OUR STORY – Chapter C7

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Once the production of radio programs in the Makua language was running well, the obvious thing to do was to consider producing audio Gospel material in other languages for, in South Africa alone, there are eight African language groups, and across its borders in the three adjoining countries there are many more.

Since the evangelists in our mission represented just about every local language group, we were soon able to produce audio cassette recordings in all of these eight languages. We also made use of well-known speakers from other ministries outside of the Mission. So within a short period of time, we had quite a sizeable collection of audio cassettes. A cassette normally consisted of four 12 minute messages interspersed with Gospel songs which we also recorded in our self-constructed studio. These little “preachers” were posted all over the country and did a great work, especially for Christians working on farms or living in other remote areas where they just about never had the opportunity of attending a Word-based church. As time went by, we also produced a series of messages on topics such as the Christian family, faith, prayer, how to study the Bible and, of course, also on salvation.

Although the majority of our listeners probably were just about illiterate, we were amazed at the number of letters received from them by post in response to our radio programmes. It was so thrilling, during that period of civil war in Mozambique and while Communism often had the upper hand, to receive a letter from a listener residing in “Mao Tse Tung Avenue, Maputo, Mozambique” stating what a tremendous blessing these messages were to him in the midst of the war that was raging all around.

From the Gaza province in Mozambique, we received a letter from a lay preacher, telling us that he was the only person with a radio in a radius of many kilometres, but that many of his friends and acquaintances gathered at his place twice a week to listen to the programs. They arrived well ahead of time, then worshipped the Lord in song until the program started. After the message, they discussed it, prayed and had a further time of worship before returning home. In this way a little church was founded way out there in the bush where they hardly ever even saw a motor vehicle for the lack of infrastructure. Radio waves are like the Spirit of God that knows no boundaries.

Another letter that really blessed our hearts was written by a lady who was lame and permanently confined to a wheelchair. She lived in a township called Kanye, which means light, in the neighbouring country of Botswana, and told us how her husband had left her after she had become lame and that she had a hard time in sustaining herself. She also could not attend church meetings because of the distance and her physical condition. We replied by letter expressing our regret for not being able to go there and provide for her material needs in some small measure. Her reply was: “Do not let that trouble you. Should you give me a loaf of bread, it will only last for a day or two but you are giving me the Living Bread which satisfies me daily.” A further blessing to us in the radio and cassette ministry team, was that the Lord later on opened the way for one of our outreach teams to go to Kanye where they had a tent campaign and also met with this dear child of God Who had been instrumental in God’s plan to bring the Light of the Gospel to her people.

Notwithstanding the cost involved in the producing and broadcasting of radio programs, the Mission allowed me to extend this ministry to Chichewa, Shangaan, Sesotho and even Herero (a language spoken in Namibia.) We even compiled children’s programmes in Shangaan and I wrote and recorded radio plays based on two books titled: “Apollo the apostle to the pygmies” and “Samuel Morris”. This was quite a challenge for we did not have a library of sound effects at our disposal as did the large broadcasting studios. I had to devise and record most of the sound effects myself, such as the calls of birds and wild animals, the opening and closing of a door, the crying of a baby, the noise generated by a crowd of people, etc. Many of the bird calls I recorded during two of our visits to the Kruger National Park and some of them matched professional recordings, notwithstanding the poor equipment I had at my disposal. The recording of “Apollo the Apostle to the Pygmies” was transmitted in Afrikaans by Trans World Radio at prime time, in a series of eight consecutive transmissions. The “Samuel Morris” manuscript I later on sold to the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation that translated it into three of the local dialects, then recorded the plays and broadcast them over their transmitters.

Compiling the radio programs did not mean that I just sat in the studio all day long, for I often went to places I had never been before. On one such occasion Mr von Staden requested me to fly down to Cape Town where one of our teams was having a campaign in a township called “Crossroads”. I was to join the team for a couple of days, take some photos and bring back a report which he would be able to use for deputation work. He had been an excellent photographer in his days and used the photographs he took very effectively to stimulate prayer amongst South African Christians for the salvation of the African and Coloured people. This also was the Mission’s way of raising funds for itself. Christians who got to know about the work the Mission was doing, often felt the urge and were led by God to provide for its needs. Mr von Staden had however now grown much older and could no longer do this work. He therefore used me and other members of the Mission to gather material that he could use for this purpose.

I flew down to the Cape, joined up with the outreach team and accompanied them all over the township, taking photos while they were concentrating more on doing house visitation. Most of the residents were Xhosa speaking people that had flocked there from as far as the Ciskei and Transkei to find work. There was of course no housing available and so they erected shelters constructed of just about any material they could lay their hands on. The roofs were normally made of second-hand corrugated iron sheeting supported by a couple of poles. The walls consisted of any kind of plastic conceivable. Worst of all was the lack of ablution facilities. There were some pit toilets at strategic places but there was no drainage system. Everyone just dug a shallow little furrow downhill to join up with the network of furrows lower down the slope. Thin planks were laid over the furrows to prevent one from putting one’s foot into the murky water often mixed with urine. Walking at night was very risky for there were no lights to light up this rapidly extending shantytown. The daily influx was enormous for by that time the influx control legislation preventing people from taking up residence in or near the cities without beforehand having found some sort of work, had been abrogated and people living in the homelands were under the illusion that they would be able to make a fortune if only they could manage to get to the cities – very much the same situation as is experienced worldwide during a gold rush.

Once I had finished Mr von Staden’s commission to take photos and compile a report, I lingered for another day or two, wondering what else I could do in terms of Kingdom work to justify the expense of my flight ticket before returning to Pretoria. At that time I was in the process of writing the “Samuel Morris” radio play. The story was about an African boy of the Ivory Coast who had been held hostage by a rival tribe. The Lord miraculously freed him and led him to a mission station where he was born again. He grew spiritually in leaps and bounds and very soon the missionaries could not answer his questions regarding the Holy Spirit anymore and advised him to see a certain Stephen Merritt who was lecturing at a Christian University in the USA. They said that Stephen would be able to guide him deeper into a life of total surrender to the Holy Spirit. He immediately set off on foot and, on reaching the coast, boarded a sailing ship that took him across the sea to his destination.

Since a considerable part of the story covered his experiences aboard the sailing ship and I had never been on one, I asked the Lord to provide me with such an experience in order that I would be able to write the story. Having brought this request before the Lord the previous evening, I went down to the small craft harbour the next morning and stood at a railing overlooking the boats. Right in front of me, though I did not know it at that time, was the largest and most luxurious of all sea-going yachts in South Africa. It was a two master called the Bonser. A number of people were scurrying all over the deck getting the boat ready to sail. As I stood, watching and praying, a man emerged from below deck. He had a very friendly attitude and, seeing me standing up there, waved at me. I waved back and called out: “Do you take others along?” “Yes,” he replied, “Hop on board!” I could not believe my ears but neither did I hesitate for a single moment. I sped over the gangplank, gave him a hearty handshake, told him who I was, what work I was doing and the purpose for which I wanted to gain the experience of a trip on the sailing boat. He was quite amused and made me feel very welcome. A couple of minutes later, we cast off and moved out of the harbour towards the open sea, using the boats’ huge diesel motor. However, having gone only a short distance they realised that the fog had become too dense for safety and that they would also not enjoy a day like that at sea. So they turned back and agreed to sail early the next morning. This suited me very well for it would allow me the opportunity of getting my cameras and sound equipment.

The next morning, soon after daybreak, we sailed out onto the deep blue ocean. I was a bit concerned that I might get seasick out there in the heavy swells. While we were still using the diesel motor, the chap that had invited me, took me down below into the cabin for a cup of coffee. He turned out to be the owner of the boat and, as I was later on told by one of the other crew members, a multi, multi-millionaire who owned several factories, each managed by a capable, professional manager allowing him to cruise the oceans without cares. He was also a very talented man.

I had never been in the cabin of a large sailing boat like this and it fascinated me: the bunks, toilet facilities (including a shower), lounge and especially the kitchen. The gas stove was on the starboard side and suspended on two thick rods protruding from its sides, allowing it to swing freely as the boat rolled from side to side, and in so doing, keeping the pots placed on it in a horizontal position all the time so that the contents would not spill. Needless to say, the cabin was luxurious.

The owner was a nominal Roman Catholic and obviously not a Christian. He admired me for the work I did and was fascinated by the Lord Jesus Christ, not because of the fact that He was the holy Son of God, but because of the fact that, though He could have had anything on Earth His heart desired, He chose to live a very simple life, having no home of His own and only one cloak to wear. This just did not make sense for, to him, life was all about having everything you could see, touch, hear, taste or experience in some or other way and to heartily enjoy it all. He did not speak badly of the Lord, but just could not understand His way of thinking and doing. I really enjoyed sharing the heart of the Gospel with him during those few minutes while having my coffee but had to cut it short for I was considered to be a member of the crew and had to get up deck and do my duty.

For that day’s cruise, the owner had appointed a retired ship’s captain, a very gruff and unpolished man and a heavy drinker who could not, for the life of him, understand why a “religious” man like me was invited to be part of the crew, for he was definitely looking forward to a real jolly time and felt that I was going to spoil it all. He was also down below while I was having my coffee and thirstily swallowed his first four fingers of neat booze for the day.

On returning to the deck, I found everybody very busy, each one knowing exactly what to do. They were rigging those massive sails that would speed us across the water. This was a much bigger job than I had ever anticipated. The sails were hoisted by ropes fed through a pulley at the top of each mast, then wound around horizontal stainless steel drums, each having a handle on top to rotate it. When turning the handle clockwise, the drum would rotate at high speed, hoisting the sail fast for the first couple of metres, but then, when the weight of the canvas required more power than one could muster, one could switch to turning the handle anti-clockwise and a cluster of gears inside of the winch would allow one greater leverage, but of course rotate the winch more slowly and slow down the hoisting of the sail – quite ingenious.

I lent a hand wherever I could and very soon got my turn at one of the winches. This was going to happen quite often during the course of the day, for the challenge for the crew was to keep the boat at maximum speed. The sails therefore had to be trimmed quite often, depending on the wind.

The captain was in charge all the time and would order one sail down and another one up, at which the crew members had to jump to it. My energy was somewhat low because of a stomach ailment, but the captain had his eye on me and would shout at the top of his voice: “Come on Ben, you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you’re the only fit man on board: take the winch!” I would then jump to it, grab the winch with both hands, grind my teeth, pray to the Lord for supernatural strength to flow into my mortal body so as not to disgrace His Name before this uncouth human being and then swing that handle as if I were cranking the engine of a model T Ford. Eventually, seeing that he could not break or embarrass me, he backed off, probably also because the combination of sun, wind and booze had blunted the edge of his energy.

During the day I had the opportunity of conversing with some of the other members of the crew. To all of them, sailing was their favourite sport and they each had some sort of boat but counted it a privilege to sail this masterpiece. One of the couples I found especially interesting. They were accompanied by their daughter of about 28, and told me that they were getting their catamaran ready for a cruise around the globe, for they too, had laid up sufficient wealth to last them a lifetime and were actually sailing year in and year out. They then recalled some of their adventures of the past. Once they had been doing what they called “Island hopping” close to Australia which meant that they would drop anchor near to an uninhabited island, then use a small boat to get to it where they would roam about for a while before returning to their boat. On strolling across one such island, they found the wreck of a small aeroplane that had crashed there and were shocked to see the skeleton of the pilot still in a sitting position in the cockpit.

They also recounted to me how they had sailed from country to country and from harbour to harbour. All over the world they encountered people following a similar lifestyle, people that never did a day’s work to provide in their needs, people that lived lives entertaining themselves, all year round. When lying at anchor in the harbours, they fellowshipped with one another, having parties on one boat after the other. To me this was an altogether alien world, interesting but totally unacceptable. I just could not imagine myself wasting my life in such a way. To me, to live was to serve the Lord Jesus by giving all I had to extend His kingdom by making disciples of the nations. Though I also enjoyed life, I relished the presence of God more than any worldly pleasure and looked forward to the eternal joy that was still to come.

As the day wore on, the wind picked up and the boat listed over onto its side more and more, making it very difficult and tiring to move around, for one had to hang onto the cable railings or any other available fixtures for dear life not to go overboard. Having sailed some distance off shore, we gradually changed course, turned back and rounded Cape Point (Cape of Good Hope), then steered along the coast in a north-westerly direction until we finally, after twelve hours of sailing, moored in Simon’s Bay where the SA Navy base was. All of us, being dead tired, still had to drive back to Cape Town. I was so grateful for being given a lift by one of the crew because I doubt whether I would have made it by train.

The next morning I had to fly back to Pretoria, so I had to rise early to be in time for my flight. I managed to get to the plane, then flopped down in my seat with two eyes red as robots because of the wind I had been exposed to during the previous day. When it was time for breakfast, I was somewhat revived and noted that the chap sitting on my right hand side, ordered kosher food and had a little kippa (cap) on the back of his head. I guessed that he might be a Jewish rabbi which, when I started making small talk with him, proved to be correct. Though I felt much more like sleeping, I just could not ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit prompting me to share the Gospel with him. He was a very affable person and quite willing to discuss spiritual matters.

I asked him to explain to me, briefly, the gist of his religious convictions. He then told me that he was an orthodox Jew and his religion consisted of keeping the laws of Moses (Torah) which they fleshed out into 613 individual prescriptions: 248 “Do’s” and 365 “Don’ts”. I commented that, being human, it must be rather difficult to memorise and keep all those laws and enquired to what extent he personally managed to do so. I could see that he was a bit flustered and while fiddling with his hands admitted that he failed just about every day, but that provision was made for Yahweh’s (God’s) forgiveness by the sacrificing of an animal, usually a lamb. I further enquired, as humbly as I could, whether he did not consider the price of a lamb to be fairly small payment for the sin of a person, for some people were rather heavy sinners, for instance a murderer, and could the blood of a lamb, or even of a hundred lambs, be considered sufficient payment to cover such a great guilt, and exactly how many lambs, or bullocks, or whatever animals one would need to pay, and how could you be certain that one had covered all one’s debts? He shook his head, smiled wryly and admitted that that was in the hands of God and that you could never be sure of this.

I then explained to him that I, as a Christian, believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Holy Son of God and the only perfect, all sufficient Lamb to be offered on the altar of the cross for the sin of mankind, and that, by putting your life into his hands by faith, all of your sin was covered forever, with no need of any further sacrifice. You could then rest contentedly, knowing that you were accepted into the family of God and could, from that point onwards, grow into the image of his Son by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit that enters into your life, causing you to be born spiritually as a new creature. He listened very attentively and said that this was very strange for me to speak to him on this issue for, on his flight down from Pretoria to Cape Town some days earlier, another man who had sat next to him, spoke to him along the same lines and also gave him a New Testament which he had been reading since that day. By that time we arrived at the Johannesburg airport (then called Jan Smuts) where our ways parted. I committed him to the Lord, thanking Him for the opportunity of watering a spiritual seed sown by someone else before me.

The Lord is continually watching the multitudes from heaven as a chess player watches the chess board before him and moves us into the right places to minister to others, or to be ministered to, by others.



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