On Eagle’s Wings Part 1 (March 2017)
On Eagle’s Wings
Some less usual Abbreviations..................................................................................................... 1
1. Missionaries in the making........................................................................................................................ 4
2. An African Missionary in Germany?........................................................................10
3.. Home sweet home
4. Supernatural Intervention
5. Back in Germany
6. Honeymoon with a Difference..........................................................................................
7. The stewardship Issue................................................................................................... 42
8. A radical Activist.......................................................................................................... 35
9. Problems with Infant ‘Baptism’............................................................................................................... 43
13. A year of Struggle - and Victory............................................................................................................ 82
14. Africa, here we come!
15. In the Crucible ...................................................................................................................................... 97
16. Commencement of Cape Ministry
17. The backlash....................................................................................................................................... 154
18. Under Attack
19. The strong Wings in Operation........................................................................................................... 196
Some less usual Abbreviations
CCM - Christian Concern for Muslims
CCFM - Cape Community FM (radio)
CSV - Christelike Studentevereniging
Ds - Dominee, equivalent of Reverend
DTS - Discipleship Training School
GCOWE - Global Consultation for World Evangelization
MBB - Muslim background believer
MRA- Moral Rearmament
OM - Operation Mobilization
SIM - Serving in Missions
TEAM - The Evangelical Alliance Mission.
TEASA - The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa
UCT - University of Cape Town
UNISA - University of South Africa
UWC - University of the Western Cape
VCS – Vereniging van Christelike Studente
WCC - World Council of Churches
WEC -Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ
YfC – Youth for Christ
YWAM - Youth With a Mission
At my wife Rosemarie’s 40th birthday I gave to her a manuscript that I called On Eagles’ Wings, a report on how God had wonderfully carried us. I use the same title for this work, which has links to other unpublished manuscripts. It is a special experience to be carried on the wings of the Divine Eagle above the storms of life. It is so thrilling to be in the School of the Lord! As part of my expression of thankfulness to the Lord when I turned 50, I started summarizing the most important spiritual lessons I have learnt over the years. Some of them are intertwined in the present book. The earlier versions of this book were very much a reflection of how I experienced things. We try to rectify this now. We attempted to email the main role players in our story as far as possible. Yet, I am sure that I have erred somewhere along the line here. I have lost contact with some of them and a few have passed on into eternal glory.
The most important lesson I have probably learnt over the years is perhaps that adversity often turns into a blessing when one can accept it with grace and thankfulness. The other big lesson I had to learn again and again was that it is always good to wait on the Lord. Over the years I have written and typed many a page that never got published. I have learnt to be patient. The revamped manuscript was almost ready to be posted to the internet when our friend Mark Gabriel phoned us with the request to get the first option on our story for his publishing company. This took us back to the drawing board, causing more delay. We pray that many a reader may be blessed to read how God carried us – and still he does so - On Eagles’ Wings.
Cape Town, April, 2016
1. Missionaries in the making
On a March Saturday in 1968 Bishop Schaberg challenged the funeral congregation: ‘Who is going to fill the gap caused by our deceased brother’, I discerned God’s voice in my heart. My decision to obey God's call was destined to change my life. At that point I did not know that this would take me to Germany the following year and put an end to my career ambitions.
There things would happen there that would ultimately lead to an exile of 20 years. When I returned to South Africa in October 1970, my original resolve ‑ not to get involved in a special relationship with the opposite gender in Germany that could lead to marriage ‑ was effectively dashed. I had no doubt that Rosemarie Göbel was the girl I wanted to marry.
In both our lives the Lord had been preparing us for missionary service. This happened right back from our respective childhoods.
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My father spent all of his childhood and my mother the bulk of hers in the Moravian Mission Station Elim. Both of them had a chequered ancestry. My grandfather, Oupa Joorst, had as grandparents a Dutch-background mother, néé Geldenhuys and a Genadendal-based Khoi father. I never got to know my physical grandmother from my mother’s side, who was born with the surname Balie. It is known that slaves who came from Indonesia were given names, which indicated where they hailed from. In her case, it was as good as sure that her forebears would have come from the Indonesian island of Bali. I gather that Oupa Amos Cloete stemmed from a child born out of wedlock with a Jewish smous (roving pedlar). Ouma Cloete hailed from the proud Hans family with their Dutch-German roots, raised on the Moravian-related farm Houtkloof, which is situated halfway between Caledon and Bredasdorp.
For different reasons both of our parents only finished primary school in Elim. Although Elizabeth, commonly called Bettie, was the daughter of Oupa Daniel Joorst, the local school principal, and on top of it the best in her class, our mom just missed the era where females of colour could more easily enjoy secondary education. Her younger brother and the two sisters from a second marriage became teachers.
Although quite bright, Daddy had to help earn after primary school as the eldest of seven children. His father, Oupa Amos Cloete, was a poor shoemaker. In the big city, the teenager Izak (Sakkie) was employed in different milliners’ factories in the 1930s when it was still required for women to wear hats when they attended church. On 5 January 1941 Oupa Joorst conducted their marriage ceremony in the Moravian church of Lansdowne, after which they moved in with Daddy’s aunt Annie Weber in Tiervlei. Soon however they moved to 30 Combrinck Street in District Six.
Born and Bred
When I was born in the St Monica’s Maternity Clinic in Cape Town on the 31st of December 1945, God evidently already had His hand on me, because almost 50 years later the Father used the institution in a grand mosaic of ‘co-incidence’.
Unfortunately, I was not always obedient. Too often I obstructed God’s purposes with me. Sometimes I double-crossed His plans through my activism and self-centredness. At other times I was simply downright disobedient, doing my own thing, without even trying to find out what His will was. It took me very long to learn the biblical truth that it pays to wait on the Lord before acting.
The Moravian traditions, from which both of my parents came, formed an effective foil for the slum-like District Six surroundings of my early childhood. Thus it was logical to them that we as children would attend the Zinzendorf Primary School and the Sunday school at the same venue. Before school going age we went with Daddy to Salt River, where he conducted Sunday school in the house of the Cedras family in Bromwell Street. He had also been involved with a Sunday school in Bo-Kaap at some stage. (These two parts of the city of Cape Town later turned Islamic.) At home Mummy ruled with an iron hand, gaining the respect of friend and foe. Furthermore, the adage that the family that prays together, stays together, was shared and practiced. More often than not the devotional exercise did not rise above a ritual reading of the Moravian Daily Texts, followed by a short prayer and the corporate reciting of the Lord’s Prayer.
Daddy was very hard working, making ladies’ hats at night at home after his daily employment, and selling them on Saturdays all over the Peninsula. For hats that he had sold at Christmas time, he would go and collect the money throughout the year until just before Christmas the next year. Our two uncles in District Six were his salesmen. The Kampher family stayed with us in the two bed-room house for a few years and Uncle Christie, Daddy’s brother, lived in Rutger Street with his family. After a few years Daddy was the proud owner of a scooter, which needed some pedalling to get the primitive vehicle started. With very few motor cars around, this was already a sign of wealth in those days.
The Injustices of our Society
At home we heard quite a lot about some of the injustices of our society at supper time when my father shared some of his experiences from the various milliner factories where he worked. He was very hard working, making female hats at night after work. He evidently had a lot of vision. By joining the African Peoples’ Organization’s rotating scheme, he knew that one day he would come in line for buying property. At the end of 1954, we could in fact move to a big property of 8 plots in Tiervlei, as Ravensmead was called in those days. Here we were regarded as ‘rich’ because we were one of very few families possessing a brick house. That it was not even whitewashed on the outside and having a kitchen that looked horrible because of black soot, was not important. So many of the other residents of the area lived in shacks of some sort.
Gospel Seed in various Ways
Quite an amount of Gospel seed was sown into my heart in various ways. The learning of Bible verses from memory while at primary school there in Elim, would come in good stead in later years. A special Scripture portion was the first verses of Isaiah 53. In Afrikaans I thus learnt from memory the words: 'Soos 'n lam wat na die slagbank gelei word.... Hy het sy mond nie oopgemaak nie.' I thus memorised how the prophet wrote about an unknown suffering person who was compared with a lamb taken to be slaughtered; yet, he did not open his mouth. I learned that the special Lamb to be slaughtered, that would not open its mouth in protest was a prophecy of Jesus in the run-up to the crucifixion.
Often we would hear and recite the words in the church liturgy about the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. (I was not aware at that time that these were actually expressed by John the Baptist after he had immersed the Lord Jesus in the Jordan River.) John witnessed the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove and he heard a voice from heaven saying This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.
Pupils of Moravian schools sported a badge with the denominational emblem, the lamb carrying a banner with the words: The Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him. We received these badges when the first Protestant church celebrated 500 years of its existence in 1957.
In the rural setting of Elim – as well as at our home in Tiervlei (that was later called Ravensmead) - I witnessed the slaughtering of many animals as a child and juvenile. I was also present when sheep were dipped for hygienic reasons. But I never saw sheep being slaughtered. When I saw this for the first time years later, in Bo-Kaap in 1994 during the Muslim Korban ceremony, it was very meaningful indeed.
Towards the end of February 1958 Oupa Joorst became very ill. The doctor stated that he was not going to live very long. Soon children and grandchildren came from as far away as Enon in the Eastern Cape to say farewell. The end came on 7 March 1958 just as I came from school for the noon break. I went straight to Oupa’s bedroom, where the neighbour, Ta’ Stienie Daniels, tried to push me out of the room, but it was too late! She could not stop me experiencing something very special! I was privileged to see the radiant joy on the face of Oupa, the aged saint, going ‘home’. He evidently saw something which nobody else of us at his bedside could see as he stretched out his arms expectantly, with his face lighting up for a moment. And then it was all over! He was taken ‘home’.
This left an indelible mark on me to discern that Oupa obviously knew where he would be ‘taken’. I was however terrified because I was nowhere certain where I would go to if I would die.
Changes at Home
In the interim things had changed in Tiervlei after our Dad had lost his job as a milliner. When he Daddy became unemployed in 1957, no factory in the clothing industrial union was inclined to employ a middle-aged man on ‘top wages’. The financial situation at home hereafter deteriorated to such an extent that my parents saw no other way out than to take our sister Magdalene out of school as the eldest of the four siblings. She co-operated willingly in the attempt to augment the family budget.
For my secondary school training I had to return to the Cape Peninsula from the Elim Mission Station, attending Vasco High School, one of the only three in the northern suburbs designated for ‘Coloureds’ In fact, the one in Bishop Lavis only offered up to Standard Eight (Grade Ten) at that time. Our school principal, Mr Braam, was a fervent Methodist lay preacher who challenged us time and again with the song ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.’ He would stress the certainty he had personally experienced when he accepted Jesus as his Saviour. This made me quite jealous because I did not have that assurance.
I matriculated at the end of 1962, with the understanding that I could finish my teacher training after a year of any other employment that I could find. The financial situation at home was not such that all three sons could be kept in educational institutions, two at school and Kenneth, the oldest of the brothers, at teachers’ training college.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting clerical work that was as a rule reserved for Whites in those days,  I settled for a menial job at Nasionale Boekhandel in nearby Parow, cleaning the machines. Returning to our Tiervlei home from the printing works in Parow in the late afternoon of early January 1963, I learnt that I had been accepted as a teacher trainee at Hewat Training College in Crawford at their new premises.
I was quite surprised when my parents disclosed that they felt that I should go to ‘Hewat’. (I was quite prepared to do menial work for a year.) They had been challenged by the ‘Watchword’ from the Moravian textbook for the day, Isaiah 55:8: “My ways are not your ways . ..”, deciding to send me to college by faith.
In the first quarter of 1963 I was deeply challenged during a sermon of the local Dutch Reformed minister, Dominee Piet Bester. Apart from services in the local Moravian Church, I often visited the local DRC Sendingkerk (Mission church) congregation with the name Moria. The clergyman’s testimony of his deliverance from folk dancing pierced my heart: Was I actually idolizing sport myself? I wanted to speak to him afterwards, ready to justify my actions. Brother De Bruyn, the church deacon who counselled me afterwards, was however very clear: If the Holy Spirit convicts you of anything, then you must repent and put it right.
An ecclesiastical Misfit
In our denomination I soon however did not fit the mould any more. Along with two young Sunday School teacher colleagues, Paul Engel and Paul Joemat, I would often launch out in an arrogant way to ‘get the Moravian Church back on track’ with regard to biblical conversion. To get ‘converted’ to faith in Jesus was regarded to be unfitting by the rank and file Moravian Church members at the Cape, also on the mission stations. Sadly, our denomination had thus drifted very far from its blessed evangelistic and missionary beginnings. The two Pauls and I sometimes used unconventional means. Bible choruses were regarded as sectarian in those days, but we had the respected Chris Wessels on our side. Chris had been in Holland and Germany before he returned to the church’s service and then he became travelling secretary of the Christian Students Association. In that capacity he would impact quite a few ‘Coloured’ young people around the country.
The challenge to Mission work
Ds. Piet Bester, who came to Tiervlei in 1962 (later called Ravensmead), was divinely used to get me not only interested in sharing the Gospel with others, but also in missions. Since I was racially classified and raised as a ‘Coloured’ in apartheid South Africa, I never considered in my wildest dreams that I would ever get to another country for missionary purposes. Nevertheless, I joined the Wayside Mission after getting in trouble at my own church because of my evangelistic passion. A stint hereafter followed as a volunteer at a minute open air Wayside Sunday school in someone’s backyard.
Ready to be ex-communicated
I fished Allan Boesak to come and preach soon after he started with his theological studies. Allan had to come from Somerset West, 30 kilometres away. Thus he slept with us on the Saturday evening. This afforded me with a good opportunity for theological discussion. On the issue of believer’s baptism a Pentecostal friend had influenced me. I relished challenging Allan on the issue of the christening of babies. He couldn’t really convince me, but I was satisfied that my conversational partner was honest enough about it, that he believed that infant christening is the sign of the new covenant, a substitute for circumcision. The latter is the visible sign of the old covenant of God with Israel. Neither could the arguments used by Ds. Piet Bester of the local Moria Sendingkerk, who was such a big influence in my life at that time. If my Pentecostal friend had come on a Saturday afternoon to take me to a baptismal service in a lake as he had promised, I would have gone with him: I was ready to be immersed and ex-communicated from the Moravian Church because of believers’ baptism. That is what happened to people who dared to get ‘re-baptised’ (Bobby Arendse and ‘naughty boy’ Sydney Hendricks, two primary school class mates from Elim belonged to this category, leaving the Moravian Church after their conversion).
A life-changing Experience
Allan Boesak’s dedication to the Lord made a deep impression on me. When he spoke about the ‘stranddienste’, the beach gospel services of the Students Christian Association at Harmony Park, he sowed a seed into my heart. This seed germinated when my Moravian soul mate Paul Engel joined me at Hewat Training College in 1964. He also spoke about the Harmony Park beach outreach. It was not difficult at all to convince me when he invited me to join the Harmony Park ‘stranddienste’ on Boxing Day (26 December). The Christmas of 1964 however saw me spiritually in tatters. I was now on the verge of going to the evangelistic beaches services but I was feeling myself spiritually completely barren. In desperation I called to the Lord to meet me anew. I had nothing to give to anybody unless God would fill me with His Spirit. And that He did. The Harmony Park beach evangelization changed my life completely.
For others it might not have been so significant, but the unity of Christians from different denominational backgrounds left an indelible mark on my life. I saw the Holy Spirit at work, as I had not experienced until that time. Here my friendship with Esau Jacobs, whom everyone called Jakes, was forged. He was a young pastor who came to join us straight from far-away Umtata in the Transkei in the Eastern Cape. Along with David Savage from the City Mission, I started learning the power of prayer there at Harmony Park.
After my encounter with the Lord at my first Harmony Park beach outreach, I started attending the early prayer meeting every Sunday morning at six o’clock at the local Sendingkerk. I was now seriously considering God’s call to full time service. Almost as a matter of routine I put it before the Lord on these occasions that I was fully prepared to proceed to theological studies. But I had to be absolutely sure that it was His calling. Because Jakes had become my hero, I seriously started considering taking up studies at the Theological School of the Sendingklerk, rather than at the Moravian Seminary, which I regarded as inferior because there was only one full-time lecturer. But Jakes never encouraged me to proceed along these lines. He had his own reservations about the theological education of his denomination.
Rosemarie’s Home Situation
There was one major snag ever since my departure from Germany: Rosemarie’s father still didn’t know about our friendship. She was at this time doing her qualifying year of teaching at the School for the Blind in Stuttgart, where she also lived. Thus we could correspond without her parents getting upset by it. In fact, initially only her mother knew about our friendship. Rosemarie had to promise to keep the information from her father. She did share it with Waltraud, her only sister. But she knew beforehand that she could not expect any support from that quarter. Waltraud was engaged to her young man Dieter Braun, getting ready for their immanent wedding.
As a child the two Göbel siblings witnessed their parents very often in conflict. Their father had been a refugee in the aftermath of the Second World War, having grown up in an environment where Adolf Hitler was held in high regard. He hailed from a region called Sudetenland, a part of Germany that became a part of Communist-ruled Czechoslovakia. Rosemarie’s mother, Erika (néé Marte), came from the city of Stuttgart with a completely different upbringing. Erika Marte lost her mother when their house was bombed in the Second World War and her father died from cancer. She had been one of the best in the class, privileged to attend school right up to Abitur, but she was not allowed to proceed for further training to become a school teacher because her parents did not belong to Hitler’s Nazi party. Erika Marte was evangelisch, i.e. she was a member of the Lutheran State Church. Whereas her father, Franz Göbel, had been raised as a Roman Catholic and very much influenced by the indoctrination of the Nazis, her family was critical of Adolf Hitler and his regime.
In a general atmosphere of mutual distrust between the two big German ecclesiastic denominations, Rosemarie’s parents dared to get married, but vast differences would flare up again and again. For Rosemarie and her sister Waltraud there was the nagging nightmare as children that their parents might one day get divorced.
Because the Stuttgart home of the Martes had been bombed in the war and accommodation was at a premium, the young couple was very happy to find a solace at the monastery of Maulbronn, with the understanding that any children in the marriage would be raised evangelisch, not as Catholics. (Usually it was the other way round when one party is Roman Catholic.) Both of Rosemarie’s parents came from small families so that they have very few cousins.
(Picture: Rosemarie as a child with her father and two aunts)
In the post war Western Germany that was supported by the US sponsored Marshall Plan, it was natural that both parents would work, making Rosemarie and her sister ‘key children’, each one of them would have a key around their necks, with nobody at home to welcome them when they came from school. Both Waltraud and Rosemarie were determined not to do that to their children one day. Like so many other Southern Germans, the family was building their own house, in their case in Albert Schweitzer Street, Mühlacker.
The neighbourhood girl Waltraud Cless became the catalyst for the Göbel daughters to get into the environment of the Süddeutsche Gemeinschaft, an evangelical grouping within the State Church. An invitation to a Christian camp to which they went as a family, proved to be decisive. There Rosemarie not only accepted the Lord as her personal Saviour, but there she also received a challenge to become a missionary one day.
Constant disputes between her parents plagued the family home. Rosemarie was so afraid that it would end up in divorce.
Rosemarie as a Teenager
As she approached fourteen years, attending the confirmation classes belonged to normality for all teenagers of the Lutheran Landeskirche. The classes were in itself not very challenging. For the actual confirmation service the pastor requested them to pick a Bible verse from a box. That would become their respective Konfirmandenspruch on the special day. Psalm 93:4 was the one she chose. This verse would become very meaningful to Rosemarie: ‘Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! She was reminded of these words again and again when it seemed as if she would ‘drown’ in yet another wave of life’s storms.
With this background it was quite natural for her to join the Jugendbund für Entschiedenes Christentum (EC), the Christian Encounter youth group. However, some backsliding followed in the course of time when worldly attractions started to pull at the teenager. Her violin teacher, who went on to become a virtuoso leading player with the renowned Bamberger Symphony orchestra, had some personal interest in her that bestowed Rosemarie many a front row complimentary seat.
The teacher of Religious Studies in secondary school seemed to attempt to double-cross any divine influence in her life. It was not easy for the teenager to stand firm in her faith when the teacher peppered them with Biblical criticism and the like. What he did achieve in her however, was a lot of sympathy for the Jews, countering any influence her father tried to exert, such as defending the Nazis and pointing to what he termed ‘the exaggerated numbers said to be killed’ in the gas chambers.
Rosemarie wanted to study physiotherapy, but her father did not like the idea that she should go and study in Tübingen, because there were too many foreign students. He had his own ideas about a future son-in-law. When Papa Göbel wanted her to promise that she would not marry a teacher or a pastor, she however would not oblige. It was good for me that she would not promise that!
But also on another score the Lord had his hand on her. Her second choice vocationally, the course for ‘Erzieherinnen’, would qualify her to become either a Kindergarten teacher or a tutor for a children’s home. This brought her to Stuttgart in 1967, the very city where I would spend much of 1969. There she and Elke Maier became good friends. Elke came from the village Gündelbach, not very far from Mühlacker, but unlike the latter town which was a main railway junction of Southern Germany at the time, Gündelbach had no easy commuting connections to the Schwabian capital. Thus Rosemarie commuted daily whereas Elke would only go home over week-ends. Elke was a regular at the Brenzhaus, the Christian Encounter youth group which I started attending in 1969.
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A Teenage Secondary School Teacher
Here in Cape Town there were quite surprisingly not enough applicants for the third year “academic” teachers’ course at Hewat Training College for 1965. Thus I had to try and get one of the rare teaching posts. At the beginning of the school holidays, a post in Hopefield - way out in the West Coast countryside - loomed. The idea that I would have to do my own catering, was not very inviting, but beggars can’t be choosers. I had no other option.
A few days before the re-opening of schools in January 1965, I had not heard again from Mr Abrahams, the school principal of Hopefield. ‘By chance’ my old high school principal, Mr Braam, who had just started a new secondary school in Bellville South the year before, discovered that I was still available to help him out. The increase in enrolment at his school required more teachers. In those days ‘Coloured’ university graduates were just not available for the high schools. I had just turned 19, but I still looked like a 14 or 15 year old. Thus I would now have to teach children almost my own age. The prospect of being only a few miles from home was however quite attractive.
The missionary zeal of Harmony Park, where I participated in an evangelistic outreach just a few weeks before the reopening of schools, was still very much part and parcel of me. I displayed a badge “Jesus Saves” and I challenged people left right and centre to accept Jesus as their Lord. It was only natural that a branch of the Student Christian Association (SCA) would be established at the school where I commenced my teaching career.
(Picture: Leaving home as a young teacher. The big empty space gives some indication of the size of the residential property, much of it was used for gardening by Daddy.)
A Child of my Surroundings
I was however also very much a child of my surroundings and completely unbalanced. Not long before this, I frowned upon lengthy degree studies because I really expected the Lord to return very soon. Yet, when I heard that extra-mural degree courses would be commencing at the nearby University College of the Western Cape, I jumped at the opportunity to start degree studies, forgetting my earlier reservations to study at the ‘Bush’ University College. Not knowing that it would come in good stead at a later stage, I included German (Special) as one of my degree subjects.
Soon I was cycling to the school in the morning. From there I pedalled to the late afternoon and evening classes at the university. Often I utilised the time on the bicycle with a book on the steering bar while I memorised the various forms of the German strong and irregular verbs.
Being thoroughly materialistic at this time, I jumped at the opportunity to get in line for promotion in later years. I was however sad that they could not offer my favourite subject Mathematics extra-murally straight away. Only in my final year of the degree I included Mathematics I in my curriculum, doing it by correspondence with the University of South Africa (UNISA).
In that year I also took Sociology, where Howard Eybers, one of the university librarians, was with me in the class. A friendship started there that would blossom in later years.
Unity in Christ across the racial divide?
Already as a teenager I thought that it would be good if Christians could display unity in Christ concretely and visibly. When I joined the Wayside Sunday School movement, I hoped at that time that united prayer and evangelization across man-made ecclesiastical and doctrinal boundaries would impact those people who were involved with us in these ventures. I continued to naively ignore the unwritten prescripts of our society as I looked for all sorts of ways to express the unity in Christ across the racial divide.
While still at Hewat Training College I was attracted to a poster advertising a healing campaign at the local Pinkster Protestantse Kerk with a well known Boeremusiek accordion player Rassie Rasmus, where I hoped to get complete restoration and use of my left arm that had been fractured while playing school rugby and which I cannot straighten fully to this day. At the service I was allowed standing space at the back. But they also pointed out to me that I should rather attend the denominational congregation in Bellville South. Of course, this was jusst South African way of life in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. Attending Keswick meetings and the like was no problem (Some of them were even held in the Groote Kerk of the Mother City.)
As a young teacher I eagerly latched on to the opportunity to pray with the young people of Youth for Christ (YFC) on Friday mornings after I had read about their prayer meeting in their periodical. This would have been a natural supplement of my prayer times early on Sunday mornings at the Sendingkerk Moria.
However, when I pitched up at the YFC venue on my way to the Bellville South High School one Friday morning, I was snubbed and told that the prayer meetings were not open to ‘Coloureds’. I took it in my stride, knowing that this was South African ‘way of life’. How pervasive racial prejudice and racist practice was I also experienced at the Wayside Mission. It was the common practice to have workers of the same gender operate as a pair. There was however no young 'White' male available (or willing?) to work with me. The mission leaders teamed me up with a ‘Coloured’ female. Alas! The right race was evidently of prime importance to this evangelical group, as it would have been for so many others who had been blinkered by the apartheid ideology.
After my encounter with the Lord at my first Harmony Park beach outreach in 1964, I started attending the early prayer meeting every Sunday morning at six o’clock at the local Sendingkerk. I was now seriously considering God’s call to full time service. Almost as a matter of routine I put it before the Lord on these occasions that I was fully prepared to proceed to theological studies. But I had to be absolutely sure that it was His calling. Because Jakes had become my hero, I seriously started considering taking up studies at the Theological School of the Sendingklerk, rather than at the Moravian Seminary, which I regarded as inferior because there was only one full-time lecturer. But Jakes never encouraged me to do this. He had his own ideological reservations about the theological education of his denomination.
My weekends were hectic, often even more than the weekdays. Yet, I revelled in four years of frenetic life, during which my family did not see much of me, not even during the school holidays. I was cycling to all sorts of venues seven days a week, sometimes from six o’clock in the morning, but not until too late at night. If we had electricity, I might have worked until late at night as well. The paraffin (kerosene) lamp light made one quite drowsy, so that I was usually already in bed by nine thirty in the evening.
A significant Moravian Funeral
Another teenage hero of mine was Reverend Ivan Wessels, who contracted leukaemia at the beginning of 1968. He passed on after a few weeks in Groote Schuur Hospital, not very long after Professor Chris Barnard had just performed his first heart transplants at that hospital. Instead of the usual Sunday School Conference in Pella that had been scheduled for the weekend following his death, almost the whole Moravian Church establishment gathered in Lansdowne for the funeral of one of its most promising sons. Although very principled and outspoken against any form of racism, it was characteristic that the wise late Rev. Daniel Ivan Wessels was never jailed or banned - in contrast to so many other members of the Wessels clan. When Bishop Schaberg challenged the congregation: ‘Who is going to fill the gap caused by our deceased brother’, I discerned God’s voice in my heart. Back home in Tiervlei after the funeral, it was not difficult at all to go to my knees and say ‘Yes, Lord, I’m prepared to be used by you to fill the gap.’
The next day we went to the Pella Mission Station for our condensed Sunday School conference. I was completely surprised when Reverend August Habelgaarn, a member of the church board, approached me with the question whether I would be interested in a bursary for two years of theological studies at the Johanneum in Wupperthal (Germany). I could just reply that I saw this as clear confirmation of the call of the Lord the previous day. Another few months down the road preparations were well advanced towards my leaving for Germany at the beginning of 1969.
2. An African Missionary in Germany?
Towards the end of 1968, preparation for Germany didn’t belong to my priorities. Instead of trying to get my knowledge of the German language on par, I rushed from one youth camp to the other. Romances started to play a bigger role in my life, after I had previously decided that I was too busy with other things like studies and service for the Lord to have time for a girlfriend. En route to one of the summer youth camps, I all but committed myself to the one girl in South Africa of whom my good friend Jakes and I both felt that she could become the wife of either of us.
I had just turned 23 when I left South Africa. All around me my peers were getting married. I was determined from the outset not to marry a German girl because that would have prevented me from returning to South Africa due to of the laws of the country at the time. Rationally, I considered that I would be of more use inside South Africa than outside of the beloved country.
(Picture: With my parents, Jakes in the middle and John Tromp, a friend from VCS ranks, who also lived in Tiervlei)
An African missionary in Germany?
I regarded the stay in Europe from January 1969 in the first place as an opportunity to study, but it was also combined with a fair amount of missionary zeal. Fairly at the beginning of my stint in Germany, I once opposed Marxist theological students, although I could still not express myself sufficiently in German, thus needing an interpreter. A German lady exclaimed quite shocked that their ‘Christian’ country now seemed to be in need of missionaries from Africa.
From the outset I regarded myself as a ‘short term missionary’. In those days this terminology was still fairly unknown. The possibility of a missionary coming from Africa to ‘Christian’ Europe was unheard of. But I was just as determined to return to serve the Lord in my home country. The almost two years in Germany, during which I learnt much about youth work in the first year, were very enriching.
I had to guard myself against falling in love if that were possible at all. I had to learn the hard way (well, really?) that also my emotions had to be brought under God’s rule! His ways were indeed higher, also with regard to my future marriage partner.
My Defences fell apart
I had not been in Europe for two weeks when ‘it’ happened. I fell in love as never before. A Christian girl in Switzerland not only impressed me, but I also noticed a growing feeling towards her that drove me to my knees. I was really thrown into a spiritual crisis. I asked the Lord to take away my infatuation because she was 'White'. I felt myself committed to a task and a commission that was awaiting me in South Africa. The emotional crisis was saved when the friend wrote to me a few months later that ‘she’ appreciated me like a brother. She had a boy friend of her own. God taught me through this experience not to prescribe to Him to which race my future wife should belong. The end result of this experience was however that all my defences fell apart. I did however cause a few more hurts in the months hereafter.
A clear challenge came from a completely different direction when I landed at Selbitz, a protestant institution that had all the hallmarks of a monastery. The life-style of these Christians challenged me to a celibate life, something with which I had not been confronted before. But I knew myself too well. I settled for a compromise: I decided to dedicate my ‘youth’ to the Lord, i.e. I wanted to stay unmarried until the age of thirty.
My vow-like intention to stay a bachelor until the age of thirty was made easy when I fell in love with a teenager. I knew I would have to wait on my newfound love for many years before we could marry. My resolve to return to South Africa at all costs had all but disappeared by now.
When my teenage girl friend wrote to me some months later ‘I don’t love you any more’, I was thrown into deep despair. But soon hereafter, a black-haired beauty walked into my life.
Although O was in the same region during the first months of 1969, I was yet to meet Rosemarie. In fact, for two months I actually resided at the Christian hostel from where I got in touch with the young people of the ‘E.C.’, the Jugendbund für Entschiedenes Christentum. I soon became a regular at the ‘Brenzhaus’ every Wednesday evening. Her student colleague and close friend Elke Maier, who rented a room in the city, had been attending regularly. Rosemarie however, commuted from Mühlacker every day to their training course.
(Picture: Rosemarie’s friend Elke Maier)
Run-up to a special relationship
When Rosemarie entered the Jugendbund für Entschiedenes Christentum with her student colleague and friend Elke Maier in May 1970, I experienced something as close to a ‘love at first sight’ as ever there was one, especially after I had spoken to Rosemarie afterwards. I could not keep it to myself, blurting it out and telling my two Stuttgart room mates immediately about ‘Rosemarie Göbel aus Mühlacker’, even though I still hardly knew her.
There was some disappointment when she stepped just as suddenly out of my surrounds as she had entered. We had no opportunity to exchange addresses or telephone numbers.
Almost simultaneously with my examinations in classical Greek - two weeks before my scheduled return to South Africa in October 1970 - Rosemarie re-entered my life. This time I resorted to some very unconventional methods to make sure that we would not lose contact with each other again. The two weeks turned out to become quite crucial in our lives. The miraculous intervention from above so gripped me that I really wanted to shout it from the rooftop.
However, a crisis followed when one of my room-mates also fell in love with Rosemarie. He touched a sensitive chord when he admonished me not to break another girl’s heart, as I was about to return to my heimat. I knew that his warning was not primarily inspired by concern for her, but I was nevertheless gripped by a sense of guilt. I did not want to cause heartache to anybody before my return to South Africa. I was initially prepared to sacrifice my feelings for Rosemarie, basically ready to leave her over to him. In fact, I experienced quite an inner wrestle until I could finally release her, leaving everything over to the Lord. This was only a fraction of the action of two very intriguing weeks, where we definitely saw the Lord at work. Quite an unusual love story ensued.
The most important moment for me during this time was probably Rosemarie’s reaction when I invited her telephonically to join me for an evening with the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her response was: ‘already from childhood I wanted to become a missionary.’ To me this was the firm confirmation that I wanted nobody else as my future wife. But a few days later, a possible marriage seemed completely remote.
Opposition to our Friendship
When Rosemarie told her mother that she had fallen in love with an African student, Mrs Göbel immediately opposed the relationship. Fearing an even harsher reaction from her husband, Mrs Göbel disallowed Rosemarie to meet me again, but we could phone (and write to) each other. My darling agreed not to tell her father about the African boyfriend. How he had warned her never to marry a teacher or a pastor! I had been practising as a teacher and I had started my training to become a pastor. This is apart from the indoctrination of Mr Göbel’s own upbringing. That had been an important reason for him to oppose her wish to study in Tübingen.
Rosemarie was not allowed to attend my farewell at the Christian Encounter evening, but she later learned the chorus “My Lord can do anything ...” We made a recording of the proceedings via one of the recent technological advances, the audio cassette. At my farewell evening I taught the German young people this chorus as well as ‘By u is daar niks onmoontlik Heer,’ without thinking much about the content. These two choruses were to mean such a lot to us in the months hereafter.
A foretaste of the miracle that was still to happen occurred just prior to my departure. When she went home the next weekend, Rosemarie’s mama allowed her to see me once more and then also to accompany me to the airport a few days later. I was so happy when she agreed to join me to a performance of Händel’s Messiah when I went to meet her at the train station. (Photo: ticket for the Messiah)
Everything seemed hopeless with regard to any future for our intense mutual love. We had no option but to stick to the content of the chorus: My Lord can do anything... We really trusted that our Lord could do anything and everything.
We were thoroughly blessed, when we attended the Messiah performance. As we listened to the words from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Every valley shall be exalted...’, we looked at each other eagerly and lovingly, adapting the promise to our personal circumstances! How we longed for the fulfilment of the application of the verse from Scripture!
* * *
I returned to Cape Town in October 1970. The plan was initially that I would attend the Moravian Seminary as a full time student from the beginning of 1971. In the first few weeks after my return, letters flew to and fro between Cape Town and Stuttgart in quick succession. I wrote about everything I did, writing on railway stations, reading and re-reading her letters in all sorts of places. At the Alexander Sinton High School where I taught for a term immediately after my return from Germany, I received letters from my darling. Mail was not yet being delivered in Sherwood Park (near the township Manenberg), where my sister resided with her family. Some of the learners would tease me with the pop song that was in vogue at the time ‘Love grows where my Rosemary goes’.
3. Home sweet home
My opposition to the government of my home country received a personal touch with my new resolve. A law was prohibiting me from getting married to Rosemarie Göbel. I could not accept that.
I was terribly in love and was soon telling our wonderful love story to all and sundry. At one of these occasions I blurted out my feelings towards Rosemarie to my cousin, Rev. John Ulster. He was the minister of the Elim Mission Station and a member of the Church Board. He pointed out to me the obvious, that I had to choose between South Africa and Rosemarie. But I wanted both. This must have looked really stupid and naive because a marriage to a ('White') German was just not a runner at that time. But I was too much in love to give up easily. I was determined to fight to get Rosemarie into South Africa. Of course, to everybody that idea sounded crazy.
In a Quandry in Germany
I had caused problems in Germany as well because I had been quite outspoken about my desire to return to South Africa to serve my people. In a newsletter to friends in Germany from Elim dated 22 December 1970 I wrote:
I hear already your question: You always asserted that you see your duty in South Africa and now you have fallen in love with a German? ...
I defended myself in the same newsletter: It is not so much that I fell in love but that GOD granted us this exceptional love. I furthermore pointed out in this letter that if I had my own way, I would have returned to South Africa much earlier and then we would not have met each other again two weeks before my return in October 1970 after we had initially lost contact with each other.
Many acquaintances on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea were rather sceptical about our friendship, waiting for the novelty of our newfound love to wear off. On my part, there was no resolve to prove anything. I was so sure of our strong love. There was however still one snag: Rosemarie’s father still didn’t know about our friendship.
Rosemarie was now doing her qualifying year of teaching at the School for the Blind in Stuttgart, where she also resided. Thus we could correspond, without her parents getting upset by it. Rosemarie initially kept the promise to withhold the information from her father. She did share it with Waltraud, her only sister who was engaged to Dieter Braun. Everything was set for their wedding a few months later.
After my return to Cape Town, I was soon swept along by the politics of the day. Ever since reading books from Martin Luther King and Albert Luthuli during my stay in Germany - literature that was either unavailable or declared banned literature in South Africa - my interest was more than merely aroused. Now I was ablaze in opposition to apartheid. I saw this as my Christian duty. One of the first things after my return was to join the Christian Institute (CI), an organisation founded by Dr Beyers Naudé. He had been disillusioned with his church’s response to the proposals of Cotteloe in 1960, where he had been a delegate. At the CI in Mowbray I linked up with Paul Joemat, my old rebel soul mate in the Moravian Church. There we wanted to be involved with other young people like Erica Murray and Tony Saddington, who also had the vision that Christians should be actively engaged in opposing the unchristian apartheid policies.
Paul and I were disappointed when we discovered that the ‘White’ members were not prepared to contravene the immoral apartheid laws. I had suggested that we should do something together where all of us would be arrested for it. We heard that it was not CI policy to do illegal things.
Paul and I were however quite disappointed when we discovered that the ‘White’ members of the CI were not prepared to fall foul of the immoral apartheid laws. (I had suggested that we should board a train together and then walk through the different racially designated train coaches. The idea was that all of us would then have to be arrested for the infringement.) Paul and I were quite prepared to embarrass the government in that way. However, the 'White' members hid behind the excuse that it was not CI policy to do illegal things. Thereafter Paul and I stopped attending.
Efforts to ‘assist God’
A big problem had arisen in Germany because Rosemarie’s father still had no clue what was going on. At the school for the blind she received my letters. Only over week-ends she would return home.
The secrecy of our friendship took its toll on Mrs. Göbel after a few months, so that she landed in hospital with gall trouble. Now Rosemarie could not take it any more. The tension in the family had become unbearable. She splashed it out to her father, causing excessive pain to him. Subsequently she wrote to me about the quarrel they had about our friendship.
I then wrote an apology to Mr Göbel. In the letter I also formally asked to correspond with his daughter. He replied equally formally, giving me reasons why I should sever my relationship to Rosemarie. I should have left it at that. Instead, I replied, requesting him to allow me to continue the correspondence with Rosemarie only at festive occasions.
Ethically this was deplorable. I tried to twist Mr Göbel’s arm, because in the same letter I insolently suggested that if I would not get a reply from him, I would take it that he agreed to my proposal. I still had to learn that one could aggravate a problematic situation by forcing an issue. Mr Göbel was too angry to reply, instructing Rosemarie to write me one final letter!
At this time the family was also very busy preparing for the pending wedding of Waltraud, their eldest daughter and only other child. When no reply came from Mr Göbel, I uttered a totally premature sigh of relief because I thought now that we could proceed with our correspondence. I went ahead with the writing of a thick epistle. Via my Easter letter I wanted to make sure that Rosemarie would have enough material to read and to re-read until Pentecost!!
Easter 1971 would have been the first occasion of our mutual exchange of letters. What I did not know was that her deeply concerned father had instructed her to write to me only one last letter. But this letter didn’t get to me at the expected time. After some delay, the letter arrived that could have alarmed me extensively.
I had confessed to Rosemarie in one of my previous letters having kissed another girl. I had no idea where my stupid actions would lead. I now had to deduce from her letter that I had a serious rival. She wrote on the pages 7-11 about her rendezvous with a young ‘Kriegdienstverweigerer’ (Conscientious objector of military service). But the letter continued so full of love to me through to page 18 that I had already forgiven her. I was under the impression that this was some sort of episode that was now over.
I was too much in love to take seriously her clear confession. She wrote about the same young man who clearly had more intentions than only a superficial friendship. However, I saw in her letter rather wishfully only an honest response.
* * *
Instead of waiting on God’s intervention to enable a possible marriage, I decided to ‘assist Him’. After reading in a local newspaper of someone who had been racially reclassified - something like that could of course only take place in the apartheid era - this seemed to be my big chance. I would not accept the ‘realistic’ options of either Rosemarie or South Africa.
I wrote to Mr Vorster, the Prime Minister, enquiring about the procedure to have someone reclassified. Reservations from Wolfgang Schäfer, one of our Seminary lecturers - that I would give recognition to the immoral racial laws of the country with such a reclassification - could not deter me.
Theoretically, there was another possibility to circumvent the legislation: if ‘non-white blood’ (what a laugh!) could be traced in Rosemarie’s ancestry. My darling has features that makes her not so typically German at all. I really hoped that some non-European influence could be traced in her forebears. Alas, research that had already been done by her family for their family tree, showed just the opposite. Rosemarie is European through and through!
I desperately wanted Rosemarie to come to South Africa, instead of my going to Germany again to marry her. Knowing the objections of her family, Rosemarie on the other hand was still nowhere free from within to come to Africa. In one of her letters she actually requested me to pray for her inner liberation in this regard. I had no problem with this, trusting God to change that in due time. Didn’t she tell me when I invited her to the evening with the Wycliffe Bible Translators that she wanted to enter missions already from childhood? Thus I just pushed ahead with my own ideas.
Not fully aware of what Rosemarie had intimated in her Easter letter, I continued writing my next epistle that was intended to arrive at Pentecost. I had elevated this church feast to the next big occasion, just looking of course for an opportunity to write a letter to my ‘Schatz’. But Pentecost came and went, without any letter from my bonny over the ocean.
I was ‘sure’ that the South African government had intervened, that our post was being intercepted. Practices like this belonged to the day-to-day occurrences of apartheid South Africa. If the powers that be could stop our contact in this way, they would definitely not hesitate. Inter-racial contact of any sort was not appreciated in government quarters, let alone that between the sexes across the colour bar.
In utter naivety, I still did not even consider the possibility that my darling could have become involved in another serious friendship. In the meantime, Rosemarie’s relationship to her parents became so strained that Rosemarie was severely tempted into an intense friendship to the young ‘Kriegdienstverweigerer’, Günther. In her heart Rosemarie was nevertheless still hoping for some miracle to happen so that she could marry her ‘first choice’ in Africa, but more and more this likened a pipe-dream.
When I didn’t hear from my darling for many weeks, I became really worried that something could have happened to my Schatz. In the meantime, I had formally resigned from teaching to go into full-time pastoral work. I received a cheque from the authorities as a repayment of money that I had paid into the State pension fund just at this point in time. I expediently perceived - albeit after some serious prayer - the cheque from the government to be divine provision to fly to Europe in the June vacation of 1971. And my passport was still valid.
My bonny in a dilemma
In the meantime, Rosemarie was teetering on the horns of an immense dilemma when the mother of Günther, the handsome German young friend, became critically ill. He stated innocently to her that he would not be able to take it if he would lose both Rosemarie and his mother. Günther obviously sensed that she still loved the African in Cape Town. Rosemarie felt herself cornered when his mother died.
The temptation was too strong for her. Promptly she gave her word to him. The relief at her own home now became almost tangible every time she pitched up with courteous Günther. Peace and happiness returned to their home in Albert Schweitzer Street in Mühlacker. She promised Günther to write a letter to me to finally sever our friendship. Through a combination of circumstances she never posted this letter, which would have settled the matter. I would then not even have contemplated to fly to Europe in the school holidays.
* * *
The shock was complete when a letter from Cape Town arrived at Rosemarie’s parental address in the first half of June 1971. Because I had not received my ‘Pentecostal letter’, I wrote to her parents in dire desperation and frustration, to enquire about Rosemarie’s whereabouts. I also indicated that I wanted to come in the June school holidays, ‘even if it would mean to visit her grave’.
Any doubts about the correctness of such a drastic step as going to Germany for only two weeks were dispelled for the moment. I heard from Trek Airways that the first flight just after the start of the school holidays was absolutely fully booked.
When I received a phone call only a few days before the departure date that one seat is free, I saw this as a clear indication that I should go. I had considered the venture prayerfully enough!
* * *
When the young friend’s mother died, this was for Rosemarie the signal to choose for him and to give me up finally. At the beginning of June, she wrote a farewell letter that could be entered for a prize if there ever was a competition for such letters:
But after she had written the letter, Rosemarie became very ill. She somehow never ‘came’ to post this letter. Of course, in South Africa I had no clue what had occurred. I was still waiting for the airmail envelopes with the familiar handwriting day after day, week after week. I was quite convinced that the South African government had abused the letter in which I had asked for information about race reclassification. I firmly believed that ‘they’ wanted to stop our love relationship in this way. If Rosemarie had posted the above letter, I would possibly not have boarded the flight heading for Luxembourg.
* * *
The surprise to Rosemarie was complete when I phoned from Trier, the border town in Germany. (I was due to take the train to Stuttgart from there. I had written about my date of arrival, without mentioning that I would be coming via Luxembourg. Rosemarie had phoned the Stuttgart airport. With a sigh of relief that there was no flight due from South Africa on the particular day, she thought that she could sleep in peace.)
But she was not the only one to be surprised. During our telephonic conversation Rosemarie intimated - without giving any particulars - that I was in for a disappointment. For the first time I had to come to terms with the possibility that she had another special friend. On the long train journey of approximately four hours I had all the time in the world to face up to this idea. Due to my incomprehensible naivety - I suppose, love does make some people blind - I was completely flabbergasted.
In Stuttgart my fears were confirmed. In fact, she regarded herself as almost engaged to marry Günther (When his mother died, my girl felt compelled to choose for him.)
I had many questions. Was it all worthwhile? I could not understand a thing. Was all this necessary? Didn’t I consider the trip prayerfully enough? How could God allow me to come all this way for such an eventuality?
But also Günther was surprised. He knew that Rosemarie had written a letter to me in which she would have informed me of her decision to terminate our friendship.
The next day I met the likeable young man who was the cause of my coming all this way. I met him at the ‘Offene Abend’, the same group of young people which had organized the memorable evening with the Wycliffe Translators less than a year before. I really pitied him when I discovered how he felt himself misled.
Excruciating emotional pain
But of all three of us, Rosemarie surely experienced the excruciating emotional pain the most. When I now appeared so suddenly, she knew whom she loved most of the two suitors. At this time she wrote to me:
If God has really led us together again, and given us a new love, then I can’t do anything else to believe than that I belong to you.
She knew full well that the problems at home would flare up again. After an intense struggle in prayer, Rosemarie decided to part with both of us. Everybody had understanding for her decision, even her parents. I had full empathy for her decision, but my own faith was tested to the full.
The last time Rosemarie and I were together, the Lord comforted us in a special way. Although we had the inner conviction as never before that we belonged to each other, we reticently agreed to part, committing our future into God’s hands. In our last prayer, we more or less put the ball ‘into God’s court’. He had to unite us again if it was His will that we should marry one day. I for one knew that it had been wrong for me to try and assist Him through letters to the South African authorities or the like. But I did know now that we adored each other as always. That was ample consolation for the moment.
The next few days I still had serious trouble to release Rosemarie completely. Through this I made it very difficult for her. I don’t know why I still tried to keep contact with the family, even though they were quite clear in their rejection when I met Rosemarie’s sister and mother during my short stay there.
I did not fly back to South Africa in high spirits. But something did happen through my coming. I saw a fraction of the riddle, God’s mosaic with us. If I had not come all this way to Germany, she would have become formally engaged soon thereafter and that would have meant the tragic end of a special romance.
I did however return to Cape Town with an added maturity. But I still had to learn a few more things.
We faithfully still kept to our mutual promise, our ‘rendezvous’- to pray for each other every Sunday evening at 21h mid-European time (10 p.m. South African time). I was sharing a small 2 by 2 metre room with one bed with my brother Windsor at this time.
For the rest, Rosemarie and I heard about some of each other’s activities and whereabouts through the faithful Hermann Beck, my Stuttgart room mate, whom I had dubbed Harry. Almost like clockwork he would return my post. He was studying in Tübingen, where Rosemarie now worked as an occupational therapist with terminally ill children.
God intervened in Rosemarie’s life a few months later when it became clear to her that she loved me too much. It came as quite a shock to me when Rosemarie wrote directly:
Tübingen, 7th November 1971
“MAY THE LORD BE BETWEEN YOU AND ME”
... You must know that it was the love, but also the trust in our Lord that led me to write this letter to you to tell you of my decision. Precisely because I want to love Jesus above everything, I want to be absolutely obedient to Him. You know, out of a genuine love must also grow a complete trust. Out of this trust I want to take a step in faith that will lead both of us into a genuine inner freedom. Yes Ashley, I know now clearly that it is God’s will that we part. More I can’t and should not tell you now. You may expect more particulars through Harry. May you experience the compassionate love of God!
She felt that her love to me was obstructing her relationship to God. Later she described this as her Isaac experience, comparing it with the Bible narrative of Abraham, who had to sacrifice his son. Rosemarie thought that she had to sacrifice me completely.
The Lord had prepared me for this shock. Just prior to this letter, I received a letter on behalf of Dr Theo Gerdener, the Minister of the Interior, informing me that the government could only reclassify Rosemarie once she was in South Africa. This was of course logical. This letter helped me to release her completely, even though this was only temporarily.
Jakes comes to the Cape!
In the meantime, my close friend Jakes had accepted a call to the Cape. I was elated. He would be responsible for ministry in the newly started township of Hanover Park, where many of the former residents of District Six were moved to. Our old Jonathan and David relationship flared up. Over the weekends I often went to his home after the Sunday evening service, when we would have long discussions, often about a possible wife for him. He was a bachelor of long standing and I was determined to become one, at least until my 30th birthday. Of course, I was still hoping that one day my wife would be ‘Rosemarie Göbel aus Mühlacker’. In spite of my activism on more than one front, my heart was still aching. This was foremost in my prayers. We ‘communicated’ supernaturally, with glorious hours of ‘fellowship’ as we continued to pray for each other every Sunday evening at a agreed time.
4. Supernatural Intervention
Returning to the Seminary in Ashley Street from a political demonstration in June 1972 that was dispersed by police teargas, there was a letter from Germany, not from Harry, but one directly from my ‘Schatz’! I could hardly believe what I could read there. Through the 'Old Testament' Watchword on her birthday ‘love the stranger in your gates’, Rosemarie’s mother was challenged to give us permission to resume our correspondence. As Rosemarie’s 21st birthday was approaching, the Lord spoke to Mama Göbel through another word from Scripture: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ She knew that it meant for her that she had to accept me. She reacted positively, giving Rosemarie permission to write to me again! This was very courageous of Mrs Göbel because she knew that this was definitely not the wish of her husband. A letter that she had received from Anne Schlimm, the wife of our Seminary director, made a significant impact on her. Many years later we discovered the draft of a letter which she had written to Henning Schlimm, my mentor and confident in Cape Town in which she referred to this letter.
This meant that we could now proceed to bring my bonny to South Africa, so that she could be racially ‘reclassified’ - a precondition for a possible marriage.
Encouraged by this development, and liaising with my mentor and confident, Henning Schlimm, a teaching post was negotiated for Rosemarie at the ‘Kindergarten’ (Pre-school) of St Martini, the German Lutheran Church in Cape Town. I was not aware of the great courage that Pastor Osterwald, the local pastor, had displayed to appoint Rosemarie. Knowing the whole background of the application, he had asked Rosemarie not to mention anything about her application in her letters to me.
On purpose he wrote by hand so that there would be no copy of the letter in the church files.
I had made no secret of my sentiments regarding justice in South Africa posturing a self-written T-shirt with “Reg en Geregtigheid” (A call for justice) at the front and “Civil Rights” on the back. One just had to reckon with it that such provocative actions would be registered in police circles to one’s disadvantage.
Early one October morning, while I was on my knees praying for the country, I felt constrained to write a letter to the Prime Minister. In this letter, I addressed him with ‘Liewe’ (dear). That was definitely something extraordinary. My natural feelings towards Mr Vorster were not that charitable. In my letter I challenged Mr Vorster to let himself be used by God like President Lincoln in the USA, to lead the nation in the ways of God. Basically, it was a letter of criticism that could have catapulted me into hot water. I was fortunate that I only received a reprimand from Mr Vorster, the standard reply to people who objected on religious grounds to the racial policies of the country. In this letter, which was actually a regular circular in which only the name of the recipient was inserted cleverly with an electric typewriter – computers were still unknown - the Prime Minister implied that I was involved in politics under the guise of religion. Through this ploy the government apparently endeavoured to teach inconvenient Christians to make a sharp distinction between faith and politics. (Many Afrikaner eyes were kept blinded to the heresy of apartheid in this way.)
S.A. spies in Europe?
I had been far from careful when I stated openly in a newsletter to friends in Germany that Rosemarie would come and work in Cape Town in February the following year. That was looking for trouble. Oh, sometimes I was so naïve and careless! Had not Bishop Schaberg warned me years before that the S.A. government had their spies in Europe?
Just at this time Rosemarie was pleasantly surprised when a ‘Coloured’ South African, from Gleemoor, a suburb of Cape Town, pitched up in her area. She had no idea whatsoever that one could suspect that he could be a link with the South African security network. (In those days BOSS, the Bureau of Social Security, the South African version of Hitler’s Gestapo, also had the task to keep ‘problems’ like our romance across the colour bar out of the country.) Rosemarie tried to send me an audiocassette with this gentleman. On this cassette she included Pastor Osterwald’s advice: ‘I want to tell you that your decision to start on this daring venture will lead you into many a conscientious conflict...’
The link between either the ‘Coloured’ gentleman or his landlady to the South African authorities was quite clear because a certain Kommissar (detective) assured Rosemarie soon hereafter that she would not get a visa to come to South Africa. It appeared evident that this ‘detective’ knew the content of the tape cassette. Further enquiry brought to light that the BOSS agent with the name with which he had introduced himself, was not known to the local police in Reutlingen.
In Cape Town I was completely unaware of what was going on - a series of events that I might have set in motion through my careless newsletter. Or was Rosemarie’s visa application the cause? Or did both things play a role? All of this could still be unveiled one day.
I was still counting the days to the beginning of March 1973, when Rosemarie was scheduled to arrive in Cape Town. Great was the disappointment when the first of March came and went without me receiving any news of her visa. At first we thought that this would be a mere formality. I was therefore completely stunned when Rosemarie called me on the recently installed direct telephone line from Germany. She had received a letter from the South African Consulate with the following content:
‘I regret to have to inform you that your application for permanent residence in the Republic of South Africa has been turned down...’
Rosemarie was also refused a work permit without any reason given. It seemed inevitable that I would have to leave the country if I wanted to marry my darling.
We deemed it nevertheless important that Rosemarie should at least get acquainted with South Africa and my family. Therefore she applied again, this time for a tourist visa. This was however refused as well. Neither of us was aware that she had been blacklisted in respect of entering the country.
Tough Times for Rosemarie
Rosemarie experienced difficulties of yet another sort at this time. The spiritual surroundings in which she was moving in Tübingen at this point in time was almost the complete opposite to mine. She had undergone the believer’s baptism here and grew tremendously on a spiritual level. However, some Christian friends at the independent evangelistic church in Tübingen that she attended gave her a rough time. Not all her friends had understanding that she was befriended to an African far away, someone whom she had hardly got to know properly when he was in Germany two years earlier. At least one of the missionaries had close links with the rather conservative Bob Jones University of the USA. (This university was known to be right-wing and quite racist.) In the light of this development, I doubt whether our relationship would have survived the double tension if she had been able to come to South Africa in March 1973.
Instead of coming to South Africa, Rosemarie went to Israel with Elke Maier and other Christian friends. Here she contracted a serious stomach infection. I was shocked when I saw her handwriting! But here her love for the Jewish people also deepened tremendously.
... and for me
After Rosemarie’s latest visa negative, I had to face the only option left for a possible marriage to her: I had to leave South Africa. Our church board co-operated optimally, almost whole-heartedly at my request to go and work with the Moravian Church in Germany at the end of the year. Perhaps they were also happy to get rid of an uncomfortable trouble-shooter. The Lord still had to humble me!
Nevertheless, the period was not easy in the months prior to this. Ever since my return to South Africa from Germany in October 1970, I had set as one of my goals to oppose racial prejudice wherever it would surface. Operating predominantly within the confines of the ‘Coloured’ community, I knew that we also had to address the superiority complex of our people in terms of ‘Blacks’.
In an invitation to preach at one of their youth services the young people of the mission station Elim had been requesting me to tackle the legalist traditions, for which the village and its church was notorious. Among the young people there was Kathy Schulze, a physiotherapist who had just arrived from the USA. She was a descendant of German missionaries. During the youth service a congregant left the church angrily, slamming the door viciously almost at the outset of my sermon because I started my sermon differently from the traditional way. The angry brother could not appreciate my starting with a little story from the community before I read the text from the Bible. After the incident had done the rounds, I was subsequently banned from quite a few Moravian pulpits at the Cape, as was Fritz Faro, my seminary colleague.
God also had to humble me in respect of a wife. I still somehow did not want to leave South Africa. I had to face the inevitable – I discerned that the time had arrived when I had to choose between the love for Rosemarie and my love for the country.
Deep Soul Searching
The South African Council of Churches initiated a new tradition. August was dubbed as the month of compassion. Operating predominantly within the confines of the ‘Coloured’ community, we knew that we had to address the superiority complex towards Blacks. To this end we invited one of our CI friends, the Congregational Church minister Bongonjalo Claude Goba, as the speaker for our youth service in District Six. This was possibly one of the first occasions that there was a Black South African on the pulpit of Moravian Hill Chapel.
It was not surprising that an honest congregant left the sanctuary demonstratively the very moment Claude Goba walked to the pulpit. (Admittedly, we three full-time seminarians had done something similar, leaving another church service quietly but agitatingly when a local pastor persisted with segregated seating for visiting Germans. The three of us did this when the local pastor persisted with segregated seating for visiting ‘Whites’ at special services, after earlier protests from our side had achieved no result.)
Claude Goba’s sermon caused me to do some deep soul searching and my inner tussle came to a head. Was I not like Jonah, running away from the problems of our revolution-ripe country? To cop out cowardly was the very last thing that I wanted to do! The result was an intense inner struggle between the love for my country and my love for a foreign girl who could turn me into an exile.
My inner voice told me that I should apply for the extension of my passport timely. That would have elapsed on January the 16th the following year. The result was an intense inner struggle between the love for my country and my love for a foreign girl who could make me an exile of my trouble-torn Heimat (home country).
By applying timely for such an extension of my expiring passport, I considered that I could get peace at heart before my departure. But I couldn’t muster the courage (or faith?) to apply for the extension! I just couldn’t stand the real possibility of a negative response to my application. I knew this could have been the test to discern God’s will for me. But I feared that our semi-political involvement of the recent months could have jeopardized such an extension.
A real struggle raged in my mind and heart between the love for my country and my love for Rosemarie. So much I wanted to make a contribution towards racial reconciliation. I thought, perhaps a bit too arrogantly: “I can be of more use here in my native country than anywhere else.” I was still to be brought down from that presumptuous pedestal. Our invitation to Claude Bongojalo Goba to preach in Moravian Hill was part and parcel of this effort. Rather ambivalently I prayed that God would let me fall in love with a ‘Coloured’ girl who would be ‘the equal’ of Rosemarie. I still hoped that it would not be necessary to go overseas to marry my bonny over the ocean.
(Photo: Moravian Hill Chapel, District Six)
It would have solved the problem for me if I had fallen in love with a ‘Coloured’ girl. In fact, I actually started praying along those lines. This would have been proof to me that I was not destined to venture into the life of a voluntary exile. Was I still gripped too much by apartheid thinking?
Hesitantly, I opted to leave the country, with little hope of ever being able to return. I did resolve though to fight the matter, to work towards returning to my home country by 1980. To this end I intended to attack the discriminatory laws from abroad - to enable our return as a couple.
Farewell South Africa!
But there were also other things that kept us busy at the seminary, such as the preparations for a youth rally with the theme Youth Power and Dr Beyers Naudé as the speaker. Our seminary played a major role in the organising of this event at the Old Drill Hall in Darling Street.
There were all sorts of other things to see to like greeting many people prior to my departure. Following in the footsteps of my cousin Hester Ulster, who married Tubby Lymphany and my friend Roy Weber from Elim (who became a marine biologist of international repute in Den Helder, (Holland), after marrying a Danish national), we expected this to become my final farewell to South Africa, most probably never to return. (Roy never saw his Dad alive again.)
From yet another side, I was squeezed. In the months prior to the scheduled departure, various leaders of the Christian Institute (CI) had their passports confiscated just prior to their respective departures from Jan Smuts Airport, Johannesburg. Although I was only a very inconspicuous member of this organization, one could never know. The presence of Dr Beyers Naudé at our youth rally did not augur well for me. I wrote to Rosemarie that I would phone her from Johannesburg if the government would prevent me from leaving the country.
* * *
After attending so many youth camps and the like, I was quite used to farewells. But this time it was almost unbearable. The finality of leaving my people behind was the hardest of all. Five years before this, I was determined to return to South Africa. If I would succeed in getting out of the country this time I had to expect - to all intents and purposes – never to return. But my parents and a few others like ‘Aunty’ Bertha, our neighbour from District Six, were praying that things would change in our country, to enable me to return one day. And yet, I loved my country so much. This was a real Isaac experience of sacrifice. But I was determined to put up a fight to enable my return!
Yet, there was also the nagging uncertainty whether my decision was God’s will. Or was it my own way? Wasn’t I just running away like Jonah? I couldn’t muster the courage (or faith?) to apply for the extension of my passport in time!
Photo: ‘Aunty’ Bertha’ and ‘Uncle’ Harry Fortune in their home in Sunnyside, Athlone quite a number of years later.
My passport would expire soon. I bought a round-trip ticket, although I didn’t intend to return to my fatherland. I booked a ticket to leave fairly soon after the completion of my theological examinations in November 1973.
* * *
“Would they let me through the customs?” That was the question after my arrival in Johannesburg after the domestic flight. Although I was never directly involved in politics, there were a few other political reasons for the government to confiscate my passport.
My position was however far from hopeless. In contrast to some student colleagues, I was never interrogated by the security police. I could thus nevertheless be hopeful to get through the passport control without any hitch. I was quite composed, knowing my future to be in God’s hands. The lack of inward clarity at that stage about where I was supposed to be in order to be in the centre of His will - in Germany or South Africa - perhaps also helped to relax somewhat.
5. Back in Germany
Rosemarie waited tensely in Tübingen. I had written that I would phone if the authorities would confiscate my passport. Rosemarie hoped of course that there would be no phone call from South Africa.
All the anxiety with regard to my getting out of the country proved to be unnecessary. After hearing that I intended to be involved in the church work in Germany, the customs official only advised me not to go and learn to drink wine over there!
How I would have liked Rosemarie to share in the sigh of relief. But it would not have been wise to take unnecessary risks through a phone call to Tübingen.
* * *
Once in Europe, I applied as soon as possible for the extension of my passport. My anxiety was thankfully eventually dispelled when I received the extension for a further three years.
My first visit to Rosemarie’s parental home in Mühlacker was not very pleasant. Mama Göbel remembered the command from Scripture, but her husband still had difficulties accepting a foreigner as a possible son-in-law. My visit caused so much tension in its aftermath that her parents felt compelled to request Rosemarie to leave the home. Conditioned by the notorious South African way of life with all its racial prejudices, I hardly had a problem with these developments, much less than Rosemarie. The family of Elke Maierin Gündelbach lovingly took Rosemarie into their home. My bokkie knew of course that she was not sent forth because her parents did not love her any more. But it was not easy nevertheless.
As for me, I went off to Königsfeld in the Black Forest for a time of orientation in a German Moravian environment before I would take up my first post as a real vikar, as an assistant minister. It was indeed very considerate of the Moravian European Church Board in Bad Boll, that I could see Rosemarie at least from time to time during the first few months.
While I was here, Rosemarie came to visit me just at a time when my university student colleague and friend Howard Eybers with his wife Rosetta were there en route to the USA. After his return to South Africa from the present trip he became quite involved with the movement of Moral Rearmament and he was also ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. Raised in a squatter camp, Howard would make a name for himself in the US in the educational field in later years.
* * * Rosemarie and I got engaged in March 1974, albeit with no family from either side present. We were scheduled to part shortly thereafter. On the 31st of March I was booked on the night train to far-away West Berlin, to operate as an assistant minister in the Western part of the divided city. In the morning I still held a modern unconventional but evangelical sermon, putting a challenge to the congregation in the form of an advertisement.
With the Underdogs
With all my luggage packed, I went to the local soccer field in the afternoon where the local team would play against a team of ‘Gastarbeiter’, i.e. workers from Southern Europe. While the visitors were waiting for more players to arrive, I joined in the fun, kicking the ball around. When the guests noticed that I possessed some ball skill, I was promptly picked to join them for the game. Well, after all, I was also a guest worker in Germany, albeit one with a difference. Just after half time I heard a funny sound as I stepped into a hole on the uneven surface. I immediately stopped playing. I still cycled home, but noticed some pain. When my ankle got swollen, I still did not suspect that I had actually fractured my ankle. The local doctor immediately sent me to the hospital for an x-ray. They kept me there at this time when Germany was quite generous with its medical services. Instead of taking the train the same evening, scheduled to travel through the night, I spent the night – and quite a few more thereafter - in the hospital.
In far-away Berlin the members of the church brass band were getting ready to welcome the new African assistant pastor the next morning at my arrival. When they received the news early in the morning that I had broken my ankle, everybody thought that it was an ‘April Scherz’. But it wasn’t April fool, it was the truth! A few hours before my scheduled departure, I had indeed fractured my ankle playing football. Neither Rosemarie nor I was really sad, because this meant that we would be much nearer to each other at least a little longer... A few weeks later the West Berlin Moravian congregation enjoyed the privilege of an inaugural sermon of a new pastor with a difference: I walked to the pulpit with my leg still in plaster of Paris!
Looking back t that experience of over 40 years ago, I see how God aligned me with the foreigners in another country, so to speak support the underdogs.
* * *
At a German Moravian pastors’ conference shortly thereafter I shared the room with Eckard Buchholz, a missionary from the Transkei. He was not sceptical at all - like so many other people - about the fact that the South African government intended to give real independence to the homeland. In fact, he challenged me to come and work there after the commencement of the independence of the ‘homeland’, due to follow in 1976. He was confident that Transkei would not take over the racist mixed marriages prohibition. I gladly accepted the challenge, encouraging him to send me audiocassettes so that I could start learning Xhosa.
Taking for granted that Rosemarie wanted to become a missionary one day, I expected that she would want to join me to the Transkei. On her visit to Berlin soon hereafter, I was therefore quick to communicate my intention to her.
I was completely taken by surprise to hear that Rosemarie was not ready at all to go to ‘Africa’ with me. The termination of our engagement was on the cards, because I was quite determined to return to the African continent as soon as possible. I didn’t feel like ‘hanging around’ in Europe for any length of time. It is so strange that we never discussed this matter thoroughly before we got engaged!
Neither of us was prepared for this turn of events. What could we do now? On the issue of our future abode, we seemed to be miles apart! In our utter despair, we cried to God for help! We loved each other so dearly. We didn’t want to part, but on such an important issue we had to agree of course. It had to be sorted out immediately. We loved each other far too much. In complete desperation we prayed together, asking God to guide us through His Word.
Divine intervention seemed to be the only possibility to save our union. Both of us knew that it would not be the proper way to handle Scripture, but we decided to seek God’s mind by opening the Bible at random - albeit prayerfully. When the Word of God fell open at the verse where Ruth said to Naomi, ‘I shall go where you go’, we were filled with awe and thankfulness. We were extremely elated as we sensed that this was God’s special word for us. We could go into the unknown future together, and that’s what both of us really wanted!
It could have been a problem if we had discussed the issue further, because both of us interpreted the text from the own perspective. I trusted that Rosemarie would join me, going to Africa. She thought I would now stay in Europe. Thankfully, we didn’t pursue the matter further. For the moment, parting was not an issue any more. We were overjoyed at this confirmation that we would be serving the Lord together, wherever He would lead us!
* * *
It became clear soon hereafter that living together in South Africa was not quite ‘on’ yet for us as a married couple, but we still deemed it important enough that Rosemarie should get acquainted with my country and family, if at all possible. For the third time but with increased hope - Rosemarie applied for a visa to enter South Africa. Along with the application she sent an explanatory letter, mentioning the fact that. We reasoned that a major obstacle to a visa should have been eliminated because I was now in Germany. Tthe Moravian Church Board in South Africa that Rosemarie could come and work as a volunteer at the home for retarded children in Elim for a period of two months. (My parents had relocated to Elim after they were more or less forced from our home in Tiervlei by municipal decree to live in this small Moravian settlement, where they had come from originally.) Theoretically, my darling would have been able to get to know them well in this way simultaneously.
We were quite encouraged when we heard hereafter from my parents that the Special Branch (of the police) had left a message in Elim: Rosemarie and I could come to South Africa together, on condition that we would not inform the press. Originally we had no intention of going to South Africa as a couple. Therefore it really took us by surprise - to put it euphemistically - when instead of the requested two months, Rosemarie received a visa for two weeks!
But the Special Branch gave us an idea - the possibility of spending our honeymoon in South Africa! This deduction was something that was still to give us some hassles. With regard to a visit to my home country, we now went over into the attack. The activism that had taken hold of me ever since my return from Europe in 1970 - and which had increased during my seminary days - received fuel. I had no idea into what a war of nerves I would throw Rosemarie by prompting her to write the following letter:
Gündelbach, 10th December, 1974.
Dear Mr Consul,
I thank you very much for obtaining a visa for me. Thus far I could not use it, because I have learnt that the cheaper flights are only applicable from 19 days.
My fiancé and I have now decided to undertake the trip after our marriage. We would like to spend four weeks in South Africa. Could you please extend the visa to four weeks? If this is not possible, we would like to hear it soon, so that we can apply timely for visas to other neighbouring countries within the 19-45 days tariff. I want to make it clear however, that we would rather spend the full four weeks in South Africa.
Yours in high esteem,
Although the consulate in Munich was notified promptly by Pretoria to give Rosemarie a conditional visa to enter the country without me, the consulate didn’t inform her of it. After a less fortunate phone call to Munich, during which Rosemarie was spoken to very impolitely, a heated but fruitless correspondence with the South African authorities followed. However, we unwittingly made some serious mistakes.
We decided to drive to the consulate personally. Only during this visit to Munich in February 1975 we discovered that Pretoria had notified them already in January. Rosemarie had actually been allocated a visa, albeit under the condition that she would not “travel to South Africa accompanied by your future husband.” The lady at the consulate warned us not to circumvent the condition.
Initially I didn’t see any problem with the condition. I was so elated that Rosemarie received a visa at last to visit my home country! But in her Renault R4 car on our way back from Munich, my darling had a poser for me. She wasn’t prepared to go to my “heimat” alone any more. All the arrangements for our wedding had more or less been finalised already by this time. Rosemarie’s apt but vexing rhetorical question was “What sort of honeymoon is this?” I had no answer! With a fearful heart I agreed that we would go separately, defying the warning of the consulate official. We knew that I could be arrested. The prospect of spending my honeymoon in prison was not so wonderful, but I agreed to take the risk nevertheless! Many friends would pray for us!
The idea that I would now still see my family and friends was very attractive. When I left the country in 1973, I thought that I would never be able to return legally! To ensure that our plans would not be wrecked on Jan Smuts Airport, Johannesburg, I was now quite untruthful. I gave the impression in my correspondence to my parents and friends that Rosemarie would come alone. (Apart from the fact that someone could spill the beans before our arrival, we knew that post was opened quite regularly.) It would have been quite easy for the government to send one (or both) of us back with the next flight or to lock me up. I still carried a South African passport. Yet, I was ready for this eventuality ever since my reading of Martin Luther King and the US Civil Rights movement.
Our travelling plans could now be finalized. We cancelled the booking with Luxavia and booked on two separate flights to comply with the condition of the visa. The new 19-75 day tariff had a distinct advantage which was of special interest to us. One could change any booking from one international airline to another. The condition of Rosemarie’s visa said nothing about leaving the country together!
A wintry wedding
Henning Schlimm, our friend and confident from the seminary days, had just returned from South Africa with his family. He was about to take up a post as minister in Königsfeld (Black Forest). There I had resumed my stay in Germany in December 1973, operating as an assistant pastor. It seemed almost obvious that we should marry there because a church wedding from Rosemarie’s home was out of the question.
A letter from the South African Consulate confirmed that their government had no objection to me getting married to Rosemarie, but we had to keep in mind that our marriage would not be recognised in South Africa. On Thursday, the 20th March 1975, we became husband and wife legally in the Rathaus (= Town Hall) of Rosemarie’s home town Mühlacker. We deemed it a special blessing that her mother agreed to serve as witness, along with Elke Maier, who had such a big part in the run-up to that moment. Elke brought along a protea, the South African national flower, for the occasion. This was quite costly in Europe. With her special gift she gave me an idea.
A cloud hung over the festivities because my parents and family would not be represented and Papa Göbel had no liberty as yet to participate. Rosemarie wrote a letter to him shortly before the wedding, apologising for the hurts caused by our friendship. She also urged him to come to our wedding. We were grateful that he gave his wife full freedom to act according to her convictions, to attend. But he was not to be swayed to come to Königsfeld.
The wintry conditions in Königsfeld could not mar our joy. Virtually until the last minute we were busy with preparations and chores like removing ice from the windows of our wedding ‘limousine’, Rosemarie’s little Renault R4, and boiling eggs for the reception.
My bride was so beautiful, but I found the small Biedemeier bouquet inadequate. An idea took shape! The Königsfeld church choir rose to the occasion with a great rendering of Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring.’ The highlight of the marital ceremony in the church was undoubtedly the sermon. Reverend Henning Schlimm understood magnificently to intertwine parts of the thorny road up to our marriage with the biblical verse that we had requested him to speak on.
(Photo of some wedding guests)
“You have seen what I did... and that I bore you on the wings of an eagle and brought you to me.”
(This is Exodus 19:4, the Daily Watchword from the Moravian textbook for 22 March, 1975).
Many a tear was shed as we were overawed by God’s goodness and grace. Haven’t we experienced clearly enough how the Father bore us on His strong eagle’s wings? Our hearts were filled with gratitude and joy towards the mighty God we now wanted to serve together, joined in matrimony.
At our wedding reception there was a lonely protea on the table in front of us, the thoughtful gift of Elke Maier, our bridesmaid, at the occasion of our state marriage two days earlier.
6. Honeymoon with a Difference
Three days after our church wedding Rosemarie and I parted once again for the start of our honeymoon. I left with a Lufthansa flight a few days after our wedding ceremony and Rosemarie was ready to fly the following day with South African Airways. She was however still very tense because I was not supposed to enter my home country at this time. We were clearly circumventing the condition of the visa that she had received. At such occasions one tends to aggravate things. Fears of my arrest in Cape Town, or already in Johannesburg, were only natural.
Initially we intended to stick to the spirit of the special condition of the visa, by entering the country separately. We had taken precautions with regard to lodging. Thus Rosemarie was scheduled to sleep in the Elim Mission house. This was indeed a strange preparation for a honeymoon journey, but we were quite prepared to live with these conditions temporarily. We had also agreed that I would not come to the Cape Town Airport to meet Rosemarie, because one could never know whether she would be watched by the Special Branch of the police.
Thus she came to the Mother City of South Africa with quite a dose of apprehension, expecting to possibly see my brother Windsor as the only known person, because he had visited me in Bad Boll (Southern Germany) during his period of study in Switzerland.
I was surely very naive, but I just couldn’t resist the temptation elicited by Elke’s unintended hint. I intimated already at the wedding that I was not completely happy with her “Biedemeier” bouquet. How could I welcome her more fittingly than with a box of beautiful proteas from the Cape?
Untruthfulness coming home to roost
My untruthful correspondence with family and friends was however coming home to roost soon. I had been misleading all and sundry that Rosemarie would be coming alone. From Johannesburg I phoned Wolfgang Schäfer, our Seminary lecturer, requesting him to pick me up me at the Cape Town airport. My sister and her family were not at home when we arrived in Sherwood Park. Thus I requested Wolfgang to drop me at my friend Jakes’ home. What deep sorrow I felt when I saw how my dear darkish-complexioned friend turned completely pale when he opened the door. He was so completely unprepared for this turn of events!
Soon it was agreed that I would be sleeping at Jakes’ house the first night after Rosemarie’s arrival. I was quite happy with this arrangement because I could thus catch up on the latest church news at the Cape. Jakes had become quite an ecumenical figure since our days in the Student Christian Association through which we had met. He had been a member of the CI almost since its inception and later he did some spadework - along with Dr Beyers Naudé - for the erection of the Broederkring, an organization where ministers of the 'Black' (non-'White') Dutch Reformed Churches met informally for fellowship.
There was however one big hurdle. My parents still did not know that I had come to South Africa as well. I thought of sending them a telegram, but in the end I didn’t do it. In a small village like Elim one had to be very careful, especially since the (police) Special Branch had been there with clear instructions for our stay.
The next morning I utilized the opportunity to go to the Newlands Cricket Ground. To see the likes of Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock in action was just too wonderful an opportunity to miss. But I couldn’t stay there as long as I would have liked, because my darling was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon.
On the spur of the moment I decided to go along to D.F.Malan Airport to welcome my bride on home territory. On her arrival at D.F.Malan airport, I was there to welcome her with:
“Das ist ein richtiger Hochzeitstrauß!” (This is a proper wedding bouquet.). She could however not really appreciate my gesture. She was too much shocked that I had come along and on top of it, kissing her there publicly! That was not a wise move on my part. Thankfully, there were no negative consequences.
* * *
Coming from a cold, wintry Europe with Königsfeld covered in snow at our wedding, we could not have given Rosemarie a better treat than to go to the beach the very same day. Here the problems could have started with all the racially segregated beaches, but the Esau’s – the family of my sister - had a good solution: a beach that had not (yet) been racially classified.
A “real” Welcome?
On Good Friday, the 200-kilometre trip to Elim was on the programme. When we arrived there, I thought impulsively that Rosemarie should get a “real” welcome by my parents and not in my shadow. After all, I was not supposed to be in the country. I instructed Rosemarie to go inside while I hid myself in the car. This idea was not good at all. A few minutes later I regretted my version of ‘surprise’ very much.
From the car I could hear the warm welcome given to my wife, coupled with general relief with regard to Rosemarie’s ability to speak English. In jest, Jakes – who had also met her in Germany the previous year - had left almost everybody with the impression that she could hardly speak any English. Now it turned out - as the Esau’s have of course already discovered – that it was not such a big problem after all. The first few questions about the journey and so forth didn’t pose any problem, but then the crunch came:
“How’s Ashley?”.... I had put Rosemarie in a real predicament. I salvaged the situation for a moment by appearing “from nowhere”, but this was too much for Mommy. Hysterically, our dear mum burst out in tears....
This was to be expected. Not only had I misled them through my letters, but they also did not expected to see me ever again. That was apartheid reality. Now I was standing there in front of all of them, so unexpectedly.
In this unforgettable - close to sacred moment - I could only embrace my parents and my newly wedded wife, also as a consolation. This treasured moment still belonged to our wedding ceremony.
Other things to organize
But there were also other things to organize. One of the imperatives was a visit to the local police. It would have been impossible to hide my presence in such a small village in which my German wife would surely become the talk of the town. Because I knew that the local police officers were classified as ‘Coloured’, it was easier to ask them exactly what instructions they had received. The officer co-operated fully. I told him of the arrangements we had made to sleep separately, but instead he encouraged us:
“You are married. Behave yourselves as such. If I get new instructions from my headquarters in Stellenbosch, I shall warn you timely.”
Next on the list of things to do was to inform Alice Habelgaarn and Kathy Schulze of the Elim Home (for handicapped children) that Rosemarie would not spend the nights with them at the Mission House after all. In the course of our conversation there, we mentioned that we intended to return to Johannesburg by other means than by air. Kathi noted that she wanted to go to the USA soon for the wedding of her sister Jo who was due to marry Dennis Fahringer. She would be very happy if we could take her car to Johannesburg. Thus it would also be cheaper for her and travelling the 1500 Kilometres by car in both directions would have been rather strenuous as well.
Black is beautiful
On Easter Saturday we went to the graveyard for the obligatory annual cleaning turn. Rosemarie wore one of my “Black is beautiful” T-shirts. I was glad that she did it because it had been quite a problem to some friends that I sported these shirts. We met one of these friends, a pretty dark-complexioned young woman from our youth group in District Six. She was a former Roggebaai High School learner, who lived just down the road in Arundel Street. At that time she had been coming into and going of the seminary complex.
“That’s not true!” she exclaimed, as she pointed to Rosemarie’s T-shirt. We had some trouble explaining to her that God has created people with different skin colours as he did with the flowers, that they are all beautiful in their own right.
The experience in Elim helped us to become more “daring” with regard to sleeping together. We knew of course that we were morally on firm ground, but yet we also knew that our mere being together was already tantamount to breaking South African law. However, we didn’t feel any strain at all because of this. We were experiencing the wings of the eagle of our wedding sermon, the power of the interceding prayer of family and friends!
Back in Cape Town, Jakes, my bachelor friend, would have none of it that Rosemarie should go and sleep with Lies Hoogendoorn and Hester van der Walt, two 'White' friends that we got to know in the Christian Institute, with whom we had fought many an apartheid skirmish. (It belonged to the duties of the police to peep into bedrooms to see if ‘Whites’ were sleeping with someone of another race.) Jakes insisted that we move into the so-called servant’s quarters of his home, the parsonage of the Hanover Park Sendingkerk congregation.
Eventually Rosemarie never slept in the flat of Lies and Hester in the suburb of Observatory. We were learning fast to behave ourselves normally in an abnormal society.
Showing Rosemarie around
Rosemarie and I tried not to provoke anybody through our presence, but on the other hand, we had now set ourselves the goal to be ourselves as much as possible. We would simply do the most convenient thing with regard to notice boards and the like. We would act as if we were in any other country. This meant in concrete terms that we had to ignore the notices indicating the facilities for the different races.
Initially there was no necessity to appear in public. But now I also wanted to show my wife something of Cape Town. One of the first things that she just had to see was District Six, or more correctly, what was left of it. This slum area of Cape Town with its beautiful setting between Table Mountain and the sea had been declared a 'White' area in 1966. In the years thereafter, many houses have been demolished. District Six was the part of Cape Town where I had spent my first and last years in South Africa. While I was studying at the theological seminary just prior to my leaving South Africa for good, we witnessed the bulldozer at work - demolishing one house here, one shop there.
I took Rosemarie to the vicinity of my childhood, but unfortunately our parental house at 30 Combrinck Street had already been flattened. The two houses to the left and the right in the row were still standing there. Thus she could get some idea of what the area looked like. However, she could still see the Zinzendorf Primary School where I had my first years of schooling as well as the seminary building, previously the old parsonage where the German missionaries lived..
On that particular Saturday morning Wolfgang Schäfer was actually teaching at the seminary. Quite conspicuous was the presence of lady students like Rica Goliath and Angeline Swart. In our days that was not possible. The group coming together in this way was actually pre-empting a synod decision to accept female students at the seminary. (Rica and Angeline were to become leaders in the denomination at the turn of the millennium.)
For the Sunday a visit to our church in Tiervlei where ‘Boeta’ John Ulster was now the minister, was almost obligatory. (When he was minister in Elim in 1970 he had put the obvious choice before me, either Rosemarie or South Africa. I had however not given up on the hope to return to my fatherland with my family) The two Blue Gum trees that stood forlorn on both sides of our gate in Northway Street in Tiervlei reminded me where we once lived, where we spent so many happy days as a family.
I also took Rosemarie to the two schools where I had last taught - Elswood High School and Alexander Sinton High School. At the latter institution I had received letters from my dear darling immediately after my return from Europe because post was not yet being delivered in Sherwood Park where my sister resided with her family. At this school there were still a few Matric learners who immediately wanted to know whether my wife is Rosemarie. (With the pop song ‘Love grows where my Rosemary goes’ in vogue at the time, it was not so difficult for them to remember her name.) A visit to Elsies River had to include meeting the family from where I wrote many a letter and where I had her photo on the door of the tiny buitekamer (outside room).
Be Normal in an abnormal society?
After the week or so in the South African sun, Rosemarie had tanned quite a bit. Her general looks were not such that she could not have been ‘Coloured’. In my company this would probably have been the usual deduction because “Black and White together” still did not belong to South African way of life - it was just not seen or done. But behaving normally entailed of course speaking to each other. Exactly this caused some disquiet, because now it immediately became clear that she is no national. But here Mr Vorster’s 6-12 months speech came to our rescue! One could almost read the minds as we conversed in German, probably something like:
“Obviously these are foreign tourists, part and parcel of the new South Africa the Prime Minister has promised.”
Our “normal behaviour” caused some uneasiness at the 'White' counter of a bank in Strand. Requesting the lady to change German money, I said:
“Mag ek asseblief die geld omruil?” My counterpart was totally flabbergasted! We used the counter for Whites to change foreign money, but I addressed her in Afrikaans. Clearly she could not hanle this. When she disappeared - most probably to find out whether she could serve me - I was wondering what her reaction would be on her return.
Six months after Mr Vorster’s speech
But it is the year 1975, six months after Mr Vorster’s speech. The lady could not quite hide the emotion of uneasiness when she now tried to serve us as polite as possible. Treating a ‘Coloured’ as an equal if you have been educated and inculcated otherwise, was not easy after all. She did it dutifully but clearly shaken.
After visiting various friends and family in the Western Cape, we travelled through the Eastern Cape, via the Transkei to Natal, spending only a night here or there at various homes. After a wonderful weekend in Pietermaritzburg that was forced upon us in a way because of petrol rationing, we moved via Zululand to Johannesburg. The whole journey was very adventurous, because we were not supposed to be together, let alone driving as a couple in a car. We experienced many a close shave. The one in Johannesburg was perhaps the most striking.
We arrived in the “golden city” at about midnight. It was clear that we could not go to the Potbergs, the family of the befriended Moravian parsonage at that time of the night without their knowing of us coming. (From different places along the route I had tried in vain to reach them telephonically). I knew that there was a hotel for ‘Coloureds’ in the suburb Bosmont where they lived. But we had no idea where this suburb of the second largest city of Africa was. We could not think of a better option than to get information at a police station - of course very fearfully. Now it was Rosemarie’s turn to hide in the car. The police explained the way to Bosmont more or less. After having driven some distance, we became unsure whether we were still on track. At a traffic light I tried to check it out with another motorist. How happy we were when the Indian counterpart explained that he was going in the same direction. We should just follow him. We never doubted that he would bring us to the hotel as he had said. (Being a born and bred Capetonian, we had been brought up with so many negative ideas about the criminality in Johannesburg, that fearful doubting could have been normal.)
Were we indeed husband and wife?
The owner of the hotel – aware of the South African laws and practices - was rather sceptical at first. This was not surprising due to the time of the day (i.e. of the night), but after we had shown our passports, he was satisfied that we were indeed husband and wife.
The next morning we left before breakfast because we didn’t want to bring the hotel owner into trouble. A pleasant surprise awaited us when we discovered that the Moravian manse is literally a stone’s throw from the hotel. From Les Potberg and his wife we received the phone numbers of Ferdie Engel and Myrtle Wyngaard, two youth friends from the Cape.
Ferdie Engel is the brother of Paul, one of the ‘three musketeers’ that had given the Moravian establishment such a difficult time in the mid-1960s with their ‘sectarian’ approach, by hammering on conversion and the like. Ferdie took us through SOWETO and to the office of the Christian Academy of South Africa, which was housed in the same building as the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and Dr Beyers Naudé’s Christian Institute. Myrtle Wyngaard worked for the Christian Academy. With Kathy Schulze we arranged that we would leave her car with Myrtle, who took us back to the airport the next day.
Having fulfilled the conditions of the visa, not to enter the country together as a couple, and after our honeymoon with a difference, we returned to Germany with thankful hearts that nothing seriously happened that could have marred the tremendous trip. We changed our tickets to travel in the same Lufthansa machine, flying straight to Frankfurt. The honeymoon however also stamped the finality of my new status. I was no Jonah any more, but rather like the apostle John on Patmos, an exile to all intents and purposes.
One Surprise after the other
Back in Germany, one of the first things was to phone our parents (-in-law). That we wanted to visit them on the very first Sunday after our return was only natural. We knew however, that this did not mean that Papa Göbel would be at home to meet us. The memory of the previous time I visited their home was still vivid.
On this bright sunny afternoon we experienced one surprise after the other. Our faith was too small, because God had wonderful things in store for us. Papa stayed at home to start with. But then he also went along to their “Stückle”, a small site where the family spent many a Sunday afternoon. We were still wary of the meeting because of the tragic similar occasion one and a half years prior to this, after which Rosemarie had to leave her parental home.
But this time it would be totally different. To start with I did not bring along a pair of shorts. Papa Göbel offered me a pair of his, addressing me with the personal “Du” (You). With that - and it was particularly discernible in the tone - he was saying so much as “I accept you fully as my son-in-law.” He soon followed this up with: You can call me Papa!
Rosemarie, who knew him so well, recognised how much it must have cost him to come that far. Once the ice was broken, it didn’t take long before it seemed as if we had known each other for ages, as if there had never been any problem at all. God had performed nothing less than a miracle!
Photo: On the “Stückle”
A lack of Christian virtue
My conscience didn’t leave me in peace because we had circumvented the condition of Rosemarie’s visa. However, I also felt that we should encourage the South African government towards real democracy. A letter to the Prime Minister served this double purpose well enough, but I went too far when I tried to justify our actions. In this letter, I displayed a lack of Christian virtue by hitting back quite hard at the officials because of the bureaucratic blunders made by the Consulate in Munich.
I was courting trouble by sending a copy of the letter to the Consulate. I “earned” the jitters a few days later: an element of revenge on my part had clearly played a role. I should not have been surprised when my activist attitude elicited an angry response.
The consul twice tried to contact me telephonically but on both occasions unsuccessfully. He had discovered the name of Breyten Breytenbach in my correspondence. (I used the precedent of an illustrious Afrikaner, who had been allowed to visit South Africa with his Vietnamese wife. I tried to use that as a lever to get Rosemarie into the country.) This now turned out to be an unfortunate move. Breytenbach had been arrested in the meantime in terms of the law concerning the suppression of Communism. By mentioning Breytenbach’s name, I made myself suspect.
When the consul phoned the second time, he threatened with disciplinary measures, under which we understood the confiscation of my passport. Therefore I just had to be available at 18h when he would phone again.
Rather fearfully I went to the phone at the set time. I suspected that it would be about our visit in South Africa and my letter to the authorities. It was very reassuring that I knew that Rosemarie and other friends were praying, while I was on the phone with the consul.
The Lord worked mightily: in the course of a few minutes the tone of the consul changed 180 degrees from tough to cordial. In the end he actually offered his aid in a very friendly tone. If ever I would encounter problems in Europe, I could call on him. (It was never necessary to call on his offer).
This experience encouraged me even more to work towards achieving democracy in my home country. But there were other priorities. After our return from South Africa, Rosemarie was pregnant. This was not ‘planned’ because I was still finishing the last part of my theological studies in Bad Boll, the HQ of the Moravian Church in the Western part of the European continent. But we took this situation in our stride, looking forward to our first child to be born, the result of our honeymoon.
Visitors in our minute flat
We received many a visitor in our tiny ‘bachelor’s flat’ in Bad Boll. That pattern was to follow us wherever we went. Our first marriage quarrel occurred when I rocked up with Moravians from South Africa that I had met in the village, without informing Rosemarie beforehand. From our culture that was never a big deal. We would simply share what we had or fetch something from the shop. In Germany everybody expects to be properly prepared for guests. Unexpected visitors were completely unknown.
Bärbel Sander was a visitor with a difference. Her dormant epileptic fits erupted after her fiancé had been killed in a car accident. She improved to quite an extent, but when she visited us, she suffered another fit. We had to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital. The friendship to her strengthened hereafter. In later years she became the godmother of our daughter Magdalena.
Rosemarie’s first pregnancy was not normal at all. The gynaecologist in Boll should have monitored the pregnancy better. We were not only completely inexperienced, but also very unwise. Soon after the ordination in September 1975, we travelled in an inconvenient truck to Berlin with our meagre possessions. I was returning now to the same congregation where I had been the assistant to the pastor the year before.
A really emotional experience followed soon after our move to Berlin. At the very first time Rosemarie went to the gynaecologist there, he discovered problems, diagnosing placental insufficiency. She was sent to a hospital, but the baby couldn’t be saved. Even though we had not ‘planned’ to get a baby in the first year of our marriage, we had really looked forward to the birth of our first child. Our little David came stillborn into the world.
Even more traumatic for Rosemarie was that she was alone in her grief. I had to preach on the Sunday when the hospital gynaecologist decided to induce the birth of the lifeless foetus. The staff of the institution, the ‘Neuköllner Krankenhaus’, was hardly interested in her as a person once it was known that the baby had died. Only the Turkish lady cleaner showed compassion to a young mother who had lost her first baby!
At this time we got a new 'son'. Walter Hoffman was a middle-aged vagrant who regularly visited us. Having learned from my Cape experience to rather give food than money to beggars at the door, the vagrant from Southern Germany loved to come to us, regarding Rosemarie as his mother. He hailed from Rosswag, a little village close to where she came from. With us he could freely speak Schwäbian, the dialect of the region where she hailed from.
7. The Stewardship Issue
Before I left the South African shores in 1973 I had been influenced indelibly at the fairly unknown theological institution in Ashley Street in the heart of District Six in yet another way. The Moravian seminary not only increased my awareness of political justice, but during the three years from 1971 to 1973 I also became very sensitive to structures that perpetuate economic inequality. Having written an assignment on the role of the poor in the ‘Old Testament’, I wanted the church to become more relevant in the fight towards economic justice.
Once in Europe, I had applied as soon as possible for the extension of my passport. My anxiety was thankfully eventually dispelled when I received the extension for a further three years. But my inner turmoil was not completely gone. Soon the home or hearth issue resurfaced. I did not make it easy for my darling when she discerned that it was such a sacrifice for me to leave my home country.
Economic Inequality Bashing my Conscience
As a teacher I had already battled with the discriminatory racial income disparity of South Africa. Having been on the receiving end of injustice was in fact some consolation because I knew that we as ‘Coloured’ teachers were earning almost double that of our Black counterparts. And we had much smaller classes to cope with to the boot. But I also felt uncomfortable that I was earning much more as a single young man than breadwinners who had to make do with much less and with whole families to feed.
A side effect of my studies at the Moravian seminary was that I lost much of my zeal for evangelism. Gradually it was substituted with political involvement in the struggle against apartheid. In a sense Prime Minister Vorster was not completely off target when he accused me of ‘making politics under the guise of religion’. (This was his standard reply to religious objection. He possibly had not even read my letter himself after I had challenged him in October 1972, to be used by God like President Lincoln in the USA to get our country out of the cul de sac it was in, heading for disaster.)
From 1 December 1973 I had become an unmarried assistant minister of the Moravian Church in Germany, earning a salary that was a multiple of what my colleagues with families and many years’ experience earned in my home country. This was not the first time when structural inequality was hitting my conscience.
Come January 1974, my guilt syndrome was driving me almost crazy when our salaries were increased by almost 10%. (This also happened the next few years, adding agony to injury). During the first months of our marriage in 1975, I felt very much alone in this regard. I could not even speak freely about this with my wife. Our very first Christmas in Berlin as a couple highlighted my dilemma. We received a fat bonus – the Europeans call it a 13th monthly salary - in a climate where the birth of Jesus Christ disappeared in the wake of the commercialised atmosphere all around us. Of course, in Cape Town it had not been much different. Already there I had my problems with the abusive commercialism at Christmas time, but now I was really sad. At first, Rosemarie couldn’t understand my emotions, but gradually she became more sensitive to my feelings in this regard.
The Christmas of 1976 changed things when the extreme ‘Weihnachtsrummel’ (Christmas commercial hype) of Berlin was in such sharp contrast to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the Transkei. (I had kept up correspondence contact with Reverend Willy Mbalana, who was the Moravian minister in Sada. The latter village was an apartheid creation, a ‘resettlement area’ where redundant people were dumped - such as those who returned with diseases from the goldmines.)
A voluntary Sharing of Resources?
It was crystal clear to me that the annual salary increases in Germany were only possible because of the disparity between rich and poor countries. This bugged me. I discerned how Europe was firmly in the grip of materialism. Suddenly I saw 'White' South Africans in a different light. I discovered that they were similarly enslaved and imprisoned by a system of injustice.
I wanted to take a principled stand but I felt myself so helpless. I did stage my protest in a quiet way by refusing the salary increase. In further negotiations with the church authorities it was agreed that the increase would be used for the church’s mission work.
My fight against apartheid received a new direction in this way. I hereafter challenged various leaders of the apartheid state in letters to set the example to the rest of the world by a voluntary sharing of the resources with the poor. My role models at this time were Jan Amos Comenius and Count Zinzendorf, who took their cues from the Bible. When I continued my theological studies at the Moravian Seminary in Bad Boll (Germany), these two men of God became quite important to me. That Comenius had stated that we should erect signposts that would point to the reign of the coming King, was very inspiring to me. Thus it was not so important any more if one does not see any immediate fruit of one’s actions. Similarly, the example of Count Zinzendorf through his day-to-day Umgang mit dem Heiland (conversing with the Lord) and his high view of the Jews, really challenged me in a significant way.
* * *
My parents had started preparing to come and visit us after the birth of our first child. We encouraged them to continue with the preparations nevertheless, it is despite the fact that there was now no baby to show. That visit would become a highlight to them and to us at Easter 1976.
I still had another concern - the political situation in South Africa. We had hardly arrived in Berlin, when I was asked to react to a controversy that was raging in the State Lutheran Church about South Africa and its race policy. Soon I was giving talks here and there, finding myself in anti-apartheid circles almost as much as in those of the churches. In fact, the Lutheran Church of West Berlin in general was taking a clear stand against all forms of racism.
When ANC activists from South Africa discovered that I could be a handy tool as a ‘victim’ of the government, they tried to get me onto their bandwagon. But I was determined not to join them, because it appeared to me that they viewed the armed struggle as the only option to bring down the apartheid government. I believed that there were still non-violent means available to achieve change in our home country. My resolve not to join the ANC in exile became even firmer after we had taken a student from Swaziland into our home. She lived with us for some time. The immoral life-style of certain ANC activists made us fearful that my home country could in future be governed by such people.
Every week I still received the airmail edition of the International Star. Thus I remained informed about developments in South Africa. I had been reading how trouble was brooding in Soweto, with High School students demonstrating against learning Afrikaans. But the uprising of the 16th of June still took us all by surprise. The deaths of Soweto in 1976 threw me into an inner turmoil, into trepidation that the expected eruption of civil war in my home country was now dawning. With Pastor Uwe Holm, a leader from the Landeskirche, the Lutheran State Church, I spontaneously organised a protest meeting in the ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis’ Church in Central Berlin. Driven by fear of a development that could lead to a bloodbath in my beloved South Africa, the 16th of June 1976 turned me into an even more dedicated activist.
Starting a Front for peaceful Change?
I now set out to start a front for peaceful change to use non-violent means to get the racist South African structures dismantled. I wrote letters to various people but support was not forthcoming. All bar one of those persons whom I approached had given up on South Africa. The reaction of the government to the peaceful protest of the students was to almost all and sundry the proof that the days for boycotts and the like were over. At this point in time I saw boycotting South Africa as one of the remaining options short of the armed struggle that I opposed. Yet, from within I was not completely happy. How could I suggest something where others back home had to bear the brunt? Of course, there were also Christians who were opposed to boycotts for different reasons. (It is repugnant that some of them received money and perks from the South African government for their defence of apartheid!)
Rachel Balie, a distant relative (my grandmother’s maiden name was Balie) who had come to study in Berlin, told us about a meeting by Christians who were to all intents and purposes supporting the apartheid government. Professor Bart Oberholzer, the moderator of the South African ‘Hervormde Kerk’, visited Berlin 1977 in the spurious company of right-wing evangelicals. He was translated by the local Professor Wintherhager. Because of the support to apartheid of his denomination, I put some uncomfortable questions to him in the public meeting. The guest painted an idealistic picture of the South African ‘Blacks’ and their beautiful music. At question time, I asked why they do not worship together with the ‘Blacks’ and thus get mutually enriched. This made our guest quite uncomfortable.
(Photo sporting an Afro)
My Afro hairstyle did not help our cause however. Herr Motschmann, one of the renowned protagonists of the opposite group referred to the Communist onslaught in Cambodia, while he looked askance at me. To all and sundry the message was clear: I was obviously to be regarded as one of those Communist guys who infiltrated church meetings. (In those days it seemed that many German Christians expected that one could either embrace ideas pertaining to the Communist/socialist block or one had to be an apartheid-supporting evangelical.) Thus, each and every one could deduce that I had to be a Communist. The propaganda machine of the South African government worked perfectly!
What started in Bad Boll with Bärbel Sander, would become a constant presence in our marriage.
However, a major strain of our marriage occurred after we had taken Uwe Eschner, a young drug addict into our home. Rather inexperienced about the challenge such a step would involve, we had little hesitation when asked to accommodate him. In the end Rosemarie threatened to move out unless I send the young man away. Nevertheless, the Lord started to birth compassion in our hearts for drug addicts.
Having learnt a few lessons in dealing with beggars at the seminary, viz. to take them seriously enough to check out how genuine they are, we had some interesting experiences there in Berlin. Walter Hoffman was one of the regulars who would pay us occasional visits.
This also brought nice surprises. Although he was older than us, he started seeing at us like parents. Walter Hoffman, our vagrant friend and big 'son' from Southern Germany. When he heard that Rosemarie was pregnant he wanted to know whether it would be a girl and a boy. Rosemarie had to know it because he had read in his small Bible which he carried with him wherever he went, that Abraham knew beforehand that they would get a son.
Mona Godefroy from Swaziland was the first of another category of guests who stayed with us for some length of time. She approached us after ANC guys had expected special favours from her in exchange for a study bursary. Over the years we would give accommodation to many a person who becme destitute because of dire circumstances.
Birth of Danny
Great was the joy a little while later when we had my parents with us in Berlin. Soon thereafter, Rosemarie was pregnant once again. Tension arose when a complication set in. She was therefore closely monitored in the highly rated Steglitz Hospital. All the more we were happy when Rosemarie gave birth to Danny on 4 February, 1977. However, she had to deliver by way of a caesarean in far-away Spandau - in the opposite corner to Neukölln in the metropolis of Berlin. In the end it was touch and go or we could have lost our baby son as well. The umbilical chord around his neck prevented him entering the world in the normal way.
Rachel Balie and Elke Maier were logical choices to be the godmothers along with Waltraud, Rosemarie’s sister. We still had a battle with the local church council when we wanted to dedicate our son. The Moravian Church Order allowed for this mode, so that the child could be baptized at an age when he/she could understand what was done. The problem was that we were now upsetting the applecart, because dedication of babies turned out to be only a theoretical possibility. This caused quite a furore, with someone in the church council putting it quite bluntly: ‘How can the son of the minister walk around as a heathen?’ Normally I would have fought the issue to the hilt, but at that point in time we didn’t want to blow up the matter out of proportion. When another couple wanted to have their infant christened over the same Easter weekend as we had planned, we decided to budge instead. Our colleague, Albert Schönleber, was prepared to accommodate two separate ceremonies with the different modes. I did not want to force the issue.
Rosemarie got involved with various aspects of the church life like the children’s club and the church choir. At home our little Danny kept her quite busy enough although I helped to give him the bottle and cleaning him. I never got to relish the latter chore though!
In Berlin itself I straddled the Christian world. Because of my socialist stance, some really leftist pastors invited me. On the other hand, I worked alongside the organisers of an evangelical campaign with Ulrich Parzany, who was up and coming as an evangelist. In those days it was rather unusual to be evangelical and at the same time radical in one’s opposition to apartheid. Not everybody had understanding that this was perfectly possible, so some people probably regarded me as a misfit. Some might have experienced a fit if they knew that I also attended the odd Pentecostal service with Volker Spitzer at Nollendorfplatz.
In our own church I also had difficulties. Because of our clear stand on moral issues and through my preaching, which challenged the quite traditional Berlin-Neukölln Moravians to submit completely to the claims of Christ, the younger generation especially couldn’t appreciate Rosemarie and me anymore. The lack of compatibility of my voice with the microphone in the church also created some tension. Older people with hearing problems had difficulty understanding me.
An Africa-styled Wedding in Berlin
The congregation had no qualms however when Eckhard Buchholz, a missionary from Transkei, wanted me to marry him and Cathy Ncongo. The authorities in Pretoria would surely have fainted if they had attended the Africa-styled wedding in Berlin in October 1976. Not only was it very special to see the beautiful black bride narrate the African customs with great self-consciousness, but also to hear a racially mixed group of South Africans - including a few of them exiles - singing Nkosi sikelel i’Afrika. In those days that anthem was regarded as subversive inside the beloved country. The West Berlin Moravian congregation soon discovered that Africa also had a lot to give. With Cathy’s Roman Catholic background, it was fitting that Alan Boyles, a ‘Coloured’ Natalian who studied for the priesthood when he met his German-background wife Helga, translated my sermon into English for the sake of the bride. The church people had no inkling how meaningful it was for the South African contingent to sing ‘Nkosi Sikelel I’Afrika together as a racially mixed choir. But they did enjoy the ‘bring and share’ church celebration, a community occasion which was unknown over there at that time. This was a completely new experience for the German congregation, but thoroughly enjoyable.
The Moravian European continental church authorities needed someone in the city of Utrecht who could learn Dutch quickly. Because Afrikaans is my native language, they approached us. We had earlier indicated that we were open for a call to work among the Surinamese people in Holland. Before this we had been planning to go to South Africa in February 1978 to show our Danny to my parents. We had to postpone these plans when we accepted the call.
A Phone Call from Prison
From time to time our Southern German middle-aged 'son' Walter Hoffman would return from his travels. Being a vagrant, he would travel all over Europe on the trains 'free of charge'. At Rosemarie’s question whether he had eaten the tinned food she had given him he honestly conceded that he found it too tiresome to heat it up. He found it much easier to buy chocolates, although he knew that he was a diabetic.
In the middle of the summer we celebrated Rosemarie’s special birthday on the 7th July with some South African birthday. A phone call from prison at this time was not exactly what the doctor ordered. Our Southern German middle-aged 'son' Walter Hoffman phoned from there. He had been picked up by the police who thought he was drunk after he had suffered a diabetic fit. In a delirious condition he sang 'Oh Kinderlein kommet'. Hearing a children's Christmas Carol sung in July, was the certain sign for the policeman that he must have been drunk. He was released soon thereafter...
Mediator in a Dispute
Reading the books of Martin Luther King in Germany in 1960/70 helped to make me a radical activist.
After my ‘Soweto’ speech in the ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis’ Church in Central Berlin, I was catapulted into the role of mediator in a dispute between foreign African students and the local authorities. After listening to my effort of mediation, Heinz Krieg, who was connected to Moral Re-armament, made an appointment with me. A friendship started with him and his wife Gisela. When we left for Holland in September 1977, he gave me a challenging book as a parting gift with the title: South Africa, what kind of change? When I read about personal friends from the Cape like Franklin Sonn and Howard Eybers in the book, I was challenged once again to become even more of an activist for racial reconciliation in my home country. This was also the start of a stint with the Moral Re-armament movement.
A stint with Moral Rearmament
Already at the end of 1977 Rosemarie and I attended the conference in Caux, Switzerland. There the apology of Suzanne, the daughter of Ds. Daneel, a former Springbok rugby player and a MRA leader in South Africa for the hurts that the government inflicted on us, made a deep impression on me. The power of vicarious confession left an indelible mark on me, something that I perceived as something which could change the social and political landscape of South Africa. In Caux we also met Rommel Roberts, a Cape anti-apartheid activist.
The grace with which the MRA people of Caux accepted my criticising them for hero-worshipping Frank Buchman, the founder of the movement, augured well for deeper involvement. I was after all still very much of a newcomer. A few months later I participated in the celebrations in Freudenstadt (Germany), where Frank Buchman had been born in 1878. The practice of Moral Rearmament adherents, to write down thoughts that came up during a few moments of quiet meditation, was one that suited the activist spirit in me perfectly.
8. A radical Activist
My own denomination needed someone to pastor the congregation in the city of Utrecht who could learn Dutch quickly. As the related language of Afrikaans is my native language, they approached us. I had earlier indicated that we were open to work among the Surinamese people in Holland. I romanticised the work among the people from the South American people from Surinam. With little hesitation we accepted the call. Before this call came, we had started planning to go to South Africa in February 1978 to show our Danny to my parents. He had been born on the 4th of February 1977.
In September 1977 we moved to Broederplein in the historical town of Zeist in Holland where the Count Zinzendorf had once held a synod. From there Rosemarie and I were due to serve the Moravian congregation of Utrecht of which the bulk of the congregants had origins in Surinam (South America).
We immediately struck a cordial relationship to the old couple, the Rapparliés - who lived below us - until they had to leave for the Mirtehof, a home for the aged. On Sunday afternoons (later on Saturday evenings) we would often have fellowship, playing together on different musical instruments singing and praying with each other.
An early Challenge
It turned out to be quite a challenge when I had to conduct a funeral less than a month after our arrival, long before I was expected to start preaching. My nerves tackled me so much that my voice just stopped functioning – with no cause for laryngitis!
My voice only came back after I had the reassuring Leo Dielingen - a minister colleague from Surinamese origin - with me in the car. He was ready to step in if needed. This was ultimately not the case. I could still conduct the funeral.
Advocacy on Behalf of Friends
Rachel Balie, who had returned to South Africa after the completion of her studies, wrote that Chris Wessels, a minister colleague and long-time friend in whose Port Elisabeth home Rosemarie and I had been on our honeymoon journey, had been imprisoned. Nobody from his family knew where he was incarcerated. He was never formally accused or brought before a court of law. Later we understood that his main offence was that he helped to care for the families of political prisoners. Shortly before this, Steve Biko died while in police custody. (We feared that the same thing could happen to Chris.)
After some hesitation, egged on by Rosemarie, my activist spirit was aroused. Everything was set in motion, to nudge the Moravian Church leaders into action on behalf of our brother in detention. Initially it involved something of a battle to get our church authorities in Bad Boll (Germany) on board, but they finally also requested Moravian Church leaders of other countries to write to their respective S.A. Embassies. (We heard later that this move possibly saved Chris’s life.)
I really made it very difficult for my wife because I was also quite radical on other levels. In Berlin we had met a couple, Mike and Linda Saylor from Santa Barbara (USA), who saw themselves as tent maker missionaries. Their home church had been inspired by the history of the Moravian Church. We became close friends, later meeting other missionaries from their home church. Through them we got to know Linda’s father, Gene Edwards, who was not yet the famous author he later became. (On a visit to Düsseldorf a year or two later, Gene asked me whether I thought that the Moravian Church could ever be revived to its former glory. I could not foresee this possibility, but the question haunted me.)
We were still settling down in Zeist when all of us were shocked by more bad news from South Africa. Dr Beyers Naude, who had been their guest, not long before this, was banned along with the Christian Institute and a few organisations. (Had we come to Holland a little earlier, Dr Beyers Naudé and his wife Ilse would have been our guests as well. In the years thereafter, we would give sleeping accommodation to the guests of the Rapparliés. Dr Naudé had been our keynote speaker at a Youth Rally just before my departure from South Africa in 1973). Just over a year later I was involved with advocacy on behalf of Dr Beyers Naudé, urging Dutch Reformed church leaders to get his ban lifted. This finally happened in 1984.
With its close proximity to Dutch it was quite a challenge to me as an Afrikaans speaker. Embarassing errors invariably occur when one learns to speak a new language. We tell to be careful not to say ‘verskoon my’ (excuse me). One thinks that they understand you. What you say ‘verschoon mij’ you say please change my nappy (diper).
Rosemarie and I went to the nearby town of Maarn once a week for the first few weeks for proper Dutch lessons. I took my fully written out sermons to Brother Joop Verkuyl, a dear old retired brother, who had taught for many years in Surinam, for checking on grammatical errors.
The unsound Premise of my Call to Utrecht
The premise of my call to the Moravian congregation of Utrecht was not sound. Robin Louz, a Surinamese brother representing the Utrecht congregation, had heard me attacking the South African Moravian Church for its double standards after Rev. Hansie Kroneberg, a member of the Broederkerk Church Board of South Africa had addressed the inaugural public synod meeting of the Moravian European Continental Church Synod in May 1975, that took place in Bad Boll. I embarrassed Rev. Kroneberg, by exposing the lack of support of the Broederkerk Church Board for the banned Reverend Wessels in Genadendal (On our honeymoon we had visited the old pensioner). The Surinamese brother thus thought that they would get a young ‘political’ pastor. He didn’t bargain for one who was also an evangelical, one who was on top of it deeply influenced by a moral radicalism. Later this would cause quite a lot of tension in the Utrecht Broederraad (Church Council).
After merely three months I was involved in a head-on collision with my Utrecht church council, because I didn’t mince words in my sermons. I challenged the congregants on moral issues, as well as inviting them towards complete submission to the claims of Christ. Once I referred to evangelical terminology used by Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the Renewed Moravian Church - winning souls for the Lamb. This was maliciously interpreted as something tantamount to sheep stealing. After I had used testimonies of Moral Re-armament people from South Africa in a church service on Christmas Day, it was equated with the practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I was determined not to budge. In fact, I revelled in fighting for biblical truth. I was possibly quite unwise go to such extremes almost at the outset of my tenure in the congregation.
Initially Rosemarie also attended the meetings of the ‘Broederraad’, the church council. But soon it became too much for her. She decided to rather stay at home, unable to take the unfair attacks on me anymore.
* * *
My interest and involvement in Moral Re-armament taught me to jot down insights and things that I wanted to do during my ‘quiet time’. As a complete radical activist, I had started collating all the documents and correspondence pertaining to our struggle with the authorities in South Africa, giving the manuscript the title Honger na Geregtigheid.Also the Broederkerk authorities came under fire as I tried to push them to be more active towards racial reconciliation and equality between the privileged ‘Coloureds’ and the ‘‘Blacks’’ in the church. Thus I challenged the leadership to merge the ‘Coloured’ congregation of Manenberg and the Xhosa one of Nyanga just over the railway line, to be served by the same pastor.
Driven by activism, I got up at two o’clock in the morning after perhaps three hours of sleep. I would then return to bed at five for another quick dose of sleep, but before 8 o’clock I was again behind my desk where our son Danny would join me, sitting on my lap until breakfast.
A terrible Fright
We had started making preparations for a second visit to South Africa when we got the fright of our lives. Rosemarie went to Dr Wittkampf, our home doctor in Zeist, because she noticed a lump at her throat. He immediately phoned the hospital - he suspected a tumour! We were already over-sensitive after a series of terminal cancer cases had been occurring in our circle of friends. Peter Dingemans, a Moravian pastor colleague in Zeist, was out of action a few months after we came to Holland and Reinhild Schäfer, the wife of Wolfgang, our lecturer in District Six, had also passed away because of cancer. The two children of our dear friend Henning Schlimm also had the same disease. (Henning’s first wife, whom I never got to know personally, had also died from brain cancer). Their daughter Monica had already passed away while we were still in Berlin and it looked to be a matter of time before Andreas, their son, would traverse the same road. In this atmosphere it was all gloom. Tears were flowing freely.
I hurt Rosemarie immensely when I was so insensitive to clearly verbalise her possible passing on as an opportunity to return to my home country. What a strain this brought to our marriage, the first really serious disagreement in our blissful marriage because I dared to express this so insensitively. She was not yet ready to return with me to my home country. After the traumatic experiences in the run-up and aftermath of our honeymoon, she had come to resist this idea fiercely. She did not want to raise children in such a racist environment. Her prayers thus went along the line of “Lord, I’m prepared to serve you anywhere in the world, but not in South Africa!”
Reprieve from a very unexpected Source
At the height of the crisis we were encouraged by a word from Scripture that our sorrow would turn to joy. What I did not know was that Rosemarie vowed at that time that she would be prepared to go to my native country if the Lord would heal her. Though we had few problems there during our honeymoon, the experiences had frightened her terribly. She did not want to live there permanently.
A positive element of the detection of a tumour in Rosemarie’s throat was that we were given some reprieve from the malice and accusations in our Utrecht church council, which was inappropriately called Broederraad.  Suddenly it seemed as if everybody rallied around us. In those days having cancer was like awaiting death. The Lord somehow spoke to Rosemarie through this experience. She now became prepared to serve the Lord in South Africa if He would spare her life. But she did not share this with me.
In our utter despair we turned to the Lord in prayer. At this stage we read a Bible verse, John 16:20 that comforted us wonderfully: “Your grief will turn to joy!”
A few weeks later the tumour was removed in an operation. The laboratory examination showed that the tumour was benign! Indeed, our grief turned to exceeding joy!
How we rejoiced at the new lease of life together as a couple! Our next newsletter, in which we testified of the blessings of Rosemarie’s recovery, caused ripples in many a quarter. I had written the letter in two parts. The first part was written before it was discovered that the tumour was benign and the last part reflected the joy we experienced. Amongst others, copies of the newsletter landed up at the ANC headquarters in Lusaka. However, I was still not prepared to get on any political bandwagon. Instead, I challenged them on some issues. Our personal newsletter had also found its way to the Anti-apartheid movement in England. It was possibly forwarded to them via people from the Moral Rearmament ranks. But I was not interested in scoring political points. Instead of supporting the Anti-apartheid Movement, I wrote them a critical letter. Referring to the root of the word protest in Latin pro-testare - to testify for something - I wrote to them that I prefer to fight for something good, rather than protest against something bad.
* * *
A tragic misunderstanding occurred shortly hereafter when I mentioned casually to one of my Broederraad members, that I would like to teach Mathematics again - even if it would be only for a few hours per week. He thought that I hoped to augment my salary in that way. The aspect of an extra earning had however never even entered my head. I was just longing to teach my favourite subject again.
Apartheid has the beating of me
In September 1978 we left for South Africa for a six-week tour. Experiences with the Moravian Church leaders at the Cape and with the folk of Moral Rearmament during the second visit in 1978 with Rosemarie and our son Danny were quite traumatic.
We moved to and fro between the township and shack surroundings of Sherwood Park, Manenberg and Crossroads on the one hand and the posh residential areas like Glenhaven and Fish Hoek on the other hand. The stark differences were hitting us like never before.
And then there was the general indifference to the injustices that seemed all-pervading, along with the rationalising of it by people from whom I least expected it. Petty apartheid bureaucracy was adding insult to injury. I was very disappointed in my church leaders and their reaction to the imprisonment and restriction of Chris Wessels, our friend who had been detained without trial.
My activism led to estrangement from my church authorities. My conclusion may have been overdrawn that I was thus not welcome to return to my home church. But wasn’t our Lord also rejected by his own people time and again? Looking back, my suggestions must have sounded unrealistic to at least some of them. At that time however, I was furious!
Add to that racist experiences on the train from Cape Town to Johannesburg! It was more than enough to me! I was now determined never to put my foot on South African soil again. That a Cabinet decision was necessary to give clarity whether we could travel in the same compartment as a family, together with bureaucratic bungling, really embittered me. Now I was really like Jonah, completely disgruntled.
It looked as if apartheid had knocked me out. This was not a sacrificial Isaac experience as in 1973. Nor was it Jonah again, running away from responsibility. I had simply resolved to throw in the towel, to give up the fight.
A very unhappy, embittered Christian
Howard Grace, a British full-time worker with Moral Rearmament (MRA), fetched us from Park Station in Johannesburg. He had to bear the brunt of my anger. While I was still fuming, Grace suggested during the car trip to Umdeni (the villa of the movement, where we would sleep in the rondavel for the next few days), that I meet the influential Professor Johan Heyns. The timing for his kind gesture was the worst one the Moral Rearmament worker could have chosen. At that point in time, I was definitely not prepared or interested to meet the chairman of the Broederbond, the secretive think tank of the apartheid regime that I perceived to be taking our country into a bloodbath.
Someone - or perhaps even more than one person - must have been praying for me. God used Dr Beyers Naudé and the congregation where he worshipped, to supernaturally heal me of my intense bitterness and anger towards the country that I paradoxically loved so dearly.
On that November Saturday of 1978 the MRA people of Johannesburg surely did not encounter a happy Christian. I am ashamed to say that I relished whipping an old lady verbally because she clearly expressed her sympathies with the government. With as much venom as I could muster, I shared how the various agents of the apartheid government had been maltreating us. Therefore it was no wonder that Howard Grace and others suspected in the evening that I was craving after sensation by phoning Dr Beyers Naudé, to find out where he was worshipping. There was ample reason for the one or other MRA member to surmise that I was not sincere in my wish to worship with Dr Naudé. One of them actually suggested that I was more or less driven by a martyr complex, hoping to be thrown out of the church. I must have received special grace, that I could still keep my cool! There was ample reason for them to suspect that I was not sincere in my wish to worship with him as one my last acts in the country I loved, but that I was about to leave – determined never to return to again!
A Farewell Gesture of Solidarity
I intended the visit to Dr Naudé’s congregation to be my farewell gesture of solidarity with the politically oppressed of the country. The previous year the South African government "banned" Naudé — a form of house arrest with severe restrictions on his movements and interactions. For example, he could not be in the same room with more than one other person. Someone - or perhaps even more than one person - must have been praying for me. Rosemarie and I, along with a few believers linked to Moral Rearmament, were privileged to visit the congregation that the Naudé couple attended regularly. The banned clergyman would enter as the last person just before the bell would toll to signal that the minister and his church council could step out of the vestry in procession. Dr Naudé would then leave as the first congregant at the end of the service because he was not allowed to speak to more than one person at a time. His wife Ilse came to us, having organised that we could follow him in his car to their home while she would teach at the Sunday school.
The Father hereafter used the well-known Oom Bey Naudé - who was loved by many who were not 'White' and hated by those who supported apartheid - in a special way. A miracle happened that Sunday. I was changed supernaturally from within through the visit to the Naudé home.
God used the banned Dr Beyers Naudé and the congregation where he worshipped to bring me to my senses. A divine touch cured me of my intense bitterness and anger towards the country that - paradoxically - I so dearly love.
In fact, after the red-letter Sunday I really wanted to make amends for my racist bias. Hereafter, I set out to work quietly for the lifting of the ban of the Dutch Reformed Minister, who had meant so much to me.
Determinination to fight the demonic apartheid ideology
In His sovereign way God used the events of that Sunday to make me more determined than ever to fight the demonic apartheid ideology from abroad. The Moral Rearmament practice of writing down thoughts fuelled my activist spirit. Hereafter I wrote various letters of protest to Cabinet ministers. From the time of our return to Holland after our six-week visit to South Africa, I saw a ministry of reconciliation now as my special duty to the country of my birth. As part of this effort, I continued to collate personal documents and letters with more verve, hoping to get it published under the title ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’ (Hunger after Righteousness). In this Afrikaans manuscript I included correspondence with the rulers of the day, giving comments here and there. Yet, I wanted to win the government over, rather than expose their practices abroad. As a means to this end, I targeted the Dutch Reformed theologians whom I believed could play a pivotal role.
In my resolve to work towards racial reconciliation, I went out of my way to meet Professor Johan Heyns and a delegation of Dutch Reformed ministers that attended a synod in Lunteren when the group visited Holland in 1979. A few months prior to this I was not interested at all to meet the chairman of the Broederbond! The delegation furthermore included Dr O’Brien Geldenhuys and Professor Willie Jonker. I arranged to meet them again at the Amsterdam airport Schiphol on their return to South Africa. (These three clergymen were to be quite influential to bring about significant changes in the Dutch Reformed Church in the years hereafter.) I urged the clergymen to get the ban of Dr Beyers Naudé lifted, challenging them also with regard to membership of a secret society. Prof Willie Jonker, whom I still knew from my seminary days,  took me aside to explain to me that he was not a member of the Broederbond.
I was of course elated to read later that some of the DRC leaders had responded positively, that they were attempting - however without initial success - to get the ban of Dr Beyers Naudé lifted. Because of the well-known tampering with post by the special branch of the police - which I had experienced myself - I contrived to send the draft manuscript of Honger na Geregtigheid to Dr Naudé with the delegation.
My request that one of them would deliver the manuscript to Dr Beyers Naudé, was however not honoured (I had left the envelope open on purpose, suggesting that the bearer could read the manuscript himself first. I learned later that the envelope and its content landed in the hands of the government. Dr Naudé never received it. However, that move apparently harvested respect for me in government circles thereafter.) An interesting sequel to my meeting the Dutch Reformed ministers was that Mr van Tonder, a top official of the South African Embassy in The Hague, who was also at the airport, visited us in Zeist shortly hereafter. (Only a few weeks before, Mr Reg September, who was at that time an influential ANC official in Lusaka, pitched up in our humble abode on the Broederplein of Zeist.)
Mixed Marriages Act to be scrapped?
I was following the developments in the country closely. One of the most dramatic developments occurred when Mr P.W. Botha, the Prime Minister, stated publicly that he was ready to scrap the (prohibition of racially) Mixed Marriages Act. All the more I was very disappointed to read hereafter that the Dutch Reformed Church effectively pulled the break lever on this government intention at their synod of 1978. Botha later performed a backwards somersault though, mentioning that he was merely intending to review the law in question. Yet, he challenged the churches to come with a united viewpoint. He knew that the churches were still nursing widely divergent opinions on the matter.
Tears and Anxiety
My determination to work towards racial reconciliation back home was not completely without risk. I refused for example to take sides when a group of South African ‘Blacks’ that visited us, threatened me. I managed to stand my ground saying: “I am neither solely ‘for White’ nor ‘for Black’, I merely want justice.” Cathy Buchholz, a Zulu, who was visiting us at the time with her German husband Eckhardt and their baby daughter Irene Nomsa, courageously supported me. (I had married the couple in Berlin).
A further special ‘aftermath’ of our visit to South Africa was that Rosemarie was pregnant once again. We dearly wanted a second child. It was so fitting that the addition to the family was conceived just before our return to Holland, after I had been reconciled to my home country. The pregnancy proceeded however not without tears and anxiety.
Rosemarie was diagnosed with Hepatitis. Both she and our son Danny had contracted it in South Africa and in January 1979 both of them were suffering from (yellow) jaundice. We were not overjoyed at all when the doctor felt compelled to suggest an abortion, intimating that this was advisable because of the great risk to the foetus. The possibility was great that we would have to cope with a deformed or handicapped baby. But we would not have anything of that. As a matter of principle we decided that we would accept the baby in whatever state it would come into the world as God’s gift to us. For the next six months we had to live with the real possibility of a handicapped child to be born in August 1979.
* * *
Through my theological studies my zeal for evangelism suffered a lot, although I was still fasting and praying on Fridays for the Communist world. Whenever I had to preach, I refrained from breakfast on those Sundays. Rosemarie found this very unsociable, so I later stopped it.
The love for my home country cemented
The visits to the ‘heimat’ in 1975 and 1978 cemented my love for my home country. In correspondence with the church back home and with the government, I still tried to fight my way back, initially with the intention of coming to work in the Transkei. My intention in this regard - which was not fully shared by Rosemarie - was interrupted when we were called to Holland in 1977. It never became relevant again because two years later the continuation of our service in the Moravian Church was already very much in the balance.
9. Problems with Infant ‘Baptism’
The crowning of my renewed commitment to work towards reconciliation in my home country was the birth of our second son, 9 months after our visit to S.A.!
On August the 4th 1979, our son was born healthy - against the prognosis of the doctor. Fittingly, we gave him the name Rafael. This has the meaning God, the healer. With my brother Windsor about to visit us with his wife Ray and their baby Kevin shortly hereafter, an infant christening service was scheduled for a September Sunday. Rosemarie’s sister Waltraud with her family was also visiting us for the occasion.
Scrutiny of Church Traditions
Two other infants were to be christened the same day. A serious problem arose when one couple took exception at my asking questions about their relationship to Christ. The discussion at the home of the couple was not so cordial. They argued that they paid their church dues and they expected me to simply perform my ‘duty’ as a pastor, to christen their baby without asking any questions. I was nowhere willing to oblige. The idea of a quarrelling couple pitching up at the church service, at which our son Rafael was due to have been christened, literally haunted me. Although I had my church council supporting me on the issue, it gave me a sleepless night. The possibility of a scene at the church in the presence of our family from South Africa and Germany was not pleasant, to say the least!
I experienced a genuine sigh of relief when the ‘difficult’ couple with their baby stayed away that Sunday. But the issue of infant christening would flare up soon hereafter. I suppose that the occurrence at our church made me very sensitive to the issue of infant ‘baptism’. Shortly hereafter I was seriously challenged from Scripture about this church practice. This was happening at the very time when I had been suggesting that stewardship should include the scriptural scrutiny of all church traditions.
(Photo: The Brauns of Lienzingen and the Cloetes from Grabouw visit us )
Hein Postma was the principal of the local Moravian school, whom I got to know when he addressed the congregation at a love feast. We met soon hereafter and got befriended. Rosemarie and his wife Wieneke struck up a close friendship, having babies of the same age. I sensed that Hein Postma had a kindred spirit, the real servant attitude of the Herrnhut Moravians. It did not matter one bit that he worshipped at another fellowship. When he invited us to a weekly Bible study with other local Christians that he was leading with Wim Zoutewelle, a Biology teacher at the local Christian high school, I accepted without any ado. Through this influence I regained my zeal for evangelism that I had lost during my activist anti-apartheid period.
A Substitute for Circumcision?
During a Bible Study with Hein Postma, Colossians 2:11,12 was read: “In him you were also circumcised... with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith...” Although baptism was not discussed at all that evening, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart.
I was moved to discover that ‘circumcision of the heart’ - conversion to faith in Jesus Christ - was the actual basis of baptism according to the above-mentioned Bible verse. My own argument for practising the tradition of christening of infants was pulled from under me. Subconsciously I was still somehow influenced by the Calvinist argument in defence of the christening of infants. According to this view, the christening of infants as the sign of the new covenant was a substitute for circumcision, which is the visible sign of the old covenant of God with Israel. Now I was reading there in Colossians about the circumcision of the heart. I was bowled over. From the context it was clear that conversion through faith in Jesus was meant. The seed was sown in my heart for opposition to so-called Replacement Theology, whereby the church is alleged to have taken the place of the nation of Israel.
In the preceding years and following in the footsteps of Count Zinzendorf, I got to love Israel and the Jews. As I considered the matter more intensely, the lack of biblical support for infant christening struck home. How could the church substitute circumcision, a practise so sacred to the Jews?
In the course of my participation in a liturgical commission of the denomination, I had already been deeply troubled by the formulation in the Moravian (infant) baptism liturgy whereby eternal life is apportioned to babies at their ‘baptism’. As I now also studied the liturgy used at the christening of babies, I knew that I couldn’t perpetuate a practice that had indeed become a tradition that nullifies the power of God (Mark 7:13).
This was now really the last straw to me. How could I continue with the practice with a good conscience? I promptly put the problem to my church council. They were very sympathetic, especially after our common experience only weeks prior to this. They suggested that I should discuss it with my minister colleagues.
Also here I initially found surprisingly much understanding because the colleagues likewise encountered irresponsible fatherhood among the Surinamese church members. It was decided that we would organise a weekend to discuss the issue in depth with the various church councils in the Netherlands because also in other congregations there were similar problems.
Taken to Task
All my efforts to remind the minister colleagues of our decision were in vain. It was soon evident that they procrastinated on purpose. Nobody wanted to rock the boat, which could have international denominational repercussions. They would rather sacrifice me in the process. One of the colleagues contacted the church board.
I was completely taken by surprise by a phone call from the head office: ‘What is this that I hear that you don’t want to baptize children anymore?’ I deduced that at least one of my pastor colleagues had decided that I was too uncomfortable. My problem with infant ‘baptism’ was maliciously conveyed to the church board in Germany. I was taken to task and finally referred to the bishop for counselling. This encounter nevertheless transpired in a very cordial spirit. I was impressed that Bishop Reichel – walking in the footsteps of Zinzendorf on the issue - was convinced of the matter as he looked at the grace of God operating ahead of us. But it didn’t solve my problem.
Rosemarie and I now experienced the opposition and ostracism in the church quite intensely. But the Lord encouraged us supernaturally. We thus received a telegram from South Africa from our dear friend Kathy Schulze, who was working with Scripture Union in Cape Town at the time. She had no idea what we were going through. Kathy felt an inner urge to send us the message: ‘I pray for you!’ What an encouragement that was to us!
Heaviness in our Congregation
I still sensed a strange heaviness whenever I preached in Utrecht. It was as if I was speaking against an unseen wall of dark opposition. Yet, the Holy Spirit must have spoken to some people because a complaint came in via a Broederraad member. Apparently my sermons had ‘no content’. I retorted that I could not understand why they got so excited if my sermons were without any content. There must be something which troubled the person in question. Then he replied: ‘Well, your sermon had the wrong content’. As I probed further, it surfaced that it was the Bible reading on Ephesians 5 which had been challenging sexual immorality. This was no new revelation. But I was not prepared to dilute my sermons to satisfy sinful habits and desires.
Someone warned me to be careful what I would eat when I was attending the various celebrations in the homes of the congregants. We knew that this danger was real, because poisoning was something that did happen in the culture in which we were moving. (In fact, in 1979 we took Sister Irion, an old Surinamese widow, into our home. Her husband had been poisoned.) But I decided that I would not allow fear to govern my life, disregarding the warning and just carried on with the ministry. We never heard whether someone did try to poison me.
The church offered me a compromise post whereby I would have not been required to christen infants. However, other theological differences with regard to stewardship in general would have made my position untenable. As a matter of principle, I could not live with such a compromise. I resigned from my job, to come into effect on 31 December 1980.
Remain in Jerusalem
Through our connection to Moral Rearmament, we got befriended to the work of the ‘Offensive Junger Christen’ in Bensheim, Germany. Their working method sounded very much along the lines of our own thinking. Soon we were seriously considering moving house to Germany. To our disappointment, nothing came from our application to join the ‘Offensive’. No clear reason for the refusal was given, although we suspected that our critical attitude towards the christening of infants might have been the problem.
By October 1980 we still had no new position and nowhere to go after the termination of our work in the church. It was understood that we were required to vacate the parsonage at the end of the year. At this stage we called to the Lord for a word, for guidance. We were surprised when Luke 24:47 came through strongly. The verse mentioned ‘beginning in Jerusalem’. It was not clear to us how to interpret it. We thought it to mean that we should remain in our Jerusalem, Zeist. But this seemed impossible because I had already resigned! I could not expect the church to allow me and my family to remain living in the parsonage.
From two other groups we had firm promises that we could join them - with accommodation included - if we would have no place to go to. But nothing was forthcoming from either of them when it came to the push. Our friends who prayed with us stood firmly in support as we planned to go to South Africa as a family. To us this was very much an encouragement. They knew that it was really a step in faith for us.
Another visa Application
Towards the end of 1980 it seemed as if the government was seriously trying to revive the momentum of change. (This was however effectively halted when Dr Andries Treurnicht started to breathe threatening down the neck of the government from the right wing.)
Due to Celeste’s encouragement we decided to take tentative steps towards going to South Africa as a family. Rosemarie was very realistic with her suggestion that we should write another accompanying letter with her visa application. She thought that mentioning my sister’s disease in such a letter would have been a good reason to expect a positive reply. I naively thought that they would hardly dare to refuse Rosemarie a visa again, knowing that I could publish the sensitive documents abroad to their detriment – i.e. an element of subtle blackmail was involved. I even thought - although I had no concrete proof to this end - that my initiative perhaps played some role in the government’s intention to change or scrap 62 discriminatory laws.
Encouraged by a speech of Prime Minister Botha in Upington and other reports in the press, I was however very much under the impression that the government really wanted to change or scrap the law pertaining to the prohibition of racially mixed marriages. The impression was given that the ('White') Dutch Reformed Church was the big culprit. (Later I had to discern that this was too simplistic a view.) My idea not to write an accompanying letter however helped us to get clarity whether we should go to South Africa as a family or not. Financially it amounted to a major risk. We also considered that the granting or withholding of the visas could be a test whether it was right to start on this risky venture at all. I started to make enquiries about the airfare at a local travel agency.
Before I could book any flight however, there was still the hurdle of my congregation. It was unreal to expect them to release me just before Christmas, although I still had two weeks of leave due to me. In a remarkable sequence of events, we experienced that we were divinely guided by a strong hand. The church council offered more or less that I could deliver my last sermon on 14 December. Rather unusually, we thus never had a valedictory service, but at least this was honest.
The heavenly Father was obviously continuing to break me down to fit into His plan with us. Thus I could return to the travel agency to book seats. There the lady greeted me with the words “Mr Cloete, I have a nice surprise for you!” She had just received news that Luxavia offers a special air fare. The airline was introducing the big Jumbo jets. We saw in this “co-incidence” another confirmation to proceed with our plans. I had no hesitation any more to book for 18 December.
Letters from South Africa with regard to the illness of Magdalene, our sister, encouraged us to quite an extent. We knew that we should not get excited too soon, even though we always believed that “My Lord can do anything”. Has not God proved it so often in our lives? The fact that we could plan to go to South Africa was already a miracle.
Our joy was however soon replaced by anxiety because of the visas for Rosemarie and the children. Various telephone calls to the South African Embassy in The Hague brought no result. Slowly but surely the last day for payment drew nearer, without any prospect of the visas. Even a telex from the South African Embassy personnel to Pretoria on our behalf turned out to be fruitless.
Celeste was back with us after visiting some other people. Together we experienced the agonizing days of waiting in vain on the visas for Rosemarie and the children. We shared our uncertainty with Celeste in respect of our going, because we would be using just about our last savings for the trip and I still had no employment after our return from South Africa. The day on which we were required to pay the deposit to reserve our seats, I phoned the Embassy once more. The official suggested that I phone someone in South Africa to contact Pretoria. The travel agency gave us an extension of an extra day to procure the visas.
I couldn’t phone my relatives of course, because we didn’t want to cause any more anxiety there. But we were happy that it was a Thursday. Now we could share our burden in the evening with our Bible study and prayer group in Zeist.
Our friend Jakes, whom I phoned, used a method with which I would not have been happy if I had known what he would do. On the other hand, I had only myself to blame because I was the cause that the accompanying letter with the visa application was not written. His phone call to Pretoria went along the following lines:
“I am a friend of Reverend Ashley Cloete in Holland. I want to contact the press straight away, but I just want to check out whether it is true that you don’t want to allow him and his family to come and visit his sister who has cancer...”
Of course, the government could not allow such an embarrassment without any ado, especially since we were still abroad. Therefore it was not surprising when the answer came promptly:
“No sir, I shall investigate the matter straight away. I’m sure it will come in order.”
* * * *
Not aware of this telephonic conversation, we were still anxiously waiting on the call from The Hague on Friday, the 28th of November. Before 4 p.m. we had to phone the travel agency. We agreed that if we would not have received a positive reply from the Embassy by that time, we would cancel our bookings. Finally, four o’clock arrived without any call from The Hague. I had given up hope but Rosemarie prodded me to phone the Embassy once more before cancelling our seats. I dialled the now so familiar telephone number, while Rosemarie prayed that the will of God’s might become evident:
A friendly voice greeted me from the other side of the line: “I have good news for you. The visas have been granted. However, I must still read the full text of the telex. Please phone me on Monday.”
Overjoyed Although we knew by now that strange conditions could be attached to South African visas, we were overjoyed. And it was such fun that Celeste was there with whom we could share our joy. The preliminary knowledge about the granting of the visas was already such a special gift to us. At the same time it was also a confirmation to venture out in faith into the unknown. We were encouraged to trust God for our future and for our everyday needs. We needed this fillip because not everybody was happy with our six-week trip to South Africa.
A church board member wrote “It has nothing to do with faith...” We could understand the reasoning so well: in such a case one would normally first make sure that one has a job on one’s return. In so many words, we had to hear that this was very careless. It did hurt deeply when we had to read this written by a representative of the church. Yet, I had given the person who wrote these lines such a hard time through my activism while he tried to mediate between me and my Broederraad. I knew it was well meant out of loving concern. In the same letter, our brother affirmed that I would remain a minister of the denomination and that he would love me to welcome me back to serve the Moravian Church in the field of representation.
The only conditions attached to the visas turned out to be that we had to pay the telex costs and that we had to obtain and send a letter from the travelling agency to certify that we had bought return tickets. The stage was set for our next trip to the beloved heimat (fatherland)
In the following three weeks the big priority was to get a job. I hoped to take up teaching again on my return. Some posts for Religious Instruction seemed fitted to my previous experiences, but the expanding unemployment was also taking its toll in Holland. When we left for South Africa, my hopes were pinned to one single application where I had survived the first round of nineteen applicants. However, there were still nine other applicants in the running for the vacant post. I still had to learn about the preference for nationals in such a scenario. I was after all only an exile from South Africa.
10. Home or Hearth?
We had a nerve-wrecking few weeks until we received the visa for Rosemarie literally on the last minute. We could still finalize our travelling plans somehow, but it was too late to get an onward flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
We had no option than to sleep over in Johannesburg. The conditions under which the visit would took place, were nevertheless awesome. We were basically visiting my dying sister. And we had no idea what would happen on our return to Holland. Furthermore, we were more or less using our last savings to finance the trip to South Africa.
My Moravian seminary colleague Martin October, with whom we lodged in the parsonage in Johannesburg en route to Cape Town, was quite willing to take me to Bishop Tutu and Dr Beyers Naudé when we would return to Holland. This suited me perfectly. When I heard from Dr Naudé that he had never received the manuscript that I had sent with the delegation of DRC theologians the previous year, I was now all the more keen to discuss my manuscripts with him and Bishop Tutu. Earlier in the year I had corresponded with Bishop Desmond Tutu about a document ‘Liefde dryf die vrees uit’ (Love drives out fear) before his discussions with Mr P.W. Botha, the Prime Minister.
We left our winter coats with Martin and Fanny October, intending to collect them on our return to Europe. When I spoke telephonically to Anthony Esau, our brother-in-law, he told me that his wife was not well at all. I somehow however did not understand his question properly when he asked me where we were lodging.
A sad welcome
On arrival at D.F. Malan Airport, the name of the international airport of Cape Town at that time, we heard that my sister had died the evening before. We were well in time to attend the funeral. Hoe kan ek u prys, the anthem of our clan, was of course a must at this occasion. Rosemarie and our almost four-year old son Danny had been learning the hymn as well.
It was felt that the gathering of the Joorst clan at the Jolly Carp Recreation Centre in Grassy Park, that our late sister Magdalene had initiated, should go ahead on Boxing Day. (She had also insisted in the last days of her life that our mother’s 70th birthday should be duly celebrated come what may.) She had hoped of course that she could still attend the clan gathering for the last time and meet the 200 odd relatives (I missed the previous two occasions in 1970 and 1973).
Mummy’s 70th jubilee celebration on Sunday the 28th was clearly over-shadowed by the loss of the only daughter. Ever since the condition of Magdalene became known, our mother’s health deteriorated rapidly. After my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary on the 5th of January, the nervous strain of the preceding months took its toll on both our parents. We feared the worst, especially for our mom.
Should I stay on in South Africa?
In a series of subsequent events, we discerned God’s hand clearly. At a visit to Genadendal en route to Elim I had a long chat with Chris Wessels until deep in the night. Quite emphatically, Chris tried to convince me that I should stay on in South Africa with my family, advising me to consider a post as a Mathematics teacher. (Fritz Faro, my student colleague of the seminary was also in Genadendal at this time as Chris’ understudy. We were blessed to be present at the ordination of Fritz in Clanwilliam shortly hereafter. However, a further few months later, we heard that his wife Cytheria died as a result of medical negligence.)
God started to work in my heart through the Holy Spirit. I was less impressed by the emphatic exhortation of Chris Wessels that I should expose the maltreatment by the government with Rosemarie’s visa and the like. I still preferred to win the Afrikaners over rather than exposing the misdeeds of the government.
The Holy Spirit ministered to me very clearly the next day during the evening devotion of 19 January 1981 in Elim. From the daily Moravian textbook Daddy was reading the scriptural Macedonian injunction: ‘Kom oor en help ons.’
Our mother was quite ill. Her passing away seemed to be imminent. Add to that Daddy’s heart condition, which caused him to take early retirement in 1971. (After the expropriation of our house in Tiervlei and him being forced to become a ‘migrant labourer’ - going to Elim one week-end per month - his health deteriorated significantly). This was also a matter of big concern. Just prior to our return to Holland – with a week scheduled to be in Johannesburg - it was a big question whether I would see one or both of them alive again. On the way back to the city, Rosemarie and I spoke about how we were touched by the words from scripture the previous evening. More than once Rosemarie appealed to me to change my planning, to cancel the week on the Reef. Couldn’t we rather stay in the Cape. However, remembering the wonderful time on our last visit where my intention not to visit South Africa again was changed so dramatically into a resolve to work for peaceful change in my home country, I was not inclined to miss this planned week.
Pride in my Way
By this time I had however become even more of a hardened anti-apartheid activist. The only constraint I had was that I waged my opposition from a religious platform. I recognised that the unity of believers was all-important. We were very much encouraged by a multi-racial group from different churches in Stellenbosch that had been started by Professor Nico Smith and a few pastors. This was a sequel to the SACLA event in Pretoria in 1979.
Rosemarie was deeply moved when she saw how our brother‑in‑law Anthony was struggling after the death of his beloved wife, our late sister. She could not understand why I insisted to go to Johannesburg in the remaining week before our departure for Holland.
My pride still stood in my way. It had not been easy to apply again for the right to travel as a family in one train compartment. Once more I had to beg the government for something I regarded as a self-evident right.
The Anti-apartheid Spirit made me hard
The anti-apartheid activist spirit made me hard and uncompassionate. Many people asked me why we didn’t stay longer when they heard that I had no employment in Holland on our return there. We decided to turn to certain trusted people for advice like our friend, the Anglican Rev. Clive McBride, at whose congregation Kathi Schulze was an elder. He thought that I should easily get a post with my reputation as a Mathematics teacher and the dearth of qualified colleagues in ‘Coloured’ schools for that subject. When I checked it out, this was confirmed. But I was not to be moved to stay longer in Cape Town. I wanted to proceed to Johannesburg. Not even the possibility of my mother passing on soon - and that I would not see any of my parents again - could touch me significantly. This was the classic Jonah situation all over again where I wanted to run away from a certain responsibility, spurred on by the demonic influence of anti-apartheid fervour.
The train booking on the Trans-Karoo express turned out to be less complicated than the last time in 1978 when my application climbed the whole hierarchy ladder right up to the responsible cabinet minister. It still bugged me that one still had to ask for permission. When I booked I never mentioned anything about my vocation as a minister of religion. Yet, I received the message – the Esaus possessed a telephone line by this time – that ‘Reverend Cloete and his family may travel in the same compartment on January the 22nd’. My manuscript (plus the threatening phone call of Jakes) had evidently done its intimidating work in government circles. I went to the Central Railway Station to finalise the booking and bought our tickets at the first opportunity.
On the afternoon that had been scheduled as our final time together, the 21st January, my special friend Jakes was at hand, taking us to the Strandfontein beach. A strong wind was blowing there. The next evening we were to take the train to Johannesburg.
When we arrived in Sherwood Park at the home of the Esau family, the train tickets were however nowhere to be found. I must have lost them in Strandfontein. With the strong wind there, it would have been futile to go back and try and find them. God had caught up with me once again. Just like Jonah once, I was trying to run away from the responsibility to my parents and the bereaved family!
Softened up by the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit had thankfully softened me up by now. Reticently I agreed to stay in Cape Town for another week. My parents were pleasantly surprised when we pitched up in Elim once again. This time we had interesting news for them. We had decided to extend our stay in South Africa, unless I would get the Religious Instruction teaching post in Holland for which I was still in the running.
After the extra week in Cape Town, everything was cut and dried. It was confirmed that we would try and stay for another six months. The church in Holland graciously agreed that we could leave our furniture in the parsonage in Zeist and that the rent could be paid at a later stage. A new pastor for Utrecht would not be appointed for the foreseeable future. My family and I would be able to return and live in the parsonage temporarily.
We attempted to support the bereaved Esau family through practical assistance. Richard Arendse, my classmate of high school days and a later teacher colleague, immediately obliged by allowing us to use their caravan. Thus we could now sleep in the caravan in the backyard of the Esau home. My brother Windsor and his wife Ray from Grabouw generously put the use of one of their two cars at our disposal so that we could frequently visit my sickly and ageing parents in Elim, 200 Km away.
It was very special to see our ailing mother recovering slowly and the diminishing strain was evidently doing Daddy a lot of good.
Teaching in Hanover Park
I took up a teaching post at Mount View High School in Hanover Park. I knew that this was one of the two schools where the boycotts had started the year before. I felt a little bit uneasy when the relevant authority in Wynberg expressed his satisfaction at me being a clergyman to take over at the school where a colleague had been dismissed for ‘unprofessional conduct.’
As the nights became colder in March, it became imperative to move out of the caravan. Our one and a half year old Rafael constantly had a cold. However, the politics of the day prevented us from getting accommodation in a ‘White’ residential area for three months. Not even our church was prepared to take a risk by allowing us to stay in a vacant parsonage in Newlands, a 'White' residential area, where I was quite willing to be the ‘caretaker’. Of course, the danger of repercussions and government reprisals were very real. It is understandable that the Church Board did not see their way clear to take a risk. They possibly also considered my rebellious attitude of the past, for example when I challenged them in 1978 on behalf of Chris Wessels. They had to be cautious. The one or other of them may have noted the possibility of me wanting to stay in South Africa with my family permanently. Then the church leaders would have been in trouble! I could actually understand their stance, but I was nevertheless very disappointed that no one took the trouble to explain the refusal.
As the nights became colder in March, it became imperative to move out of the caravan. Our one-and a half-year-old Rafael suffered from a constant cold. However, the politics of the day prevented us from getting accommodation in a ‘White’ residential area for three months. Not even our church was prepared to risk letting us stay in an empty parsonage in Newlands, a ‘White’ residential area. Given my rebel record of defiance of authorities, one could however easily understand the reticence of the Church Board. They could never be sure whether we would later decide to embarrass them by wanting to stay on!
That we declined the repeated invitation of Rommel and Celeste s to come and stay with them, was no Jonah stint. They were not only known as political activists but just like us they were a racially mixed couple. To accept their offer would have meant inviting trouble with the police. All other efforts to get temporary accommodation had failed. We finally had no other excuse available to turn down their generous offer. Very hesitantly we moved into the three-bedroom cottage in Haywood Road, Crawford with our two small boys to join Rommel, Celeste, Alan and Wally. (The latter two are brothers of Rommel.)
In Crawford I was now living for the first time in my life in my home country in a ‘White’ residential area. We started attending Living Hope Baptist Church that I would possibly not have picked voluntarily. That it was purported to be non-racial attracted us but it was quite a struggle for me to remain there, especially during the first few weeks when I felt rejected at this so-called non‑racial fellowship. I turned out to be the only person with a darker skin pigmentation. It became nevertheless a healthy personal experience when I had to discover that I was not yet completely free from my own racial prejudice.
At the very next Sunday I decided to drop my family there and then rather attend the Moravian Church in Bridgetown where my seminary student colleague Kallie August was the pastor. I was like Jonah once again. The Lord stepped in. When I wanted to drop Rosemarie and Danny at St Giles in Mowbray, where the Living Hope Baptist fellowship congregated, our four-year son Danny cried bitterly. I sensed that the Lord was speaking to me. This time I was obedient. I missed out on a golden opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to racial reconciliation via this church through my disobedience in the following weeks. It would have been more convincing that my political stance was not my main driving motive if I had also attended the mid-week prayer meetings of the church. Nevertheless, I did learn a valuable lesson: that apartheid had brought all the races in South Africa under spiritual bondage.
Involvement in ‘political’ Matters
Because of my own involvement in ‘political’ matters at school, as well as our supporting Rommel, Celeste and Alan Roberts in the volatile Crossroads community with harassed ‘illegal’ 'Black' women, there was the real fear that anyone of us could have been arrested by the police. Of course, we were basically working towards racial reconciliation. Yet, it was illegal for a ‘Coloured’ or a 'White' to go into the 'Black' areas without a permit. Expecting that it would have been refused any way, we never even considered asking for one. That would have meant looking for trouble, apart from the principle involved. (It is highly debatable whether one should apply for a permit under such conditions.)
Our personal experiences and involvement in political turmoil during the first half of 1981 caused resentment in Rosemarie towards South Africa. On more than one occasion we experienced from close range how the political climate was heating up to near boiling point around us. Rosemarie had been helping a 'Black' teacher as a volunteer in a Catholic school in Nyanga with the teaching of retarded children. Every day a red car was following her closely, apparently attempting to intimidate her.
During our half-year stay in South Africa in 1981 I took the manuscript ‘What God joined together’ to Tafelberg Publishers, yet without success. Our friend Douglas Bax continued to fight our cause. Spiritually I still had to learn that God was more interested in my relationship with Him than in my activism. Of course, I regarded my political activism as a part of my service for Him, part and parcel of an effort to get the races reconciled to each other.
Very much due to his role, the Presbyterian Church Synod actually passed a resolution in due course whereby the denomination would defy the Mixed Marriages Act if racially mixed couples requested to be married. This play a significant role for the law to be finally repealed in 1985 and thus preparing the way for a possible return from exile.
A bus load of ‘illegal’ Black women had been forced to return to the Transkei. A crisis followed when the group returned to the Cape with a hired bus through secret compassionate assistance of the South African Council of Churches under the leadership of Bishop Tutu. I was blessed to hear of a letter he had written when I visited a meeting of the Quakers on May 20 with Rommel Roberts. In his letter Tutu called on churches to make August the month of compassion, giving special attention to forced removals. The letter called on the government to stop hunting ‘Blacks’ like animals. He also suggested special prayer and fasting during that month. The spiritual dimension of Bishop Tutu’s letter encouraged me greatly.
In the middle of the crisis I was preaching in the ('White') Congregational Church of Rondebosch where our friend Douglas Bax was the pastor. Through his involvement, other representatives of the Western Province Council of Churches got on board. A series of press statements increased pressure on the government. In the statement of Douglas Bax, he mentioned that the Langa people were lured to come to the ‘Bantu Administration Board’ offices under false pretences before being arrested. He challenged the government either to stop separating families or to cease calling itself a Christian government.
Rosemarie and the children valiantly joined me in dangerous ventures, such as joining me to Crossroads on Ascension Day as part of a church delegation including Reverend Douglas Bax and a few other ministers. Military ‘Caspirs’ containing soldiers were driving along Lansdowne Road at this occasion. They reminded us that a massacre at our open-air meeting with these women and others in Crossroads, in which we could lose our lives, was not out of the question. The presence of a British TV crew probably saved the day for us. On that occasion I was very much impressed by the performance of a young pastor, Elijah Klaasen.
Evangelical Pastors seemed to shun social Action
Yet, it was sad that I could not get evangelical pastors interested. Generally they seemed to shun social action and community work, which ws regarded as ‘political’ and ‘unspiritual’. For us it was special that we could phone Kathi Schulze, to pray for this situation as well as what was happening in Hanover Park at Mount View High School, where I was now teaching. She would relay our requests to believers at Scripture Union, at the Claremont Methodist Church to which she had connections and to the Anglican Church in Factreton where she was an elder in Clive and Maria McBride’s congregation. In this way we at least got believers to pray for the seemingly hopeless situation.
On the other hand, our friend Howard Eybers was invited quite often to preach in 'White' congregations and he was also due to be the speaker at a prayer event on the Green Point Stadium. This was regarded by many as ‘revolutionary’. (In my seminary days when I was once accorded this ‘privilege’ because I was in possession of an academic degree, I refused to comply.)
Rosemarie and our two sons also joined me to Hanover Park when I decided to stand with students of Mount View High School. We were defying the government with a programme of alternative teaching on the ‘compulsory holiday’ on June 1. Secondary school learners at many schools had decided that they did not want to ‘participate’ in the celebration of the birthday of the Republic, which was normally celebrated on 31 May. (The director of ‘Coloured’ Education had given a stern warning if anybody was found to be on school premises on June 1.) We decided to have the teaching session at the neighbouring Bruce Duncan Home. A few pupils entered the school premises illegally and defiantly, going through a big hole in the fence. The police promptly stepped in. I was able to mediate somewhat in a situation which easily could have turned ugly.
Almost knocked out and then encouraged
During these tense weeks we had to reckon all the time with the possibility that any one of us residing in Haywood Road, Crawford could be killed or arrested. During the preceding months the going was rather tough as we had to struggle through all sorts of apartheid red tape. Then there had been the attitude of locals and that of the churches; as we tried to find accommodation, everybody we had approached - apart from Rommel and Celeste - seemed to fear breaking through the racist customs.
Yet, we still had high hopes that the church intervention in respect of the Crossroads inhabitants would lead to some change in government policy. The threats of the ‘Bantu Administration Board’ put all of us who were living under the same roof in Haywood Road in Crawford under severe pressure, but even more so this was the case with the Black women from Crossroads.
It was possibly very strategic that I could get the DRC Sendingkerk minister of Wynberg, Jan de Waal, to be part of a clergy delegation for ongoing negotiations with the ‘Bantu Administration Board’. On a Friday morning a few weeks before we returned to Holland, a group of pastors met the official of with the ‘Bantu Administration Board’. The bullying official seemed to be taken aback initially, starting off very apologetically saying that he has to see that the laws of the country are being obeyed. This prompted one of the ministers to mention that God’s law should get greater priority. Temporary reprieve for the hapless was achieved and the Anglican archbishop would get an audience with the relevant Cabinet Minister.
Indeed, after the audience of Archbishop Bill Burnett with Minister Piet Koornhof, our friends Celeste and Nomangezi received ‘confidential concessions’ from the government on June 15, 1981, allowing the Crossroads women to stay. At least this battle seemed to have been won.
In the meantime I had become quite bitter once again. Celeste mentioned that someone wanted to organise an interview for me with the Prime Minister. But I was not interested any more. Our involvement with the Blacks created in me a resistance of another sort. As I saw how Black families were forced to live separated, I was not interested any more to go to the government - cap in hand - for the ‘privilege’ to live in my home country with my wife and children. Why should I get a special privilege to live in South Africa with my wife and children when thousands of other families were being ripped apart?
Rosemarie hereafter had only one prayer left: ‘Lord, I am prepared to serve you anywhere in the world as long as it is not South Africa’. She had completely forgotten her vow of 1978.
Spadework for the Battle of Nyanga
The separation of Black families developed into a strange tradition in South African society because of government policy. We were privileged to have been involved with the spadework that prepared ‘the battle of Nyanga’. Alan Roberts, the brother of Rommel, interviewed the ladies who had been taken out of the homes in the church where they stayed for some time. I was deeply moved as I typed the stories of the suffering Black people whom the government was trying to remove forcibly. It was strategic that I had copies of these stories after they had mysteriously disappeared at the court hearings. But this did not help after all. One after the other the women were found guilty, due to be ‘deported’ to the Transkei, where some of them had never been before. But by government decree that was regarded as their ‘homeland’. These women had been ‘illegally born’ at the Cape.
The life stories of the women were not the only material that disappeared. A manuscript that I wrote at this time about false political alternatives that I had left at the school in Hanover Park during the boycott crisis around June 16/17 was also nowhere to be found.
Spiritually, I still had to learn that God was more interested in my relationship with Him than in my activism. Of course, I regarded my political activism as a part of my service for Him, part and parcel of an effort to get the races reconciled to each other.
An old Wound opened
Towards the end of our stay in South Africa Rosemarie had more than enough of the turmoil and uncertainty. This was a scar that caused tension in our marriage.
Rosemarie hereafter had only repeated prayer: ‘Lord, I am prepared to serve you anywhere in the world as long as it is not South Africa’. She had completely suppressed subconsciously or forgotten her vow of 1978 when she had a tumour. It was her turn to be like Jonah.
We also now had to witness how confused our four year-old son Danny had become because of the different languages to which he was exposed. In one short sentence he managed at some stage to use the four related languages – Afrikaans, English, Dutch and German - not even mentioning two different dialects apiece of the first two. We were using these languages as we interacted with different groups of people. We were convinced now that we had to return to a European country where Danny could concentrate on one language. A German-speaking environment was the obvious choice. After leaving the political cauldron in South Africa, we first went to Rosemarie’s family in Southern Germany.
All efforts to get employment in Germany or Switzerland were however unsuccessful. As we shared our experiences, we completely forgot the divine injunction to ‘remain in our Jerusalem’, Zeist in Holland.
11. Finally back to Africa?
My interest at fighting apartheid was definitely not completely altruistic. In my heart there was still the deep desire to return permanently to South Africa, my heimat. In order to achieve that, the racist laws had to be dismantled. We were not aware that we had contributed significantly to this process through our involvement in Crossroads, Langa and Nyanga. It turned out to be the beginning of the end of the influx control laws that were finally scrapped in 1985.
Back in our “Jerusalem”
It was quite difficult to accept soon hereafter that Rosemarie was pregnant again. We very much wanted another child - preferably a daughter - but the timing of the pregnancy was very ‘inconvenient’ indeed. I was still unemployed with little prospect of anything coming up. On our return to Holland Rosemarie and I were quite divided on the issue of where we should be located - an old wound had been opened: I yearned to return to my home country, although I knew that it was well-neigh impossible. Rosemarie was relieved that we could get out of the threatening hearth more or less unscathed. But we knew that God had brought us together. We expected to be called together to whatever country He would choose.
Back in Holland, a very difficult period in our lives started. Time was running out because my work permit was due to expire soon. Yet, the word from Scripture to stay in our “Jerusalem” did not enter our minds again. But we had no drive to start packing. On the other hand, we did not feel like Jonah at all. The church leaders offered us temporary accommodation in Bad Boll where we started our marriage. But we had no peace about this move.
And then it happened. Virtually on the last minute, I clinched a temporary teaching post in nearby Utrecht. Simultaneously, I applied for a position with a new mission agency EZIN, to function as a pioneering church planter in Almere, a new polder area where land had been regained from the sea and where there were hardly any churches as yet. For some reason or another, I never heard from the EZIN people again after sending them a report of previous experience. Probably the evangelical group found my political activism (or my views on the christening of babies) too extreme.
I never had a proper reply, let alone receive an invitation for an interview.
A new Fellowship started in Zeist
We had no intention of joining another fellowship when we left Zeist for South Africa at the end of 1980. When we returned in July 1981, we learned that a few local believers had decided to start a new church. During our absence in South Africa, our friends Hein Postma and Wim Zoutewelle had been having talks with Albert Ramaker and Jan Kits (sr.) in an attempt to start a new evangelical fellowship in Zeist along the lines of the Brethren. I was not opposed to the idea of another bijbelgetrouwe (Bible-based) fellowship, but I was not very happy that they decided to have the meetings also on Sunday mornings. I did not like the idea at all of competing with other churches in this way.
Yet, it was still a long way off before I discovered that church disunity and a competitive spirit among the fellowships were actually demonic strongholds. My preference was to have a fellowship on a Saturday so that everybody could still attend a church of their choice on Sundays. I also had not discerned yet to what extent the medieval Emperor Constantine had high-jacked the Church universal, estranging us from our Jewish roots by making Sunday a compulsory day of rest. If we had been more consciously aware of it at that time, our decision to join the new group might have been different.
What I specially liked about the new fellowship was that there would be no formal membership. The concept of dual membership that we brought along from the German Moravian Church - where the members could also retain membership of the state Church – also appealed to me. At any rate, we remained members of the Moravian Church.
On both sides people were unhappy with our decision, but I was not to be deterred. On virtually every Saturday evening one would find me joining the traditional Moravian ‘Zangdienst’ (Evensong) and on Sunday evening I enjoyed the spiritually enriching liturgies that were constantly updated by our neighbour, Hans Rapparlié.
The tragedy of denominational division really hit home to us on Sunday mornings when we set out for the new fellowship where I was soon asked to join the leadership team. With some hesitation I agreed to serve on the Broederraad and lead the young people, along with Tom Zoutewelle. (Tom also served on the Broederraad). The minute fellowship moved to a new location at Panweg from where it significantly influenced the region in the 1980s.
My South African Nationality made me suspect
The next few years I applied for numerous teaching vacancies in Holland. My South African nationality however made me suspect because I purposely refrained from mentioning my race in all applications. I did not want to be employed because of sympathy. On the other hand, not being Dutch, i.e. having a foreign accent, was not to my advantage either. Amid the uncertainty of permanent employment, our daughter Magdalena Erika - named respectively after my late sister and Rosemarie’s mother - was born on 17 March 1982.
Very surprisingly, Rosemarie did not protest at the prospect of a return to South Africa after we had heard from Hein Postma that the Dorothea Mission was looking for missionaries to work among the youth of Soweto. I had little hesitation to apply. However, I clearly mentioned that racial reconciliation was dear to us. The Dorothea Mission probably regarded this stance as too political because we never received any reply from them. (Via friends we heard a few years later that our application had actually been fiercely debated. With us being a racially mixed couple, this was of course quite a hot potato in a mission agency that was very close to Afrikaner thinking, if not completely immersed in it.)
The Start of the Goed Nieuws Karavaan
Peter Kalmijn was one of the youth group members of the Panweg fellowship that met in our home. The Lord would use Peter at different times in our lives to challenge us. Peter had returned from Austria with his mother Geertje and his brother Hans in 1981. His parents had been missionaries there before estrangement and divorce caused the three Kalmijns to return to the Netherlands. On one of our youth evenings in 1982 Peter mentioned that the organizers of the ‘Kinderkaravaan’ - a local outreach to children - were looking for a leader. This occurred when I was unemployed after a year of Religious Instruction at the College Blauwkapel in Utrecht from Monday to Wednesday, which was no success. I was regarded as ‘too friendly’ by the teenage learners – this was no attribute - on top of the fact that teaching only Religious Instruction to disinterested teenagers would be very difficult in any teaching environment. The experience during the latter months of teaching at this school was tantamount to emotional torture, but I somehow survived without suffering a mental burn-out.
While he was still at high school, the teenager Rens Schalkwijk, who returned with his parents from Jamaica in 1978, joined the weekly prayer group at the Moravian ‘widow’s house’ on Zusterplein. This was the one link to the denomination that I kept intact throughout our period of ministry in Zeist. With Rens I felt spiritually very much on the same wavelength. In 1982 the young man suggested that the two of us should come together for early morning prayer, just as our spiritual ancestors, the Moravians, had been doing. This we put into practice, soon joined by Peter van Veldhuyzen, a young member of the Panweg fellowship, praying in the nearby forest before Peter left for his work.
The suggestion of Peter Kalmijn and the 1982 prayer effort with Rens and Peter van Veldhuyzen culminated in the setting up of the ‘Stichting Goed Nieuws Karavaan’ (GNK) that included various facets of evangelical outreach.
(Picture: Some children in front of the Goed Nieuws Karavaan)
From the outset I made it clear that we should not confine ourselves to children’s work. I intended to use the vehicle - that we envisaged to acquire - for various ways of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Initially we were very hopeful that the Christians from the different churches would support us financially for this work. This never materialised. The funds that came in were just enough to keep the small ministry going, by far not enough to feed us as a family.
From the GNK ministry a children’s choir evolved. Our own children were the mainstay of the little choir for many years. Toos Spilker, one of our first children’s club workers, who came to a living faith in Jesus around 1980, led the choir all these years - although she had never received any formal music training. The children’s choir was still functioning many years after we had left Zeist, amongst others with the children of the original participants. Special about the team was also the mix of young and old. The spiritual backbone of the GNK team was a weekly prayer meeting at the home of the aged sister Kooy, a member of the Moravian Church.
Unfortunately, the evangelistic work itself petered out. My own position as founder and leader of the GNK possibly hindered an even greater impact, because I had just left the service of the Moravian Church because of my decision and conviction to discontinue christening infants. A few members landed in the ‘Figi’ church, the Full Gospel Fellowship that gradually changed its name to ‘Zinzendorf Mavo’, the school building to where the fellowship had already moved around 1987. There they continued to be involved with some evangelistic outreach. Two of our workers were Fenny Pos and Diny van Veldhuyzen, who are still leading efforts in that fellowship for the support of missionaries in different parts of the world.
Spiritual Warfare highlighted
When we came to Holland in 1977 we were fairly ignorant with regard to unseen things happening in the spiritual realm. However, we should have known better in the mid-1980s because we had learnt of occult realities through reading material of Kurt Koch, a German theologian.
We were so thankful when we were spared a severe calamity at this time. Someone rang the bell of our home to ask if I knew anything about the baby left on the street in front of our house. Just a few minutes prior to this I had placed the baby basket with our daughter Magdalena behind the car, when the back door of our 5-door vehicle was locked. I trusted that Rosemarie would see it there.
It was Rosemarie’s habit to first reverse from our parking area. I did not think about this when I put the baby basket at the back. When she came to the car, she thought the baby was in the vehicle. She drove off, without looking. Only at the destination, the woman’s group of the Panweg fellowship, she discovered that there was no Magdalena. In the case of the habitual custom she would have driven over the basket with the precious content.
Also in other ways we soon knew that we were back on the battlefront. In the run-up to the birth of our son Samuel in July 1984 we were clearly confronted with occult forces. We hoped to have four children from the outset. (In fact, at a conference of the Offensive Junger Christen in 1978 in Germany - when the participants were asked to come up with their vision for the future 10 years hence - I envisaged having four children and being back in my home country.) In the end we even surpassed the first part of my dream with one child extra. The second part of my vision was realized in 1992.
?? Mozart festival in the Moravian Church on Zusterplein. We sensed some occult activity going on at this time. We woke up one night with some noise coming from the loft like as if someone was pulling a chain. I was about to phone the police, suspecting that an intrder
A Battle in Rosemarie's Womb
Rosemarie had excruciating pains in her back during the pregnancy with our Samuel. She feared that evil forces were trying to kill the foetus. We had learnt about generational curses and influences in the meantime. Rosemarie heard from her father why he never wanted a son. Over generations some curse had rested on their family coming via the sons. One night when she had this heaviness and fears again, she woke me. When she told me this, we immediately prayed, breaking the curse in Jesus name! That was the last time that Rosemarie had these problems although the actual birth of Samuel was not plain sailing at all.
Also at the time of his birth a battle raged. Rosemarie was well overdue. Mama Göbel had already arrived from Germany to come and assist the family, but the baby refused to come. Rosemarie decided to join the summer holiday fun when our GNK friends decided to pick blue berries in the forest. As was the custom, we cycled as a group. The exercise was especially good for the mother in spe. While we were engaged in the blue berry picking activity, our Sammy gave the early indication that he wanted to leave the safety of her womb. We stopped our activity in the field immediately. When we landed at the maternity ward of the Zeister Ziekenhuis, Rosemarie had harvested a nickname, the blueberry mom.
But the battle was not over. Although the fruit water had come in the forest, Sammy would still not make his entry into the world. Also the aid of a drip machine was not successful. After a few more hours, the staff discovered that the machine was defective. Rosemarie was so aware of a spiritual battle being fought out for the life of the foetus. After an intense round of prayer she got peace. Soon thereafter labour set in and we were blessed with a healthy boy. This was however not the last time that we almost lost him.
Samuel’s birth brought Brigitte Röser, a Dutch friend who has been visiting us from Germany from time to time, closer into the family frame. We asked her to become his godmother. In later years she would become our contact person for the distribution of our newsletters in Germany.
Sammy almost drowned
Little Samuel was playing in Henschotermeer, where we often went with our children. Danny was swimming when he suddenly saw black hair in the water. He quickly grabbed the baby, only to discover that it was no less than Sammy, his baby brother.
Knowing that we were now in the front-line of missionary outreach, we were not surprised any more at the attacks that we recognized as demonic. Yet, we still had not discerned mutual links between Communism, Islam and other anti-Christian forces.
Relishing Dutch Customs
Around this time Rosemarie was deeply impressed when she read a book about natural birth control. We were initially quite happy when it seemed to work very well. But then it happened. The awesome suspicion turned to be true. She was pregnant yet again. Once Tabitha was there, she proved to be such a blessing. For one, she helped Magdalena to accept her role as a girl. The little tomboy would for instance pull down her pants out in the open on the Broederplein emulate her two brothers as she did her thing at a tree. Before Tabitha’s birth Magdalena objected stubbornly when required to wear a dress. This changed hereafter when she saw the cute little dresses her little sister received as gifts.
From her own German background where their father would go on hikes with them on Sundays, Rosemarie was rather disappointed with me. I could never get excited to go on walks. On the other hand, I enjoyed playing football with our boys. Also I did not mind to go on the bicycle with the whole family to some playground with the children, especially when we did it together with another family or when we visited friends.
We relished the Dutch custom of celebrating all sorts of occasions. Thus the twelve-and-a-half year wedding anniversary - it being the half of 25 years - was unforgettable for children and parents. Two and a half years prior to this we had been blessed when our Goed Nieuws Karavaan workers took care of our children to send us for a marriage enrichment weekend in the Dutch province of Zealand. And then there were the indelible memories of the unique annual Dutch Sinterklaas celebrations where the children would be busy for weeks before 5 December in some secretive corners of our big house to make ‘surprises’ that had to match the poems specially fitted to the person for whom the humorously wrapped gift is meant. Rosemarie would add the special touch to make every celebration extremely festive.
A Period of great Uncertainty
After stopping to function as a minister of the Moravian Church, a period of great uncertainty followed for us as a couple. This coincided with the practical need to feed the family. It was not easy at all to get employment as a teacher of Religious Instruction, and my South African (Bachelor of Arts) degree was not recognised in Holland. I decided to resume studies in Mathematics, not only as a way of getting a teaching post more easily, but also as a vehicle with which I could return to Africa in ‘tent-making’ missionary work. We really wanted to get involved with missions but no door seemed to open. One of the major handicaps was my South African passport.
In the mid-1980s a speaker from OM (Operation Mobilisation) came to one of our Panweg church meetings. I sensed a clear challenge to venture into one of the Middle East countries as a missionary. A simple comparison of the number of missionaries in Islamic countries brought home to me the dire need to share the gospel there. It was clear that I could not go into one of the closed countries as a Christian minister of religion. I was thus highly motivated to procure an updated Mathematics teaching qualification for this purpose.
Going to a Muslim Country?
Rosemarie could not appreciate my wish to go to a Muslim country like Egypt. But she initially allowed me hesitantly but patiently to continue with my studies in Mathematics, in order to use that as an entrance qualification into one of the countries that were closed for Christian missionaries. I had just turned 40 and our fifth child Tabitha was born on 25 April 1986, the very day I had a Maths examination to write and thus not able to be present for the birth. (Apart from our first born, who came lifeless into the world, and Danny, who was delivered via a Caesarean, I was privileged to be present at the birth of the other three.).
The information in one of the OM leaflets however effectively nailed the door to me to proceed with any application procedure for that mission agency: ‘Don’t wait until you are 40 or when you have five children.’ My Mathematics studies caused a lot of frustration at home because I had so little time for Rosemarie and the children. From 1985 I had been attending lectures on two evenings per week and often thereafter I still studied or worked after coming home because I was also teaching simultaneously. One evening per week every fort-night there was also the Broederrraad (church council) meeting - without female members - apart from the responsibility and work associated with the leading of the city-wide evangelistic work of the Goed Nieuws Karavaan (GNK). Almost every evening of the week I was not at home. The children only really saw experienced me at the evening meal times and on the weekends.
We tried to compensate for this by doing something together on the Sunday afternoons that they would enjoy. It surely was a good idea to take time with one child apiece over the weekends. This could be just going for a drive by bicycle, eat ice cream or whatever they would wish and which would not be expensive. This was also excellent for the education of our children, but it petered out however after only a few months. (Yet, we continued with the practice of me washing the dishes with one of the children in turn for many years, until I succumbed to Rosemarie’s request to buy a dish-washing machine because of the many guests we often had.)
Interest in missionary Work
Our diminutive evangelical fellowship at the Panweg in Zeist maintained a great interest in missions in general. From the word go the fellowship supported various missionaries. Liesbeth Walvaart and Bart Berkheij had been linked to the group before they went to England where they studied at All Nations Bible College, soon to be followed by Bep de Bruyn and Peter Zoutewelle as missionaries to West Africa. With Willie Jonker, a church member and a worker with the Evangelische Omroep as a board member of the Red Sea Mission, the outreach to Muslims was natural. In the loving low-key missionary outreach of the Goed Nieuws Karavaan team that Rosemarie and I were leading, we now started to work with many Moroccan and Turkish children and the youth of Zeist. Friday evening was special to our children when ‘Tante’ Hilda le Poutre would always come to us first, before joining the GNK coffee bar team. Although she was already about 60 years old at the time, the young folk apparently had no problems to relate to her quite easily.
We had a fairly close friendship to Bart Berkheij, praying with him because of many obstacles before he was finally accepted as a Red Sea Mission worker. And how happy was he when he could introduce to us his British fiancée Ruth! A special bond developed between Ruth and Rosemarie after their marriage. The two were pregnant almost at the same time when we expected our three youngest children. How did we empathise with the Berkheij family as they struggled for many years to go through all sorts of preparations until they could finally go to Mali with the Red Sea Mission! (They knew how I yearned to return to Africa and how no door seemed to open for us..
The fellowship was bonded in a special way when Johan Sleeswijk Visser, one of our youth members, who had a serious heart ailment, was admitted to hospital with no hope of recovery humanly speaking. United prayer brought not only reprieve but even full recovery. (A few years later he qualified as an attorney and married a Spanish young woman.)
A phone call to the Dutch WEC Headquarters in Emmeloord discouraged me. I erroneously got the impression that they would expect me to go to a Bible School again. That put paid to our joining WEC at that point in time. Later we understood that we would probably not have been accepted. New couples with five children would not have been acceptable for joining the mission agency.
At this time things were happening to us that would ultimately impact matters at the Cape. While he was still at high school Rens Schalkwijk joined the weekly prayer group at the Moravian Widow’s house on Zusterplein, Zeist. Ever since Rens Schalkwijk had been coming in and out of our home. He was a natural choice to become the godfather of our youngest daughter Tabitha in 1986.
One day he came along with the proposal that we should resume our times of prayer, but perhaps in a different way. In January 1988 we started a Sunday evening prayer meeting at our home. Rens brought along another couple, Ria and her fiancé Lukas Hartong, who had been students at the local Pentecostal Bible School. Out of these prayer times Rens was ‘delegated’ to attend a meeting with David Bryant, an international speaker who had come to challenge the Dutch Christians with regard to Concerts of Prayer.
In August 1988 - via the active urge of Rens Schalkwijk and his contacts with Pieter Bos, the prayer movement in Holland got under way. Rens and I were soon leading the first unit of the ‘Regiogebed’ of the Netherlands - that of Driebergen-Zeist - which congregated every first Thursday of the month for a prayer meeting with believers from different church backgrounds.
However, the summer of 1988 also brought a terrible shock when we heard that Bart Berkheij and his children had lost Ruth, his wife and their young mother, in a car accident. They had been in Mali only for a very short time!
Suffering from spiritual Suffocation Before long I got involved in yet another verbal skirmish. I ran into problems with a few members of our Panweg fellowship because a few Roman Catholic nuns had participated in the ‘Regiogebed’. Some believers had obviously been so brainwashed by anti-Catholic indoctrination that they could not believe that born-again people - especially nuns - could belong to the ‘Church of the Pope’. The unity of the body of our Lord was an issue about which Rosemarie and I felt that we could not compromise. Other simultaneous tensions in the fellowship brought matters to a head.
It was very special when we now received a letter from our missionary friend Dick van Stelten in Josini (South Africa), which confirmed to us that we should consider moving on from the fellowship where we suffered increasingly from spiritual suffocation. Dick had no clue what we were experiencing. He just sensed a command from God to write to us. Differences among the leadership of the Panweg fellowship coincided with a financial and transport crisis within our family. Our old VW minibus needed expensive repairs at a time when we had a negative banking account for the first time. We had been scraping the barrel for many years, but we somehow never landed in the red. Now this had also happened.
We decided to walk on Sunday mornings to the nearby ‘Figi’ congregation - the Full Gospel Fellowship - until such time when we would be ‘mobile’ again. The problem of transport was really not a crucial issue because everybody in Holland uses the bicycle all too often. As a family we were regularly on the road on a Sunday afternoon in that way, with our two youngest children respectively transported by Rosemarie and myself.
Rosemarie and I were slated, slandered and unfairly criticised by certain Panweg church members, but we nevertheless hoped that matters could be resolved and that reconciliation could be achieved. It never entered our heads to defend ourselves, but we nevertheless longed to return to the fellowship with which we had so many happy memories over the previous seven years.
But it was not to be. The reconciliation did not come about until much later, when the children were already settled in the new church environment of ‘Figi’, the cinema cinema of a Full Gospel fellowship that was closely linked to Kruistochten, as Open Doors was known in Holland at that time. (At least once a year the Bible smuggling Brother Andrew under his Dutch name Anne van der Bijl would come and preach there. Jan Pit and ? Companjen, leading pioneer personalities of the agency that practiced advocacy and support for persecuted Christians, would be there even more often).
It took some time for me personally to get warm in the much bigger new fellowship, but once we joined a home cell in 1989, things improved considerably. That the new congregation was not fully supportive of the ‘regiogebed’ was nevertheless a matter of distress to me. The building of an own kingdom was very much rife, also in the ‘free churches’. Yet, some members of the new fellowship participated in the prayer groups for schools that were initiated and encouraged by the Regiogebed.
 I lost an opportunity to be appointed as store clerk. I had been too honest after feeling compelled to tell the manager that I intended to go to Hewat Training College the following year. That was possibly nevertheless the best policy, otherwise I could have been caught up in the materialistic rat race, which had already infected me in some way.
During the course of the previous year the college moved from Roeland Street in District Six near to Harold Cressy High School
 Originally Engel (meaning angel) was a German name and Joemat was a slave name.
 David Savage later became a pastor in the Full Gospel Church and still later he became the Principal of Chaldo Bible School, until the institution closed at the end of 2004.
 Quite a few of the participants at this evangelistic outreach played significant roles in the opposition to apartheid in later years. But some of them got so carried away by it that they completely lost their evangelical zeal. I would most probably also have belonged to this group if I were not led to a wife who was used of God to keep me on a different course. This was however also the cause of my spending many years outside the country at a time when I could have become embittered like so many of my friends.
The German equivalent of A-level school leaving exams.
 The first group of German (Special) students, my student colleagues of 1965, included many who later became school inspectors and top academics. One of them, Jakes Gerwel, later became the Rector of the University whom President Mandela chose to become his close aid in the first ANC government. Tony Links went to high honours until he finally became the Registrar of the prestigious University of South Africa, UNISA.
 Later my programme was changed to a single year, a practical year with the Evangelische Jungmännerwerk in Stuttgart.
 I had passed Hebrew in July 1970, with the UNISA Latin exams to be written in Cape Town.
 Just prior to this occasion a previous girlfriend and I had agreed to part when we discerned that we were not meant for each other. My room mate knew about this parting of ways.
 Hermann Beck, our other room-mate, encouraged me to compete for Rosemarie’s hand, but I was not sure at all whether this was right.
 I wrote down a fairly full account of these two weeks soon after my return to South Africa.
 Translation: With you Lord, nothing is impossible
 When I suspected that I would possibly not pass my Greek exams, I wanted to return homewards after my Hebrew examination in July, but our church board pointed out that this would be tantamount to bad manners towards my hosts.
 This is not the real name.
 People of colour used to get a limited validity, for one or two years. Quite a few who were politically active received ‘exit’ permits. For them it was not possible to return to South Africa in a legal way.
 Quoted almost verbatim in What God joined together
 The former slum area was declared a 'White' residential area in the implementation of the Group Areas Act on 11 February 1966.
 As Christians we have been referring to the Hebrew Bible as the 'Old Testament', a term Jews consider denigrating. I try to avoid the term because of the substituting connotations. It somehow creates the impression that the 'New Testament' ('NT') more or less replaced the 'Old Testament'. For lack of a better term (Jewish scholars sometime refer to the 'NT' as Christian Scriptures, but that terminology does not sound to me accurate enough), I continue to use 'NT'.
 This letter can be found in What God joined together.
 Rev. Goba later became a theological professor at UNISA next to high office in his denomination.
 Later I understood that my visit to a sinister office on the foreshore before my first trip overseas was actually the Special Branch checking me out.
Elke Maier brought Rosemarie to the Jugendbund für Entschiedenes Christentum, the Christian Encounter youth group where we met each other the first time.
We started calling it an international airport although there were actually only two flights per week which could justify the term, one direct flight each to London and South America. South West Africa, as Namibia was called at the time, was generally regarded as a fifth province of South Africa.
They still had no telephone connection. ‘Coloured’ people usually had to wait very long after applying for one.
The government came up with the fancy idea of multi-national sports events, hoping that the presence of a few selected players from other countries would assist to break the shackles of the very effective international sports boycott.
 This was the institution where Rosemarie would have done a two month stint as a volunteer the previous year. In the years thereafter quite a few young girls from the Lutheran Landeskirche from Southern Germany worked there as volunteers.
 We received a letter from the South African Consulate stating that our marriage was not recognised by the government.
 There are many ‘Coloured’ girls around with even a lighter complexion than Rosemarie.
 The Prime Minister intimated in a speech that the country would have a different image in 6-12 months.
 That was possibly the only one available for people of colour in the metropolis.
 A fuller report of our visits to South Africa can be found in Home or Hearth
 In turn, Bärbel brought many visitors along from her home town Essen. Amongst these new acquaintances there was Brigitte Röser, who later became the godmother of our Samuel.
SA legislation allowed people to be detained for up to 180 days without a charge laid.
The Moravian Church in South Africa had two ‘provinces’. The division in the West, which consisted predominantly of Cape ‘Coloureds’, was called the Broederkerk.
 ‘Zieltjes winnen’ in Dutch has quite a negative connotation in Dutch and giving one’s testimony is known as ‘getuigen’. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also known as Jehovah’s ‘Getuigen’.
 The title alludes to one of the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. Geregtigheid in Afrikaans has the double meaning of righteousness and justice.
 In the church council there were in fact more females than brothers.
 I had initially ignored the seriousness of the downplaying and compromising of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in MRA, while special roles were given to Muhammad and Ghandi.
A number of incidents happened where Blacks were refused permission to attend funerals of 'White' colleagues, or were ordered to leave the church building.
 A fuller report of that visit to South Africa can be found in Involuntary Exile
While we were at seminary we attended occasional lectures with Professor Jonker at the Moriah Sendingkerk in Ravensmead, to which Jakes had invited us.
 We would gladly have paid the required non-refundable deposit for the tickets, 21 days before departure at the latest, if we only had the visas in time. But that was just the point. In the light of past experience, it would have been quite a risky venture to pay the deposits without having the visas in hand.
This entails biblical comments on apartheid.
 Almost any South African Moravian would nowadays possibly be able to sing the Afrikaans verse by heart which means in translation ‘how can I praise you oh Lord and prove my gratitude to you?’ …
 Rev. Clive Mc Bride was one of the friends of the Moravian Seminary and one of the most vocal proponents of Black Theology at the Cape in the early 1970s. When he realised that his love for Whites was lacking, he changed completely. To have Kathi Schulze, a 'White' American, as an elder in his church, was visible evidence of his change of heart.
 Alan Roberts was very much involved with trade union work.
 'Blacks' were only allowed to be in the ‘White’ cities and towns under restricted conditions if allowed at all.
 Of course, this was not completely surprising. Almost all Afrikaans publishers would not publish anything that would not have the government blessing. The government was evidently not yet ready for such a step.
 We visited Douglas Bax and his wife Betty on our honeymoon journey in Umtata, where he was teaching at the time and in 1981 I preached in his church in Rondebosch. At the latter occasion I also informed the congregation after the service on what had been happening in Crossroads.
 Although I had no proof that my activism had contributed in any way, I did sense some satisfaction when the law in my home country that prohibited people from different races to marry, was finally repealed in 1985.
 St Francis of Assisi is said to have inaugurated this tradition.
 One and a half year old Rafael apparently had no problems, clicking away at the sounds of the unrelated Xhosa when he joined Rosemarie every day.
 The abbreviation stands for Evangelische Zending in Nederland.
 The latter two senior brothers belong to the founding members of the Evangelical Broadcasting Association that was to play such a pivotal role in the late 1970s and 1980s to counter the liberalism that was sweeping across the Netherlands.Brother Kits, who had roots in the Moravian and Evangelical movement, along with Corrie van Boom in World War II in the support and protection of Jews, ultimately did not join the new fellowship.
 Subsequently Geertje reverted back to her maiden surname Rehorst after the divorce was finalised as is the custom in the Netherlands.
Translation: Good News Caravan Foundation
Papa Göbel had a spinal defect himself.
We had met Dick and Riet van Stelten in the early 1980s at the In de Ruimte congregation in Soest, when they were on home assignment in the Netherlands. We immediately struck a good rapport with them. Riet subsequently contracted cancer and died, after which Dick remarried.