C10. MOZAMBIQUE AND RIVONI MINISTRIES
CONSTRUCTION WORK, PAINFUL SACRIFICES AND THE “A TEAM”
Since the establishing of Rivoni Ministries, we had focussed on the spiritual side of the work. All we did on the physical side, was to assemble the audio equipment required by the Rivonis, construct the donkey cart for Titus and go to some trouble to get the ship’s freight container. This approach I believe was correct, for Solomon advised to prepare one’s land and get one’s crops going, before building one’s house. (Prov 24:27)
Since our discipleship classes were now running smoothly, the right time had come for the erection of some structures to accommodate our equipment and supplies and to provide shelter for us as workers. During May, I arranged with a firm at Phalaborwa to supply and erect a corrugated iron storeroom of 6 x 3m, and a carport of 6 x 6m for us at Chinhacanine. The contractor erected the storeroom, relocated the freight container to where we wanted it, built a door and two windows into it, fenced the site and then left without completing the carport, since he found it too exacting to work within Mozambique.
We also needed mainline electricity and after many days of bickering with the authorities, they one day turned up with a wooden pole dragged behind a pickup for 60 km, planted it on our site right next to the container and linked us up with the mainline electricity grid. They also linked up all our neighbours’ homes from the same pole. From then on our whole neighbourhood was lit up at night; we had thus earned the name of Rivoni Ministries (Rivoni is the Shangaan word for light).
With all these things in place, we transferred Martie’s kitchen from the container to the corrugated iron storeroom. Though it was very hot inside, especially when the gas burners were going, it was a vast improvement for she now had a number of shelves to stack her monthly grocery supplies for us and for the team.
A better office was our next priority and this we set up in one end of the container where the kitchen had been. Inside of that steel box, exposed to the Mozambican sun, it was unbearably hot, but I at least had an office where I could set up a computer and printer to continue to compile the 31 lectures on the old Testament urgently required for our discipleship course. At times it got so hot that I had to train two fans on the laptop computer to keep it from overheating. As for myself…, I just had to cope.
At the other end of the container, Martie and I set up our bedroom, sleeping on camping type folding mattresses. We considered it a privilege to have a bedroom supplied with electricity for both of us are avid readers and reading by candlelight after a hard day’s work, was a bit strenuous.
The carport still needed to be erected and after two or three weeks, plucking up some courage, I set about constructing it myself, cutting and welding the components left behind by the constructor to make them fit. We covered the sides with shade netting all around and spread two caravan groundsheets on the sandy soil. This enclosure we equipped with folding chairs and table and a 500 litre water tank fitted with a tap we raised about 50 cm above ground level by means of cement blocks.
At that stage all water had to be carted some 400m by wheelbarrow in 20 litre containers filled up from a community well equipped with a hand pump. The containers were emptied into the tank. This setup was a great help to Martie, for now she could just open a tap whenever she needed water.
We then moved Martie’s kitchen and shelves into this more airy structure. In due course we added a dining room table and chairs where we could sit down for our meals and team meetings. This physical development of the site boosted everybody’s morale and even passers-by could see that Rivoni Ministries had arrived and was taking root. To Martie and me, these were huge leaps ahead, for we no longer lived in the back of our light delivery van or in a shaky tent under a tree, but in fairly secure surroundings. Having completed these practical tasks, we returned to Phalaborwa on 13 July (2007) where more challenges awaited us.
Since we were by now spending most of our time in Mozambique, we had no real use of our “luxury” three-bedroom flat and scouted around for a smaller place where we could stay over when visiting Phalaborwa to buy supplies. We also had no further use of the audio studio for we had so much to do in Mozambique that we had to return the compiling of the Shangaan radio programs to the Dorothea Mission.
Moving to smaller accommodation had many implications. Many of our possessions had to be disposed of: some auctioned, others sold privately, some given away and one trailer load just dumped at the refuse site where people enjoyed a windfall, grabbing items they considered of value for personal use or resale.
The greatest challenge we faced was to dispose of our pets, especially the dogs, for we had to find someone to look after them for weeks on end while we were in Mozambique. For the budgies and cockatiels kept in a cage in the garden, we found a very good home. We had two dogs. The older one, which was mine, we had to take to the vet to be put down for she was too feeble to be handed over to another master. She died in my arms as he injected her. This touched me deeply for I vividly recalled the day I bought her from the pet shop and the almost human sounds of delight she had made to be in my arms, to be out of that small cage where she had been kept. She was a long-legged energetic Fox Terrier and, when younger, had delighted to accompany me on our smallholding or out into veldt, rushing around, hunting for mice, rabbits and snakes. She had indeed caught a couple of snakes and once got bitten by a puff adder, but recovered without any after effects. To take the decision and then actually hand her over to be put down, was a heart-rending experience.
My pain, however, could in no way be compared to Martie’s trauma. To her, her dog was like a child and she was bound to him with her whole being. To give him away to someone, was like selling a child and posed an insurmountable obstacle. For several reasons there was no possibility of taking him along with us to Mozambique; all we could do was to find him a new home. How my heart ached for my dear wife for I knew the magnitude of this sacrifice she had to make for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. I used many Biblical examples, especially that of Abraham having had to sacrifice his one and only child, Isaac, on the altar at the bidding of his God. But all my pleading and arguments just could not get her to accept the inevitable.
By then I realised that I was up against a solid rock. On the one hand I had to answer the call of the Lord Jesus Who had sacrificed Himself and the Father who had sacrificed His Son on a wooden cross for me; on the other hand, there was my dear wife to whom I had been married for 39 years, with whom I had two wonderful sons and four grandchildren. Was this going to cost me my marriage? Who meant more to me: my loving Lord whom I could not see, or my dear wife who was before me, in front of my eyes every hour of the day, my dear soul mate that had already sacrificed so much to follow me as I followed Him wherever He led?
As the days went by, I came to feel completely hemmed in by massive sky high walls, allowing me no way of escape. In total despair and anguish I cried out to God to help me, yet unable to suggest in what way He was to do it. The solution came from Him. The all wise lover of our souls broke through Martie’s painful resistance and helped her to gain the victory over her emotions and to agree to find a good home for her dear friend and “child.”
Let her describe it in her own words. “Since childhood, I had been very fond of animals, especially of dogs. I can still recall every one of them, as well as their names. And so it was with our two dogs (actually one, because the other one belonged to Ben), but I did not make any distinction between them. I really loved them both. Ben’s dog, Maggie, a Fox Terrier, was already about 15 years of age. Mine, called Jakkals, was a cross between a Fox terrier and a Jack Russelll. While we were living at Phalaborwa, Ben had to go into Mozambique quite often. Sometimes I went with him and had to ask somebody to look after our dogs. As the work increased, Ben mentioned that the time might come that we would have to move to Mozambique to live there permanently. Immediately I felt dispirited, because my first thought was: ‘Our dogs: what will happen to them?’ In the end it became clear to me that there was only one solution and that was to find other homes for both of them. Needless to say, this was the greatest shock I had had in a very long time. I refused to consider it. I could not even visualise myself doing that. I was very upset in my heart, even towards Ben. How could he ever expect me to do such a thing: to do away with our two dogs I loved so dearly?
With Maggie it was a bit easier. She was already old and her health was failing. She had a heart problem and also occasionally got epileptic seizures. But otherwise she was still up and about and responding well to treatment, but because of our situation in regard to Mozambique, we decided that the best we could do was to have her put down by a vet. We then took her to his surgery. Ben was holding her in his arms while the vet prepared the injection. By that time, I think my sobs could be heard outside in the street. Even the vet could not hold back his tears anymore. Many times after that, I still remember the look in Maggie’s eyes, looking at me, as if she was asking: “What are you busy doing to me?” We left her body there, with broken hearts. A few days later, I got a little postcard from the vet, as if from Maggie herself, saying: ‘I know the time will come that you will see the kindness that you did for me. Although my tail, its last has waved, from pain and suffering I’ve been saved’.
That same afternoon we took Jakkals to his new home. Can I ever describe what was going on in my heart at the moment when we left him there! On returning home, I felt the loneliness even stronger. It felt as if two members of our close little family had been taken away from us. Afterwards, Ben often took me back to that home and we took Jakkals for a walk but every time, on having to leave him there, I was going through that tremendous battle all over again, so we decided not to go there anymore.
As time went by, I realised that only the Lord could take away my heartache and He alone would give me the victory so that I could go on and do what He had called us to do. Some time afterwards we moved to Mozambique but I could not get over this tremendous sacrifice I had to bring. At times I would not even allow Ben to speak to me. I sometimes asked him just to leave me alone. Gradually I again began to take notice of the animals around me, and I finally found joy in spoiling them by giving them the love and care they never got from their own owners.
I can only give glory to His Name, who carried me through that tremendous test. He gave me victory and I knew that I did right by being obedient to Him for He would never leave us nor forsake us. Praise His wonderful Name!
Sometime after we finally came out of Mozambique, Ben bought me two lovely Basset-hounds. I believe that they are a special gift from God to me, saying: ‘I will never forget the sacrifice you brought a few years ago, and I still love you so much!’
Answering the call of our Lord has unforeseen consequences. For Mary, the mother of Jesus, it was a tremendous honour and joy to bear within her and give a Saviour to the world, but there came a day when a sharp sword as it were, was thrust right through her heart when she saw Him hanging on a cross and could not lift a finger to make it easier for Him. To follow the Lord wholeheartedly, does not only bring joy, but also deep, deep sorrow, yet I know that my beloved wife was favoured to make a sacrifice to her Lord and to the people to whom we were called to minister and will one day be rewarded with a special crown. On that day the Lord will also reveal to her how He had cared for and comforted her dear “dog child” she had sacrificed to Him.
The Lord then led us to a garden flat that cost us only R2000 per month. When we saw the little place, both Martie and I were delighted beyond measure, for it immediately appealed to us. And now the bonus: the owner and his wife were both Christians of our age and told us how they had prayed to the Lord to provide the right tenants. They were in fact members of the congregation to whom I had preached the previous Sunday evening.
Moving all our belongings is a story on its own. We only had a box type trailer as means of transport and I hired two men off the street who did not know the difference between the top and bottom of a fridge, yet we managed to get safely into our “granny flat.” However, our bodies took a beating. One or two of my fingers seemed all askew and Martie’s back was so painful that she had to see a physiotherapist who worked for about an hour to relieve the muscle spasms.
That Sunday I had a wonderful opportunity to share with another congregation regarding our work in Mozambique. Afterwards we were invited to a braai and had Blue Bull steaks the size of a full moon (perhaps a little smaller?)
During the following week we worked through an endless list of supplies to be purchased for Mozambique, including two bicycles. On Thursday and Friday I put aside some time for a bout of flu which had been knocking persistently on my door for several days and on Saturday we left for Mozambique with Martie quite miserable with flu and a very painful back. Every time we went through a really bad bump on the Limpopo Park road, she uttered a cry that made me jump behind the steering wheel, but we made it to Chinhacanine, having shed some more weight in bullion at the customs office.
The flu had incapacitated Martie, but I felt somewhat better and rigged up our TV dish, connected it to the God TV decoder and presto, at the very first try, there we had a crystal clear picture of our dear friends like Joyce Meyer, John Hagee and others visiting us and ministering to our thirsty souls right out there in the bush. What a feast. The next day our team members arrived and from then onwards we all crowded round the TV every evening and drank from the fountain which God had opened for us in the wilderness.
Assisted by the team, we completed what practical work still had to be done to the structures. In between we had team meetings, praising the Lord and savouring Bible studies from the Book of Ruth. What a gem that little four chapter Book is, the Book of decisions: some people, making the wrong decisions, are left behind in lonely graves in a foreign country while others, taking the right decisions, proceed into the waterfall of God’s continuous, abounding blessing.
We also met with our co-workers individually and heard what God was doing through them. Hallelujah! All over there was a stirring amongst the dry bones. Eternal Life had come to so many people. The spiritual leaders whom we were training, were taking the material they received during the week back to their congregations over weekends and to all sorts of conferences and sharing it with so many, many people that we ourselves were unable to reach. Not only were we providing the Bread of Life, but also the spices that lured people to come and eat at God’s table.
During September 2007 we travelled to attend a relative’s wedding at Stellenbosch on the 20th, then returned to Phalaborwa via Pretoria where I ministered in our church on two occasions.
On 8 October, we were back in Mozambique accompanied by Frans, our eldest son who was to visit us for approximately six weeks, and on the 14th a team of six burly men from our HCCN congregation in Pretoria, arrived in two vehicles loaded with gifts, tools, equipment and materials of all kinds. In a jiffy all their tents were pitched and during the next five days they turned the place upside down, constructing, painting, repairing, doing the electrical wiring, rebuilding the fence, repairing the roof of Pita’s home (the one that had been blown off), etc. The sun scorched them but they stood their ground and a lot of work got done in a very short time. These men had to sacrifice accrued leave and business income and dig deep into their pockets to be able to assist us and we were deeply grateful to them.
During their stay, we all visited a place called Majimisi one evening. This was a small community where quite a number of people had found the Lord through our discipleship classes. Having ministered the Word to them, we all sat down to a meal they had prepared for us. Our hosts sat on cansis (reed mats) at a respectful distance to keep us company and watch us eating the meat of a goat they had specially slaughtered for us.
The intestines and head are considered to be special delicacies. The contents of the intestines were of course not properly cleaned out; some of it was left to add flavour. Two of our team members were specially favoured with an eye for each, carefully picked from the head of the goat with the sharp end of a knife and placed on their plates. Our team did their best to show their appreciation while cutting, chewing with closed eyes, then swallowing one bite after another with a mouthful of mixed cool drink. We afterwards discovered that a number of households had each contributed one or two litres of their precious water to host us.
Some three days after that brave squad left for Pretoria, our own team of workers arrived and we really had a wonderful time of fellowship and of losing ourselves in God’s Word. I spent many, many hours with each one of them, learning about their ministries, sorrows and joys. They were really pouring their hearts into the work.
The donkey cart, which I sometimes feared would just stand and rot under a tree, had become a Gospel chariot “clop, clop, clopping” around in the bush from village to village, carrying the Message of Hope to those people that had had so very little opportunity of hearing of the Saviour that loved even them.
With only 16 hours left to the midnight of December 31 of the year 2007, I sat in Phalaborwa compiling the last newsletter, rejoicing in what God had accomplished through the Mission since we first responded to His call.
HE TURNED OUR SORROWS INTO JOYS: BLESSED BE HIS NAME!
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