D6. VARIOUS MINISTRIES AND OCCUPATIONS
HATFIELD CHRISTIAN CHURCH NORTH, THE CHILDREN’S HOME AND OTHER EXPERIENCES
Hatfield Christian Church had by that time grown to some twelve thousand members spread over all of greater Pretoria and had appointed pastors over each of its four congregational areas. Our area, north of the Magaliesberg mountain range, had also grown to such an extent that the Steering Committee decided that it was to manage its own affairs and so the independent congregation of Hatfield Christian Church North was established for the northern suburbs.
Our Steering Committee bought a large piece of ground and erected a church building, complete with offices, a minor hall and two conference rooms. The main auditorium could accommodate approximately five hundred people but, within a short time, it had to be enlarged to seat more than one thousand.
While the building of our facilities was in progress, an office was set up in an existing old building on site. A lady was appointed as a full-time secretary and I took care of condensing the pastor’s teachings which he presented during special classes. After approval these were then printed and handed out. This job appealed to me and laid the foundation for work the Lord would later on want me to do. I also did some practical work like building a volleyball court, etc.
The work I did at the church, brought in some small income, but we realised that I would have to do much more to meet our needs. Though our elder son was by that time, earning an income and providing for his own needs, the younger one was doing a two-year diploma course and after that proceeded to do his degree in electronics. The Lord most graciously provided for him by way of a bursary in the form of a monthly salary and he was staying with us, but still needed financial support. We were also very actively engaged in spiritual ministry in our congregation and for that, if for no other reason, had to maintain a certain level in our standard of living.
The first thing I did was to establish a vegetable garden under shade netting. Once it had been established, Martie took over the daily care for it and grew a variety of vegetables. Some we sold to businesses in the area. This was a good hobby but we did not benefit much financially.
I tried my hand at several other occupations and businesses like the building of steel furniture which looked good and sold well but was not very profitable. I realised that I either had to produce these in bulk or build “exotic” items which would each sell at a very high price to ensure a reasonable income. We also had an aviary with African Greys and cockatiels (Lutinos) of which the latter bred exceptionally well and also sold well. I was very fond of these birds and would have enjoyed having an aviary for the rest of my life, but again, doing it on small-scale rendered only a small-scale profit. Another thing we tried was to set up a nursery of indigenous trees. At a certain point in time, we had 20,000. We did a very good job in growing them, but I had no talent as a businessman and absolutely hated the marketing side. As can be imagined, these projects amounted to a lot of work and rendered very little income. We were living on what remained of the lump sum I had received from the Department of Education after the smallholding we had bought and the house we had erected were paid for in cash. I still did not feel free to go into full-time secular employment for that would be to finally close the door on the spiritual calling on my life.
So what I did was to offer myself for full-time employment in our congregation, which the Steering Committee accepted and in consequence appointed me as an administrative officer and supervisor over the amenities and terrain. Soon afterwards a full-time treasurer and youth pastor were appointed. Pastor François van Niekerk continued serving with Hatfield Christian Church East but attended to our congregation two days per week. I quite enjoyed this work which fitted in well with the spiritual work Martie and I were doing in the congregation.
MARTIE’S NURSING OF MRS VON STADEN
While I was thus engaged, Martie, for a while, nursed Mrs von Staden (wife of Mr von Staden the earlier Director of the Dorothea Mission where we had served for ten years.) The following is her account of the service she rendered:
“After my resignation from Carina Fashions in December 1990, Mrs.von Staden’s children contacted me, asking whether I would be willing to nurse their mother. Mr. von Staden had passed away a few years before and she was staying with her youngest son. She was physically and mentally in a bad state and needed to be taken care of during the day while her son was at work. They had a female servant, namely Louisa, who took care of the cleaning of the house, did the washing and was staying on the premises.
As we had come a long way with the Dorothea Mission, and especially with Mr and Mrs von Staden (Oom Hans and Tannie Lettie) I, and also Ben, felt that it would be the right thing to do. It would also be an extra income for us since I was at home at that stage. To do so, I had to leave home very early every morning and had to travel a long distance to Waterkloof. On my arrival, Louisa was already attending to her. Mrs. Von Staden could, at this stage not recognise anybody anymore.
She was in a wheel chair, but sometimes got up and walked around the table while holding on to it. On seeing me she would not allow me to get near to her but scurried around the table, trying to escape from me. I would then go up to her, give her a hug and tell her over and over who I was. Then she relaxed and calmed down. The next step was to wash and dress her and get her ready for breakfast. She got very upset when I tried to wash her, refused and stamped with her foot saying: “You are a devil.” I would then pray for wisdom, asking the Lord what to do and what to say to her. Sometimes I would just give her a hug, saying: “No, Tannie Lettie, I am not a devil, I am saved by the Blood of Jesus, and I am a child of God”. At this she would look at me, cup my face in her hands, smile and say: ‘My darling’.
When all this was accomplished, I prepared breakfast. She would be sitting at the opposite end of the table, watching every movement I made. Sometimes I might ask: ‘Tannie Lettie, do you know who I am?’ She would just stare at me and it would be clear that there was no recognition at all. I would then try to help her by repeating: ‘I am Martie Lubbe, wife of Ben Lubbe’, etc. She would repeat every word after me, probably not grasping anything at all, yet, in the end, offering me that sweet smile again, and I would just go to her, and give her a hug.
Once I had prepared breakfast, the two of us would eat together. She was unable to eat by herself and I had to feed her. Sometimes she refused to be fed. I never forced her to do so and went on with my own breakfast, while she was just staring at me. Then, after a while, she would give me a big smile and I was able to feed her again. By 3 to 4 pm I would put her to bed and leave for home.
It was not easy for me to see her in such a state. This woman of God who had played such a major role to promote His Kingdom and had been a role model to us as students, had become so totally helpless and in a sense, had become a total stranger to me. I enjoyed caring for her, because it was as if I was caring for my own dear mother. I nursed her for nearly two years until she was admitted to a hospital where she could receive more intensive care. Shortly after being admitted, the Lord took her to be with Him.”
MARTIE’S TERM WITH A CHILDREN’S HOME
Martie also served in a home for destitute and unruly children. The following is her account of that period of her life:
“During July, 1992, Ben mentioned to me that he felt that I should apply for a post at a certain institution for destitute and unruly children. I had no desire to do so for working with other people’s children, did not appeal to me. However we prayed about it and I then went for an interview. I had to pass a verbal test of questions on how to handle situations that might arise when dealing with children coming from broken homes. This lasted for a couple of hours. I was very nervous, but trusted the Lord to give me the correct answers. To top it all, I was still uncertain as to whether that was the place I wanted to be, but committed myself to Him in prayer. A couple of days later, I was informed that my application had been approved and so, on the first of August, 1992 I took up employment and was assigned alternately to two girls sections; the one accommodating girls from grades one to seven and the other covering grades eight to twelve.
The smaller children were mostly from broken homes, while the older ones were placed there because of their unruly behaviour. This might have been brought about by a stepmother or stepfather’s harsh and unfair treatment causing them to elope from home every now and then. Others were drug addicts whose behaviour got so bad that the parents just could not handle them anymore. At times I had up to forty girls in my section for whom I had to care, for whom I had to be a mother in shifts of twelve hours per day. These older girls all had one thing in common and that was that they resented any form of discipline. Many of them were very dangerous and on several occasions assaulted the staff when their anger got the better of them. On one occasion, during a night shift, the lady in charge was struck on the head with a glass bottle, robbed of her keys by a number of girls who then unlocked the outer door and escaped from the institution. I was warned by my seniors to take care, but by God’s grace nothing serious ever happened to me. I normally had good relationships with all the children and also with the boys when, at times, I was appointed to supervise their section.
When a child did something wrong, especially something that endangered the other children or the staff, orders were that they had to be put in the ‘lock-up’ adjoining the supervisor’s office so that an eye could be kept on them. The lock-up was separated from the office by a security gate and a solid wooden door. On a certain day I had to commit three older girls to the “lock-up” for serious transgressions. At a certain point I had to go to the Superintendent’s office in the main building just a short distance from my office.
On returning, I immediately noticed something to be wrong because both the windows of the ‘lock-up’ were closed and the curtains drawn. I ran to my office and unlocked the lock-up’s wooden door to check what was going on inside, but was unable to open it since it had apparently been barricaded from the inside. Realising that something very serious was happening inside that room, that they had probably set fire to something, I ran outside, shouting at the boys to bring me the hosepipe, then used it to smash the window panes of the room. As the boys opened the tap, I stuck the hosepipe through the broken window in an attempt to quench the fire. In the meantime my seniors were alerted and came to the rescue. With the assistance of the boys, we finally managed to open the barred door and gained entrance into the ‘lock-up’. The room was dense with black, swirling smoke caused by two smouldering mattresses. The three girls were lying on the floor, breathing, but unconscious, their nostrils blackened by the smoke they had inhaled. By this time the Superintendent had phoned an ambulance that soon turned up and took them to hospital, one of them being in a very serious condition. By God’s grace all three recovered after some days of treatment. As for me; it also took me some days to recover from this traumatic experience.
Many of these older children experienced extremely high levels of anger; anger at those that had in some way in the past wronged them in some or other way; anger at themselves and anger at life itself. When this inner turmoil reached a peak it would boil over into unbelievable deeds of aggression directed at material things around them, at other people and even at themselves. A girl of sixteen years that I had to confine to the ‘lock-up’ for some days, got so upset during that period that she broke the ceramic toilet bowl (pot) into pieces with her bare hands. In her fury she must have opened herself to demonic possession that gave her such supernatural strength for she was just an ordinary frail girl and could not have done it in her own power.
Frustration and anger often caused the children to injure themselves, as did the demonic of Gadara. Once, on returning to my office I was shocked to see the two girls who were locked up, standing behind the security door, covered with blood. They had cut their arms and legs from top to bottom with razor blades that had probably been handed to them through the open window. As they stood there, blood was still dripping from their bodies onto the floor so that they were actually standing in puddles of their own blood. Though they must have been in considerable pain, they were still spiteful towards me and I had to use all my abilities of persuasion to get them to hand me the blades they had been using. Sometimes such children would even break a razor blade in two and hide one half underneath their tongues.
We of course also continually had to be watchful for those that would try to escape. Not even our sky-high fence, topped with razor wire prevented them from doing so. What they did was to drape a mattress or duvet over the top and then scale the fence. Sometimes they were cut in the process but that did not deter them. Even girls escaped in this way.
What upset me most was when they cursed me for disciplining them. I remember one night when, after leaving the premises on my way home, I stopped the car and sat there crying my heart out because of the things they had said to me while I was just doing my duty and trying to help them as best I could. The next morning as I sat in my office, the girl who had said those terrible things to me the previous day, came to me and apologised in all sincerity for what she had said. I got up, wrapped my arms around her, pressed her tightly to me and told her that I forgave her.
What helped me greatly during those years, was that I could return home and share my pain and frustration with a loving, understanding husband who would then comfort me and pray for me. This enabled me to continue at the Children’s home for such a long period of time.
One afternoon, a girl aged sixteen, just disappeared. I reported it to my supervisor but had no peace of mind and just knew in my heart that I had to find her very soon or it would be too late. I called on all the boys and girls to help me search for her but, without success. Frantic with worry, I returned to her room, noticed that her cupboard had been pulled away from the wall and as I looked behind it, found her hanging from an electric cord around her neck, already blue in the face. I thought I had been too late but screamed for others to assist me and as we loosened the cord and let her down, we were relieved to discover that she was still breathing and soon afterwards an ambulance took her away. The Lord Who had guided me to return to the room looking for her, also heard my prayers, touched her and within a couple of days she was back with us. God still had a plan for her life. I was actually amazed that she had tried to take her own life for she had been one of those children that had never given me any trouble and was in fact attending a normal secondary school without causing any problems. Some days after this incident, I sat with her for hours (I was working from 7am to 7pm) explaining the Gospel and finally leading her to the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer. Because of her attempted suicide, she was subsequently admitted to the Weskoppies mental hospital for treatment for a certain period. I often visited her while she was there and was glad to note that she was making good progress. Many years later, after I had left the children’s home, I heard that she had matriculated and was still following the Lord.
I also recall an incident that occurred while I was assigned to the boys section. They had a disagreement on some or other issue and as tempers flared up, began swearing and shouting at one another, using the Name of the Lord in vain. The discord amongst them had been building up for a couple of days and I just could not stand the tension any longer. I shouted at them to stop, threw the pen and the report I was writing onto the floor and fell forward onto my arms on the table. This was their turn to be shocked, and terribly shocked at that, for they had never before seen me in such a trauma and probably thought: ‘Tannie Martie never, ever behaved like this. What is going on with her?’ Two of them, came to me where I was lying face down on my arms, bent over me, held me tightly pleading: ‘Tannie Martie, please, please, don’t leave us’!
The supervising lady of the girl’s section heard the commotion and came over to see what was happening. The boys told her what happened for I was still too upset to speak to anybody. She wanted to call Ben, my husband, to come and fetch me, but I refused, saying, I would be O.K. She assisted me to lie down while taking care of my section herself. The boys all went to their rooms, shocked and as quiet as could be for the rest of that night. The next day, Ben took me to the doctor. He immediately booked me off for six weeks for I had reached the point at which I was emotionally utterly drained and had no further inner reserves to draw on. It was the first time in all my life that I had felt so exhausted. After the six weeks, I returned to work and the superintendent, assigned me to the toddlers section (ages varying from six months to five years) but after another couple of months, I was back in the girl’s section and continued to work there until 31July,1998.
There were many other incidents and I could just go on and on relating them! One evening I could not return home after my twelve hour shift because a little boy of six years had broken his arm and had to be taken to hospital for it to be placed in plaster. On reaching the hospital he pleaded with me saying: ‘Tannie Martie, please don’t leave me alone, stay with me’. I waited there, accompanied him to the theatre, and only much later, by 10pm when my supervisor arrived, did I feel I could go home. My heart cried for that little boy, because I knew how I felt towards my own two sons, how I loved them, and cared for them. So many of those children had never experienced the love of even one of their parents.
Ben and I also ministered to the children and staff on a spiritual level. We held Sunday morning meetings for them with me leading them in worship with my guitar and Ben preaching the Word afterwards. One night, while I was off duty, I received a phone call from one of the ladies at the institution, pleading for our assistance since a situation had arisen that she was unable to handle. On arriving there, we found her as well as all the girls in her section, bundled together outside the building. The younger children were in a state of fear because of unseen things that harassed them in their dormitories. Their supervisor likewise, was in a state of near panic for she did not even know the Lord and of course had no training to equip her to handle matters pertaining to the spirit world.
What was continually happening there was that children who had been exposed to and participating in satan worship, were admitted and had brought these demonic spirits with them into the institution. So, what were we to do? First of all we called everybody together and explained to them the tremendous power of God, their Creator and that we would call upon Him to dispel the evil spirits from the dormitory. This calmed them down. We then took some oil, invited a number of the older girls to accompany us and went from door to door and bed to bed, anointing these with the oil as a token of the Holy Spirit. We also prayed to God and commanded the evil spirits to leave the institution. A wonderful peace came upon everybody and one by one the children filed to their beds. The supervisor also calmed down and so Ben and I could return home.
As we got to know the institution and its people in a deeper way, we realised that it was not only the children that needed assistance but also the staff, and so we offered to hold a day camp for them at one of the nearby holiday resorts. We were amazed at the response for just about all of them turned up, except of course, a skeleton staff that had to remain to take care of the children. The governing body even carried the expenses for they saw it as a team building excursion. We did in fact approach a friend of us who undertook these kind of camps to coach us and lend us some of his equipment and materials.
Everybody had a wonderful day, playing games, socialising and just relaxing. We, of course also had meetings with them and brought teaching in an endeavour to uplift their spirits and impart courage and vision for the work they had to do. One of the staff members was an African man that, in terms of the Labour Laws, held the appointment of shop steward. He was a real thorn in the side of the leaders of the institution for he never helped to solve problems but rather to complicate them. In the course of one of our meetings, we explained to them that we had to have the attitude of a servant in our workplace and more so when working with such traumatised children. As a practical demonstration of what we meant, Ben and I each took a bowl of water soap and towel and washed their feet, Ben attending to the men and I to the women. As we did so, we also spoke words of encouragement and love to each one. This African man afterwards testified that never in his life would he have thought it possible for a White man to sit at the feet of a Black man, washing his feet. This caused him to accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour, which in turn brought about a complete change in his behaviour so that his assistance in solving labour related disputes in the institution was henceforth sought by management and was much appreciated.
During my six years at this children’s home, I twice received achievement awards. I thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy that carried me trough all those years as well as for the rewards, but most of all I thank Him for having allowed me just to be there for that period and for what I could do for those children. During the farewell meeting held for me, I quoted Ps. 103:1&2: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name!’ Yes, the Lord is so good and so wonderful, praise His Holy Name!
Just before I resigned from that institution, Ben managed to enter into a contract with the Church for the cleaning of the buildings and preparation of venues for the different meetings. We employed three women to do the cleaning and I supervised all aspects of this work. This took up a lot of my time for there were three to four meetings almost every night, and then of course, also on Saturdays and Sundays, but it was not as stressful as the work at the children’s home. The pastors, as well as all the other leaders and members of the congregation, were very appreciative of my work, which was such a comfort. I enjoyed my daily duties – so this again was a happy, blessed time along my life’s journey. The Lord balances our times of stress with times of refreshment so that our frail human nature may be able to bear it all.”
LORD YOU NEVER ALLOW US TO BE BURDENED BEYOND WHAT WE ARE ABLE TO ENDURE.
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