OUR STORY – Chapter D4

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Transparency is a precious Christian virtue and we have always followed a policy of openness with our prayer and financial supporters. For this reason we felt that we were to inform them of our baptism and membership of a Charismatic congregation. This was like a child having to tell his father that he had smashed the front windscreen of his brand new Mercedes with his cricket ball and that this happened when he was batting in a forbidden corner of the yard; there was no doubt regarding the outcome of such a confession. Like Mr von Staden, we knew quite well that our supporters, being members of a conservative, traditional denomination, would recoil from this blow and immediately cancel their debit orders or whatever other support they had been affording us. We had known this before we set out on this course but had decided, as earlier stated, that “obedience was better than sacrifices” which, in our context meant that God would be more pleased by our obedience than by the work we were doing for Him. The question was: would he provide for our Ministry in some other way?

It turned out just as we thought it would: the moment our supporters got to know that we were now part of the “other camp,” they withheld their contributions and within a month’s time we were plunged into financial straits and unable to pay the allowances of our co-workers. This was a very traumatic experience for we knew full well that their predicament could directly be ascribed to our actions. Some of them, those belonging to Charismatic or Pentecostal churches, understood and admired us for the stand we had taken, but two or three were sulky and blamed us like the Israelites blamed Moses when they ran out of water in the wilderness. (Have you ever thought about the recriminations Abraham probably endured when he led his family out of Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land?) The Lord also, did not to provide for us in some other way as we had expected He would, which really tested our faith, causing us to want to doubt whether we had done the right thing.

Well then, within a month or two we realised, and had the inner conviction, that God was not going to provide and that the only sensible thing to do was to close down the Mission. We shared this with our co-workers and then set out to find other ministries where they could slot in. What blessed our hearts was that some of the Christian medical doctors who got to know our hospital ministry and our co-workers, had such a high regard for them that they agreed to take them under their care and provide for their monthly allowances. In this way the “trees we planted” continued to be fruitful which was a great comfort to us and confirmation that God’s hand was over us in it all. In the end, as far as I can remember, only one or two workers remained that we had to “turn out onto the street” to fend for themselves. So when all was said and done, it was just us as a family that remained without provision but by God’s grace Tannie Gertie was not offended by our being baptised and joining a Charismatic congregation, and ensured us that we could continue appropriating her house. Had we lost that home in the process, we would really have been stranded. (During that period, for about three months, we were unable to tithe but wrote down what we “owed” the Lord, and when our income later on picked up again, we managed to pay our “debt.”)

From then on, we somehow survived on regular donations received from my parents and other relatives and, though I could very well have returned to the Department of Justice, I just did not have the heart to do so, for I was still very conscious of God’s calling upon my life and was continually looking for opportunities to further His Kingdom and hoping that he would open doors for me into some sort of full-time ministry. Since our church’s centre of activity was some fifteen km away from us, we could not readily get involved in any of its multiple activities. The best we could to do, was to travel there for Sunday morning services.

Our hearts were, however burning to get into some serious Kingdom work, so what we did was to target a community of very poor people some ten kilometres from where we lived. We visited every home in that suburb again and again, built up relationships with the residents, then started with a weekly meeting in one of the homes. How this home was opened to us, is a story on its own.

What happened was that we felt the Lord was leading us to reach out to the children as a first step and we got permission from the owner of a stand adjacent to a small park, to set up our caravan in their backyard which had a gate opening into the park. That was at the onset of a short school holiday during which the children had nothing to do but loiter in the streets. Using our 1980 Chevy and a public address system which we got from somewhere, we went around inviting the children to the park where we entertained them by organising all sorts of games in which they could take part. Then, at a given time, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, we would take the whole group to our caravan, let them sit down in the shade of a tree and share the Gospel with them. We were amazed at how attentively they listened. Since many of them were from homes where food was in short supply, we also provided a very substantial meal at midday and were delighted when many of the neighbours, of their own accord, pitched up with all sorts of dishes for the children.

On the fifth day, when we had just started with our afternoon session, a pickup drove on to the premises, stopped next to the group of children and the driver, a burly man, sat staring at us through the open window. I must say we were rather intimidated for he lived in the area from where the children came and we suspected that he had come to see what we were up to. As the meeting proceeded, he became engrossed in the simple children’s message that went forth and no sooner had I closed the meeting, when he got out of the car, came up to me and asked whether I would not be willing to hold a meeting in their home once a week. Since that was exactly what we were planning to do if we could find a suitable venue, my heart rejoiced and we accompanied him to his home to see if it would be suitable and to make arrangements for the first visit, for at that time, our week of outreach to the children was drawing to a close.

From that day, our ministry to these people opened up and we got many of them to attend our weekly meetings. Some of them walked there but we had to transport others by means of the Chevy, the only vehicle we had. On such occasions I would drop Martie at the venue, and then go on my rounds to collect our “congregation”. Apart from myself, the car could accommodate four to five people and then I allowed another three or four children to jump into the boot and drove to our meeting with the boot lid wide open and the children hollering at the top of their voices. The meeting was not all that orderly, but somehow we got the Gospel across by using simple illustrations, because the level of education and of understanding of that group was fairly low. One of the younger daughters of the couple in whose home we gathered, for instance, was mentally retarded. This ministry was by no means an easy one, for most of the people had fallen to this level of existence because of their abuse of drugs and alcohol or of just being too lazy to work or of squandering their income. The going was slow, but Martie and I were delighted that we were once more afforded the opportunity of sharing the good news of salvation with people, especially with these people who were largely rejected by society.

One could write a book on any one of several of these families, but let me share our experiences with, let us call them the Wolmarans family, with whom we became intimately involved. The father was a very intelligent man and sometime, during his younger days, had been employed as a medical orderly in a hospital in London in the UK. He had watched the nurses and doctors very closely in all they did, had asked question upon question, had read as many books as he could lay his hands on and very soon, he had acquired so much knowledge that he had managed to squirm in somewhere and practise as a medical doctor for some time before he had been caught out. He had then relocated to South Africa where he married, had had one job after the other and eventually had decided just to take it easy, sharing his wife’s income. He was totally addicted to drugs of whatever kind he could lay his hands on and even bought small bottles of Lennon’s medications which he hid under the carpet in the boot of their car. When in conversation with others, he would excuse himself every now and then, slip out and down a bottle of Lennon’s which apparently lifted his spirits.

His wife too, was a singular person. Once, when we visited them, we found her doing the dishes which you could hardly see because of the soap bubbles that spilled over the sides of the basin. On seeing the puzzlement on our faces, she explained that she had run out of dishwashing liquid and was using her hair shampoo instead.

She had a hard time with her husband, so once, when his equally work-shy sister visited him for two weeks on end with none of them lifting a hand to assist her in her household duties, she got fed up and decided to get rid of them for a while, so she could have some rest and peace of mind. Since she was a nurse and had access to all sorts of drugs, she brought some home and doped the two of them by putting some into their drinks. This knocked them insensible for a couple of days, allowing her a period of well earned rest. (I presume that she repeated the dose when they showed signs of revival.) By God’s grace they did not die and hardly knew what had happened to them when they eventually woke up.

On another occasion, someone gave her a combination double wardrobe/dressing table. It was unfortunately too large to fit into their bedroom, so she borrowed a saw and cut off the dressing table section which she threw out the back door, then placed one side of the wardrobe on two bricks and, presto, there she had her wardrobe installed in the corner of their bedroom.

In serving this community, we learned lessons never to be forgotten. One of these was to be very careful not to provide indiscriminately for the needs of people, but to ask oneself the question whether the person to whom you wanted to give the article or supplies, would really be helped by it to become self-sufficient, or whether it would just increase his level of dependency. We once gave a four-plate electric stove to a couple because they had nothing in their home to cook their food, but when we returned there after a couple of days, we were dismayed to discover that they had sold it and used the money to acquire a large supply of liquor which they had also consumed in the meantime. What I am saying, is that it is so much easier to give away a redundant stove, than to walk a distance with such a couple, assisting them to recover from their wayward lifestyles and live normal, responsible lives as God intended man to do. Some of these people were so used to being assisted, that they were incensed if the welfare people were even one day late in delivering their monthly supply of groceries. To my mind, this is helping a person from the frying pan into the fire.

Though we did not see much fruit on our ministry to this community, there was at least some yield from the seed we had so diligently sown. One of the daughters of the couple that had invited us to hold the weekly meeting in their home, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ in the course of our ministry and, after completing school, attended a seminary for some years, where she was trained to be a missionary. God’s Word never returns void to Him. After we had discontinued our ministry to that community, a nearby Pentecostal church took up the challenge of ministering to them on a physical, social and spiritual level, delivering a more comprehensive service than we had done. They had a very practical, sensible approach, kept a record of what was provided to every home, making sure that it was not squandered and at the same time continually impacting them with the Word of God. The Lord never gives up on people this side of the grave.

Finances were still a problem since we depended solely on donations received from relatives. The thought occurred to us to set up a “tent makers’ ministry” as Paul did, that would bring in some funds and enable me to give effect to the calling to do the work of an evangelist. In some or other way we managed to procure some funds to buy audio recording equipment and set out to record and transcribe court proceedings. In doing so, we had to travel long distances to the venues where the proceedings were held. Martie and I often went in different directions on the same day and at times had to stay over in hotels or boarding houses when the proceedings lasted for several days.

Martie also had to do the typing. There were times when I felt so sorry for her. Once, just a couple of days after she had had a hysterectomy, and was still unable to sit down to type, I lifted the typewriter onto a chest of drawers, in this way enabling her to stand whilst typing pages and pages from the recordings. Sometimes we had to work all through the night to have the manuscript of that day’s proceedings typed and bound on the judge’s table by nine the next morning. The income from this source was also minimal and after a couple of months, we sold the business and the equipment to another firm.



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