C. THE DOROTHEA MISSION MINISTRY
THE PONGOLA CAMPAIGN
Pongola is a small town surrounded by sugar cane farms. The African people of that area consist mostly of Zulus with a smaller component of siSwatis from the nearby Swaziland. It is some 439 km from Pretoria and its climate varies from mild in winter to very, very hot during the summer months. We were invited there by a local evangelist to hold a campaign in the nearby township and were hosted by the same Tannie Joey with whom Martie had stayed at Jozini. We were quite tired on arriving there for we had run campaigns in two different places and had been away from home for two months on end, staying in the homes of our hosts all the time.
We had a fine team and the campaign set off at a good pace right from the start. One of our young male evangelists, Ras Nomame, especially touched the right chord with our audience in the evening tent meetings. Borrowing Martie’s piano accordion, he led the worship very effectively and we really sensed the presence of God. He was also a good-looking chap and on the closing night of the campaign, one of the young ladies testified that for the first week she was so mesmerised by him and by his playing of the piano accordion that she never heard a single word of the message. Then gradually God started speaking to her and her eyes were opened to see the Lord Jesus and to accept Him as her Saviour. Our house visitation also went very well and we had the expectation of a good harvest of souls.
The devil, however, would not allow us a free passage to victory and once more he struck Martie and me in an area where we were most vulnerable, namely by attacking our children. This time he lashed out at our elder boy, Frans who was some four years old at that time. Before the evening service both he and Jaco were fit as fiddle, running around in the tent, playing with all the other children and really enjoying themselves. After the service we went to bed but by about 4 o’clock the next morning, Martie woke up and attended to Frans who seemed to be restless. Laying her hand on his forehead, she found that he had a fever, so she woke him up, gave him a Disprin and put him back to bed. At six o’clock however, he was even more restless, running a very high temperature and we both saw that he was in a serious state. We woke up Tannie Joey who got the local doctor out. He had hardly started examining him, when he told us that we were to take him to hospital immediately but without telling us what ailment he suspected.
On arrival at the hospital, treatment started right away. We pressed the doctor to know what the problem was and he told us that it was a bad attack of meningitis and if Frans did not respond to treatment, they would have to fly him to Pretoria. We were shocked. It had all happened so suddenly. We immediately phoned our head office, asking for prayer. Martie then remained with him but I had to attend to the needs of the team.
On getting back to the motor car that was parked outside the hospital, it would not start. I found a couple of willing hands to push it and then drove to the garage. They discovered that the battery had gone quite flat and that it had to be replaced. I was dismayed for it was near to the end of the campaign and our funds were running very low, but I had no option but to buy a new battery and get on with my other duties which were to buy meat and other foodstuffs for the team and take it to them. When I told them how sick Frans was, they immediately agreed to get together and pray for him.
On returning to the hospital, my hopes sagged for although some hours had passed, there was no change for the better; he was actually getting worse all the time. His neck was as stiff as a rod and his temperature as high as could be. Martie and I remained by his bed all day long, praying and pleading with God as we had perhaps never before done in our lives.
Towards evening I left them to be with the team during the outreach meeting, but afterwards returned to the hospital: still no improvement at all. I left Martie with him for the night for I had to return home to look after Jaco who was still very small at that time. On arriving home, I was so grateful to learn that Tannie Joey had organised a prayer chain in Pongola while I was away.
As can be imagined, I slept very little, if at all, that night for I was on my knees before the only One that could be of real help in such circumstances. At that time there were no cell phones so I could not even keep in touch with Martie during the night, but very early the next morning I left Jaco in Tannie Joey’s care and hurried to the hospital.
The moment I saw Martie, I knew that there was a change for the better; I could see it in her face. She told me that the doctor had been there quite a few times during the night and at his last visit, early that morning, he found that the tension in Frans’s neck had gone and that he could even bend it right down till his chin touched his body. He was much relieved and, looking up, had smiled, nodded to Martie and said that the crisis was over and that our son would recover.
We were overjoyed at hearing this good news, although still concerned, for Frans’s legs had gone completely lame. He was unable to stand upright and the doctor told us that he might suffer a loss of hearing and sight, but that this would only become apparent in the course of time. We were however convinced that the Lord who had brought him that far, would do a complete job in healing him and not allow these complications to set in. In this we were not disappointed, for though he seemed to suffer some loss of hearing and sight initially, he gradually recovered completely and today is as normal as can be.
In God’s work “the show must go on” and so we continued with the campaign for another few days before we brought it to a close. Though the devil had tried to trip us up and stop the Lord from building His Kingdom, he was defeated and the campaign ended in a great victory with many people, especially the younger generation, testifying to their newfound salvation in Christ. A bonus was that a White young lady who had also been attending the meetings, felt that the Lord was calling her to the Dorothea Mission and soon after she entered the Bible School as a student.
Hallelujah to the Name of our mighty God!
THE BELGRADE CAMPAIGN
Some 120km from Pongola and on the way to Pretoria, lies a farm called Belgrade within an African Trust area which also is altogether Zulu territory. Some two years or more after the Pongola campaign, I recommended to the Mission that we go there for a campaign, for I knew the area quite well. We set off as a team of eight or ten people, consisting of us as a family, Oom Gerhardt Engelbrecht mentioned in an earlier chapter, Annelise Kropp, a German speaking co-worker of my and Martie’s age and four to six African co-workers. On leaving Pretoria we were in somewhat of a predicament because the Mission did not have sufficient funds for us for the campaign and could only fill our vehicles’ tanks for the journey.
While finding accommodation for the rest of the team with people nearby, we as a family and Annelise were to satisfy ourselves with two bare rooms on the premises – rooms that each had only two single beds. We had to drape sheets in front of the windows for curtains and I had to cut two branches and tie a rope between them on which to hang our clothes. We used the third room as a pantry, kitchen and dining room. There were no electric lights and so we had to make do with gas lamps.
Our main problem, however, was to obtain food for the team as well as for our two children. We all got together, knocked on heaven’s door, made our needs known and decided to trust the Lord to provide. Some of us had a small amount of pocket money with us, which we pooled, then set out for a little farm shop a few kilometres away. We introduced ourselves to the owners, called de Bruin, who enquired who we were and what we had come to do in that area. We explained that we were from the Dorothea Mission and had come to do a campaign in the trust area. At this they just opened up to us and we were delighted to discover that they too were Christians and dedicated Christians at that. We gave them a list of the foodstuffs we needed most and they graciously added many more items as a gift. They were not well-to-do people but quite often afterwards, brought us all sorts of food supplies.
This was however still hopelessly insufficient for the daily needs of so many people but the Lord also provided via the local African people to whom we had come to minister. As soon as they got to know us, every now and then someone would turn up with a gift from his or her garden: vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes and “madumbulus” that look and taste very much like potatoes. Meat was in short supply but whenever we reached a point of severely hungering for it, someone would turn up with a chicken or two which we shared amongst us. We never went hungry during all that time for God has food supplies stacked away in secret cupboards all over the world and releases them to his children according to their needs.
Martie and I knew a number of Christians at Piet Retief, which is about 40 km from Belgrade and so I phoned to let them know about our campaign, asking them to pray for us and inviting them to pop in if ever they felt to do so. We were surprised and delighted when one of them, a certain Mr Victor Volker, phoned us about a week later, requesting that we come over and tell them about our work. I did so and had a very good evening speaking about what we were doing and showing them the photos I had with me. In my heart I fervently prayed that these wealthy businessmen that were also doing a great work for the Lord and for his kingdom at Piet Retief, would give us a donation to meet our needs, for we still had to find the funds to return to Pretoria at the end of the campaign. This, however, did not happen and I returned home empty-handed and blissfully unaware of another challenge that was awaiting me.
Some days later our pickup’s clutch finally packed up and I hardly made it to the garage at Pongola which is some 60 km from Belgrade, where I left the pickup for repairs and somehow got a lift back to Belgrade. After a couple of days the garage phoned, informing me that the vehicle was ready to be collected. I could not postpone doing so for that would have put us in a bad light with the owner whom I had told who I was and that we were busy with a campaign at Belgrade. I managed to get a lift to Pongola in a big truck and on arriving there, I went to the garage to enquire what the costs for the repairs amounted to. I had been able to lay my hands on a couple of Rands – someone must have given it to us, but I knew that it was very unlikely that that amount would cover the costs.
When the garage owner handed me the invoice, my fears were confirmed. I thanked him and said I would return shortly and pay him. I suppose he thought that I would be going to the bank to draw the money. What he did not know was that by that time, the people I knew at Pongola had left and that I did not know a single person to whom I could turn for assistance. All I could do and planned to do, was to sit down on a bench in a nearby little park and pray to the Lord to provide in my dire need as He did for Hagar when she ran out of water in the desert and, together with her son Ishmael, faced certain death. I had walked about 20 yards when I heard him calling after me. On looking back, I saw him gesturing to me to come back. I did so and when I got to him he asked me: “How much do you have with you?” I told him the amount, to which he replied: “That will do.” I was speechless while many seconds ticked by and had to bite my lip to control my emotions or else the tears would have spilled over my cheeks. I thanked him over and over again, then drove back singing and shouting all the way. Can you imagine the exclamations of surprise and joy when I got home to Belgrade and shared with the team what God had done? Oh, how mightily our faith was strengthened.
During that campaign, towards the end of it, I had a very singular experience. We heard of a witchdoctor (sangoma) in that area who would have nothing to do with Christianity at all and the Christians challenged and urged me to go and see him. So one of my Christian brothers and I went there one afternoon. He was in his medicine hut engaged in sorting out his stuff, and to our amazement, invited us in.
There was nothing to sit on, so we squatted down and I began speaking to him in as friendly a manner as possible. Ingredients for his medicines were spread all around: beaks and claws of birds, feathers, snakeskin, animal hooves and hair and of course herbs of every imaginable kind. I gradually steered the conversation in the direction of getting to know how he had come to take up that profession and strangely enough, he was quite willing to share his story with us.
He had formerly been a member of a certain Christian church in that area and normally attended the meetings. Then one day, lightning struck a spot near to his hut, killing one of his children. He buried his child with only his closest relatives being present. Neither the pastor nor any of the members came to sympathise with him and he had to bear his grief all on his own. They were probably scared, suspecting that the wrath of their ancestors had come upon him because he had wronged them in some or other way. Time went by during which he continued attending the church meetings but then calamity struck again and the lightning killed another one of his children. Again he went through the same experience of nobody even coming to pray with him or to comfort him. Unbelievably this also happened a third time.
It was then that he had decided to turn to witchcraft to protect himself and, ever since he had done so, he and his family suffered no further loss although many years had since passed. Having told us his story, he looked up questioningly at me as if awaiting my answer. It was quite clear that he was very much against the church and against Christianity as a whole which had not come to his aid during those traumatic times. What was I to say? I prayed to the Lord in my heart to give me words of comfort and then felt led to speak on the love of God. I told him that people, even Christian people were so fallible and how Jesus, when led away to be crucified, was deserted by his disciples who had been following him for three years and had seen all his miracles. I told him the whole story of how Jesus was beaten and how, while hanging on the cross cried out: “My God my God, why have You forsaken Me?” I emphasized that the Lord Jesus understood his hurting heart that was still longing for his departed children and that the Lord wanted to draw him near to Himself. That was all I felt led to say during that visit and then we left.
The next evening, by the time the tent was properly full and we were just about ready to commence with the service, an audible gasp went through the audience and as I looked up, saw my friend, the witchdoctor, entering and sitting down to listen to the Word of God. Somehow his hardened, hurting heart had been touched by the Holy Spirit and now he had come to learn more about this unknown God; this God whom he never got to know while he was a church member and whom most of the other members probably also did not know. He did not come to accept the Lord during the next few days before our campaign closed, for I am sure he had to work through all the baggage which he was carrying. He knew very well that he would have to discontinue his witchdoctor activities when accepting the Lord Jesus as Saviour and this was a major step of faith. We often prayed for him even after we had left Belgrade and I would not be surprised to meet him in heaven one day, adorned with the crown of righteousness, instead of wearing the feathers of the witchdoctor trade. This occurrence also forcefully spoke to me as I contemplated the words of the Lord Jesus, cautioning us not to judge other people. We certainly have to discern their deeds when these are contrary to his Word and should speak to them in this regard, but to act as a judge by pronouncing judgement and sentence upon them even though it be just within our minds, that is not for us to do, for we know only that which is on the surface, the deeds that can be seen and the words that are spoken. Only God knows the full story behind the deeds and words and is therefore in a better position to judge.
There at Belgrade another witchdoctor, a woman came forcefully to the Lord. Annelise and an African sister visited her at her home but she would have nothing whatsoever to do with them, so they left, not returning there but praying for her day by day. After some time (for we ministered at Belgrade for four weeks) they returned to her home and were much surprised and delighted when she told them that she wanted to get to know God. After making sure what her motives were and explaining the Gospel in greater detail, they led her in the sinner’s prayer and she voluntarily and wholeheartedly accepted the Lord Jesus Christ after which she also burned all her witchcraft potions.
She then told them that she had been a witchdoctor for many years. During this time she had hated Christians with a blind hatred and boiled with anger when, looking through her window she saw them walking by. At that time, she had had tremendous power in different areas of life and even many White people came to her all the way from Piet Retief when they had court cases pending, asking her to cast a spell over the presiding magistrate so that he would rule in their favour. She of course made a tidy sum of money in this way. The flipside of the coin, however, was that she lived a miserable life for she was at loggerheads with all of her family and never knew any peace at home. At times the evil spirit living within her, took complete control, causing her to walk away from home for endless kilometres before it would release her spirit and, coming to herself, she would be amazed to find herself so far from home and would have to walk all the way back.
What we found very strange in her case, was that there was no need for Annelise and her partner to drive out the demon or demons that were within her. It was probably because of their concentrated prayers that these demons were kept at bay, allowing her to listen to the Gospel and to make a free choice to follow Jesus and, once she had done so, they just fled, being unable to endure the presence of the holy, living God that had moved in to make this woman’s life His temple.
During the closing meeting many of the surrounding people that had been attending the meetings, testified to having put themselves right with the Lord Jesus Christ and this former sangoma also gave her testimony of salvation.
Many of the Whites from Piet Retief to whom I had ministered some three weeks before, attended our closing meeting. They were mightily blessed by the testimonies of what God had done and after the meeting, as we stood around, each one gave us a donation which, when counted afterwards, amounted to such a large sum that we not only had sufficient funds for petrol to return to Pretoria, but also to mount the next campaign. It was such a blessing to our Director and his wife to witness in practice that not only they, but us as co-workers, had the will and faith to trust the Lord for our needs.
I often hear dear fellow church members praying “Oh God, show your power, do a miracle,” but I wonder whether they realise that miracles go hand in hand with trials, which implies that we must be willing to go through trials in order to witness God’s mighty hand do miracles. A trial is the substance which God uses and transforms, by means of a miracle, into a victory.
HALLELUJAH FOR THE LORD OUR GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, REIGNS!
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