OUR STORY – Chapter E7




Back home we set about preparing new and better equipment for the Rivonis. I wrote 31 messages, covering the old Testament, had them translated and preached in Shangaan by our radio programme preacher, pastor Bila, then copied them onto 70 CDs. Seven sets of equipment were assembled, each set consisting of a rucksack, CD player, shortwave radio, eight flip chart picture books, a power pack consisting of a 12 volt battery and three different protector/transformer units, a pocket for the CD’s and a solar panel to charge the battery.

By 23 May, we had all of these ready and once more set out for Mozambique. We travelled to seven different outposts to deliver the new equipment and train the Rivonis in using it. They were delighted and we were amazed at the ease with which they learned to operate the various items.

We also visited all the outposts that we had been unable to visit during our previous trip because of the heavy rains. Some meetings were held to win the lost and enrich the saved. The listeners were blessed and so were we.

Christians are the most privileged of all salesmen for they have superb products to sell: the glorious Gospel of Salvation. Every “Sales Promotion” is presented with conviction and joy, for we are absolutely convinced that everyone that buys it, will enjoy an unbeatable bargain. “Exchange your old rusty, battered, dirty, smoky, scrap car for a brand new everlasting, all powerful limousine, FREE OF CHARGE.” That is basically what the offer would sound like when applied to physical objects. No losers; only winners.

During this venture into Mozambique, a young lady by the name of Pita Mutuassa joined us in Chokwe and accompanied us wherever we went. She had already completed a three-year Bible School course and apart from being fluent in Shangaan and Portuguese, also spoke English, which to us, was very, very useful since she could interpret for us. She was interested in joining our Mission.

After some three weeks, this trip was concluded and again we were satisfied that it had been a great success and that the work in Mozambique was progressing very well.

Back home, we discovered how tired we were. We had moved from the Dorothea Mission into the founding of Rivoni Ministries without a break and had faced many trials during the previous seven months, so we decided to go on holiday as from the 5th June (2006). It would, however, not only be a holiday, for we intended to develop more sources of income for the rapidly expanding work.

Carefully negotiating our way in the Richtersveldt.

Sunrise at the Orange River in the Richtersveldt.

Spending time with God next to the Orange River in the Richtersveldt.

During the following four weeks we had much more time travelling than resting. Places we visited along the West Coast were the Richtersveld, Alexander Bay, Port Nolloth, Hondeklip Bay, Papendorp, Strandfontein, Doring Bay, Lamberts Bay, Elands Bay, St Helena Bay and Saldanha Bay. In total we covered 6700 km with the pickup and caravan and used up so much of our country’s fuel that the petrol price was raised twice during the course of our tour. (Just joking.) Although we were a bit exhausted at times, we enjoyed every moment, saw the exhilarating beauty of the West Coast, inhaled its clean, crisp air, met wonderful openhearted, friendly, interesting people and experienced our Lord’s presence all the way.

Chatting to the Brown (Coloured) people always lifted our spirits. At Port Nolloth from where marine deposits of diamonds are mined, I spoke to a young man waiting for his father’s fishing boat to return, and remarked: “I will pick up a diamond and not even know what I am holding in my hand.” “Nay masta,” he replied excitedly, “you will know immediately. It’s love at first sight.” Bless the Lord for creating different kinds of people so that we may love and enjoy one another.

The trip was also a success as far as our purpose to secure business was concerned, business that would render funds, both for ourselves and to further the work of the Rivoni Mission,. We sowed seeds both in St. Helena Bay and in Pretoria which, we trusted, would show good returns.

Let me recall two highlights of the tour. The first was in the Richtersveld, a partially mountain desert and the rest a semi-desert, tucked away in the north-western corner of South Africa. There is some diamond mining activity whereby a few people derive an income, but many of the inhabitants are nomadic goatherds.

A “Matjieshut” in the Richterveldt.

They erect shelters called “Matjieshutte” (huts consisting of lattice work covered with grass mats).

The Cloetes dwelling place in the Richtersveldt expanse.





One day, Martie and I went in search of a typical Richtersveld family. We passed through a little village called “Lekkersing” (Joyful Singing), then headed for the remote areas. After a while we spotted a man herding his “Red headed goats” and tracked him to his dwelling. His name was “Draaier” (Turner) Cloete and he and his wife, who was then doing their washing, welcomed us enthusiastically.

The Cloete family at peace in the shade of their livingroom/bedroom.

The inside of their kitchen/cooking shelter.

While we dished out all the sweets, cool drinks and cookies we had with us, he told us about their lifestyle and children, one of whom was a deaf mute.

The patriarch, Draaier Cloete.

At last we had the opportunity of quietly sharing the Gospel with them. It was clear that they had never heard it before and listened so attentively that I was tempted to ask them to accept the Lord right there, but then felt that it might be better to allow the Holy Spirit more time to prepare their hearts. As we left, I pressed a R50.00 note into his hand. He looked at it and tears coursed all the way down his dusty cheeks as he accompanied us back to our vehicle.

Oh what a blessing it is to be a blessing to others. We drove back home, wiping tears from our own eyes. A holiday was turned into a holy day by our precious, loving Lord. Back home at our Port Nolloth base, we managed to procure a used Bible and a few tracts and posted these to people at an address in Lekkersing, people whom the Cloetes knew, to deliver to Draaier and his wife. We enclosed a stamped envelope and after some time received a letter in Draaier’s scribbled handwriting, thanking us for the gifts. In reply we sent them some more Gospel literature.

Oh the Gospel, the glorious Gospel. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross where a lonely Man died for lonely men; died that they might be brought into the warmth and comfort of the greatest family that will ever be, the family of the Almighty God. No longer will they need to scale desert mountains and roam about in arid plains to quench their spiritual thirst, for the Father’s Shepherd Son will lead them to lie down in green pastures beside the still waters.

At Vredendal it was our turn to be spoiled. As we passed through the village, I dropped in at an estate agent’s office. Very soon we discovered that we both knew the Lord. In fact, he was pastoring a small congregation and just would not let us continue on our way but insisted that we spend the night with them. Martie’s first reaction was: “Oh, but what will your wife say if you just turn up with a couple of strangers without consulting her?” But this dear brother was not concerned at all, for it was not the first time he had shown hospitality to strangers as Abraham and Lot did. What a glorious evening we had. After a hearty meal, we just remained sitting around the table, giving testimony of how the Lord had saved us, filled us with His Spirit and thrust us forth into his harvest field. Apparently, although he had had very godly parents, he also had totally different ideas of enjoying life and the Lord had a hard time in bringing him to his knees at the cross of Christ. But now both the agent and his wife delighted themselves in Him and knew how to deal tactfully with the wayward ones. We were not even allowed to sleep in our caravan, but slept in one of their bedrooms. The next morning we both went our separate ways until one day we meet again in our communal home in heaven.

Before we went on holiday, we had requested pastor Bila, our radio preacher, to hold a campaign on our behalf in the Mabalane district, so while we were away, he, his wife and Pita Mutuassa, went there and notwithstanding unexpected cold and windy weather, were able to hold campaigns at three villages, namely Fukwe, Tsokati and Chinhequete. Since there were no buildings to gather in, all the meetings including those held at night, were held in the open air. Most of the time their accommodation also, was very basic and they ended up with flu and throat infection. Later on their voices were so hoarse that they could hardly preach, but God worked wonderfully and at each place souls were saved as 100 to 200 grown-ups attended each meeting. They begged pastor Bila to stay longer, but of course he had to move on. However, shortly afterwards we opened an outpost at Tsokati and a little later also one at Chinhequete.

At Mabalane he was invited to preach in the prison to some 800 men. “Although prisoners are often not interested in the Gospel and are noisy during meetings, these people were so quiet, listened attentively and many accepted the Lord,” is what he reported after this outreach. He also held an evening meeting at Mabalane, the major town in that area. People from all the different church denominations gathered and they had a very blessed time. In each of these places there were Christians who expressed their desire to be appointed as Rivonis and be equipped with “Gospel Kits” in order that they might be able to bring the Gospel to their people.

Both pastor Bila and his wife also reported that Pita Mutuassa was a real warrior of the Cross, able to take a stand amongst men in the ministry and that she had remained in the Mabalane area to visit another couple of places on her own. This was good news, for as the opportunities for opening up more outposts arose, the need for well-trained workers increased.

On noticing how this Ministry was blossoming, how it had grown in the space of seven months, I asked myself the question: “Can old people be cloned,” for I realised that Martie and I would need lots of grace to cope with all the new developments, keeping everything going both at the office and equipment workshop in Phalaborwa as well as out there in the field.

During September we undertook another trip into Mozambique to guide and train our co-workers. This was a training session of quite a different kind. It all started when I began to realize that Titus was becoming discouraged since he was working all on his own, under very exacting circumstances, travelling by bicycle from one village to the next.

Since I had not taken over the work in Mozambique from someone else, but pioneered it myself, I had only the Bible as a guideline on how to accomplish my task. As I studied the Word, I was impressed by the way Jesus tackled His task. He and the people He was training to become fishers of men, seem to have taken with them only the clothes they were wearing. They walked through the land, sometimes covering vast distances, preaching the Gospel, healing the sick and often sleeping out in the open. For accommodation and food, they trusted their heavenly Father. His disciples did not complete application forms to join His team, they had never been to a Bible School, they did not even possess Bibles, they had only heard His call: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”. As they walked, He taught them all the principles of the Kingdom. He Himself was their living Bible. He taught both by word of mouth and by example, shaping and forming their characters and, you know what? Within three short years, He left behind eleven of them to evangelize the whole world, while He took up His position next to the throne of the Father to pray for them. What a Bible school! What a challenge!

Since the lifestyle of the people to whom we were ministering in Mozambique, was very similar to that of the rural people in the days of our Lord Jesus, I felt that I would do well to follow the Lord’s example in training workers for the ministry. So I accepted the challenge of leading them in going from village to village, ministering to the people we would meet on the way. The only difference was that we would not be walking but using bicycles because that was the way our Rivonis travelled to reach the more distant classes. There were obstacles: Titus, for one, was unable to walk for more than a few hundred metres due to a deformity of his legs, but could cycle for long distances. Sister Pita again, was unable to cycle at all, but was strong in body and spirit and able to walk. The fourth member of the team was a Rivoni by the name of Boavida Baloi, also strong in body, fluent in English, and always bubbling over with the joy of the Lord.

So we left the pickup at a village called Bala-Vala and set off on our journey on 5 September 2006. For the next ten days we travelled by bicycle to five different villages. We had to plod through thick sand at least fifty percent of the way. One day, sister Pita had to push her bicycle with its heavy load for ten kilometres. How I pitied her. But she plodded on valiantly and reached our destination unassisted. The bicycles, new ones, sometimes broke down. Some of the people with whom we stayed overnight, were so poor that they could only put before us “stywe pap” (porridge) and water. Others added a small dish of beans to dip the porridge in to give it some flavour. At two villages, goats were slaughtered on our behalf and apart from the meat, we were treated to the intestines and especially to the heads of the animals. Water was very scarce, and when obtainable, was procured from marshy areas where the cattle waded deep into the water to drink. Its colour was mostly yellow. I took pills with me to disinfect the drinking water but the other team members were accustomed to it. Once we were presented with mahewu (sour porridge in liquid form). My stomach reacted violently, then accepted the inevitable.

We went as far as the third village but then decided not to go to the last one because of the long distance we would have to travel, that would have been very hard on Pita, because she could not cycle properly and had to push her bicycle most of the way. Baloi and I then cycled back to Bala-Vala to collect the bakkie and returned to pick up the rest of the team. Though we could not complete our journey, we had had a good taste of what our Lord endured for us on His way to the cross.

We learned important lessons during this journey and together devised a plan of action which our travelling evangelists could follow when they would, in their turn, go from village to village to visit our Rivonis. The Lord just planned every day for us. There was of course no cell phone reception in those areas, but we used our phones as alarm clocks to raise us at 5 a.m. We would then have our quiet times individually, wash our faces and brush our teeth, if water was available, and meet as a team at 06:45 for Bible study, worship and prayer. This was a most enjoyable time and we learned much as we studied the life of our Lord Jesus. By 08:15 our hosts would have something ready for us to eat, and after that we would have a morning meeting with the villagers that would last till 10:30.

Then we met with the local Rivoni and the head of the village and would draw a map of the village and its surroundings, divide it into 4 quarters and plot the homes on the map so that proper house visitation could be carried out in future. During lengthy discussions, useful information on the people of the village was obtained. Sometimes some of us would take the bicycles and visit remote spots. Most of the time the people were delighted to see us and we always had the opportunity to share the Gospel.

On our return, in the late afternoons, we were provided with a basin of warm water and would enjoy a nice wash. By that time it would be dark and, if no lantern was available, a bonfire was lit for the evening meeting. Every now and then a group of people would just materialize from the surrounding darkness. Then the meeting would begin with much singing. In the beginning we drew up a program for these meetings, but later on trusted the Holy Spirit to lead each one of us in what to do, be it in preaching, leading, giving a testimony, giving a message for the believers or unbelievers or whatever. Never once was there a duplication or were we in need of someone to fulfil a certain function. The power of the Spirit was always present and we spoke with great liberty and authority and there was always a strong response to the Word. After the meetings we were offered some food and then flopped down onto the sleeping mats. I had the privilege of a sleeping bag and a small tent but paid a heavy price in carrying the additional weight on my bicycle.

We were really going through the country the Jesus way. The Lord daily taught us in a very practical way how to conduct such outreaches and I am delighted at what was accomplished during a very short time. Titus too, was much encouraged and expressed his appreciation again and again.

It was during this journey that I came to the deep conviction that a leader was to lead and train by example and had to spend as much time as possible with his students, both day and night, and I decided henceforth to visit Mozambique every month.

On returning to Chokwe, I picked up evangelist Fred and together with Baloi, set off for Mabalane, following the course of the Limpopo river. I had bought a bottom-of-the range Garmin GPS and we recorded the co-ordinates of all the little villages we passed through. This was done to enable us to map the places where we intended to establish future outposts.

At Mabalane we visited a newly established medium wave radio station, Radio Limpopo, giving the staff twenty radio programs, free of charge, to broadcast as they wished. Then we continued our journey further north and only turned back when darkness stopped us. In that area I was once surrounded by a group of about 100 children and youngsters. Baloi later told me that the reason they stared at me like that was that they had never seen a White man before.

We left Baloi at Mabalane to return to his home at Matitse while Fred and I returned to Chokwe by means of the main road which, as usual, took its toll on the poor pickup. With about 35 kilos to go to get to the tar road, the left torsion bar snapped at its front end and ploughed into the ground, which left us with no suspension on the left front wheel. After some fumbling in the dark I managed to tie the bar to the chassis with pieces of rope. It then took us three to four hours to get to Chokwe. The next morning, I was led to a backyard mechanic who had an angle grinder. After scouting around for some time in the area, he got hold of a cutting disc and cut off the dangling bar. He then cut a piece of angle iron and welded it in between the chassis and the control arm to immobilize the up and down movement of the left front wheel and keep the vehicle in a more or less level position. By God’s grace I managed to travel like that all the way along that bad dirt road through the Limpopo Park, then through the Kruger National Park and finally got safely back home. Of course I was sick again with flu and dysentery, but that was normal for me on returning from the Rivoni outposts and, since the Lord had healed me before, I trusted him to do so again.

The mechanic that normally repaired my vehicles at Phalaborwa, marvelled at the ingenuity of the Mozambican mechanic who had immobilized the broken suspension. However I realised that I would have to think of buying another vehicle for the pickup had by then, for the third time, developed rather serious problems. On three previous occasions I had to have the chassis welded because of cracks in the metal.

People sometimes asked Martie and me why we were doing these things? Adventure? Excitement? Neither. The love of God compelled and impelled us, thrusting us forward: love for our wonderful, glorious Saviour and love for those that live way out there and do not know Him as a personal Friend. How we desired to love Him more and more until all the other things in life become pale, dim and insignificant.



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