E1 .MOZAMBIQUE AND RIVONI MINISTRIES
IN THE POTTER’S HOUSE
This is a difficult chapter of our lives to commit to paper, for the life stories of God’s people are not like Hollywood fairy tales, but often rather resemble the life of David: the ups and downs, the incidents of glittering success and glory, but also of dark failure and despair. Yet, overriding all of this, is the rainbow of God’s mercy and power, reaching down into the pit of man’s hopelessness, lifting him out and setting his feet upon a rock.
After having somewhat wasted my life for a few years after matriculation, my true nature, that of a strong sense of responsibility and of being somewhat of a perfectionist, returned and developed as the years went by, and though I had many other flaws in my makeup, my employers never ever had to reprimand me for not doing my job properly. (In that respect I resembled my dear mum. We three men, my dad, my brother and I, had to watch our step in our spick and span home!) As we all know, living with such people can be rather strenuous at times.
Being meticulous in secular work, meant that I would be more so in doing the spiritual work of God’s kingdom. For this reason, over a period of time, it continually upset me to note how lax most of the Shepherds were in regard to the duties assigned to them to assist their cell leaders. They often would not visit or have contact with them for weeks on end, be unaware of stressful situations they were experiencing, or of the fact that they in turn were neglecting the people in their home cells. New members that joined our church, were not visited to make them feel welcome and to see what assistance they needed to build their faith. To me, this was like the negligent shepherds spoken of in the book of Jeremiah that did not care for the sick and crippled sheep in the flock. They enjoyed the glamour of the positions, but did not shoulder the responsibilities. This, to me, was not only displaying a lack of love for their flock, but sinning against the Great Shepherd Himself.
Perhaps I judged them too harshly for they had their secular occupations and considered these spiritual duties almost as favours towards the Church and towards God. I just could not come to terms with this attitude for I clearly recalled how I had, during all of the years that I had been doing secular work, never used it as an excuse for not performing my spiritual duties in a responsible way. I once or twice complained to our two senior pastors about this lack of enthusiasm, but they did not seem to take it seriously. So what I did, was to call for a meeting with my Shepherds, telling them exactly how I felt and saying that they would do better to resign, than to do the work of God in such a sloppy way.
And this is exactly what they did: they all resigned, all five of them, if I recall correctly. This of course was a shock to our pastors who then came to see us at our home. At that stage I got the impression that the more senior of them supported me in the stand I had taken, but it was left to the junior pastor to speak to the Shepherds and then get back to me. I also offered to resign as Overseeing Shepherd to defuse the crisis, and did so the next day.
Probably because they had spoken to them, the Shepherds came to me one by one after a couple of days, apologising for their reaction and so we forgave one another and resolved the issue on a personal level.
On searching my own heart, I never felt guilty for having reproved those leaders, for they thoroughly deserved it, but I knew very well that I had done wrong by reproving them without our pastor’s approval. He, not I, was God’s appointed leader of that congregation and it was his responsibility, not mine, to take whatever steps he deemed necessary to raise their level of commitment. This is what dawned on me after a while and I apologised to him, both verbally and in writing, which apology he accepted. I then waited for him to come back to me. In the meantime, I still continued with my duties as a Shepherd over a few cells.
During this period, I went through terrible turmoil of my spirit. How true is the saying: “When you laugh, the world laughs with you, but when you cry, you cry alone.” One of the other pastors, a long-standing friend of ours, made an attempt at restoring our peace, but after one visit, left us to stew in our own juice, and this we did. My whole world had come apart and I was plunged into a dark pit of despair. Suddenly I questioned everything I had ever done in my life and it all seemed to have been in vain. I saw only the dark side of my existence, the failures and supposed failures, the efforts I had made to provide for our living but that had not succeeded, my resignation from the Department of Justice, our leaving the Dorothea Mission, our baptism and joining of the Hatfield Christian Church that had resulted in the closing down of Media Mission; all of these things came down upon me like a ton of bricks.
I even looked at some of our relatives that did not know the Lord but were prospering financially and I coveted their success. I never even thought of the fact that we too had made some good profits on stands we had bought at Saldanha Bay and two others at Pretoria. All the souls that were saved through our successive ministries over the years and the many Christians that were blessed and built up by our examples and inputs into their lives; all of these counted for nothing to me. I saw myself as an utter failure, even as a disgrace to my family. Oh, the deep, deep, pain I went through. Some nights I hardly slept for an hour or two. I would wake up with such pain in my chest that I thought it would be the end of me. Then, on the next day, I still had to get up and return to my administrative duties at Church, facing everybody as if nothing had ever happened.
Gradually a measure of peace and joy returned to my soul, but together with that, I had a deep inner conviction that my ministry with the Church had come to an end and so I also resigned as a Shepherd of the remaining home cells over which Martie and I had charge. The sense of God’s calling which I received some 30 years or more before, however, never diminished; it was as strong as the first day He had spoken to me. I just knew that there was nothing else for me to do, but to be engaged in full-time ministry until the day He would take me to heaven. At that stage, I was 63 years of age.
From then on I spent hours on my knees, day by day, beseeching the Lord to open up a way for me to accomplish something worthy of His Name, before taking me to be with Him. At that time I also realised what a tremendous privilege and honour it was to be in His full-time ministry, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. I literally often wept as I beseeched Him to use me, such an unworthy servant, in some or other way.
The Lord saw my tears and heard my cries and opened a new way for me through the wilderness, although not as I would have planned it for myself. He led me to get in touch with the Dorothea Mission once more and as I did so, I discovered that the Shangaan radio programme which I had started some 28 years before, was still on the air, but badly neglected. The same programs were being aired over and over again due to a lack of new recordings. There was just no one to attend to this work and so I offered to do it on a part time basis, that is, in the evenings and over weekends. Tears flooded my eyes when, at last, I received a phone call from the Mission, informing me that my offer had been accepted and that I could commence with the work at my earliest convenience.
OH, THE GRACE OF OUR LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER!
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