on my shoulders and I poured out my heart to God.
His reply came in a very unexpected form. What He did was to pour out His love for those young men into my heart in a way I had never experienced in all my life. My heart was flooded with such a pure and intense love for those misguided young men, that I realised that it was just impossible to leave them in that state, without at least making another effort to win their hearts for the Lord Jesus Christ. I shared this conviction with the rest of the team and they agreed with me. So then, after again enquiring from the Lord, I decided to return to the students, but this time not taking the rest of the team with me. I felt that by making myself vulnerable, they would see that we were not forcing the Gospel upon them, but affording them the opportunity of making their own choice. In doing so, I would stand a better chance of them opening their hearts to receive God’s grace. And so, during the next day’s lunch, I went there on my own and asked whether I could have a few minutes to speak to them that evening before leaving for Pretoria the next day. They looked at one another and then agreed.
That night I again went there on my own and asked them to set out the chairs in a large circle or double circle. Once everybody was seated and while I too remained seated, I addressed them saying that I wanted to share a couple of thoughts with them and if they then still felt that they did not want to listen to me any further, I would respect their decision and leave the next day.
I then explained to them how our relationship with God was on a much higher level than any earthly matters. I said that it was human for people to become discontent with their situation, including the prevailing political setup in the country, but that God and His kingdom was high lifted up above any earthly kingdom and that it was not in conflict with them as a nation. God was preparing a great kingdom, an eternal kingdom of which everybody could be part, and that we should not miss the eternal glory which He was preparing for us, because of our anger against other people. We must never blame God for what people around us are doing to us for, in so doing, we are treating God as our enemy and closing our hearts to the grace and blessing which He wants to bestow upon us.
I also emphasised that God does not love one nation more than another but wants to assist every nation and every person to have a full and blessed life here on earth. I then told them the story of the Jewish people that had been God’s people for many ages, but when he sent his Son to save them from the bondage of sin and of the devil, they crucified Him because they wanted Him to use his power to overthrow the Roman government which was suppressing them. In doing so they brought a terrible judgment upon themselves and also on their children, with the result that for hundreds of years the Jewish people had been suffering all over the world and thousands of them had died in concentration camps during the 1939 – 1945 war. I pleaded with them not to make the same mistake and reject the Lord Jesus Christ because they were angry with other people. They were rather to get to know Jesus and then pray to Him as their mighty Saviour to assist them in getting righteousness done to them. I closed by saying that I was willing to remain, together with my team, and share this Gospel of Jesus with them for another couple of days on condition that they would promise to behave themselves, for God was a great King and I could not be His ambassador and bring his Word while the listeners behaved in a disrespectful way. Their disrespect was not towards me, but towards God, their Creator. They looked at one another and then the leader spoke up and said that they accepted that and that we could continue with the services.
So we continued with the meetings that evening as well as the following two, after which we had to return to Pretoria since we were scheduled for other campaigns. During these evenings I also had Oom Gerhardt bringing a message for he had been a farmer most of his life and was fluent in Zulu, speaking it so well that even his accent did not betray him. I do believe that this did much to break down at least some of the prejudice which these young men had against us, for to speak a person’s language, goes a long way in showing that you have regard for him and respecting a person opens the way to loving him.
Then, came the last night with these young men. Although we had been explaining the urgency of accepting the Lord Jesus as Saviour, we felt that the time was not ripe for making an invitation for them to step forward and do so openly. We just thanked them for having listened so attentively to the Word of God during those last few days and said that we were now returning home but would pray for them.
The meeting was then adjourned and most of them left the hall ahead of us, but some remained and we could see that they had a desire to show us some friendship before we left. Some of them indeed came to walk with us on our way out and thanked us for having come all the way to share God’s Word with them. The leader that had so openly mocked us, walked along until all the others had left and then, when he was sure that nobody else was listening, apologised for his behaviour, saying that he had been drinking that night and that it had added to his arrogance. We assured him that we did not hold it against him and wholeheartedly accepted his apology. We also assured him that we would be praying for him, more so, because he was the unofficial leader of those young men and carried the responsibility of leading them in the right direction. On this high note we parted.
Though we could not point to a single soul that was saved in the course of our outreach, there was a tremendous peace of God in our hearts and the assurance that we had been worthy ambassadors and had pleased our King that had sent us. We were also very confident that the seed which we had sown would germinate in its own good time and that at least some of those young men would turn to the Lord.
Our hope was not in vain, for about a year later another of our teams went down to minister at this school and returned with the good news that quite a number of these young men came to accept the Lord Jesus Christ in the course of the campaign. God’s Word never returns void to Him but is always accompanied by at least a measure of success. The seed of his Word is most powerful and though it may lie dormant in the heart of man, will, in its own good time, germinate, sprout forth and produce the fruit of repentance and faith to the glory of Him that gave us the command to go forth, making disciples of all nations. Our part is faith and obedience and His part is to make the seed grow. Bless his holy Name.
In reaching out to the lost, we will often meet up with the “unlovely” ones and be tempted to bully them into the kingdom of God, but this will not work. The people of this world are used to being attacked. They will see this as just another attack and will use the shields of the flesh to ensconce themselves. Love, however, is something which they do not normally experience; it is an unguarded door through which we may gain entrance into their hearts.
The Lord once gave me a vision of a very ugly hairy creature which I cannot really describe in words since it was more of a spiritual perception, like an abstract painting. I was abhorred and backed away. He then showed me a bucket filled with liquid nearby and told me to pour it over the creature. I took up the bucket and threw the liquid over it from some distance. Suddenly it began to change. Not only did its form change, but also its colours and even its smell. The colours were like that of the rainbow and a sweet odour surrounded it. The Lord then said to me that the bucket contained love, which caused the creature to change into something lovely. I then understood in a deeper way that God would change the people of this world into his image by his love. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son…..” (John 3:16) The truth is a sharp two edged sword that cuts deeply, painfully, therefore it must be handled by a gentle, loving hand.
BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!
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