I WILL NOT DIE BUT LIVE (January 2017)
I WILL NOT DIE BUT LIVE
- Childhood and Teenage Challenges
2. A young Teacher and Missionary
3. A Theological Student in District Six
- An Anti-Apartheid Activist'
- Skirmishes in Church Ranks
- Activism for racial Reconciliation
- Uncompassionate Activism
- Fighting Communism and Islam
9. Africa beckons
10. Missionary Preparation
11. Missionaries at last
12. Swimming against the Stream
13. Whippings as a Blessing
14. Time to Apologize
Appendix - A fresh breeze is blowing
The idea of a rather lengthy ‘open letter’ letter came up a number of years ago when I was very strongly impressed by the guilt of the Church in general, not only in the establishment and spread of Islam, but also through the pervasive replacement theology that is still keeping Judaism and the Jews side-lined. (According to the replacement theory the Church is the ‘new Israel’, substituting the old nation that was elected by God to be a blessing to the nations.) The Bible is quite clear on the role of Jews and the nation of Israel as the apple of God’s eye.
The first draft of this book - initially written as an ‘open letter’ - was still on my computer when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At that time – on 8 October 2003 to be exact – I was encouraged by the ‘Watchword’, as the Moravians have been traditionally calling the 'Old Testament' Scripture for the day: ‘I will not die but live and proclaim what the LORD has done’ (Psalm 118:17). This became the cue for me not only to update the ‘open letter’, but also to change the original title My spiritual Odyssey to the above one, viz. I will not die but live. God’s Word obviously had to get pre-eminence in respect of Greek mythology. My wife Rosemarie nudged me to get some order in my publication efforts, because if something would happen to me, all my years of writing and research would have been useless. I should at least try and finish some of the manuscripts. Concretely, I discerned in the word from Scripture an invitation and summons to endeavour to attempt to finalise autobiographical manuscripts.
The draft of the revised version was already finished by November 2003. During the post-operative period in Kingsbury Hospital at the beginning of December 2003 after the removal of my cancerous prostate, more progress followed, with the editing of autobiographical material that I had written already by that time.
I had Search for Truth 2 printed in January 2004. This compilation of testimonies of Cape Muslims I had almost print-ready on my computer for quite a time prior to that. However, the publication of I will not die but live never materialised when I thereafter worked on other material.
The death of our revered (former) President Nelson Mandela brought back many memories. It also inspired me to tell my story for our grandchildren, kick starting the low-key publication and printing of WHAT GOD JOINED TOGETHER. That booklet co-insided with our 40-year marrige anniversary. That booklet was the result of a nudge by a friend in Holland to revamp Honger na Geregtigheid (Hunger after Justice), an anti- apartheid document with which I hoped to ‘win over’ the Afrikaner government. (In his loving advice the Dutch friend said that he missed love, forgiveness and compassion towards Afrikaners. In his eyes it was tantamount to an overdose of medicine to a sick patient.)
I have decided some time ago already to deviate from the original concept of an open letter and simply improve the previous version of I will not die but live as a follow-up of WHAT GOD JOINED TOGETHER, reminiscing simultaneously - but especially to count our blessings and proclaim what the LORD has done.’ For more clarity, some material from that booklet is repeated here.
I continued working on I will not die but live in November 2015 but nudges to put on paper the stories of foreigners from other African countries who had been impacted here in Cape Town and also to improve a manuscript on Church (dis)unity, kept me busy throughout the bulk of 2016. Once again I more or less forgot I will not die but live.
In the book one will find quite frequently the biblical Jonah mentioned. The reason for this is that I took much of the material from the manuscript I was like Jonah. Towards the end of 2016 I resumed improving Honger na Geregtigheid (Hunger after Justice), which our daughter Tabitha had scanned in from a cyclostyled A4 version a number of years ago. (During such a process the original text gets quite distorted, needing substantial improvement.) To my dismay, I missed pages of Honger na Geregtigheid on 29 December 2016.
When I went to try and find a better copy Honger na Geregtigheid in the quest after the missing pages, I bumped into the first draft of I will not die but live. Psalm 118:17 was the challenge that I was given in 2003 after I just had a biopsy for prostate cancer.) I started working on this revision on my 71st birthday, on New Year’s Eve 2016. Psalm 71:18 (Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come) was given to me as a special word for the occasion by a relative. I perceived this as a nudge and confirmation to continue working on this, i.e. to live and proclaim what the LORD has done’.
I am very much aware of a major deficiency of this update. At this stage I have only examined the text up to 2008. Some very special involvement and events happened thereafter. I pray that I will be able to rectify this soon with a follow-up. As in all our other manuscripts and books, I refer to my race as 'Coloured' people. In a country as ours where racial classifications has caused such damage, I am aware that the designation 'coloured' has given offence to the group into which I have been classified. For this reason, I put ‘Coloured’ consistently between inverted commas and with a capital C when I refer to the racial group. To the other races I refer as 'Black' and 'White' respectively, with a capital B and W, to denote that it is not normal colours that are being described.
Cape Town, January 2017
- Childhood and Teenage Challenges
From my mother I heard that I was born at St. Monica’s Maternity Home in Bree Street, Cape Town when that part of our city was very much regarded as a part of Bo-Kaap. This happened when Bo-Kaap was still a predominantly Christian residential area in spite of quite a few mosques and the Schotse Kloof flats that had been specially built for Muslims in the late 1930s. Growing up as a little boy in the slum area of Cape Town called District Six in the early 1950s, I had no idea that District Six was the hub of resistance against all forms of racial segregation, nor what would transpire in the next half of a century. (District Six was declared a ‘White’ residential area in February 1966 by governmental decree in the apartheid era.)
Soon after coming to personal faith in Jesus as my Saviour, I thought as a teenager that the most effective opposition to the heretical apartheid ideology would be to assemble Christians from different racial and denominational backgrounds as often as possible, to demonstrate the unity of followers of Jesus in this way. The disunity of the Body of Christ would bug me for many decades.
The old District Six – a cultural Conglomerate
I take liberty to introduce myself as a ‘Cape Coloured’, who has been living among quite a few Capetonian Muslims for a number of years. I was born in St Monica’s Maternity Clinic in Bo-Kaap just over 70 years ago and bred as an Afrikaans-speaking Moravian Christian in the hey‑day of District Six. I attended the Zinzendorf Primary School in Arundel Street when there were still quite a few Jewish shop owners in Hanover Street, the hub of the slim-like suburb. (I learned later that many Jews were actually living in District Six.) During my first three years of schooling there I had a few Muslims in my class and a few were living in our neighbourhood.
At a later stage of my life, I enjoyed my theological education at the Moravian Seminary in Ashley Street ‑ likewise in District Six ‑ at a time when many buildings of the cherished environment of my childhood had already been demolished, all the Jews had left and many Christians had (been) moved to the Cape Flats. (The Jews of District Six had moved in droves voluntarily to ‘White’ residential suburbs like Muizenberg, Sea Point and Vredehoek.)
Political Interest and prejudicial Influence The Sharpeville and Langa events of 1960 made themselves felt all over the Western Cape. I had really started to hate apartheid but not ‘Whites’ as such. The subtle education of society and the oppressive government paid its toll. Thus I was thoroughly misled to look down on Blacks condescendingly. At the time of the Sharpeville shootings and the march of thousands of Blacks from Langa to the Caledon Square police station, I was one of the first to leave the Vasco High School premises when a rumour went around that the ‘kaffers’ were coming. With fear and trepidation we fled from the school building. I displayed more courage when I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Verwoerd, at this time. In my draft letter of protest I addressed the inequalities and injustice of the political system. However, I did not post the draft letter immediately. But I was not really sad when my father discovered the letter in my school blazer when the blazer had to be sent for dry cleaning. An angry reprimand followed: “Do you also want to go and languish on Robben Island?” I did not fancy that idea. It was well known that this was the fate of people who were involved in resistance politics. I had no intention to join the league of Robben Islanders.
A clear Faith Challenge
Mr. Braam, our English-speaking High School principal who hailed from Methodist stock, was God’s instrument with a clear challenge. That he could say with such emphasis ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine’, really struck at my deepest emotions. I lacked that inner assurance.
I was still a fifteen-year-old teenager when my close friend Klaas Dirks invited me along to the Goodwood Showgrounds on Sunday 17 September 1961 where a Canadian preacher, Dr Oswald Smith, was the speaker. Decisively the evangelist challenged everybody during the service to ‘come to the Cross.’ For the first time in my life I realized that it was not good enough to know in a general way that Jesus died for the sins of the world. I had to appropriate it for myself. I responded positively, accepting Jesus as my Saviour. Once again there was no follow up. (This had happened at two previous occasions.)
My Ways are not your Ways...
During 1962 our mother had to stop working because of arthritis, aggravated by the factory work where she had to be on her feet all day. I matriculated at the end of that year, with the understanding that I could finish my teacher training after a break of a year. In the interim I would take any employment that I could find.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at trying to get clerical work - that were as a rule reserved for ‘Whites’ - I settled for a menial job at the printing factory of Nasionale Boekhandel, where I was required to clean the machines. Sometimes I was sent to perform errands.
Returning to our Tiervlei home from the Nasionale Boekhandel printing works in Parow in the late afternoon of early January 1963, I learned that I had been accepted as a teacher trainee at the prestigious ‚Hewat Training College,‘ in Crawford. I was pleasantly surprised when my parents disclosed that they feel that I should go to ‘Hewat’. They had been challenged by the ‘Watchword’ from the Moravian textbook for the day, Isaiah 55:8: “My ways are not your ways...” They had decided to send me to college by faith. That was quite exceptional, because faith ventures were fairly unknown in the ‘Coloured’ society of South Africa of the 1960s and even more so in the Moravian Church circles of that time.
After a short period of gradual spiritual backsliding ‑ while I was nevertheless active in church youth work ‑ God used Ds. Piet Bester, an Afrikaner Dutch Reformed minister, who came to Tiervlei in 1962 (The ‘Coloured” sector of Tiervlei was later renamed Ravensmead) to show me that I was ‘addicted’ to sports. In the first quarter of 1963 I was deeply challenged by a sentence from his sermon because sports had become the equivalent of an idol to me. Dominee Piet Bester’s testimony of his deliverance from folk dancing pierced my heart: ‘Was I actually idolizing sport?’ I was set free from that addiction on that day.
An ecclesiastical Misfit
In our church I did not fit in the mould. Along with two young Sunday School colleagues with the name Paul who had the typical Cape Moravian surnames Engel and Joemat, I would often launch out in an arrogant way to ‘get the Moravian Church back on track’ with regard to biblical conversion. 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. Thereafter he became travelling secretary of the Christian Students Association. In that capacity he was to impact quite a few ‘Coloured’ young people around the country.
At our local youth services, I went a step further than my ony sister Magdalene, inviting not only experienced (lay) preachers from other denominations, but also teenagers like me to come and preach. Attie Louw, who was with me in our Matric class, had contacts via the Christian Students Association (CSV). He proceeded to become a dominee, a Dutch reformed minister. Attie came to preach at one of our youth services and he also recommended his theological student colleague Allan Boesak.
Allan came to preach in our fellowship soon after he had started with his theological studies. Coming from we perceived as far away Somerset West, Allan slept at our home the Saturday evening ahead of the youth service the following day. This afforded me with a good opportunity for theological discussion. I eagerly grabbed the occasion to sound Allan out about the christening of infants. (On the issue of believer’s baptism a Pentecostal friend had been influencing me.)
He couldn’t really convince me, but I was satisfied that Allan was honest, that he believed that infant christening is the sign of the new covenant, a substitute for circumcision. He explained that the latter is the visible sign of the old covenant of God with Israel.
If the Pentecostal friend had come on the agreed 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 thereafter to be ex-communicated from the Moravian Church. )That is what happened to people in those days who dared to get ‘re-baptised’.) But my new friend didn't pitch, and I remained in the Moravian Church.
The Challenge to Mission Work
Ds. Bester was divinely used to get me not only interested in sharing the gospel with others, but also in missions. As part of a new commitment to the Lord, I abruptly decided to stop playing cricket for Tigers, the local club. The next few years were formative in my spiritual development because I attended the Dutch Reformed Sendingkerk quite regularly. Here my faith was really built up and a basis laid for involvement in missionary work. Since I was racially classified and raised as a ‘Coloured’ however, I never even considered in my wildest dreams that I would ever go to another country for mission purposes. We thought that missionaries had to be ‘White’. Nevertheless, I joined the Wayside Mission after getting in trouble at my own church because of my evangelistic passion. I hereafter worked as a volunteer in a small open air Sunday School in someone’s backyard.
On another level, a link through Paul Engel (my rebel colleague of the Moravian Church) and Allan Boesak brought me to a major turning point in my life. They invited me to the evangelistic outreach of the Christian Students’ Association at the seaside resort of Harmony Park. This was scheduled to start just after Christmas at the end of 1964.
At that time however, I felt spiritually empty and bankrupt. How could one go and share the gospel with others in such a condition? I cried to the Lord to equip me! He heard my heart’s cry, divinely touching me. I sensed the power of the Holy Spirit taking hold of me. I was thus finally ready for the outreach there in Harmony Park!
A special friendship and partnership developed there with my evangelical tent mates David Savage and Ds. Esau Jacobs (the later was generally known as Jakes). I corresponded thereafter quite intensely with both of them. At that time Jakes was a young pastor who had just started off in his first congregation, in the Transkei, residing in Umtata.
After one of the evening open air services I received my introduction into ‘spiritual warfare’. When Jakes entered the tent after he had a long conversation with a Muslim camper, he exclaimed that we would not be able to make any head‑way without prayer and fasting. Next to Ds. Piet Bester, the young pastor became my role model and mentor for the next few years.
Unity in Christ across the racial Divide?
The Harmony Park evangelistic outreach influenced my life in yet another way: There I received an urge to network with people from different church backgrounds, more than before.
I continued to naively try and ignore the unwritten prescripts of our society with regard to racial separation. I was looking at all sorts of ways to express the unity in Christ across the racial divide. My two years of teacher training at Hewat Training College hardly brought any significant change in my attitude to the racial policies of the day. My only opposition to the apartheid regime at this time was the regular disregard of petty apartheid laws like going through the ‘Whites only’ subway at Crawford station in the afternoons along with my student colleagues. Yet, we were always careful that there were no railway policemen around who could arrest us.
Trained for the Ministry?
As I went into my final year of teacher training - in those days two years of such training were the norm - I did not feel comfortable and capable at all to go and teach straight away the following year. I still looked like a juvenile myself. I feared that the learners would run over me. (Picture to be inserted ???)
While I was still a teenager, the above‑mentioned Chris Wessels, who was an assistant pastor, challenged me to enter theological training, but I expected to be more clearly and divinely called. Ever since I started my teaching career, I felt that I should be trained for the ministry. But I sensed no peace to follow this ‘call’ to the Theological Seminary. Therefore I applied to do a third year of teacher training. That was the big exception for ‘Coloureds’ at the time. This excuse was very handy when our Church Board offered me a teaching post in Port Elizabeth, albeit with the proviso that I would also attend the extra-mural theological seminary classes there.
It was not that I was opposed to theological training as such. In fact, before my conversion to Christ I had already envisaged myself as a teacher and preacher simultaneously. That was quite customary among our relatives. (A few uncles practised two professions at the same time - as a school principal and church pastor.)
Ds. Bester started one evangelistic initiative after the other in which I was soon participating. The evangelist Chris Cronje from Springs in the Transvaal was a favourite in the public campaigns. The conviction had grown within me in the meantime that I should really experience a clear call from the Lord before indulging in theological studies.
After my encounter with the Lord before my first Harmony Park beach outreach, I started to attend the prayer meetings every Sunday morning at six o’clock at the Moria Sendingkerk of Tiervlei. One Sunday morning a mini-revival erupted there when suddenly everybody started praying together. That was quite revolutionary for the time, causing some disquiet among the traditional reformed believers. It was significant that women from different churches were meeting each other regularly for prayer hereafter. This confirmed for me the special blessing of united prayer. Years later we would put this to good effect in Zeist (Holland) in the 1980s and back in Cape Town after our return in 1992.
Pushed into Teaching
Quite surprisingly, there were not enough applicants for the third year “academic” teachers’ course at Hewat Training College for 1965. Thus I had to try and find one of the rare teaching posts.
Yet, I was also very much a child of my surroundings and completely unbalanced. Not long before starting my teaching career, I frowned upon lengthy degree studies because I really expected the Lord to return very soon. However, when I heard that extra-mural courses would be beginning at the University College of the Western Cape (UCWC), I jumped at the opportunity to start degree studies, conveniently forgetting my earlier reservations to study at the ‘Bush’ college. Soon I was cycling to the school in the morning, and from there to the afternoon and evening classes. Often I utilised the time on the bicycle - e.g. holding a book on the steering bar while I memorized the various forms of the German strong or irregular verbs. Not knowing that it would come in good stead at a later stage, I had included German Special as one of my degree courses. I was sad that they could not offer Mathematics as a subject extra-murally straight away. Only in my final year of the degree I included Mathematics in my curriculum, doing it by correspondence.
Being thoroughly materialistic at this time, I only had eyes for the opportunity to get in line for promotion as a teacher in later years, so that I would be able to earn more. But there was also the academic field that beckoned. Posts at the new fledgling 'Coloured' University were waiting to be filled by people from our racial grouping. As one of the better and also the youngest of the extra-mural students, this was a rather tempting option. From our pioneering first group of students - where we also had certain lectures together with the day students - many would proceed to become school inspectors and prominent academics.
2. A young Teacher and Missionary
I was seriously considering God’s call to full time service. Almost as a matter of routine I repeatedly put it before the Lord at the prayer meetings every Sunday morning at six o’clock that I was completely willing and prepared to proceed to theological studies. I wanted to be absolutely sure that it was His calling.
A significant Moravian Funeral
Next to Jakes, Reverend Ivan Wessels was another hero of mine. He contracted leukaemia at the beginning of 1968. Ivan Wessels 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 at the Pella Mission Station 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 had no hesitation to 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.
A 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 quite a dose of missionary zeal. From the outset I regarded myself as a ‘short term missionary’. In those days this terminology was still unknown. The possibility of a missionary coming from Africa to ‘Christian’ Europe was unheard of. But I was however just as determined to return to my home country thereafter to serve the Lord. The almost two years in Germany, during which I learnt much about youth work in the first year, were very enriching. One year was devoted to studies in Greek, Hebrew and Latin.
Fairly at the beginning of my stint there, I once opposed Marxist theological students even though I still could not yet express myself sufficiently in German, thus needing an interpreter. A German lady exclaimed quite shocked that their ‘Christian’ country was now in need of missionaries from Africa.
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. 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. I still had to learn that it was not appropriate to prescribe to the Lord the race to which my future wife should belong.
Enraged in Europe
Before I left South Africa in January 1969, Bishop Schaberg had warned me to stay clear of politics, because spies from the apartheid government were also well represented overseas. I initially heeded this warning without however really making any conscious effort. But then I received a letter from my parents with shocking information. They had been served with a notice of the expropriation of our property in Tiervlei.
What really enraged me was that my mother mentioned in her letter something about ‘the will of the Lord’. I stopped just short of considering joining the armed struggle against the apartheid government, because this brutal act was to me just another example and extension of their racist policies. I hereafter wrote quite a strong letter of protest to the Parow Municipality from abroad, with copies to some people in Tiervlei. But it was all of no avail. Hereafter, I became almost reckless in my opposition to the South African government policies. I was now very critical of the regime, also in public utterances.
A Celebrity on the Swabian Countryside
Because a speaker from Africa was still quite rare in Germany, I received relatively much publicity by the church press. I became something of a celebrity in certain quarters, especially on the Swabian countryside. A ‘clergyman’ from Africa who could speak German fluently was still something quite extraordinary in those days. (There was however all too often general disappointment that I was not ‘really’ black in complexion. In plain vanity I never objected to the wearing a clerical robe whenever I preached although I was still a student.) (Picture to be inserted ???)
In my letter to the Parow Municipality, I almost invited these people to pass the information on to Pretoria. The result could have been the confiscation of my passport. The only constraint with regard to the content of my speeches on South Africa was a moral and religious one. I wanted to act responsibly as if to God in everything I did. For the rest I could not care less in my youthful vigour if my government wanted to withdraw my passport or not.
My protest letter after the expropriation of our house in Tiervlei, did not have much of an effect. My parents moved to the Elim Mission station. Daddy became a migrant labourer, going home one weekend per month. Health-wise it all became too much for him. It affected his heart. At the age of 58, he was forced to go on early retirement. 
My missionary Zeal decreased
When my parents moved to the countryside - thus without visible reminders and news from me - the prayer support from the Tiervlei warriors diminished. Parallel to it, much of my initial missionary zeal all but vanished. My opposition to the government of my home country got a personal touch when I fell in love with Rosemarie Göbel in 1970. When I returned to South Africa in October of that year, I knew for certain that this was the girl whom I wanted to marry.
I was terribly in love, soon telling our wonderful love story to all and sundry. Legally there was however the prohibition of racially mixed marriages very much as a stumbling block. At one of the occasions where I blurted out my love to Rosemarie, my cousin John Ulster, who was the minister of the Elim Mission station at the time, pointed out to me the obvious, viz. that I had to choose between South Africa or Rosemarie. But I wanted both. This must have looked really stupid and naive at that time because a marriage to a (White) German was just not a runner. But I was too much in love to accept that. I was determined to marry Rosemarie, but I had also resolved to fight to get her into South Africa. To everybody that idea sounded crazy. My parents magnanimously declared their willingness to release me to return to Germany, rather than allowing me to bring Rosemarie into the apartheid cauldron.
Fighting Apartheid and the Communist Iron Curtain
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 that were 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). Here I linked up with Paul Joemat, my old rebel mate in the Moravian Church. He also had the vision that Christians should be actively engaged in opposing the unchristian apartheid policies.
We were 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. We 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.
Just before I left South Africa in January 1969, I bought a booklet at the Parow bookshop of Nic de Goede, the leader of the Wayside Mission. The booklet ‘Tortured for Christ’ by Richard Wurmbrand, in which the author describes how he had been maltreated in Communist Romania, made a deep impression on me. In Germany I soon had the opportunity to listen to the testimony of the Romanian pastor himself and hear about the experiences of Christians in the Communist countries.
Hereafter I received the periodical of the organization founded by Wurmbrand regularly. I also started a practice of fasting on Friday mornings and praying for imprisoned Christians behind the iron curtain. Initially this was actually more or less faceless untargeted praying, but it would change in later years when we received photographs of the persecuted Christians. Nevertheless, although I learned through experience the power of prayer, I never really proceeded to become a prayer warrior in the best sense of the word.
Efforts to ‘assist God’
A major problem had arisen in Germany after Rosemarie and I had fallen in love with each other. We knew that we wanted to get married to each other. But her mother was not happy with the match. She allowed Rosemarie to correspond with me behind the back of Mr Gȍbel, her husband.
On this side of the ocean there was of course the ominous ‘Mixed Marriages Act’, the prohibition of any marital bond between a ‘White’ and someone from another race. 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 looked to be my big chance. I would not accept the ‘realistic’ options of either Rosemarie or South Africa.
All sorts of efforts on my part to get her reclassified as a ‘Coloured’ ‑ to enable Rosemarie to come to South Africa ‑ only created more problems. Instead of waiting on God’s intervention to enable a possible marriage, I decided to ‘assist Him’.
I wrote to the Prime Minister to inquire about the procedure to have someone reclassified. Objections from Wolfgang Schäfer, our Seminary lecturer - that I would give recognition to the immoral racial laws of the country with such a reclassification, could not deter me.
I desperately wanted Rosemarie to come to South Africa, instead of me going to Germany again to marry her. Knowing the objections of her family, Rosemarie was as yet far from 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 course. Didn’t she tell me when I invited her on our first date to an evening with the Wycliffe Bible Translators that she wanted to enter missions already since her childhood? Thus I just pushed ahead with my ideas.
Secret friendship by Correspondence
Our secret friendship by correspondence – without her father knowing about it - caused tremendous tension in the Gȍbel home in Mühlacker. This ultimately hospitalised Rosemarie’s mother. When my darling could not handle the secrecy anymore at this time, a tearful clash between her and her father followed. This led to an exchange of a few letters between me and Mr Gȍbel. I ‘negotiated’ a deal – turning his arm insolently - whereby I suggested that Rosemarie and I would hereafter only write to each other at festive occasions. He was too furious to reply, instructing her to write to me that I should stop the correspondence, full stop. This she did not communicate to me, neither immediately thereafter nor in her ‘Passover’ letter. I started writing my voluminous Pentecost letter, continuing with it during the next weeks.
Separation by Choice
I took a teaching post in township-like suburb Elsies River, studying part-time at the Moravian Seminary in 1971. My old stalwart rebel fighter of the Sunday School conference days, Paul Joemat started there with us.
A confession of infidelity here in Cape Town on my part paved the way for Rosemarie to start a friendship with a handsome young man in Germany. This brought peace back into their home. When I did not hear from her at Pentecost – which I had elevated to the next occasion for an exchange of love letters - I assumed that the South African government had intervened. (There had been occasional fiddling with letters and I had of course also attempted to get a reclassification process going so that we could get married.) I was not prepared to accept this without a fight.
The refund of money that I had paid into the Pension Fund when I was operating as a teacher before my resignation to go into full-time theological studies, enabled me to book flights for the June vacation of 1971. Prayerfully I could put this as a ‘fleece’, a test. The Lord had to open another door because the cheap Luxavia flight which I wanted to take was fully booked.
What we perceived as divine intervention would happen in these weeks. But there was also some surprise and disappointment. Only when I was in Germany I had to face the hard fact that I had a rival.
Rosemarie ultimately decided to part friendship with both of us, leaving it over to God to bring us together again if that was His will that we should marry one day.
- A Theological Student in District Six
For the second year of my studies I moved to District Six. Now I was one of three fulltime students, along with Gustine Joemath and Fritz Faro. A big dose of cross‑cultural pollination was administered to us as students during our time at the Moravian Seminary in Ashley Street in District Six. Not only the formal theological studies, but also the extra‑mural activities, with which our German lecturers Henning Schlimm and Wolfgang Schäfer brought us into contact, enriched our lives tremendously. The Seminary was very much involved with the activities of the Christian Institute. Bishop’s Court, the University of Stellenbosch and Black townships were places that I had not visited before.
An article in Pro Veritate, the periodical of the Christian Institute, depicted how South Africa is a micro-cosmos – a sample of the world at large. This presented me with a challenge. If it were true that all the problems of the world are present in a compact way in our country, why couldn’t we give an example to the world to the solution of these very problems? Without any ado Henning Schlimm allowed me to examine poverty in the 'Old Testament' for a mini thesis in that subject.
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 of 1972, 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 lead the nation in the ways of God. Basically, it was however a letter of criticism that could have catapulted me into hot water. I was fortunate that I only received a reprimand from Mr Vorster. In his letter, which was actually a standard circular in which only the name of the recipient was inserted cleverly with an electric typewriter, the Prime Minister implied that I was involved in politics under the guise of religion.
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 apparently his standard reply to religious objection to the racial policies of the country.) Possibly he did not even read my letter of October 1972. I had challenged him in this letter to be used by God like President Lincoln to get our country out of the catastrophic direction of the politics, heading for disaster. Yet, prayer had inspired my letter.
I also found it strange that we had no studies of Islam in the curriculum at our Seminary. After all, we had Muslims all around us there in District Six because so many Christians had left for the Cape Flats. Proportionately more Christians than Muslims left the residential area, creating a situation that made the Islamic presence quite strong. In the atmosphere of openness at the Seminary, the lecturers had no problem to have some lectures added after the examinations at the end of the year. My knowledgeable close friend Jakes was only too happy to oblige, coming to lecture on Islam.
More Divine Intervention
Through the 'Old Testament' Watchword on her birthday in April 1972 - ‘love the foreigner in your gates’ -Rosemarie’s mother was urged to allow us to resume our correspondence. She responded positively. With the aid of Henning Schlimm, our seminary director and my confident, a teaching post for Rosemarie was secured at the (German) Kindergarten of the St Martini Lutheran Church in the Capetonian Long Street. Pastor Osterwald displayed quite a lot of courage in appointing her although he had to do it secretly, making sure that there would be no copy of a covering letter.
Rosemarie tried to send me a tape cassette with a ‘Coloured’ South African from Gleemoor, a part of Athlone, a suburb of Cape Town. 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...’
I was however 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.
On the direct Telephone Line from Germany
I was still counting the days to the beginning of March 1973 when Rosemarie was due to arrive. Great was the disappointment when the first of March came and went without any news of her visa. We had thought that this would be a mere formality. I was completely stunned when my ‘Schatz’ (darling) phoned me on the direct line from Germany which had just come into operation. She had to inform me that she had received a letter from the South African Consulate:
‘I regret to have to inform you that your application for permanent residence in the Republic of South Africa has been turned down...’ No reason was given although it was fairly obvious to each and everyone who knew the country’s racial policies.
Anticipating the visa, Rosemarie had resigned from her work at the children’s hospital in Tübingen. But she fortunately soon procured a post at a school for mentally retarded children where Elke Maier, her friend, was teaching.
Spiritually Miles apart
Looking back, we saw that the Lord was very gracious to us. Our brittle love would have been put under extreme pressure by the compulsory sphere of secrecy caused by apartheid laws. But also theologically and spiritually we were miles apart at that moment. I had become rather liberal theologically under the influence of Black Theology and the teaching at the seminary. The lectures were definitely not evangelical.
The spiritual environment in which Rosemarie was operating in Tübingen at the time was very conservative, not in the best traditions of that word. The congregation had close contacts with Bob Jones University in another part of the world where the full individual freedom in Christ was not always practised. It is doubtful whether our sensitive relationship would have survived the double tension if Rosemarie had been able to come to South Africa in March 1973.
But the Lord was already working in my life. My student colleague Fritz Faro was greatly influenced by the Jesus People, a group of young men and women who came out of the hippy movement. We appreciated that these young people were radical like us, although we had great problems with their a-political stance. We could not accept the situation that the different races were sitting separately in their meetings, thus following the despicable apartheid practices uncritically.
We seminarians also sharpened our axes for White liberals who professed to be against apartheid but who were not prepared to suffer for their convictions. The renowned St George’s Cathedral and the Jesus People failed our test when we noticed how the congregants were still sitting separately along racial lines. Spiritually however, their radicalism of the Jesus People did rub off. It reminded me of my days with the SCA young people. I had become somewhat estranged from the latter group, possibly because of the liberal phase through which I was going.
Gustine Joemath and I, the other two full-time students, tried to accommodate what we regarded as an extreme evangelistic zeal of the Jesus People. At the same time we deemed it necessary to challenge the apparent Jesus People acceptance of the racist South African way of life. Thus we invited a student from Rhodesia - as Zimbabwe was still called in those days - to join us in evangelistic outreach on Muizenberg beach. The idea was just to go and sing choruses, using our instruments. As this beach was denoted ‘for Whites only’, the three of us were liable to be arrested. After obviously influenced by South African Whites, our Zimbabwean friend opted out with a flimsy excuse.
When we walked past the St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Green Point one Sunday afternoon we decided to challenge this church that also displayed that they welcomed all races. Reverend Douglas Bax and his St Andrews Presbyterian Church passed the test with flying colours. Thereafter he became a close friend of our seminary.
The two years of full-time study at the seminary however also included a good balance with evangelistic activity. Now and then Jakes would come and pick me up on a Friday evening to join evangelistic outreach like that of Ds. Pietie Victor’s Straatwerk, that was however still very much run along racial lines which we disliked utterly. The outreach of a group in Grassy Park was much more to our liking.
We regarded it important that Rosemarie should at least get acquainted with South Africa and my family. Therefore she applied again, this time for a tourist visa. Rosemarie was however refused a visa again without any reason given. Instead of coming to South Africa, she went to Israel with other Christian friends. During this time in Israel, her love for the Jewish people deepened.
After Rosemarie’s latest visa refusal, I had to face the only option left for a possible marriage: I would have to leave South Africa permanently. Our Church Board co-operated generously. They came up with the suggestion that I could go and work with the Moravian Church in Germany at the end of the year.
It looked inevitable that I would have to leave the country if I wanted to marry my darling. At this time 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.” God still had to be bring me down from that presumptuous pedestal. Rather ambivalently, I prayed that He 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. God still had to humble me to accept his choice of a wife. I still somehow did not want to leave South Africa. There seemed to be only one way out: I had to choose between the love for Rosemarie and my love for the country. Hesitantly I opted to leave South Africa with little realistic hope of a return. I did resolve though to fight the matter, to even toil towards a possible return to my home country by 1980. To this end I intended to fight the discriminatory laws from abroad, to enable a return with my wife and any children that would be entrusted to us.
Fighting Racism in our Church
In our own denomination we were also fighting racist traditions simultaneously. A certain racist tradition in the Moravian Hill congregation in District Six, i.e. the church just next to the Seminary, called for a challenge. Twice per year German Moravians attended this church. Then chairs would be specially put on the stage where they would sit.
The racist tradition was aggravated, when the local minister refused the request for this special privilege in August 1972 to be granted to other White people. They were the employers of a deceased servant who now wanted to attend the funeral in the church. At the seminary we were of course quite happy with this principled stand, but when we saw the chairs specially taken out for the German Moravians only a few days later, this smacked too much of hypocrisy. We just couldn’t leave the double standards unchallenged. When the church council member who was taking out the chairs, was not willing to listen to reason, the word was spread quickly. The youth group wanted to stage a mass walk out at the ‘Love Feast’ of the almost sacred traditional 13th of August commemoration of the revival in Herrnhut in 1727. This would certainly have rocked the boat. We feared that the church leadership would point to Fritz Faro, Gustine Joemath and me, the three full-time students at the seminary, as the instigators of such a walkout. Thus we suggested to the young people that we would rather do it on their behalf and face the inevitable music alone. There was not much discussion about the matter because the decision had to be taken quickly.
At the beginning of the service with its blessed history the three of us left the church quietly without really upsetting the proceedings. But the impact was nevertheless quite consequential. We were in hot water from more than one quarter. The youth turned against us as well, accusing us of wanting to steal the show. One of the female youth members aired the problem that she had with me - perhaps others also had it but they didn’t articulate it: I was sporting ‘Black is Beautiful’ on my T-shirt - and yet I had a White girl friend overseas!
On another level, a clash with the upper echelons of the church hierarchy loomed. But Henning Schlimm, the seminary director, who had just been elected to the church board, supported us wonderfully after we had explained to him the run-up to the events. The big clash was averted. He arranged a meeting with a two-man delegation of the German Moravians. I was to be the spokesman on behalf of the students. The discussion was frank but amiable with a compromise reached: the chairs for the Germans would not be put out in future on the two occasions. The Germans could sit separately at the front of the church if they wished to.
We were not satisfied yet, because we regarded this as a travesty of the unity in Christ that we professed. Thus we fetched our own Whites friends to come and sit among us at the next ‘chair’ occasion. Lies Hoogendoorn and Hester van der Walt were quite willing to be used for this purpose, sitting among the young girls of our youth group. The effect was minimal however, because the Germans hereafter stayed away at the next service where they would have come.
Deep Soul Searching
The South African Council of Churches initiated a new tradition in 1973. August was dubbed as the month of compassion. Operating predominantly within the confines of the ‘Coloured’ community, we knew that there was a definite need 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. (We three full-time seminarians had done something similar, leaving a church service quietly but agitatingly when a local pastor persisted with segregated seating for visiting Germans.)
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 intensification of my 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 well ahead of its expiry on January the 16th the following year. I considered that I could get peace at heart before my departure if I would apply timely for an extension of my passport, But I couldn’t muster the courage (or faith?) to apply! I just couldn’t stand the real possibility of a negative response. I knew this could have been the test to discern God’s will for me. But I feared that my semi-political involvement of the recent months could have jeopardized such an extension.
But there were also other things that kept us busy at the seminary, e.g. preparations for a youth rally with the theme Youth Power in the Old Drill Hall. The theological seminary played a major role in the organizing of that event. Dr Beyers Naudé, the leader of the CI, was our high-profiled speaker who was invited to address the youth rally. This was typical of the position of the Seminary in opposition to the regime. As Dr Naudé was lodging with the Schlimm family, he heard about my pending departure for Germany to take up the position as assistant minister and about the link to my darling Rosemarie, the real reason of my departure. (Henning and Anne Schlimm had been my confidants during the three years of my studies at the seminary.)
Apart from playing the trumpet in our small band, I was not as deeply involved in the run-up to the event because of my pending departure for Germany. There were all sorts of other things to see to like greeting many people like friends and relatives prior to my departure. Following in the footsteps of a cousin who married an Englishman around 1950, we expected this to become my final farewell to South Africa, most probably never to return.
Back in Germany
Once in Europe, I applied as soon as possible for the extension of my passport. My anxiety was thankfully eventually dispelled when I received my passport, extended for a further three years. However, I still yearned to return to Africa, preferably to Southern Africa!
Rosemarie and I became engaged for marriage in March 1974, albeit with no family from either side present. We still deemed it important enough - if possible at all - that Rosemarie would get to know my home country and my relatives. Because I was now in Germany, a major obstacle to a tourist visa should have been eliminated. At least, that was how we reasoned. We asked the Moravian Church Board in South Africa whether Rosemarie could come over to do voluntary work for a period of two months at the Elim Home, an institution for spastic children on the Elim Mission station. (My parents had relocated to Elim after they were more or less forced to leave our home in Tiervlei by municipal decree, to go and live in the small Moravian settlement where they had hailed from originally. They received only a meagre amount as compensation for the 8 plots and the fairly large brick house after the expropriation of our property.) With increased hope Rosemarie applied for a visa for the third time. Along with the application she sent an explanatory letter mentioning the fact that she wanted to get to know my parents better.
We were quite encouraged when we heard from my parents that the Special Branch (of the police) had left a note in Elim: Rosemarie and I could come to South Africa together, on condition that we would not contact the press. We however had no intention of going to South Africa as a couple!
But the Special Branch had given us an idea, the possibility of spending our honeymoon in South Africa! This notion was something that would give us severe hassles.
Practical Ministry of Reconciliation
In my correspondence with the church back home and with the South African government I still tried to fight for my return to the country. At a German Moravian pastors’ conference in May 1974 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, Eckard 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.
I grappled seriously with the idea of ministering in the Transkei. To this end I started learning Xhosa. My intentions in this regard – to be able to return to Southern Africa - were however not fully discussed with Rosemarie. Taking for granted that she wanted to be a missionary one day, I expected that she would join me to go and work in the Transkei.
The End of our Engagement?
During her visit to West Berlin in mid-1974, where I was ministering, I casually communicated my intention to return to Southern Africa. I was completely taken by surprise to hear now that she 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 quite 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 about such an important matter 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, but 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 Bible verse from the own perspective. I trusted that Rosemarie would join me, going to Southern Africa. She thought that 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!
A Visa at last!
The Moravian Church Board in South Africa cooperated optimally once again. Rosemarie was invited to come and work as a volunteer at the Elim Home for children with severe disabilities for a period of two months. We were quite encouraged when we were informed that the Special Branch (of the police) had left a message at the mission station Elim: Rosemarie and I could come to South Africa together, on condition that we would not alert the press. At that point in time we had no intention whatsoever of going to South Africa as a couple. Therefore it really took us by surprise when instead of the requested two months, Rosemarie received a visa for only two weeks.
I was in no mood to accept the slap in the face passively. The political activism which had taken hold of me ever since my return from Europe in 1970 and which had been substantially fed during my seminary days was fuelled anew. We decided to bring forward our original wedding date, to be in South Africa for the Easter holidays and spend our honeymoon there.
The result of an adventurous but nerve-recking correspondence plus a visit to the South African consulate in Munich was that Rosemarie actually received a visa for four weeks, albeit under the condition that she would not travel “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 the car on our way back from Munich, Rosemarie had a poser for me. She didn’t want to go to my “heimat” (fatherland) alone any more. All the arrangements for our wedding had more or less been finalised already by this time. Rosemarie’s apt rhetorical vexing question was “What sort of honeymoon is this?” I had no reply ready. With a fearful heart I agreed that we would travel separately, in spite of the warning. The prospect that I would now still see my family and friends was so enticing. I did not expect that originally as a possibility so soon!
A Honeymoon with a Difference
Rosemarie and I got married in March 1975. Her first visit to South Africa was surely a unique honeymoon journey. We took considerable risk, circumventing the condition of the visa by travelling into the country with different airlines. I felt terrible that I had to mislead everybody in South Africa, giving the impression that Rosemarie would be coming alone. I did not dare to inform anybody that I intended coming as well, fearing that our plan would be wrecked on my arrival. I was not supposed to come into the country. It should have been a ‘honeymoon in separation’.
It was not easy at all for Rosemarie - coming two days after me and not knowing whether the police had not perhaps arrested me in the meantime.
Initially we intended to stick to the strange conditions of the visa, even making preparations to sleep in separate homes in Elim, the mission station where my parents were living, as well as in the Mother City. Having fulfilled the conditions of the visa, not to enter the country together, we returned with thankful hearts that nothing seriously happened that could have marred the tremendous honeymoon. We travelled back in the same Lufthansa machine, straight to Frankfurt.
4. An Anti-Apartheid Activist
During the first part of my service as Vikar (assistant minister) in West Berlin in 1974 I had quite a lot of contact with various groups that opposed the South African government, notably with the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the ANC. I was however determined not to be used by anybody, refusing to become a member of any one of them. However, I retained my membership of the Christian Institute (CI).
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 boot!. But I also felt uncomfortable that I was earning so much more as a single young man than breadwinners who had to make do with so much less and with whole families to feed.
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. I was aware that the cost of living was much higher in Germany but this was no comfort to me.
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 from March 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 spiritual climate where the birth of Jesus Christ almost disappeared in the wake of the commercialised atmosphere all around us. Of course, in Cape Town it had not been that much different. Already there I had my problems with the abusive commercialism at Christmas time, but there in Berlin I was really sad. At first, Rosemarie couldn’t understand my emotions, but gradually she became more sensitive to my feelings in this regard.
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 the global system of economic inequality.
I wanted to take a principled stand but I felt myself so helpless. In Cape Town we had challenged Lies Hoogenddorn and Heser van der Walt, two White nurses to challenge the inequality. I finally proceeded to 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 missional ministry.
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 respective cue 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, inspired me tremendously. Thus it was not so important to me 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 (interacting with the Lord) and his high view of the Jews really challenged me in a significant way.
In September 1975 I was ordained. After the ordination, Rosemarie and I returned to the divided city of Berlin where we lost our ‘honeymoon baby’ less than two months after our arrival, prematurely dead-born. Through my studies my enthusiasm for evangelism suffered a lot, although I was still fasting and praying on Fridays on behalf of the Communist world.
Low-key personal Protest against Church Tradition
My personal protest against senseless church tradition was quite low-key. In the West Berlin congregation – that was notorious for its ultra conservatism - where I ministered from 1974 as an assistant minister and returned to in September 1975 after our ordination, I was nevertheless much more successful in breaking down barriers of tradition and prejudice such as against foreigners.
We encountered opposition in full force when we wanted to dedicate our infant son Danny instead of having him christened the same week-end. We still had a battle with the local church council when we wanted to dedicate our son. The Church Order allowed for this mode, so that the child could be baptised at an age when he/she could understand what was done. The problem was of course that we as the ministerial couple were now upsetting the apple cart, because dedication turned out to be only a theoretical possibility. This caused quite a furore. A church council member put 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 Easter weekend as we had planned, we decided to budge instead of playing the two modes off against each other. Two and a half years after the birth of Danny we did rock the boat on the issue of infant christening.
During my last Easter sermon there in 1977, I challenged the very conservative congregation on the use of female preachers, by pointing out that Mary Magdalene was the first ‘evangelist’, the carrier of the message of the risen Lord according to the gospel of John. I could in this way prepare the way for my successor, Karin Beckmann, to become the first female pastor of the congregation.
A Movement for peaceful Change?
Clarion calls were going up in 1976 for action against South Africa in the wake of the Soweto killings. I was asked to address a protest meeting in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church of West Berlin. The general feeling was that the beloved country would soon be going up in flames. Christians should do all they can to stop the rot.
My ‘Soweto’ speech in the ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis’ Church in Central Berlin catapulted me 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 the Moral Re-armament (MRA) movement, came to see me. When we were about to leave 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 mentioned in the book, I was challenged once again to become even more of an activist for racial reconciliation in my home country. This signalled the start of a stint with the Moral Re-armament movement and more activism than ever before.
I now set out to start a front for peaceful change, attempting to use non-violent means to get the racist structures in South Africa changed. I wrote many letters. But support was not forthcoming. Of those whom I approached, only Rachel Balie, a compatriot who came from the Southern Cape and who was studying in West Berlin, had given up on the possibility of a non-violent end to the racial conflict in South Africa. Only Rachel Balie support me as I attempted to start this front for peaceful change in my home country.
The initial reaction of the West German government to the peaceful protest of the students was to all and sundry the proof that the days for boycotts and the likes were over. It appeared on the cards that Willy Brandt’s government would now also support the armed struggle. At this point in time I saw boycotting South Africa as one of the few remaining options short of the armed struggle that I opposed. Yet, from within I was not completely happy. How could I support boycotts where others back home would have to bear the brunt? Of course, there were also Christians who were opposed to boycotts for different reasons. Some of them got paid for it by the South African government!
Off to Holland!
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, the Church Board approached Rosemarie and me. (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.
It was agreed with the Church Board that we would initially live on the Broederplein of Zeist, at the historical Moravian settlement where the Count Zinzendorf had held a revolutionary synod centuries ago.
Quite a challenge transpired when I had to conduct a funeral less very soon after our arrival in Holland, long before I was expected to start preaching. (Rosemarie and I were still taking Dutch language lessions.) My nerves troubled me so much that my voice just stopped functioning – with no cause for laryngitis! Quite clearly it was stress!
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. His presence somehow put me at ease so much that my voice returned. I could still conduct the funeral.
My activist Spirit aroused
Soon after our arrival in Holland in September 1977, Rachel Balie, who had returned to South Africa after her study stint in Berlin, wrote that Chris Wessels, a long-time minister friend whose home Rosemarie and I had still visited on our honeymoon journey, had been imprisoned. According to Rachel, the wife of Chris did not even know where the government was detaining him.
My activist spirit was immediately aroused. I promptly phoned our church authorities in Germany, urging them to intervene on behalf of Chris Wessels. Furthermore, Chris was never formally accused or brought before a court of law. Later we heard 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 would happen to Chris. Worse was when the Minister of Police publicly exclaimed that the death of Biko in custody left him cold. This was the stuff that made headlines - but it was not reassuring for us - to know that the same thing could happen to Chris Wessels.
My understanding of Scripture was that the least we could do was to try and get Chris released. The news of the death of Steve Biko helped our cause. Everything was set in motion, to get the Moravian Church of Europe in action on behalf of our brother in detention. Initially it involved something of a battle to get the church authorities in Bad Boll (Germany) on board, but they finally also got the colleagues in other countries to write to their respective S.A. Embassies or Consulates. Later we heard that this action possibly saved Chris Wessels’s life.
A flurry of letters to different government departments that I wrote in a rage of activism was quite naive. Later the one or other of them turned out to have been quite strategic. Instead of a humble servant of reconciliation, I became a complete radical activist. I started collating all the documents and correspondence pertaining to our struggle with the authorities in South Africa. Also the Moravian Church authorities in my home country came under fire as I tried to push them to get more active towards racial reconciliation and equality between the privileged ‘‘Coloureds’ and the ‘Black’ sector of our denomination. Driven by an unhealthy 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 round of sleep. By 8 o’clock I was usually again behind my desk. I believed firmly that I did not need more than six hours of sleep per day anyway.
The unsound Premise of my Call to Utrecht
The premise of my call to the Moravian congregation of Utrecht was not sound. A Surinamese brother representing the Utrecht congregation at a synod of the Moravian European Continental Church Synod in May 1975, 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 public synod meeting that took place in Bad Boll. I embarrassed Rev. Kroneberg uncharitably, 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 in office 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 willing to budge. In fact, I revelled in fighting for biblical truth. I was 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. Unable to take the unfair attacks on me anymore, she decided to rather stay at home. At some stage I mentioned my fighting correspondence with the South African government. This turned out to be fuel on the fire. I was now in Holland and should leave Souh African matters alone.
Resumption of Protest against Church Tradition
I was soon resuming a fight in Holland that had already been started in South Africa in my youth camp days: against unbiblical church traditions. The congregation that I had served was located in Utrecht, 10 Km’s away from Zeist where we lived on Broederplein. The historical buildings belong to the highly traditional Moravian settlement.
Resistance in the local churches against any change to traditions was very strong. This I experienced thoroughly in South Africa, in Berlin and also in Holland. I was not the local minister in Zeist, but the congregation in Utrecht was not yet autonomous. On paper Utrecht was a daughter church to Zeist, where church tradition was spelt with capital letters, e.g. with males and females sitting separately.
Another Visit to South Africa Already at the beginning of 1977 we had started planning another visit to South Africa in February the following year. A call to serve a congregation in Holland brought about serious re-planning. In due course this was re-scheduled for the end of September 1978. Soon after commencing our ministry in Holland, we arranged with the church board that we could add the two weeks of holiday still due to us to that of the next year.
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 family 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 South Africa. 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. Though we had few problems there during our honeymoon, the experiences had frightened her terribly. She did not want to live in South Africa 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. Rosemarie vowed at that time that she would be prepared to go to my native country if the Lord would heal her. 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.
Our Grief turned to Joy!
In our utter despair we turned to the Lord in prayer. At this stage John 16:20 comforted us extremely: “Your grief will turn to joy!” A few weeks later the tumour was removed in an operation - the examination showed that the tumour was benign! Indeed, our grief turned to deep 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 newsletter in parts. The first part was penned before it was discovered that the tumour was benign and the last part reflected the joy we experienced. Copies of the newsletter landed up at the African National Congress (ANC) headquarters in Lusaka and at the offices of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in London. However, I was not prepared to be pulled on to a political bandwagon. Instead, I challenged them on some issues. (Our personal newsletter was possibly relayed to the various bodies via people from the Moral Rearmament ranks. But I was not interested in scoring political points. Instead of supporting the Anti-Apartheid folk, I wrote them a critical letter. Referring to the root of the word protest in Latin pro-testare - to testify for something - I noted that I prefer to fight for something good - rather than protest against something bad. Reg September wrote from the ANC head office in Lusaka. (He would visit us in Zeist the following year.) Reg had detected that I used the word Azania in my correspondence. I was not even aware that this was Pan African Congress parlance, the vocabulary of the bitter rivals of the ANC. All of that were trivialities to me. Much more important was that we could resume our preparations to visit South Africa again!
Hunger after Justice
As a radical activist I had started collating the documents and correspondence pertaining to our struggle with the authorities in South Africa, giving the manuscript the title Honger na Geregtigheid  (Hunger for Justice). As a matter of ethical principle I wanted the work published in Afrikaans first.
Also our Moravian Church authorities at home came under fire as I tried to nudge them to be more pro-active towards racial reconciliation and equality between the privileged ‘Coloureds’ and the ‘Blacks’ in the denomination. Thus I challenged the leadership to use the same minister for the ‘Coloured’ congregation of Manenberg and the Xhosa one of Nyanga just over the railway line. I relished this challenge, having started to learn Xhosa already.
I received special permission to visit my home country in October 1978 with my wife and our one and a half year old son. That this visit was possible after we had written an accompanying letter to the government, I saw as a victory for quiet diplomacy, hoping that we could get the Cabinet to gradually change petty apartheid laws so that I could return from exile. This philosophical approach would change substantially in due course.
In September 1978 we left for South Africa on a six-week visit. Experiences with the Moravian Church leaders at the Cape and with the folk of Moral Rearmament with Rosemarie and our son Danny would be quite traumatic.
After getting details of a meeting of the Church Board of the Moravian Church, I manipulated to attend it. When I challenged the advocacy of the Church Board on behalf of our friend Chris Wessels when he was detained the previous year, I naturally got the members in opposition. When I furthermore also suggested to come and work in South Africa for three years and thus cause another crack in the apartheid wall, I was put in my place in no uncertain terms. My activism was possibly too much for the Moravian Church Board. My subsequent disappointment and anger thereafter was misplaced, it was actually cause by my provocation.
Apartheid had the Beating of me
With our cash running out towards the end of our stay, we decided to go and inquire at the Central train station when we noticed an advertisement for cheap train fares outside the Cape Town station. Our pride was still very much of a deterrent to approach our family for money to fly back to Johannesburg. Going into the White part of the train station to enquire – and thus trespassing one of the prevalent petty apartheid laws - was much less of a deterrent. We were not really sorry when the young Afrikaner was so embarrassed by our request, wanting to travel to Johannesburg by train as a family. “We discriminate here you know!“ was his honest answer. “I have to ask my boss.” After a few minutes the boss himself came to explain that he has to ask the System Manager of the Railways. We should phone back the following day.
When we phoned later to hear whether we would be allowed to travel together in the same train compartment, we heard that the matter had to be dealt with at Cabinet level.
A few days later, rushing from Grabouw where we had celebrated Daddy’s birthday to be in town before 16.30h, the closing time of the office. I just went to the station without phoning again. I had decided that we would then just travel third class if they would have had no news yet from Pretoria. (For third class no booking was required.)
‘Oh dear!’ We arrived just after 16.30h! But we had been noticed. Excitedly, some official came to us. ‘Are you Mr Cloete?’ He was so excited to share the good news that our request has been approved. We could travel together in the same compartment! Perhaps the Prime Minister and his colleagues wanted to appease us in this way and at the same time prevent us telling bad tales overseas. It harvested he opposite effect in me. I did not feel honoured to be treated as a VIP at all. I fumed in anger! When we finally heard that the required permission was given at that level, I had already made up my mind never to return to South Africa again!
Petty apartheid bureaucracy added insult to injury. A Cabinet decision was necessary to give clarity whether we could travel in the same compartment as a family. I had thus become an honorary White for the duration of that train trip. Incidents of blatant racism on the long train trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg rubbed more salt into the wounds.
Terribly angered by the Moravian Church Board and the government handling of the matter, I was now determined never to put my foot on South African soil again. I was not fair in my judgment, very much in the mould of Jonah who sulked when God ‘changed his mind’ after the repentance of the inhabitants of Nineveh.
Howard Grace, a British Moral Rearmament (MRA) full-time worker, fetched us from Park Station in Johannesburg. He had to bear the brunt of my anger. When I was still fuming, Howard suggested on the car trip to Umdeni (the villa of the movement, where we were scheduled to stay in the rondavel for the next few days) to introduce me to the influential Professor Johan Heyns. The moment of his kind gesture was the worst one the MRA man could have chosen. At that point in time I was definitely not prepared and interested to meet the chairman of the Broederbond, the apartheid think tank!
Extreme Disappointment and Anger On that November Saturday the MRA people of Johannesburg were definitely not encountering a happy Christian. I relished whipping an old lady who clearly had her sympathies with the government as I shared forcefully how the various agents of the apartheid government maltreated me and our family. There was little wonder that Howard and others suspected that evening that I was after sensation by phoning Dr Beyers Naudé to find out where he was worshipping. There was ample reason for them to suspect that I was not sincere in my wish to worship with him as one my last actions in the country I loved, but that I was about to leave - never to return to again! I was very determined about this. Rosemarie was not discouraging me whatsoever. And I was unaware of the secret vow she had made when she had the tumour, that turned out to be benign.
There was only one thing that I still wanted to do before departing from South Africa – never to return! I wanted to worship with Dr Beyers Naudé, the banned leader of the Christian Institute. Someone - or perhaps even more than one person - must have been praying for me.
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. Rosemarie and I, along with a few believers linked to Moral Rearmament, were privileged to visit the congregation that the Naudé couple attended regularly. He entered there as the last person just before the bell would toll so that the minister and his church council could step out of the vestry in procession. Dr Naudé then had to 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.
What a welcome we received at the church! Dr Naudé had phoned his pastor, Dr van Rooyen. The latter asked Ds Cloete uit Duitsland after the formal welcome to introduce the rest of our group. (Dr Naudé obviously merely r3emembered that I had left for Germany in 1973, surmising that Rosemarie and I came from there.) Also the courageous sermon of Dr van Rooyen, critical of government policy, was almost unforgettable. Tannie Ilse, the wife of Dr Naudé, came to us after the service, having organised that we could follow Dr Naudé in his car to their home while she was still teaching 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.
Changed from within
The secretive meeting with Dr Beyers Naudé after the service, in combination with the visit in the evening to the Dutch-based family of Ds. Lensink, changed all that. When I heard how the Lensink family was courageously harbouring Black children illegally, it inspired me to such an extent that I was hereafter inspired towards a completely new commitment. The next day I even phoned the office of the State President, with the intention to try and console the embattled President Vorster. (The ‘Muldergate’ scandal, in which the maladministration of a Cabinet Minister, Dr Connie Mulder, was implicating Mr. Vorster, had all but floored him). I returned to Holland with a new resolve to work towards racial reconciliation in my home country.
God used the banned Dr Beyers Naudé and the congregation where he worshipped to bring me to my senses. Without him even knowing it, God used Dr Beyers Naudé and the congregation where he worshipped to touch and cure me of my intense bitterness and anger towards the country that I was loving paradoxically so dearly. A miracle happened that day. I was changed from within!
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.
On our return to Holland after the six‑week visit to South Africa, I regarded a ministry of reconciliation even more as my duty to the country of my birth. I had already started collating personal documents and letters, hoping to get it published under the title ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’. In this manuscript I included and commented my correspondence with the rulers of the day.
Greater Determination to fight Apartheid
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. 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. I believed that they could play a pivotal role in any change of government policy.
After reading in the newspaper that a church delegation from the influential (‘White’) Dutch Reformed Church - including the Professors Johan Heyns and Willie Jonker - would attend some church synod in Lunteren (Holland), I took the initiative to meet them. I saw this as a possibility to amend for my headstrong refusal to meet Professor Heyns the previous year when Howard Grace wanted to introduce me to him. However, the only possibility that Dr Heyns could offer me was to meet them at Schiphol Airport, just before their return to South Africa. This I did. Aware of the well-known tampering with post by the special branch of the police - which I had experienced myself – I hoped to send the draft manuscript of Honger na Geregtigheid to Dr Naudé with the delegation.
Dr O'Brien Geldenhuys and Professor Willie Jonker completed the delegation. (These three church leaders would 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 District Six seminary days, took me aside to explain that he was not a member of the Broederbond.
I made the DRC church leaders evidently very uncomfortable by referring almost t the outset to Dr Beyers Naudé. I stated quite bluntly that I regarded it to be their duty to attempt to get his ban lifted. I had taken with me to the airport the draft manuscript of ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’ in an open envelope. Taking for granted that Naudé’s mail was being fiddled with, I naively requested one of them to take it along with them and hand it over personally. Just as naively, I expected that theologians should be open to take the lead in repentance of the apartheid practices. But somehow God blessed my feeble attempts.
Aftermath of the 1978 Visit
A direct result of the 1978 visit to my home country was that I set out energized, determined to work towards racial reconciliation back home. This was not completely without danger. When I refused to take sides, South African Blacks who visited us in Zeist, threatened me. It was not easy at all, but I managed to stand my ground saying: “I am neither solely ‘for White’ nor ‘for Black’, I only want justice”. Cathy Buchholz, a Zulu, who was visiting us at the time with her German husband and their child, courageously supported me. (I had married her and Eckard in 1976 in Berlin. He had worked as a missionary in Baziya near to Umtata.)
Another ‘result’ of our visit to South Africa the previous year was that Rosemarie was pregnant. We eagerly wanted more children. It was quite fitting that a child was conceived just before our return to Holland and after I had been reconciled to my home country. But Rosemarie and Danny also picked up jaundice at this time. The doctor intimated abortion as advisable because of the great risk to the foetus. Rosemarie and I would not have anything of that. Instead, we had to live for the next six months with the real fear of a handicapped child to be born in August 1979.
5. Skirmishes in Church Ranks
It seemed almost inevitable that my views on the stewardship issue would cause problems in church ranks. My suggestion to receive 3/4 of my salary so that I could also use a quarter of my time to help achieve democracy and reconciliation in my home country, rubbed my Broederraad (church council) members seriously up the wrong way. They felt themselves misled by me and left in the lurch. (Prior to this I had mentioned to one of them that I would love to teach Mathematics again. The brother deduced that I was not satisfied with my salary and that I wanted to earn more.) That someone was prepared to earn substantially less was of course rather unusual.
I explained in my defence that I was not using ‘church’ time to work on my treatise “Honger na Geregtigheid”, that I was getting up at two o’clock in the morning. This made the Broederraad members only more furious. They had hoped that I would rather make advocacy sacrifices for the Surinam cause in Holland. My involvement with the people of Moral Rearmament worsened matters.
Almost unbearable Tension
The tension in our church council between the other members and me became almost unbearable hereafter. When I saw an advertisement for a post with Scripture Union, I applied promptly. On a Saturday at the end of January 1979, I was already on my way to an interview for this post when a slippery condition on the roads set in that we never experienced in the Netherland before or after that day.
The interview never took place. I knew that this was a clear ‘Jonah experience’ because I was basically trying to run away from the problems in the church! God apparently wanted meto prod on in my ministry in the Moravian congregation of Utrecht.
We distanced ourselves from the movement of MRA, but hardly anybody noticed it. We felt that the movement was too compromising, not radically committed to justice and emphasizing only those parts of Jesus’ message that suited the rich and influential. And then of course there was the MRA compromise with the uniqueness of Jesus that was unpalatable to both Rosemarie and me.
An untenable Position
My radicalism made my position untenable in so many ways. The South African Moral Re-armament people and the Moravian Church were too compromising in my view in their opposition to apartheid. In Holland I collided with my minister colleagues when one of them aired that Europeans had no right to oppose occult Surinamese traditions. I was so sad how it was relativized: ‘They have their occultism and we have our materialism!’
However, I was also committed to get as many church congregants as possible more or less on the same page spiritually with us. (I had witnessed that in the early 1960s when Ds. Piet Bester came to Tiervlei when prayer changed the congregation.) I put to the Broederraad quite strongly that we should start a weekly prayer meeting. But the rift between my Broederraad and me was too wide already at this point in time. The members agreed that I could go ahead, but they would not participate. There were two other church members with whom I could have started. But I still hoped that I could get the members of the church council to join. It was a serious mistake that I waited on them instead of starting the prayer meeting as a threesome. (Rosemarie was of course time-wise completely engaged by the care for our Danny.) Ultimately a serious schism developed between my Broederraad and me that looked almost unbridgeable.
Various efforts were made to reconcile me to my church council. Tus the ‘Centrale Raad’ of the denomination now launched an effort to this end. In a meeting with Henk Esajas, the mediator, who was also a member of our congregation, I suggested as a way out of the impasse that we could start our church council meetings with an hour of Bible study. It looked as if I we had all won, when it was agreed – as a compromise - that we would hereafter start our Broederraad meetings with a devotional half hour. But the truce was only short lived!
The last Straw On August the 4th our second son was born, perfectly healthy. Fittingly, we gave him the name Rafael which means God, the healer. My brother Windsor visited us at the time with his wife Ray and their baby Kevin. Windsor and Howard Grace, our MRA friends from Johannesburg who happened to be in Holland with the family of his Dutch wife, are Rafael’s godfathers. An infant christening service was scheduled for a September Sunday. That was the last service of this nature that I conducted. A dispute with a church member just prior to this occasion made me very sensitive to the issue of the christening of infants. (The person concerned expected me to do my duties to christen their child without asking any questions. My Broederraad was very supportive however, as were my minister colleagues)
The issue of infant 'baptism' flared up soon therefter. I was seriously challenged from Scripture on this church practice. This was happening at the very time when I was suggesting that stewardship should also include the scriptural testing of all church traditions. During a Bible Study with Hein Postma and other believers, 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, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart for other reasons that had been in discussion in our church.
My own argument for practising the tradition of infant christening was pulled from under me. Subconsciously I was still somehow influenced by a Calvinist argument in defence of infant christening. According to this view, infant christening as the sign of the new covenant was a substitute for circumcision, the sign of the old covenant of God with Israel. I was now reading there about the circumcision of the heart. Aware that we were speaking of infant christening as having come instead of the practice of circumcision, I was hit for a six. From the context it was clear that conversion through faith in Jesus was meant.
In the preceding years and following in the footsteps of Count Zinzendorf, I somehow came to love Israel and the Jews. When I now had to consider it more deeply, the lack of a scriptural basis of infant christening struck home. How could the Church replace a practice so dear and sacred to the Jews? As I now also studied the liturgy used at the christening of babies, I knew that I couldn’t carry on with a practice that had indeed become a tradition that in my view nullifies the power of God (Mark 7:13). The seed was simultaneously sown in my heart for opposition to replacement theology, whereby the Church is said to have substituted the nation of Israel. I was shocked 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. In the course of my participation in a liturgical commission of the church I was already troubled by the formulation in the Moravian (infant) baptism liturgy whereby eternal life is apportioned to babies at their ‘baptism’, in theological jargon it is called baptismal regeneration.
This was now really the last straw to me. How could I continue the practice with a good conscience? I promptly put the problem to my Broederraad. The members were very sympathetic, especially after a sad common experience only weeks prior to this. They suggested that I should discuss the matter with my minister colleagues.
Understanding among Minister Colleagues
I initially found understanding among the minister colleagues because they also experienced irresponsible fatherhood among the Surinamese church members. It was decided that we would organise a weekend to discuss the issue in depth with all various church councils in the Netherlands because also in other congregations there were similar problems. A main difficulty was the lack of responsibility by men who fathered children outside of wedlock.
Before any such a weekend could take place, my problem with infant ‘baptism’ was maliciously conveyed to the church board in Germany. I was taken to task quite firmly and finally referred for counselling by the bishop. The interview with Bishop Helmut Reichel transpired in a very cordial spirit. I was impressed that Bishop Reichel was treading in the footsteps of Zinzendorf. He was convinced of the matter for himself as he looked at the prevenient grace of God that was operating ahead of us. But it didn’t solve my problem. In the end we found a compromise: I would continue as a minister without having to christen infants.
A kindred Spirit
Hein Postma was the principal of the local Moravian school whom I got to know a little better when he addressed the congregation at a love least soon after our return from South Africa the previous year. He belonged to another free fellowship, but since I had always put a high premium on the unity of the body of Christ, Rosemarie and I soon attended a weekly Bible study together with local Christians at this time under the leadership of Hein Postma and Wim Zoutewelle, a Biology teacher at the local Protestant secondary School.
I sensed that Hein had a kindred spirit, the real servant attitude of the 18th century Herrnhut Moravians. After a few months I gave him a copy of Honger na Geregtigheid’.
An Overdose of Medicine?
Hein Postma pointed out that my manuscript ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’ was too critical. He said quite lovingly that he missed love, forgiveness and compassion towards Afrikaners. In his eyes it was tantamount to an overdose of medicine to a sick patient. There were also other persons who were not happy with ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’ like my close friend Jakes to whom I had sent a copy. He was unhappy for a completely different reason. Jakes felt that one should not correspond or communicate with members of the apartheid government at all. In his view the government should be isolated and treated like outcasts! We agreed to differ, but it was not easy to discern that apartheid was causing a strain on our friendship. His ‘second best friend’ was Allan Boesak. Jakes’ views were apt to rub off on our common friend, who had become quite influential by this time.
Revamping ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’
In my spare time - i.e. during the early morning hours - I continued working at the revamping of ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’ in three parts. The first part focused on the Mixed Marriages Act. When we left for South Africa in December 1980 the second draft of ‘Wat God saamgevoeg het’ had already been cyclostyled in English translation with a limited number of copies.
6. Activism for racial Reconciliation
Rosemarie remained critical of my writing activities. She thought that I was wasting my time, convinced that my letters would never reach the likes of Mr P.W. Botha, who succeeded Mr John Vorster as State President.
This effectively put a break and a damper on my spirit. Indeed, I had very little to show for all my efforts. Looking back, I am nevertheless thankful for Rosemarie’s criticism. It kept me humble. I don’t know whether our family life would have withstood the pressure of the prejudicial South African society in the 1980s if we had returned to S.A. at that time.
One of the issues of which Rosemarie was very critical was my emphasis on confession. Through our contacts with Moral Rearmament - where I was clearly influenced in this way - we had also seen that confession could also be abused as a tool. We learned that remorse was a pre-condition and that it as a rule had to be followed with genuine restitution. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by isolated positive news snippets from S.A. that I picked up as I remained updated via the weekly international edition of The Star.
Yet, I believed that some seed had been sown. Occasionally I thought even to have detected a change in outlook by the one or other Cabinet minister. It was still my hope that ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’ could be published in South Africa in Afrikaans first effort, to win over the Afrikaners which could ultimately enable my return to the beloved country.
An activist Pen
After our return to Holland in 1978, I wrote an article about our visit to South Africa in Nieuw Wereld Nieuws, the Dutch Moral Rearmament (MRA) periodical. Hereafter, discouraging news that came from South Africa carried political implications. Howard Grace from the South African MRA, who had tried to introduce me to Professor Heyns, relayed that the authorities had intercepted the Dutch periodical with my article. In the same issue there was also a radical article that sharply attacked apartheid as an un-Christian policy. It was written under a pseudonym by Kgati Sathekge, one of the youths from Atteridgeville, whom we had met on our previous visit to South Africa. (In January 1979 Kgati was living with us in Zeist for a few days.) It was a sad testimony of the slow pace of change that articles like his were viewed with distrust.
Because different Cabinet ministers had openly expressed their intention to move away from discrimination, I secretly hoped that the government would co-operate with the publication of “Honger na Geregtigheid”. (After our trip in 1978, I had informed the government of my intention to publish the documents that I had collated.) I also noticed how influential people got damaged spiritually when they came into the limelight prematurely. Very much wary of this, I also wanted to be certain that my autobiographical material would be published in God’s perfect timing and that he would be glorified by it. A letter to Dr Schlebusch was one of many ‘fleeces’ (Compare the story of Gideon in Judges 6:36-40) to ascertain whether I should have my autobiographical manuscripts published at all. The curt reply of Dr Schlebusch was to me the sign that the climate was not yet ripe for the venture. I decided to abort the publication attempt.
I also got involved in the drafting of synod resolutions and reports. Thus I also actively participated in a small pressure group to nudge a Moravian synod to boycott Shell, a Dutch-led multinational company, because of its perceived role in supporting apartheid structures and practice. It was no surprise that I was now regarded by many in the church as an infante terrible in many quarters. Strange things happened like the disappearance of draft resolutions that we had prepared for the 1979 synod in Driebergen.
Correspondence with NGK ministers On another track, I took the initiative to correspond with a few ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa about the race theology as laid down in their church policy papers on “Church and Race”. After the airport ‘rendezvous’ with the NG Kerk church leaders, a rather superficial correspondence ensued with Professor Heyns. I challenged him to include theologians of colour like my friend Dr Allan Boesak in the revision of a church publication on “church and race” of which Dr Heyns was the coordinator. Indirectly I thus also tried to reconcile the two theologians, who were such influential church leaders. They were respectively leaders of the Afrikaner ‘Broederbond’ and the ‘Broederkring’(The latter institution consisted of Dutch Reformed ministers and academics that came mainly from the disadvantaged race groups. These ministers and academics opposed the government of the day). I knew from our student days how Allan had been raving about his lecturer, Dr Johan Heyns. However, I was also aware that Dr Boesak had lashed out publicly at his former lecturer, e.g. in the CI journal Pro Veritate. In the meantime I continued to target the Dutch Reformed theologians of South Africa whom I believed could play a pivotal role in change for the better in my home country. A fairly extensive correspondence followed with different role players on the South African scene.
Some reports in the press gave the impression that the government wanted to abolish the “Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act”, but that the Dutch Reformed Church would not agree to it. My correspondence with some of their prominent theologians did not seem to make any headway initially. Instead, my activities made me suspect in the eyes of the authorities. One of the most dramatic developments transpired when Mr P.W. Botha, the Prime Minister, made it plain that he was ready to scrap the (prohibition of racially) Mixed Marriages Act. Hoping that this could prepare our return to my home country, I was therefore quite disappointed to hear that the Dutch Reformed Church effectively pulled the break lever at their General Synod of 1978. I wrote a letter to the editor of Rapport, a Sunday newspaper in response. 
An Activist for racial Reconciliation
In 1980 I was especially activist with my letter writing to achieve racial reconciliation. It started with a letter in reaction to an editorial of the Star in February of that year after the kidnapping in Silverton on the Rand, purportedly perpetrated by ANC ‘terrorists’. I wrote: “I missed in your editorial any discussion of the merit of releasing political prisoners like Mandela” and added “Don’t you dare to condemn the attitude of the ANC when its officials are being quoted as saying ‘they will kill all the hostages next time’?” It seemed as if the ANC had decided to go for all-out insurrection, including the taking and killing of hostages.
In March I posted a copy of my letter to the editor (of The Star) to Reg September of the ANC head office in Lusaka who had visited us in our home in Zeist, as well as to Prime Minister Botha. In the letter to the ANC office I challenged the Lusaka ANC leader: “I pray that (at a possible release of Nelson Mandela and others?) the ANC can be brought back to the original course set out by people like Chief Albert Luthuli - a course of racial reconciliation, together with the appreciation of the intrinsic value of every human being... Oh, I do want to pray that South Africa might become a driving force for God’s justice and peace!”
In early April my next letter went to Mr Botha, the Prime Minister. It was a mild protest against the confiscation of the passports of Bishop Tutu and Dr Allan Boesak. I was tempted to relinquish my own passport, but thankfully refrained from doing it. That would have been a carnal reaction based on anger. I was nevertheless quite happy that their passports were returned to them soon thereafter.
Love drives out Fear
My previous idea that apartheid could be reformed had undergone a complete metamorphosis by this time. It probably started already on June 16, 1976. In July 1980, I was driven into action once again after I had read about the arrest of some of my friends like Paul Joemat, my old Moravian musketeer soul-mate. I was now convinced that the country was being led to a catastrophic precipice through actions like these. I wrote a lengthy article with the title Liefde dryf die vrees uit. This article was originally intended as a challenge in which I critically discussed a few of the government policies, with the aim to get it printed in one of the big Afrikaans daily newspapers.
Using 1 John 4:18 as my point of departure, I opined in ‘Liefde dryf die vrees uit’ that the apartheid laws were based on fear and they therefore had no future. Instead, the authorities should give love and trust a chance. The artice was possibly too lengthy for anyone of the Afrikaans papers to consider it seriously, unless possibly as a series. Seeing that it opposed government policy diametrically and drastically, not a single one of the big four Afrikaans daily morning papers to which I had sent the article, showed any interest. I was possibly also too radical, referring to the (traffic) sign of the cul-de-sac as a deformed cross. I stated that apartheid opposed the message of the cross; that it was basically diabolic because it separated people, whereas the nature of God is to join together. But I also suggested confession in this document as a pre-requisite to reconciliation.
When I also read that Mr Botha would have a meeting with church leaders on 9 August. 1980, I pointed out to him in a letter dated 22 July 1980 that some of those people who had been arrested were friends of my youth days. They were committed Christians who never would have considered violent solutions for the political problems of our country. Also I referred to some of the young people who had fled the country after the 1976 and 1977 clampdown of the government. I surmised that the increase of sabotage and insurrection was a result of these government actions. I also included with that post a copy of ‘Liefde dryf die vrees uit.”
A copy of this document was also posted to Bishop Tutu, who was the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches at that time. In the accompanying letter to Bishop Tutu I wrote: “It is my conviction that the South African churches in general should confess their collective guilt with regard to racism, as an aid to the government to do the same”.
Attempts at Mediation
As a part of my perceived ministry of reconciliation I also aimed at trying to heal rifts where I discerned them. A round of correspondence followed with different role players on the South African scene.
In the international weekly edition of the ‘Star’ I read one day about a major rift between Allan Boesak of the Broederkring and Archbishop Tutu. The camp of Boesak was angry at the likes of Tutu who were still prepared to talk to President Botha. I promptly attempted to reconcile (the later Arch)bishop Tutu and Dr Allan Boesak. In letters to both church leaders, I appealed to them to get their act together because it was absolutely counter-productive in the opposition to the abhorrent race policies. I never got an answer from anyone of the two, but I was satisfied to read later that they were on speaking terms again. In fact, in due course they were seen sharing the same platform.
The issue at stake however also affected me personally when my correspondence with the government estranged me to some extent from my close friend Jakes.
My effort to bring Boesak and Heyns together was unsuccessful. However, my letter to Allan and correspondence with the government not only earned me the wrath of Allan, who was by now a well-known church leader. In April 1980 I apologised to Allan for bringing the Broederkring and Broederbond in such close proximity, but I did not receive any reply. When Allan attended the doctoral graduation ceremony of our mutual friend Hannes Adonis in Amsterdam, he simply ignored me. He had evidently not forgiven me. I had no remorse about that initially, but I only discovered the hurt I would have caused by my critical remarks of 1979 in March 2007, when I looked again at the content of that letter. I suppose I deserved to be cold-shouldered. (Later I remembered another incident with which I possibly also angered him.)
Dr Heyns went on in the 1980s to become one of the instruments of change in his church to lead the denomination away from apartheid thinking and attitudes. It is generally accepted that a right wing extremist, who could not come to terms with Heyns’ role in the dramatic turn-around of the denomination, was responsible for his assassination in November 1994.
Stay put in ‘Jerusalem’!
On a personal level I could continue as a minister without having to christen infants temporarily due to the intervention of Bishop Reichel. This could of course not go on for any length of time. I was offered another post, but the issue of radical stewardship had become quite important to me. I could not accept a post where I perceived that I would be required to compromise significantly on that issue. We decided to terminate our services in the Moravian Church at the end of 1980.
Through our connection to Moral Rearmament, we got befriended to the work of the ‘Offensive Junger Christen’ in Bensheim, Germany. This group was starting ministry at the castle Reichelsheim with ideas of staging seminars on ecology and the like. This sounded very much along the lines of our own thinking. Soon we were seriously considering moving house back to Germany. To our disappointment nothing came from our application to join the ‘Offensive’. No clear reason for the refusal was given. By October 1980 I still had no new employment 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 as guidance. We were surprised when Luke 24:47 almost jumped out. The verse mentioned ‘stay in Jerusalem’. It was not clear to us how to interpret it. We thought to understand it to mean that we should remain living in Zeist. But that seemed impossible! From two other groups we had firm promises that we could join them if we would have no place to go to. But nothing was forthcoming from either of them when push came to shove. My work and residence permit for Holland was valid till September 1981. However, if someone would have suggested that we would still live on the Broederplein of Zeist a year later (in fact, finally until January 1992) I might have declared that person crazy.
Something else had happened in the meantime. Rommel Roberts, whom we had originally met at Caux, the main centre of Moral Rearmament in Switzerland in 1977, had just fled the country. The S.A. police was hunting him because of his involvement with the bus and school boycotts at the Cape earlier that year (1980). After Rommel’s studies to become a Catholic priest, he sensed a calling to engage himself in social work with the Modderdam ‘squatter camp’ (informal settlement) community. In the course of this involvement he and Celeste Santos, a ‘White’ nun met fell in love with each other. Yet, unlike other couples in the same predicament, they did not go and marry outside the country. (Such couples would thereafter either live in exile or in a double life of secrecy). Rommel and Celeste got married in the Holy Cross Church Roman Catholic Church in District Six, thus flouting all local customs and the law that prohibited marriage between a White and someone from one of the other races. Their marriage was thus of course ‘illegal’.
Rommel had been released from prison just before their departure. He was never brought before a court of law for his role in the bus and student boycotts, but they feared a new arrest. Detention without trial was a practice used by the regime randomly. Therefore they jumped at the opportunity to get out of the country for a few months.
Rommel and Celeste were very courageous, defying many prevalent South African mores as they continued their ministry, resisting the apartheid government. When Rommel was imprisoned in the course of the struggle, Celeste would just go and visit her husband at the Victor Verster prison in Paarl as if this was the most usual thing to do (this is the same prison from which Nelson Mandela was released in 1990).
When the couple came to visit us in Zeist, Celeste was pregnant. While they were with us, she became seriously ill. A complication in the pregnancy not only extended their stay in Zeist, but Celeste also came close to losing her life because of it.
Because of her illness and hospitalization, Celeste stayed with us much longer than they had originally intended. That was the factual situation in August 1980 when we received sad news from South Africa. My sister Magdalene had contracted leukaemia. We started enquiring after the cheapest possibility to go to South Africa as a family. (We initially thought that I could go to South Africa alone to be at the same time there for my mother’s pending 70th birthday (28th December). But the date was far from convenient. There were so many other complicating factors militating against it. I still had two weeks of holiday due to me. But one could hardly expect any church council to allow their minister to leave just before Christmas.
We decided finally to go as a family as a step of faith. The special circumstances around my sister’s condition changed matters so much that the Broederraad released me compassionately from duties at Christmas time. We booked in faith with little left in terms of savings. Another problem cropped up. The visa for Rosemarie did not arrive in time.
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 to South Africa. 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 an accompanying letter with the visa application was not written as we had done the previous time. The phone call of Jakes 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.”
We received the visas for Rosemarie literally on the last minute. We could finalize our travelling plans. But it was too late to get booked an onward flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Visas granted Although we knew by now that strange conditions could be attached to 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 intention of engaging in a six-week trip to South Africa. We could understand the reasoning of those who were concerned 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, the spokesman of the Church Board wrote to me that it was very careless to do this. “It has nothing to do with faith...” I had given the church board member who wrote these lines such a hard time through my activism when he tried very hard a year and a half prior to this to mediate between me and my Broederraad. I knew his viewpoint was well meant out of concern. In the same letter, our brother affirmed that I would remain a minister of the denomination and that he would love me to come back and to take up a church post 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.
In the following three weeks the big priority was to get a job. I hoped to take up teaching again after our return from South Africa. 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 on one single application where I had survived the first round of nineteen applicants. But it was not cut and dried at all. There were still nine other applicants in the running for the vacant post.
Temporarily back in South Africa
We had no option than to sleep over in Johannesburg. The conditions under which our visit to the Cape would took place, were nevertheless far from pleasant. We were basically going to see my sister dying. We had no idea what would happen on our return to Holland. We used our last savings for the trip more or less.
It suited me perfectly that my seminary colleague Martin October, with whom we lodged in the Moravian parsonage, was quite willing to take me to Bishop Tutu and Dr Beyers Naudé on our return to Holland.
I phoned Dr Beyers Naudé fairly promptly. When I heard from the illustrious banned brother in Christ that he had never received the manuscript that I had sent with the delegation of DRC theologians the previous year, I was all the more keen to discuss my manuscripts with him and Bishop Tutu. 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 previous evening.
In a series of events prior to our scheduled return to Holland, we discerned God’s hand clearly. This happened especially during the evening devotion of 19 January 1981 in Elim. My late father was reading the scriptural Macedonian injunction: ‘Kom oor en help ons!’ (Come over and help us.) The immanent passing away of our dear mother, who was quite ill at that time, was anticipated. Rosemarie was also deeply moved when she saw how our brother‑in‑law Anthony was struggling after the death of his beloved wife, our late sister. Very much against my own selfish will, we decided to stay in Cape Town for another week.
7. Uncompassionate Activism
By this time I had become quite a hardened anti‑apartheid activist. The only constraint was that I waged my opposition from a religious platform. I had recognised for some time already that the unity of the body of believers in Jesus Christ would be all‑important in this struggle against apartheid. We had been encouraged very much by the unity of a multi‑racial group from different churches in Stellenbosch that had been started by Professor Nico Smith and a few pastors. However, the anti‑apartheid activist spirit had made me hard and uncompassionate.
Another Jonah Experience
When people heard that I had no employment in Holland, they asked me why we did not stay longer. With my reputation as one of the better Mathematics teachers in ‘Coloured’ schools and the dearth of qualified people in that subject, many thought that I could easily get a post. But I was not to be moved to stay longer in Cape Town. I wanted to move on to Johannesburg. Not even the possibility of my mother passing on soon ‑ and the real possibility that I would not see any of my parents alive again ‑ could move me. God had to step in.
And that he did. On the afternoon that had been scheduled as our final time together, my dear friend Jakes was at hand as we went to the Strandfontein beach. A strong South Easter was blowing there. In the evening we were scheduled to take the train to the Reef. This time we had been given permission to travel in the same compartment as a family without any ado, contrary to the previous occasion when our little son and I had been made honorary ‘Whites’. (This was one of the major factors that had embittered me so much in 1978 that I did not want to return to the country again).
After we had arrived in Sherwood Park at the home of the Esau family we got ready to go to the train station. However, the train tickets were 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 to find them. I knew that God had caught up with me. Just like Jonah once, I was trying to run away from the responsibility to my parents and the bereaved Esau family. The Holy Spirit had softened me up by now. Hesitantly 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 was successful with my application for a Religious Instruction teaching post in Utrecht (Holland).
After the extra week in Cape Town, everything was cut and dried. God had confirmed that we should try and stay for another six months. The church in Holland graciously agreed that we could leave our furniture in the parsonage in Zeist. A new pastor had not yet been appointed as my successor. The tickets we had bought could not be changed or reimbursed. We had to buy new tickets.
Teaching in Hanover Park
I took up a teaching post at Mount View High School in Hanover Park in order to earn some money with which we could buy new tickets. I knew that Mount View High School was one of the two schools where the boycotts had started the year before. I felt a little bit uneasy when the ‘Coloured Affairs’ regional authorities expressed some satisfaction to place me there. I felt abused when it seeped through that they thought that the use of a clergyman could perhaps quell matters at the school where a colleague had been dismissed for ‘unprofessional conduct.’
After my appointment at Mount View High School it was almost tangible there that teacher colleagues and learners had suspicion of me as a government informer. The reason became all too soon. The fact that the school was confronted with the strange story of a teacher who came from Holland and a sister who had passed away must have sounded very suspect. The teacher I replaced also had the surname Cloete. Soon hereafter The Cape Herald reported how my predecessor had been sacked for disseminating ANC pamphlets. It was therefore almost logical for everyone at the school to see me as an informer, a collaborator with the hated regime.
Initially we slept in the backyard of the bereaved Esau family in a caravan that belonged to our friend Richard Arendse, my classmate of high school days and a later teacher colleague. From the Esau backyard we tried to render some support to the family. My brother Windsor from Grabouw generously put the use of one of their two cars at our disposal so that we could visit my sickly and ageing parents in Elim frequently. It was very special to see our mother recovering slowly and the diminishing strain was evidently doing our Daddy a lot of good.
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 to come and share the house 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.
An Expression of Contextual Theology
During the short spell of teaching at Mount View High School (Hanover Park) in 1981, I had quite a percentage of Muslim pupils in my classes.
Just after Easter, Mr Cassie, the school principal, asked me to address the school assembly in the weekly devotional exercise. In my mini sermon I stressed that Mary Magdalene had previously been an outcast, demon‑possessed before she became a follower of Jesus. The learners of the despised township could obviously fully identify with the message that I shared. I furthermore highlighted in my message that the outcast Mary Magdalene became the first evangelist of the resurrection of Jesus according to John’s gospel. This was solid Contextual Theology. In my talk I challenged the township pupils and teacher colleagues, stressing that this could only happen to Mary Magdalene because she had first committed her life to Jesus as her Lord. Of course, that was down to earth evangelical stuff. Be it as it may, this sermonette harvested for me acceptance from the pupils in the highly politicised school. I was deeply moved to see how open the Muslim pupils were to the radical claims of Jesus.
Because of my own involvement at school or in the volatile Crossroads community where we supported Rommel, Celeste and Alan Roberts with harassed ‘illegal’ Black women, there was the real possibility that any one of us could have been arrested by the police. Of course, we were basically working towards racial reconciliation.
Celeste approached Rosemarie to assist a Black teacher with the teaching of retarded children as a volunteer in a Catholic school in Nyanga. In those days 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. (It is highly debatable at any rate whether one should apply for a permit under such conditions.) Rosemarie obliged without any ado, but every day she was intimidated by a red car that would following her closely.
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 in the country was heating up to near boiling point.
At Mount View High School my ability at teaching Mathematics gradually became evident to all and sundry. Some of the teachers and students also saw that it was possibly true that I had a German wife. (Now and then Rosemarie picked me up at the school with the car that my brother Windsor and his wife had put at our disposal.) She also joined me to Hanover Park in protest when I decided to stand with students on June 1 in defiance with a programme of alternative teaching on the ‘compulsory holiday’ (On this day the police actually stepped in when a few pupils entered the school premises, defying the threat of the school inspector that anybody found on the school premises that day would be heavily fined.) It was quite satisfying to discern that the teacher colleagues and the children had started to trust me and not a police informer.
Before long I got politically embroiled in the volatile situation at the school at the June 16 commemoration. We as teachers who stayed away were required to write letters explaining our absence. I was I in no mood to write an apologetic letter. My activist letter got me barred from teaching again in South Africa, unless I would come back cap in hand, leading to be reinstated. I was not ready for that under any circumstances.
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.
We were still awaiting the outcome of our request for the extension of the visas of Rosemarie and the children. That could still be turned down. With my track record of opposition to the government, the granting of visas for them could not be taken for granted. Furthermore, Rosemarie valiantly joined me with our two little children in dangerous ventures, e.g. going with me to Crossroads when I was part of a protesting Church delegation. (We advocated on behalf of a busload of ‘illegal’ Black women that had returned from the Transkei, very much against the wishes of the government.) During these tense weeks we had to reckon with the possibility of getting arrested all the time. On two occasions we had to risk getting shot by the police or an army unit.
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 on behalf 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.
Church Intervention on behalf of Crossroads Inhabitants
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?
Only one Prayer left
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.
Towards the end of our stay Rosemarie really had enough of it all. After these traumatic experiences she had only one prayer left: ‘Lord, I am prepared to serve you anywhere in the world as long as it is not South Africa!’ In the process I became quite embittered. Some ‘White’ friends wanted to introduce us to Helen Suzman, the Jewish parliamentarian who was such a stalwart fighter for justice. Others wanted to bring us to Mr P.W. Botha, the Prime Minister. But I was definitely not interested in any special favours while Black families were still being forcefully and brutally separated! (Thousands of Black husbands and wives were forced by law to live separately all over the country.)
I was following the developments in the country closely. Even though I had no proof that my actions had contributed in any way, I did sense satisfaction when the law that prohibited people from different races to marry, was finally repealed in 1985. Spiritually I still had to learn a lot, e.g. that God was more interested in my relationship with Him than in my actions. Of course, I regarded my political activism as an important part of my service for Him, a necessary ingredient of an effort to get the races reconciled to each other.
Rosemarie and I returned to Holland with our two small children quite divided on the issue of where we should be living. I still yearned to return to my home country even though I knew that it was well‑neigh impossible. Rosemarie was very happy that we could get out of the threatening hearth physically unharmed. But we knew that God had initially brought us together and that we had to be called as a family unit to whatever country He would choose. Way back at our first date in 1970, at the end of my stint as a student in Germany, God had used the call to missions to confirm in my heart that Rosemarie was the person I wanted as my future wife. Since then the importance of a common calling only increased. Thus we never even considered going separate ways because of any divisive issue at hand.
Publication of What God joined together’?
During our six-month stay in the country I updated Wat God saamgevoeg het. Some of my friends put pressure on me to publish the material to expose the government. I almost succumbed to the temptation when Hein Fransman, who is married to a cousin and who had a link to Kampen publishers in Holland, approached me. He showed eagerness to get involved in such a publication, but I was not so sure whether that would be a good move. Hein Fransman had already published material of Allan Boesak. I feared that such a publication might prove counter-productive in terms of my intention, viz. to love my ‘enemies’, to win over the hearts of the Afrikaners. Embarrassing the government was not what I intended. I believed that the more loving way was not to expose the wrongs of the rulers, but rather to win over my ‘opponents’. I presented the English draft to Tafelberg Uitgewers of ‘What God joined together’, with the understanding that the book would be printed in Afrikaans first if they would accept it for publication. In 2015 the initial objective, to win over the hearts of Afrikaners, had become obsolete. We printed some copies in a low-key private way.
8. Leaving our Jerusalem?
Shortly after our return to Holland in July 1981 we got in a tight corner after a journalist from Trouw, a reputable newspaper had interviewed me. Information was printed about the Crossroads saga that we had specifically asked him not to publish. He did not mention my name, but it would not have been difficult for the South African information service to find the source. Luckily the ‘Battle of Nyanga’ and the subsequent ‘first major defeat of the apartheid government’ on the issue shortly thereafter got into the international headlines anyway. Thus we could continue to remain in the background and more or less unknown politically or even socially. Looking back, I think that my opposition was much more effective that way.
A very difficult period in our lives started. In Zeist we virtually had only one option left, viz. to pack our belongings because my work permit for Holland was expiring in September 1981. That had been linked to my position as a pastor of the Moravian Church. We had completely forgotten the Word from Scripture that we should remain in our “Jerusalem”, Zeist. Time was running out because my work permit was about to expire. Yet, we had no drive to start packing. The church had offered us temporary accommodation in Bad Boll where we started our marriage.
And then it happened: Virtually on the last minute, just before the expiry date of my work permit, I got a temporary teaching post. We still had not packed a thing when I applied for a teaching post in Religious Instruction at the College Blauwcapel in Utrecht. It now turned out that our anxiety about the work permit was superfluous. On account of Rosemarie’s German nationality, i.e. being the national of a country in the European Union, we qualified for residency in Holland automatically.
When my successor as the new pastor for Utrecht was finally appointed, it turned out to be someone who possessed his own house. Thus we did not even have to leave the big Broederplein home, from where many a ministry would evolve for more than a decade. We discovered that God had sovereignly overruled. We could remain in Zeist, our Jerusalem.
Very surprisingly, Rosemarie did not protest at the prospect of a return to South Africa after friends had heard that the Dorothea Mission were 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 my stance as too political. We never received any reply. Via friends we heard a few years later, that our application was hotly debated. With us as 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 next few years I applied for numerous vacancies in Holland. My South African nationality however made me suspect because I found it inappropriate to mention my race in applications. On the other hand, not being Dutch, i.e. having a foreign accent on the phone and in the classroom, was not to my advantage either. Amid the uncertainty of permanent employment our daughter Magdalena Erika - named after my late sister and Rosemarie’s mother - was born on 17 March 1982.
Joining another Church?
We had no intention of joining another church when we left Zeist for South Africa at the end of 1980. When we returned in July 1981, a few spiritual ‘siblings‘ had decided in our absence to start a new fellowship. I was not happy at all that they had already decided to have services on a Sunday morning. I had no problems with the idea of a new fellowship as such, but I detested the concomitant idea of competition. Weren’t there already enough churches in Zeist? Yet, it was still a long way off before I discerned that Church disunity and a competitive spirit among fellowships are actually demonic strongholds. My preference was to attend a fellowship on a Saturday so that everybody could still attend a church of his choice on Sundays. (I also had not discerned clearly yet how Constantine had possibly unintentionally high-jacked the Church on this score, estranging us from our Jewish roots.)
What I liked especially about the new fellowship in Zeist was that there was no formal membership. The idea of dual membership that we brought along from the Moravian Church in Germany, appealed to me. There some church members still belonged to the Lutheran State Church. At any rate, we simply remained members of the Moravian Church. On both sides people were unhappy, but we were not to be deterred. Every Saturday evening one would find me joining in at the traditional Moravian ‘Zangdienst’(Evensong) and on Sunday evening I enjoyed the spiritually enriching and uplifting Moravian liturgies and litanies that were constantly updated by our neighbour Hans Rapparlié. We maintained a cordial relationship to the old couple Hans and Jo Rapparlié who lived below us on the Broederplein until they left for an old age home in the early 1980s.
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. We felt the pain of the church separation anew when Anneco Adriaanse, a friend came to live with us when she took employment in our vicinity. She preferred to attend the Full Gospel fellowship that worshipped in Figi, one of the local cinemas. (Anneco was still a remnant of our connection to Moral Rearmament. We had met her at their base in Johannesburg in 1978.) Like us, she had become estranged from the MRA movement. We discovered that the atoning death of Jesus was not central in the thinking of the organization, because they also tried to accommodate other religions by compromising on that doctrine.
The final MRA blow came for me in 1979 when I challenged the Dutch leaders to be open to accept foreigners of colour in leadership. When I specifically referred to the gifts that the Black Surinamese people could contribute – also in leadership - I had suggested something for which one of the Dutch MRA leaders was not yet ready. To me that was the last straw. Their compromise with the uniqueness of Jesus (to placate Muslims and Hindus?) had already bugged us for some time.
We had friends in the mission agency Youth with a Mission (YWAM) where the American couple Floyd and Sally McClung were leading proceedings. From the YWAM base at Heidebeek our close friends Dennis and Jo Fahringer were challenging us to come and join them. It was quite a blessing to me to discern how God was using foreigners to bring the Dutch church back on track.
At the new church fellowship in Zeist many of our friends like Hein Postma and Wim Zoutewelle were involved. The new fellowship that we started attending, which had no formal membership, moved to a little hall in “Panweg” a few months after its inception. The group that consisted of some of the Christians, with whom we had been enjoying Thursday evening Bible Study meetings, was committed to church unity and evangelization. Among these believers there was Geertje Klamijn who had just returned from Austria with her two sons Peter and Hans. The parental couple had been missionaries before estrangement and divorce followed.
Not everybody in this fellowship was happy with the situation that the Cloetes of Broederplein were still members of the Moravian Church. I however never even considered it necessary to make an issue of our church affiliation.
More Correspondence with DRC Theologians
Instead of the manuscript of Honger na Geregtigheid getting to Dr Beyers Naudé, it landed with the government. The episode nevertheless had a positive result because government officials in the years hereafter treated me with a considerable measure of respect. I continued my correspondence with Dutch Reformed Church theologians in South Africa, impressing on them the need for confession as a prelude to reconciliation. The personal experience of confession by S.A. ‘Whites’ who were involved with Moral Rearmament helped me to forgive the racial group corporately. I concluded somewhat naively that confession could be used as a tool to heal wounds inflicted by the apartheid system.
After I had read in the Dutch newspaper Trouw that Professor Nico Smith was visiting Holland, I jumped at the opportunity to meet him. Some correspondence with him followed, during which I stressed the need for confession once again. My effort backfired when one of my letters to him was misconstrued in the Reforum conference of ‘verligte’ DRC theologians. Either the way in which Nico Smith presented my letter or the fact that he – to many conservative ‘Whites’ a red robe in a bull fight like Dr Beyers Naude - was the person who read it, might have rubbed some delegates up the wrong way. From one of theconference participants I received an angry unsolicited reaction. It was clear to me that the climate in that denomination was evidently not yet ready for confession. That would change in due course due to the actions of Professor Johan Heyns with whom I had been corresponding fairly extensively by this time and others like him. I experienced also great satisfaction to read a little later that members of the Schiphol Airport delegation of 1979 had actually attempted to get the ban of Dr Beyers Naudé lifted.
Applause for a Broederbonder
In a letter that I started writing on 19 November 1980 and concluded on 25 November 1980, I applauded Professor Heyns on the efforts to get the ban of Dr Beyers Naudé lifted and that the Dutch Reformed Church also called for the repeal of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act. In this correspondence I suggested a clear confession yet again, to be accompanied by a concrete proposal of restitution.
I was of course very much elated when the the ban of Dr Beyers Naudé was finally lifted in 1984. Professor Heyns went on to play a major role in the transformation within the Dutch Reformed Church regarding race relations. At the synod of 1986 the denomination made a significant turn around. (That unfortunately nudged apartheid die-hards to break away to form their own denomination, the Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk). Great of course was my joy to hear of the confessions offered at Rustenburg in 1990 and the prominent part that Professor Willie Jonker played there, even though the government did not show appreciation initially. The seed of confession apparently still had to germinate in some hearts.
Looking back, I could experience some satisfaction at the result, but the victories wold be signalled marred in the years thereafter. Professor Johan Heyns would not witness the start of the uniting of the sister reformed churches in 2003 that had been divided by the hurtful race policies. An unknown gunman, who possibly saw Heyns as a traitor of the Afrikaners, assassinated him on November 5, 1994. His theological contributions had a large impact in changing the thinking of the Afrikaner government.
I had tried in vain to get various church organizations and forums to express regret of the role of the church in encouraging violence. One of these occasions was when I spoke at a church discussion in Driebergen, (Holland) in the late 1970’s when one of the big Reformed Churches was considering supporting the armed struggle of the ANC. Aad Burger – the MRA man in Utrecht - organized for me to be invited to speak at the church meeting.
When I read that Dr Beyers Naudé was appointed as the interim secretary of the South African Council of Churches, I thought that we now had the chance to get the churches moving on the issue of confession. However but being ‘White’ and only a temporary incumbent of the post, Dr Naudé seemed to be reluctant to stick his neck out too far. I had suggested that the churches should also express regret for their part in condoning violence as part of the struggle against apartheid.
I angered the Moral Rearmament faithful by speaking in favour of boycotts as one of the few tools available – as a sort of last resort - to bring an end to apartheid rule.
Early Morning Prayer again
While he was still at (high) school Rens Schalkwijk, a teenager who returned with his parents from Jamaica in 1978, joined the weekly prayer group at the Moravian Widow’s House. This was the one link to the denomination that I kept intact throughout our period of ministry in Zeist. Later Rens’ mother led the prayer group at the Zinzendorf House next to their home.
With Rens I felt spiritually very much on the same wave length. In 1982 the young man suggested that the two of us should come together for early morning prayers just like our spiritual ancestors, the Moravians, had been doing. This we put into practice, soon joined by Peter van Veldhuyzen, a member of the Panweg fellowship. We prayer walked in the nearby forest before Peter left for his work. At that time I was unemployed after a year of Religious Instruction.
Rens invited me to a meeting in a local church by a certain Reverend Bennett, a British evangelist, who preached a series on the prophet Jonah. Without the speaker mentioning it as such, I was convicted one evening by God’s Spirit that Jonah actually requested to be thrown into the sea. I suddenly saw in this move a pristine form of believer’s baptism. (Earlier I had immersed myself in our bathtub after being challenged by the story of Bilquis Sheikh, a Pakistani believer.) I noted that Jesus also went to be baptised by John. Soon thereafter I requested to be immersed. Hein Postma baptised me at the fellowship led by his father-in-law in Baarn, some kilometers away. I knew that this step could cut me off completely from the Moravian Church, but I wanted to be obedient to the Lord. Later I heard how it was attempted at the Centrale Raad to bar me from all Moravian pulpits in Holland. Reverend Jan Schalkwijk, the father of Rens, protested heavily. I continued to preach in his church in Haarlem from time to time until we left for South Africa in 1992.
The 1982 prayer effort with Rens and Peter van Veldhuyzen culminated in our starting the ‘Stichting Goed Nieuws Karavaan’ in Zeist that had various facets of evangelical outreach. Another young man, Peter Kalmijn, was one of the youth group members of the Panweg fellowship that met in our home. The Lord used Peter at different times in our lives to challenge us. 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 transpired at the time when I was unemployed. I was teaching Religious Instruction on three days a week at College Blauwcapel in Utrecht. That was however one big frustration and little joy.
Various Evangelistic Facets
On another day of the week I was working with drug addicts at ‘Heil des Volks’ in Amsterdam. At the latter institution I did not deliver the goods during the period of probation. It was mutually agreed that I was not suited for that ministry. To me it was valuable experience and exposure to the drug subculture.
When we volunteered to take over the leadership of the ‘Kinderkaravaan’ work, I immediately put forward my vision for a broadly based evangelistic outreach - also to the youth, the unemployed and to the Huis van Bewaring in Utrecht.
The first meeting of the envisaged local evangelistic agency was also attended by the aged Sister Kooy, a member of the Moravian Church. She was already over eighty years old at that point in time and she had also been a member of the prayer group at the Widow’s House on Zusterplein for many years.
At the inaugural meeting I suggested a wide range of evangelistic activities – in many of which I had been personally involved. Already since 1977 I had participated in the prison ministry as a pastor; for a few months I had also worked among drug addicts in Amsterdam and at that very moment in 1982, I was unemployed. These were just a few areas in which we thought we could get engaged. There was general excitement to get involved. People started to come and join us even from outside the town of Zeist. It was surely unique that we soon had workers from three doctrinally different Bible Schools of the area. Two were located in Zeist and the other one in nearby Doorn.
The Goed Nieuws Karavaan
After that meeting Sister Kooy came to me, saying wryly: ‘Listen, brother Cloete, I cannot get involved in children’s ministry or one of these things you have mentioned. But I would like to start a weekly prayer meeting for all the activities in my home’. Her home became the venue for the weekly prayer meeting of a faithful few until 1996, when she went to be with the Lord. From 1992 onwards the group was also praying for us in Cape Town.
Within a few months the ‘Stichting Goed Nieuws Karavaan’ was a reality with workers from many local fellowships and others in the region. That people from different church backgrounds could work together was completely new to the bulk of them. That we could stay together for many years, till we left for our orientation in England as missionary candidates in 1991, was a surprise to many. The group continued in a low-key manner with evangelistic activities in Zeist even into the new millennium. Quite a few of our co-workers became involved in missionary work in different parts of the world over the years. The spiritual backbone of the team was the weekly prayer meeting at the home of the aged sister Kooy. The vehicle - an old mobile shop - for which the Lord had miraculously supplied funds at the end of 1982, was sold just before our entering full-time missionary work.
Children’s clubs became the main focus of the Goed Nieuws Karavaan.’ We changed the name on purpose to keep the link to the parent body Kinderkaravaan, but simultaneously indicating that we wanted to do more than merely children’s work. Out of this ministry a children’s choir evolved, where the children of the Panweg fellowship were the mainstay of the little choir for many years. Toos Spilker, one of our first children’s workers, who came to a living faith in Jesus around 1980, led the choir all these years - although she never enjoyed any training in music or choral work. The children’s choir was still functioning many years after we had left Zeist, consisting amongst others of children from the original participants. Toos worked closely with Fenny Pos, who later became our contact person in Holland.
A Contribution to Church Unity
Our hope that we could do this work full-time was completely dashed. God sent in finances miraculously for a vehicle but for the rest there were just sufficient funds to buy material for the children’s work. Much of the expenses for the work were taken care of by the workers themselves.
Even though our initial hope was not confirmed to become full-time workers for the Lord in this local evangelistic endeavour, we did make a major contribution to church unity in the Neetherlands generally. For many Christians it was very strange that people from extreme church backgrounds so far apart as the ultra-conservative Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerk and Pentecostals could work together in harmony. Former workers and others emulated the networking effort of which they had been a part when they left to other parts of the country. Our local effort coincided with the national evangelistic outreach of Campus Crusade called Er is Hoop (There is Hope). Workers that had been with us could slot in with various local groups that were formed all over the country. Jeugd met een Opdracht (Youth with a Mission) and Youth for Christ had also created a lot of goodwill for interdenominational evangelistic efforts.
No other local ecclesiastical grouping supported the work of the new evangelistic work of the ‘Goed Nieuws Karavaan’ like the Panweg fellowship. In fact, many of our workers got into the one or other conflict with their own church fellowship because they co-operated with Christians from another denomination. Only the Panweg congregation supported the idea of fellowship with other believers in Jesus more or less full-heartedly.
Panweg as a Missional fellowship
Our small 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 Berkeij had been linked to the group before they went to England where they studied at All Nations Bible College. The ‘Goed Nieuws Karavaan’ that Rosemarie and I were leading, targeted the Moroccan and Turkish children and youth of Zeist for loving missionary outreach.
Over the years quite a few of the ‘Goed Nieuws Karavaan’ co-workers either became missionaries in other parts of the world or influential church workers. A sad part of this endeavour was that we had not yet fully understood the ramifications of spiritual warfare. Two of our former co-workers had to return from the mission field as medical wrecks. Mirjam Adriaanse is now with the Lord and Liesbeth Walvaart was divinely healed after having been a psychiatric patient for many years suffering from severe depression. In the case of Liesbeth she was already preparing to go to Djibouti when our work started getting off the ground. Mirjam Adriaanse served the Lord among the inhabitants of the refuse dumps in the city of Manila in the Philippines after her stint with us. When we left for South Africa in 1992, we had however learnt the importance of having sufficient prayer covering. We are convinced that it was the prayer support of many believers that enabled us to survive in ministry here at the Cape after more than 25 years which included many attacks.
Going as Missionaries to the Middle East?
My interest at fighting apartheid was still basically self-centered. In my heart there was still the deep desire to return to my home country. During my quiet time in the mid-1980s eighties, God liberated me from this passion. I had been reading in the Word how Joseph was taken out of his home country against his will; that was how I felt. I discovered that Joseph never returned to Israel. Hereafter I was prepared to spend the rest of my life abroad.
After I had stopped working as a minister of the Moravian Church, a period of great uncertainty followed for us as a couple. At this time a speaker from OM (Operation Mobilisation) pitched up at one of our Panweg church meetings.
I felt very much challenged to venture into one of the Middle East countries. A comparative study 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 clergyman. I was thus highly motivated to get an updated teaching qualification in Mathematics. At that stage Rosemarie was not at all enthralled by my idea of going to a country like Egypt. But she (initially patiently) allowed me to continue with my studies in Mathematics in order to use that as an entrance into one of the countries that were closed for Christian missionaries. I had already turned 40 when I wrote an examination in Mathematics to get qualified for teaching the subject in Holland. On that very day our fifth child Tabitha was born, but we did not see any problem with that. We wanted to get involved with missions, but no door seemed to open. One of the major handicaps was my South African passport. Our interest in joining OM got a blow when we read in one of their leaflets: ‘Don’t wait till you are forty and you have five children.’ That put paid to our intention of joining OM. A phone call to the WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) Headquarters in Emmeloord likewise discouraged me. I erroneously got the impression that they expected me to start attending a Bible School again.
Starting a ‘Boutique’
A visit by Shadrach Maloka, an evangelist from the Dorothea Mission in South Africa, spawned the sending of clothing to needy evangelists who were linked to his ministry. Rosemarie was sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Financially we were just making ends meet at this time, but we had a surplus of clothing because we received used clothes from different people. This was the start of our clothing distribution to missionaries, evangelists and other needy people. In our large home, the former parsonage, we always sub-rented a room or helped someone with accommodation, and yet we still had space to spare. A part of a big upstairs room that was initially only used as a guest facility, was changed into a little bring-and-share clothing ‘boutique’. (Often some of the clothes ‘bought’ were back in the ‘boutique’ after a few weeks, ready for re-sale or to be sent to some foreign country.) For some Dutch believers who never before considered wearing used clothing, this was a new experience in good stewardship.
Missionaries from overseas could come and make there pick there. Thus Salou and Annelies, a befriended YWAM missionary couple from Cameroun, even filled a vehicle that they had received as a gift before it was taken to be shipped to West Africa.
8. Fighting Communism and Islam
The next major chapter of our involvement with the battle against the Communist ‘Wall’ got off the ground in Holland at this time. Especially because of the protection they offered when the Jews were persecuted by the Nazi’s, the Dutch still take great pride to support the persecuted.
A great pioneer of the battle against Communism was Anne van der Bijl. The formative years of World War II made Van der Bijl sensitive to the needs of the persecuted believers. Worldwide he became known as Brother Andrew and as the leader of Open Doors.
The discovery that Bibles were almost impossible to get into those countries made Brother Andrew the pioneer of a ‘crusade’ with a difference, viz. to smuggle Bibles into the Communist countries. Through ‘Kruistochten’, as Open Doors was initially known in Holland, we prayed regularly in our home for persecuted Christians in different countries. At family meal times we would pray for some persecuted Communist Christians by name. It was always a thrill to remove the one or other face from a small box with cards. Each card had the name and photograph of some persecuted Christian for whom we had prayed. The removal of a card from the little box indicated that the believer had been released from prison. We praised God that He had answered the prayers for these people.
Rosemarie and I knew that we were called to overseas’ missionary work ever since our first rendezvous way back in 1970. The seven years of prayer for the Soviet Union from 1984 were integrated in our family prayers while we were praying for God to lead us into overseas’ missions. In the children’s clubs of the ‘Goed Nieuws Karavaan the children learned a song about the persecution of Christians in Russia and China.
At this time the Full Gospel fellowship of Zeist had a close link to Open Doors. Mr and Ms Heijnk, who started the church as one of the very first charismatic fellowships in Holland, had linked up with Anne van der Bijl (Brother Andrew) and his organization from the beginnings of his Bible smuggling to the Communist world. When Open Doors changed their focus to the Islamic world, the church remained very much in full support, with a few of the members joining the missionary ranks in some role. This is the fellowship we started to visit in 1988, becoming members in 1989.
Another bash at the Iron Curtain
In 1987 we undertook our first holiday in faith as a family. Financially we could not afford to go on holiday, but we dared to venture out in faith with the prayer that the Lord would use the period of vacation in the German village of Tieringen. The German government heavily subsidized this facility to enable big families that struggled financially, to go on holiday.
Tieringen would become the beginning of the next chapter of our struggle against the atheist Communist regimes. There we met Erwin Klein and his family, who had just come out of Romania legally because of his German ancestry. Through them we not only got valuable inside information, but we also received addresses from Christians in the socialist home country of Sina Klein, Erwin’s wife.
After September 1987 we started sending clothing to Romania. The Holy Spirit was evidently orchestrating things. From the little Dutch town of Zeist almost a mini Romania disease broke out in support of the suffering Christians. Believers from different church backgrounds were linked to various mission organizations. We could gradually understand why God wanted us to stay in Zeist, our ‘Jerusalem’. The town is situated more or less in the middle of the country. Parcels with clothing and articles that were scarce in Romania, were sent to different addresses supplied to us by Sina Klein. Our ‘clothing depot’ came in handy with the Goed Nieuws Karavaan funding the postage. Another source of income for this project was people ‘buying’ clothes.
Clandestine visits to Romania followed hereafter from different parts of Holland. I was blessed and privileged to join a ‘touring bus’ in 1989. Various organizations that brought aid to the Communist world intensified their aid to Romania, although this apparently had not been formally decided. This was seemingly part of God’s Master Plan to break down the Communist stronghold. Of course, this made the Ceaucescu regime quite nervous because their nationals were officially not supposed to have contact with foreigners.
The rest is fairly well known history. When Michail Gorbachow took over as the leader in the Kremlin, God had evidently put the right man in place for the season. That the old guard of the Sovjets had died one after the other before his ascent to power was obviously providential. It was fitting that the avalanche towards the removal of the Berlin wall in November 1989 and the final demise of Communism all started with Anne van der Bijl of Open Doors when he offered one million Bibles to the Russian Orthodox Church at the commemoration of the 1000th year of their existence.
The battle was however far from over with the Russian Orthodox Church’s acceptance of the gift of Bibles to which Gorbachov, a modern-day Cyrus surprisingly agreed. The praying Christians around the world knew of course that this had been painstakingly prepared, bathed in prayer. The groaning of the believers behind the iron curtain has been compared by the agonizing cries of the Israelites in the Egypt of old when God brought Moses on the scene.
Movement on the Mission Front
As a family we kept praying for a ‘door’ to open to some African country, using the book Operation World of Patrick Johnstone. But nothing happened for many years. A North African Muslim country – my first preference - came out of contention when I sensed that Rosemarie was not so keen at this option. A major hindrance remained nevertheless, my South African passport. This was still a problem when we went to the annual national event in 1988 in Amsterdam. There the various mission agencies advertised their vacancies.
Rosemarie and I had been attending the annual mission day of the Evangelical Alliance regularly, first in Amsterdam and from 1989 in the little town of Barneveld. Year after year we went there hoping that the door to foreign missions would open up. When we went to Amsterdam in 1988 we had actually more or less given up the hope to start missionary work elsewhere. Our eldest son Danny was about to enter secondary school and there were four more to follow. When Tabitha, our youngest, would be finished with her education I would be almost at pension age. On top of it, it seemed as if hardly any mission agency would be prepared to accept a family with five children.
In Amsterdam I nevertheless took along a leaflet from Africa Inland Mission (AIM) that struck me. The mission agency was looking for teachers at their boarding school for the children of missionaries in Nairobi, Kenya. The “door” suddenly opened for the first time. When we spoke to the representatives of AIM, they encouraged us, even seeing other possibilities for us with my training and background. The only problem was my South African passport. But seeing that I had been in Holland so long, they suggested that I should apply for a Dutch passport. To this end I was required to give up my South African passport.
This was however easier said than done. The problem that I would then have to apply for a visa to visit my parents and my home country did not even enter my mind at that stage. My main problem was the feeling of cutting off my own roots. It had been traumatic already that not only our home and school church in District Six had been razed to the ground, that my high school in Vasco suffered the same fate because of the Group Areas Act and that our home in Tiervlei/Ravensmead had to be vacated under the guise of slum clearance. Would I now also have to lose citizenship of the country I loved so dearly?
I nevertheless buried my pride and inner turmoil, sensing that this was now a step of obedience. We had been praying all the years for the possibility to return to Africa for missionary work. How could I opt out now?
* * *
A few months later God had the opportunity to confirm the move in a sovereign way. It all started when our black and white TV that we had bought in Berlin in 1975, packed up just prior to the Olympic Games of 1988. When the apparatus starting giving trouble, we decided not to replace it. The pending Olympic Games was something we thought that could also have some educational value for our children. Our quest after a second hand model from the newspaper resulted us agreeing to take one on loan via a befriended family from their aged mother who was not using it much in the old age home. We agreed that we would keep the TV set only for the duration of the Olympic Games.
When a letter arrived from The Hague regarding my application for Dutch citizenship, they also mentioned an administration fee of 400 guilders. This was occurring just at a time - the only occasion during our 14 years in Holland - when our banking account was in the red, although we had been scraping the barrel financially for the bulk of our time there.
Rosemarie and I went to the Lord with the letter. I still had the turmoil in my heart, really struggling with the prospect of having to send my South African citizenship.
God intervened in a clear way when the befriended family that was struggling themselves financially, wanted to give us 800 guilders. I was overawed that God sent in double the amount we needed! It turned out that the husband, who brought the money, was actually using it as a test on the evangelical Christians. He came to fetch the TV of his mother, but he and his wife decided to give us money so that we could buy a new set. He did not know that we had been praying for confirmation with regard to the money for my Dutch citizenship. He was just as surprised when I showed him the letter. He agreed that we could use the money for that purpose and other more urgent needs. I was reassured at the same time that God was in the move when I had to hand over my passport to the S.A. Embassy. I did this still rather reticently. Our application for Dutch citizenship could start. I however had to reckon with a two-year waiting period.
Various Prayer Initiatives
In January 1988 Rens Schalkwijk, who had been coming in and out of our home - so much so that he was a natural choice to become the godfather of our youngest daughter Tabitha in 1986 - came along with the suggestion that we should resume our times of prayer, but perhaps in a different way.
We started a Sunday evening prayer meeting at our home. Rens Schalkwijk brought along another couple, Ria and her fiancé Lukas Hartong, who were students at the local Pentecostal Bible School (Ria had been one of our children’s club workers). 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 to start Concerts of Prayer.
In August 1988 - through the active urge of Rens Schalkwijk and his contacts with Pieter Bos, the prayer movement in Holland got underway. Rens and I were soon leading the first unit of the ‘Regiogebed’ of the country - that of Driebergen-Zeist.
We had quite a close friendship to Bart Berkheij even before he got married. A special bond developed between his wife Ruth and Rosemarie. The two were pregnant almost at the same time when we had our three youngest children. We empathized with the Berkheij family as they struggled for many years to go through all sorts of preparations until they could finally go to Mali as missionaries of the Red Sea Mission team. Great was the shock when we heard that Ruth was killed in a car accident. They had been in Mali only for a very short time!
Not quite as dramatic but just as sad was when our downstairs neighbours, Hans and Jo Rapparlié, decided to move to the Mirtehof, an old-age home. At the beginning of our stay in Zeist the four of us played music, sang and prayed together on Sunday afternoons. Later we prayed together every Saturday evening until Jo was not able to join us because of deteriorating health. Two single ladies from our church fellowship, Gré Boerstra and Martje van Dam, soon replaced Hans Rapparlié for the Saturday evening time of prayer.
By this time we had proved a point with the work of the ‘Goed Nieuws Karavaan.’ This local evangelistic ministry was going well with about 30 workers from different denominations, involved in a wide range of evangelistic ministries. We had demonstrated to Dutch Christians that it was possible for people from different church backgrounds to work together without doctrinal tussles, if we would only concentrate on the person of Jesus.
I ran into problems with members of our Panweg fellowship because a few Roman Catholic nuns 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 be in the ‘church of the Pope’. The unity of the body of our Lord was an issue on which we felt that we could not budge. Other simultaneous tensions in the fellowship brought matters to a head. To all intents and purposes a split followed.
Yet another Fellowship?
This internal dispute in our 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 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 use the bicycle regularly. As a family we were often on the road on a Sunday in that way, with our two youngest children respectively transported by Rosemarie and me.
We were slated, slandered and unfairly criticized in the Panweg fellowship, but we nevertheless hoped that matters could be resolved and that reconciliation could be achieved. It never entered our head to fight back. Yet, we yearned to return to the fellowship from which we had so many happy memories over the previous seven years.
But it was not to be. A letter from Dick van Stelten, a missionary in South Africa comforted and helped us. He did not know anything about the situation in Zeist. We needed spiritual breathing space! The reconciliation with the Panweg did not come about until much later, when the children were already settled in the new church environment of ‘Figi’ that we joined formally in 1989. It took some time for me personally to warm up in the new church, but once we joined a home cell, things improved considerably. That this congregation would not fully support the ‘regiogebed’ was nevertheless a matter of distress to me. The building of their own kingdom was very much rife, also in the ‘free churches’. (In the 1990s things changed for the better in this regard when the fellowship became actually quite active in combined worship services with other denominations.)
By November 1988 I had an updated Dutch secondary teaching certificate for Mathematics in my hand. In fact, I was on the verge of getting a higher teaching qualification in that subject. I had no intention of continuing academic studies as such, but the idea of venturing into missions got somehow blocked out. The prospect of having a home of our own in the picturesque little town of Huizen was so attractive after the years of pressure by some Moravians who wanted us to vacate the old parsonage.
Simultaneously, a permanent teaching post was lurking at last after the countless applications.
After so many temporary teaching posts in Holland, I really wanted to settle down. Through all this my yearning to get involved in foreign missionary work got very much of a back seat. My frustration at the lack of getting a permanent post as a teacher was almost abused by the enemy to lure me away from our calling in the service of the Lord. Like the prophet Jonah of old, God had to intervene in a very clear way.
A major disappointment became the divine moulding instrument to bring me back on track in terms of my missionary calling. The teacher in Huizen, whom I had substituted, decided to return to the secondary school when my time of probation was about to run out. The Lord used this circumstance and a few others in a month of calamities, to throw us back onto our ‘first love’ – to be in the Master’s service in a full-time missionary capacity.
More Involvement with the Communist World
At the concerts of prayer of the ‘Regiogebed’ with Christian participants from different church backgrounds, we prayed for local issues, for missionaries who left from our area but also for certain countries. In 1989 we prayed especially for Communist countries, notably for the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and Romania. We were really encouraged by the news that came through from East Germany. Praying Christians in Leipzig and Dresden seemed to be at the forefront of the surge towards real democracy.
When I was invited to give pastoral assistance to the other participants on a ‘touring bus’ scheduled to be in Romania in November 1989, Nikolai Ceausescu and his clan were still firmly in command. The bus was almost empty in terms of passengers, but loaded with Bibles and other Christian literature and material goods for the persecuted Christians of the iron curtain. Because I was unemployed at the time of the offer, I initially declined the invitation on moral grounds. I had just acquired a more advanced Dutch Mathematics teaching diploma, hoping that this would at last give me a permanent position after more than 8 years of uncertainty with regard to employment. I felt that it was my first duty to feed my family and not to do pastoral duties on a touring bus to Communist countries. It was an open secret of course that this was not normal tourism. The other reason for declining the invitation was that I possessed a South African passport. After bad check point experiences in East Berlin on this score, I did not want to endanger the rest of the group.
I was not always successful in communicating my sentiments ‘properly’. Thus I harvested enemies by criticizing the unjust economic structures, noting that we in the affluent West were exploiting the poor of the third world. To many Christians this was socialist language that befitted the left of the political spectrum. How could I then be against Communism? To some people this was puzzling. Some evangelicals derogatorily regarded me as an ecumenical. I was ‘sitting on the fence’ in their eyes, but I was not ashamed of my views, because I derived them from the Bible and had peace about them.
When Jan van der Bor, the Dutch leader of the “Underground Church” - as Richard Wurmbrand called his organization - approached me a second time, my last application for a teaching post had been very discouraging. My hope of getting an appointment as a Maths teacher in Holland was all but dashed. Apparently I was now ‘over-qualified’ for the bulk of the few teaching posts in Maths that were available.
On the other hand, doors started to open up towards the mission field.
9. Africa beckons
October 1989 would become one of the very special months in our lives. God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. Unwittingly I was preparing my return to Africa, to my dear Heimat (home land) at that. On 4 October 1989 I wrote a letter to President De Klerk, the new president, after I sensed an inward conviction because of my activism and arrogance that I duly confessed in the letter.
A special Prayer Event The ‘regiogebed’ that we started in our area in August 1988, congregated every first Thursday of the month for a Concert of Prayer, as a rule in a different church building, using venues of various denominations. At our meeting of 4 October 1989, I mentioned in passing to someone that I had posted a letter to President De Klerk that day. Spontaneously Mr van Loon, a teacher from the nearby town of Doorn, who was no regular at our prayer meetings, suggested that we devote more time that evening to pray for South Africa. Nobody objected. That must have been supernatural guidance. The whole prayer meeting was subsequently devoted to praying for my home country. That was the only occasion when we did it in that way.
Nobody present at the prayer meeting was aware of it that President De Klerk would due to meet Archbishop Tutu and Dr Allan Boesak the next week. That strategic meeting became in a sense a watershed in the politics of the country, the prelude to the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid. Also in other countries - especially in South Africa itself - people had been praying for a change of the suicidal direction of the political system.
This prayer meeting was special to me in another sense. This was one of the very first opportunities in evangelical circles where I experienced clear support for my opposition to my government at home. There had always been individuals from evangelical ranks who had given support, but the lead from the Evangelische Omroep was very ambiguous. Some people even perceived the Dutch evangelical radio station as being supportive of apartheid. In these circles South Africa was regarded as a bastion against Communism, full stop. The idea was somehow still going around that as an evangelical one had to support apartheid. Ecumenicals would defend Communism as a brand of Socialism that was of course very acceptable. I was opposing both positions.
Two Invitations to travel
We were challenged in yet another way when Marry Schotte of WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) shared at the annual Evangelical Missionary Alliance event in Barneveld in 1989 about a mission school in Vavoua, Cote I’voire where they needed teachers. Their need seemed geared to what I could offer. In the school for the children of missionaries, they had departments for Dutch and German children. The common language of the school is English. I could teach Mathematics - for which they indeed had a vacancy - in all three languages. When Marry Schotte brought along a video of the school when she visited us in Zeist, she succeeded in getting our children excited. Before this they found the prospect of going to ‘Africa’ quite scary.
I hardly had opportunity to digest this challenge when our friend Bart Berkheij phoned with the request whether I could join him on a trip to Mali at the end of January 1990. All expenses would be paid for him and a friend, to go and wind up things where he had stayed with his family, but from where he suddenly left after the accident in which his wife was killed. I declined Bart’s invitation to join him initially because I was still unemployed. It was very attractive to get a feeling of West Africa in the light of our own preparations to go to Cote d’Ivoire. However, I found it ethically inappropriate to plan this while I was still hoping to get a teaching post. Everything looked cut and dried when I heard that he had found someone else to join him on his trip to Mali.
Then it happened! In the post there was the dreaded brown envelope from the Dutch Department of Justice. Surely this was the fine for my driving through the red traffic light in Germany a few weeks prior to this. Imagine my elation when this was not the case. Instead, it was a letter on behalf of Queen Beatrix to inform me that Dutch citizenship has been granted to me! Out of the blue I heard that my application for Dutch citizenship was successful. I was waiting for the test of language proficiency that I had expected as the next step of the process. Now I could get my Dutch passport, so much earlier than what everybody had anticipated! In fact, within a few days I had the passport, ready to be off to Hungary and Romania! (I had ust declined an invitation for a second time to do pastoral duties on a ‘tourist’ bus - all expenses paid - because of my fear that a South African passport might cause problems for the other participants.)
Hungary and Romania
The experiences in Hungary and Romania were sobering, emotionally not easy to handle at all. Hungary had already started opening up to the West. The hospitality of the Reformed Christians, our hosts, was really heart-warming. In Western Europe, where materialism had taken its toll, I had become used to cooler receptions.
We delivered the bulk of the aid to the persecuted Christians here. Other people would take the literature in small quantities to the various countries that were still in the grip of Communism.
Rumania was a completely different cup of tea compared to East Germany or Hungary. We had hardly passed the German border when one of our passengers, who originated from Hungary before her marriage to a Dutchman, picked up the news on the radio. A bus with tourists from the West was announced. The border officials deemed it important to relay this to the national radio station. We were ‘in the news’. What a special item! The intention was of course to label us. It was forbidden for Romanians to have contact with foreigners.
What a joy our presence brought to those Romanian believers we visited! Even though none of us could speak a language known to them and none of them could speak a West European language, we experienced a special kind of fellowship. The gesture that Christians in the West have not forgotten them, made their day!
The trip ended traumatic. The Romanian Securitate, their secret police, had evidently done their homework very well. They knew exactly which people from our group were involved with the major clandestine activities. They extracted enough information - using a search that included the underclothing of one of our participants and a letter that would have been posted in the West - to bring our trip to Romania to a very sad end.
While we were in Romania, something significant had happened elsewhere. We missed the television viewing of the breaking down of the Berlin wall on November 9! In Romania it was of course not shown on the State TV. There the population was fed with the ‘staple diet’ - the diverse activities of the Ceaucescu clan at almost any time of the day.
Rebellion in Romania
It was something of a consolation when we heard soon thereafter that there was rebellion in Romania. At this time I was working part-time at the East Europe Mission for a few days per week when it became clear that a position as teacher in Mathematics was remote. But the process to become missionaries in Africa had of course also started. Now and then I was taking Bibles and other material aid on behalf of the East Europe Mission to Switzerland. The loads were scheduled for the Communist countries. Other people would take the valuable goods further.
The fighting in Timisoara near to the Hungarian border soon got to a critical stage. Tineke Zwaan, one of our Goed Nieuws Karavaan co-workers, phoned us with a suggestion. She wanted to come over with her husband Gideon so that we could have a special session of prayer for Romania. We had close contact with Tineke for many years, when she was still single and unemployed. She had been one of the founder workers of our evangelistic team of the Goed Nieuws Karavaan. I suspect that we were one of many groups around the world that were raised up at that point in time to pray for the Communist stronghold to crumble. Within a matter of days, the days of the dictator Ceaucescu were counted.
In the next few months the almost complete demise of Communism took place. Albania was one of the few countries that was still resisting the winds of change.
I had hardly returned from Romania, when Bart Berkheij approached me again to accompany him to West Africa, mentioning that the friend who would have joined him, had pulled out. This time I was happy to accept the invitation to join him to go to Mali on condition that he would join me to Cote I’voire. Last not least, I now had a Dutch passport. In the latter country I wanted to explore the situation at the mission school where I hoped to go and teach.
The experience during this trip was so encouraging that I was highly motivated to return to the Ivory Coast.
Doors open up
Back in Holland after the trip to West Africa in February 1990, there were quite a few letters awaiting me, two of which were challenges to new areas of ministry. With Campus Crusade I had started to do some voluntary work in Holland along with Bram Krol, one of their fulltime workers. Also from there we were challenged to come and work full-time with them. We were quite serious about this idea, starting to look at a house in Zeist that we hoped to purchase. Just before my father-in-law passed away in February 1989, he indicated to us that he and his wife wanted to help us to buy a house.
The contact with Campus Crusade, that had started to change their name in Holland to Agape, started a process during which Cees Rentier, a theological student, joined our ministry with the Goed Nieuws Karavaan. (He would later lead a countrywide ministry to Turkish-speaking people in Holland. Furthermore he would also marry Marika Pretorius, one of our missionary colleagues in Cape Town.)
Come over and help us Most of all I was perplexed that Rosemarie was especially tense about my response to another letter. Out of the blue there was a hand-written letter from Pietie Orange, a friend from our Tiervlei/Ravensmead days, I had no contact with him since I left South Africa in 1973. There was not much in his letter in terms of content, but there was the clarion call very clearly: COME OVER AND HELP US! Under normal circumstances I would have jumped at this invitation to return to my home country. With all the different missionary opportunities that had loomed, I was however now quite confused.
I was surprised to sense Rosemarie’s excitement about the possibility to go to South Africa. She knew of my fervent desire to return to my home country. In the early years of our marriage it caused a lot of strain when she sensed that I perceived it as a sacrifice to live in Europe. Through my ‘Joseph experience’ the Lord had by now thoroughly dealt with my craving after a return to South Africa. (A few years prior to this I had I ‘discovered’ that the biblical Joseph never returned to Israel after he had been taken out of his home country against his will.) I was fully prepared to serve God anywhere in the world and quite willing never to return to South Africa on a permanent basis - if that was the confirmed divine guidance.
I had returned to Holland quite excited about the possibilities to share the gospel in West Africa. The discussions at the school in Vavoua were promising, although I intended that to be merely a prelude for other missionary work after a few years. But I still had to get fluent in French, the lingua franca of West Africa and Rosemarie had not even started learning this language.
We decided to move further along the road towards the teaching post at the WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) school for missionary kids in Ivory Coast, unless the Lord would close that door. The possibility of working as a Mathematics teacher appeared to be specially fitted to what I could offer. After all, there are not that many people around who would be available and willing to teach Mathematics in the three media of English, German and Dutch at the school in Vavoua.
A Teacher for our Children?
In order to join WEC, we needed a teacher for our children during the time of our candidates’ orientation. We really had very little faith. Where on earth would one get a teacher who not only had to pay the fare to go to either Germany or Holland, pay for accommodation, teach four different classes and not receive any salary?
Our children were now definitely on board. It was so moving to hear our children pray for a teacher. How earnestly the little ones would pray for someone to go with us to teach them. Their faith put us as parents to shame.
The Lord used my trip to West Africa to sort out this problem. While I was in Mali our longstanding friend Geertje Rehorst visited Rosemarie one evening. (Geertje and her two sons returned from Austria in 1981 after serving there for many years as a missionary. Estrangement and divorce caused the three to return to the Netherlands.) When Geertje heard that we were praying for a teacher, she asked all sorts of questions. Because Geertje had stopped teaching not long before on medical grounds, we never even considered her as a possible candidate to help us out.
When her son Peter visited us with his wife Annelies just after my return from Mali, we told them of our need of a teacher to accompany us to England. Promptly he asked: ‘Have you thought of my mother?’ At the School for the Blind Geertje had been teaching children of different age groups. When we invited Geertje over one evening to put the question to her very hesitantly, she confirmed that she knew all along that the Lord wanted her to go to England with us for the WEC missionary Candidates’ Orientation Course. She was only waiting on us to approach her. That she was available enabled another Dutch couple with children in the same age range as our children to attend the orientation course.
Our children never had such a time of fun at school as those four months at Bulstrode. The Lord used the stint at the international WEC Headquarters near to London, to bring Geertje back into missions. She became a consultant for missionaries in Spain on behalf of ECM, the successor of her old mission agency the Europeese Zendingsgenootschap (EZG) till the end of 2003. This happened quite a few years before member care became common. When we worked in Zeist among Moroccan and Turkish children, we were not aware that the Lord had started to prepare us for a future ministry among the Muslims of Cape Town. Even when we invited Herman Takken, who was doing this work in Holland full-time - to come and give us some teaching on Islam - I was not remotely thinking of using it one day in the city where I was born and bred. Working as a missionary in a Muslim country was nevertheless one of the options I kept in mind as a definite possibility. And then there was of course the visit to Mali and the Ivory Coast that had struck a sensitive chord in my heart to reach out with more intent to those who were shackled by Islamic bondage.
The Door to Côte ‘Ivoire closes
We were quite dejected when the door to Côte ‘Ivoire closed so to speak in our faces. I had already started to learn French for quite a few months. Thus I was quite shattered when a negative reply came from there even though the principal of the mission school in Vavoua had already told me that the small institution had only limited dormitory facilities and that they have never had five children from the same family! The age and number of our children militated against such a venture. Decisive was that our eldest son would have to return to Holland fairly soon after our arrival in Côte ‘Ivoire. But it was nevertheless a major disappointment. I was not ready for a negative response from that quarter.
A Window opens
In his faithfulness the Lord intervened promptly hereafter. After an evening when we specially prayed for our future ministry, we received a completely unexpected phone call the very next day. Totally out of the blue Dick van Stelten phoned from the tiny village of Josini in South Africa near to the Mozambican border, challenging us to come and take over their work. That was the Lord’s way of turning our attention to the country of my birth, so to speak a renewed Macedonian call, on par with Pietie Orange’s letter.
Through a process of elimination we had been guided to WEC. We decidd to consult the Dutch WEC leaders, Jacob and Emmy Spronk. They were very supportive, advising that we should go and explore the work to see if the Lord confirmed any missionary outreach in Natal. Perhaps it could become a new venture of WEC South Africa. (All of us were not aware of it that WEC South Africa had actually decided not to start new ministries in the country.)
My mother would turn eighty at the end of that year and the golden wedding anniversary of my parents was due shortly thereafter in early January 1991. After all the international trips of the previous months, we hardly had liberty to share our vision and intention with other Christians to visit South Africa on orientation at the end of 1990. It would be another faith venture. (Officially I was still unemployed, teaching only a few hours per week and doing some casual work with the East European Mission.)
Gradually one hurdle after the other was surmounted as we decided to take our eldest and youngest children along on the orientation journey to South Africa. We had no funds for such a trip. Rather naively I had to discover later, the publication of my autobiographical material naturally came up for consideration. Was it because of desperation that I had forgotten my intention not to publish my autobiographical material abroad before having done so in my home country? Kok, a big publishing company in Kampen (Holland), however returned the manuscript a few months later. With me being a completely unknown author, they stated the obvious. There was no market in Holland for a translation of ‘What God joined together.’
Our faith was really tested as we prayed about going to work in Northern Natal. In a TV programme on Dutch TV the reporter mentioned that Natal at that time was worse than Lebanon and Northern Ireland put together as a situation of civil war. Was this the sort of situation we wanted to take our children into?
Seed starting to germinate?
In obedience to the Lord we nevertheless started to plan a visit to South Africa. In Pretoria we hoped to visit Cees and Els Lugthart, a Dutch missionary couple linked to the Dorothea Mission. From there we would somehow get to Josini. Miraculously, sufficient funds came in to book our tickets and pay the fares without having to get into debt or approach anybody. We were so happy to see how the Lord was teaching us to live by faith. In fact, we also needed the fares for the ferry to take all of us plus our car from Holland to England for our Candidates’ orientation in January 1991. And then there was the special 'fleece' – we needed a couple to pay our rent in Zeist for six months. The Lord supplied everything so wonderfully!
In a few cases the seed I tried to sow over the years seemed to germinate. I really rejoiced when I heard of Professor Willie Jonker’s bold stand in Rustenburg in November 1990. The government of the day and the Afrikaans press slammed the Rustenburg confession in general, but in the spiritual realm a deep impact was definitely made.
I had also started collating and typing the reports of our previous visits to South Africa into an old computer that I received via Peter Kalmijn. The manuscript was the intended present to my parents for their golden wedding anniversary. David Appelo, a Dutch friend with a special interest in South Africa that I got to know through my Campus Crusade activities, helped me a lot to get the material in a presentable form.
10. Missionary Preparation
During our visit to Josini near to the Mozambican border of South Africa, there was also a word from the Lord through Dick and Ann van Stelten, a missionary couple: I should not sell my testimony and I should not expect to be vindicated through a book. The Lord would see to it himself in His good time. During my quiet time I was also challenged through a Bible story: God touched the heart of King Ahasveros to have the records fetched when he could not sleep. There the king read how someone had saved his life. Mordechai was honoured in the perfect divine timing. I understood clearly that I should not manipulate; I should not attempt to get honoured by men. I must leave that over to God.
After our return to Holland, David felt that we should try and publish the material in a form that would not be merely a family record. Hesitantly, I agreed to allow him to revamp the manuscript for wider publication. Our own family history was definitely the tone of a manuscript that I presented to my darling on her 40th birthday in July 1991.
Writing remained my hobby for many years. Yet another treatise followed as a result of further studies. It was a missiological work describing the new South Africa as a ‘goldmine’ for the recruitment of missionaries. After I presented it to Patrick Johnstone and the international leaders of WEC the response was however not encouraging enough to proceed with publication. I decided to leave it at that. I loved writing and researching. I dearly wanted to put the results in the service of the Lord, but I definitely did not want to waste money to get books printed that would hardly be read. The Lord would have to confirm any possible publication. Also I recognized that it is not so bad at all to remain an unknown entity. Our family life remained fairly stable that way. I was only too aware of the possibility of homes disrupted through too much media interference.
A Cloud over our Acceptance as WEC Missionarie
The procedure to become WEC missionaries had been already well advanced when we became very uncertain. What would happen if WEC turned us down or if we decide not to join that agency after all? Then we would have been without any accommodation. We knew how difficult it was to get a house even for a couple or a small family. With our five kids, would such a step be responsible? We decided to put out a ‘fleece’. If the Lord would give us people who would be willing to come and stay in our home and pay the rent for the six months of our missionary orientation, we would know that God was confirming our call. He indeed gave us a couple, where both had good jobs. (The circumstance however became quite a trial when the couple did not pay the rent promptly.)
We felt like coming home when we arrived at the WEC headquarters in Durban in December 1990, However, my activism was soon bringing me in hot water once again. As the 16th of December approached, I felt constrained to write a letter to President De Klerk, Mr Nelson Mandela and Chief Buthelezi, the three main political role players at the time, suggesting to them to take a bold step in reconciliation. In fact, I also suggested that the traditional ‘Day of the Covenant’ to be renamed under this banner.
This led however to a major upheaval when I showed my draft letter to the acting leader of WEC South Africa. He stressed that it was WEC policy to ‘stay out of politics.’ I disagreed, because my intended plan of action was not meddling in politics. I regarded it as a biblical injunction to be an agent of reconciliation. Nevertheless, I refrained from posting the letters. But I was thrown into an inner turmoil once again. Over our joining WEC there was suddenly a big cloud.
Come January 1991, we were already in Bulstrode, the headquarters of WEC (Worldwide Evangelization for Christ) International for the candidates’ orientation course. Soon after our arrival there, I shared my reservations with Howard Sayers, our Candidate Secretary. He suggested that I speak to Dieter Kuhl, our international leader, and especially to Patrick Johnstone, who had been working with the Dorothea Mission in Southern Africa. After speaking to these people, we had liberty to complete the four months of the Candidate Orientation Course in England.
We really wanted to take up the challenge, but from the point of view of WEC in South Africa we were asked to get involved with regional representation as a matter of priority ‑ at least for the first year. It was quite a battle to get that far as a compromise. In South Africa the mission agency was committed to recruitment. We were not sure at all if we could agree to such a restriction.
Lessons in Spiritual Warfare
The Lord used the time at Bulstrode to start moulding us for our future ministry in Cape Town. Here I was clearly introduced to the concept of spiritual warfare in a new way. Never before had I heard about things like prayer walks, although we already had ample practice in some areas of strategic and targeted prayer.
The Gulf War at the beginning of 1991 made things very practical. In one of the devotionals Jenny Carter, one of the workers at the International Office, demonstrated why it was necessary for the allied airplanes to prepare the area for the artillery. Using the same idea, C.T. Studd, the founder of WEC, had used terms like chocolate soldier and prayer batteries many years ago. But that sounded like language of a bygone age. The purpose of Studd’s concept would prepare the ‘soil’ of the fields before the missionaries would move in. Studd was of course very much influenced by William Booth and his Salvation Army.
I could have known more about spiritual warfare because the Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the renewed Moravian Church, had introduced a term like ‘Streiterehe’ - the warrior marriage - centuries ago. According to this concept the married partners sacrificed to be separated from the spouse for extended periods for the sake of the Gospel. But all this I had been perceiving as not valid for our time.
At Bulstrode all this changed when not only the Gulf War made matters very practical, but fundamentalist Islam also became ever more clearly visible as a threat to world peace. At the Second International Congress on World Evangelization in Manila in 1989 spiritual warfare had come into the foreground quite forcefully. What a special privilege it was to have lecturers such as Patrick Johnstone and Dieter Kuhl, who were at the cutting edge of worldwide developments. We profited immensely from this new missions focus at Bulstrode.
As part of our missionary training at Bulstrode we had to write an assignment, a ‘field study’ about the country where we intended to go to. I had already been giving talks about different aspects of South African life. But I wanted to know more about the culture and history of the Indian population of the country. What also played a role in my thinking was the strategy to be used back home to help recruit South African Indians for the subcontinent from where their ancestors originally came. As a mission agency we were seeing this as one of the possibilities of solving the problem of entry into India as career missionaries. Thus my suggestion was that Rosemarie could study the politics, economy and related issues about South Africa, while I would make a study of the Indians. This led me into looking at Hinduism and Islam, the two major religions. My experience in West Africa also definitely influenced me. I thought of Black South Africans as potential missionaries to the Muslim countries of West Africa.
Tests of Faith
In Bulstrode our faith in the financial supply was tested to the full when our rent in Holland had to be paid in Holland while we were also required to trust the Lord for the means to live at the WEC International Headquarters. Matters came to a head when the couple staying in our home did not honour their commitment. At this time we were furthermore told that we had received about 3000 guilders rental subsidy from the Dutch government too much. (I had already shown proof to the responsible person in Zeist why it happened that way. I had received my salary for November and December 1988 only in January 1989. This created a big difference of income between the totals for 1988 and 1989, causing the government to request us to return money that was regarded as unrightfully paid to us as housing subsidy for the iindigent. Because we were now in England, I did not have all the documents with me.
We were challenged to take Hebrews 10:34 literally, allowing ourselves to be ‘robbed’ innocently. Just at this time, we received more or less the same amount from the Dutch tax office. We duly paid the money using this, although we were really living from hand to mouth.
Differences with the WEC Leadership
During my fairly superficial study of Islam in South Africa in Bulstrode, I already discovered that Bo-Kaap, the residential area below Signal Hill, had become an Islamic stronghold. I discerned that some spiritual warfare might be needed to tackle this. When we returned to Holland from Bulstrode, I challenged the Christians there to send their ‘batteries’ to Bo-Kaap, to bombard the area - before we as missionaries could go in as the infantry. (I was not aware that the Society of International Ministries (SIM) was already active there. (But we had no concrete plans for involvement there.) In our correspondence with WEC South Africa we did mention however that we wanted our hands free to evangelize among the Muslims. But the South African WEC leadership desperately wanted to use us for representation in the Western Cape. The stated strategy of WEC in SA was to focus on recruitment, and not to get involved with new ministries.
Perceived differences with the new WEC leadership in South Africa with regard to our future role clouded our start at Emmeloord, the Dutch HQ, where we were scheduled to be for two months. When the designated late leader seemed to insist that we should do representation at the Cape predominantly, we almost opted out. On our side, there was also some misunderstanding. It was touch and go before we finally agreed to join WEC. It was finally agreed that we would help our colleague Shirley Charlton with representation in Cape Town in the first year and thereafter we would see how the Lord would lead. We on the other hand were not inclined to allow ourselves to be bogged down to administration and representation. This was not evasion of responsibility. We just did not see that as our gifting. A tussle with the leadership was thus on the cards after our first year. Also in Holland we got in a tussle with a leadership whom we regarded as autocratic at some stage. We decided to defer our acceptance as WEC missionaries, but to continue with the negotiations to get the necessary papers for South Africa. Luckily all the differences could be resolved. Later in the year we were accepted as WEC missionaries.
Expensive phone calls to Holland to the couple that were living in our house were of no avail. They merely harvested empty promises. We now however experienced one miracle after the other when we were enabled to pay both our rent in Holland and for our stay in England over a period of four months.
Another high hurdle would have been the airfare to South Africa for us as a couple plus our five children, of which two had to pay adult fares. We had also decided that a container would be the best way to get our personal possessions to Cape Town. The Lord sovereignly helped us in all these major steps of faith. When the couple that lived in our house for six months finally paid the rent in a lump sum, we had already experienced how the Lord saw us through. Not once we were not able to pay our rent. Now we had the money not only for our airfare, but also for the container in which we wanted to transport our furniture and other belongings. All in all this was a big learning curve to trust the Lord for finances, without appealing for funds. We appreciated this pillar of the WEC ethos very much.
11. Missionaries at last
Eventually we came as a family of seven to the Mother City of the Republic of South Africa in January 1992. Prior to our coming to Cape Town, we also sensed a challenge to work among street children. Once in the Mother City, the call to the Muslims of the Cape came through ever stronger. The Lord used our colleague Shirley Charlton in different ways to nudge us to the Cape Muslim community as an unreached people group in respect of the Gospel.
A Call to the Cape Muslims?
Our lack of accommodation in Cape Town brought Shirley to the Cape Evangelical Bible Institute (CEBI) in Surrey Estate. The very first morning there a roar woke us up at half past four. We discovered that it was the thundering sound of minarets from the seven mosques in a two-kilometre radius from the Bible School.
I noticed that so much had changed in my extended absence from the Cape. During the short stints at the Cape since 1973, I only visited certain residential areas and many of them more than once. But I now also had to face up to radical changes in my absence. I encountered this especially in Surrey Estate, a suburb that had become quite Islamic during my lengthy stay overseas.
It was little less than divine intervention that Ireni Stephanis, a Greek Christian lady friend of Shirley Charlton, invited us as a family to come and stay in her house when we had nowhere to go after leaving the Bible School. Ireni never had problems with sleeplessness, but that night she constantly had to think about the family from Holland about which she had heard from our missionary colleague. She did not hear whether the family of seven had found accommodation in the meantime. Ireni resolved to offer sharing her house.
Missionary Recruitment in Cape Town
The Western Cape Missions Commission, to which our WEC colleague Shirley Charlton took me soon after our arrival at the Cape, proved very valuable in terms of contacts. In this group I soon met the major role players of missionary recruitment at the Cape. Martin Heuvel and Bruce van Eeden were two of them who would play strategic roles in our future ministry at the Cape.
An event organised in 1993 with some link to the Western Cape Missions Commission was a workshop with John Robb of World Vision. I later used the list of participants at this event to organize Jesus Marches the following year. At this occasion I also met Trefor Morris from Fish Hoek was one of those attendees. He became not only a regular at our Friday lunch time prayer meeting, but also an important catalyst to study the history of spiritual dynamics at the Cape through a radio series via Radio Fish Hoek., the first Christian local radio station of the country. At one of the mission events I met an AIM missionary who told me about Salama Temmers, a convert from Islam. Her husband Colin soon became one of our regular warriors at our Friday lunch hour prayer meeting. The family became the core of converts coming from Muslim background. (The couple became pastors with the Good Hope Christian Centre. After the sudden death of Colin, Salama saw many Muslims coming to Christ through her ministry, planting a few new churches to boot.)
Pointers to Muslim Outreach
The move to Tamboerskloof and a few other ‘co-incidences’ clearly pointed to an involvement in evangelistic outreach to Muslims. Almost from the word go we got in touch with a major problem of the Muslim community - drug addiction. On the first Sunday we attended the Living Hope Baptist Church with Ireni Stephanis, a couple told us about their daughter who was addicted to drugs and who became a Muslim via a relationship. We were immediately reminded of the successful Betel outreach to drug addicts in Spain, seeing this as a possible loving avenue of service to the Cape Muslim community. For the rest we saw it as a prime responsibility to help our own children to get settled in the new country.
Without us doing anything intentionally ourselves, we got in touch with converts from Islam. We thus met Adiel Adams and Zane Abrahams through our representation work with WEC. Aunt Emmie Snyers, my father’s sister, gave us the phone number of Majiet Pophlonker spontaneously. It seemed as if different people were divinely instructed to challenge us to reach out to Cape Muslims.
A clear confirmation along these lines came when we could rent a house in Tamboerskloof, almost a stone’s throw from Bo-Kaap, the prime stronghold of Islam in the Western Cape. God had evidently started fitting things together in his perfect mosaic.
After we had moved to Tamboerskloof, I joined the SIM (Society of International Ministries) Life Challenge team of Manfred Jung in Bo‑Kaap, Walmer Estate and Woodstock. I soon felt very uncomfortable with the method of knocking at strange people’s doors to speak to them about my faith. When SIM stopped their outreach effort in Bo‑Kaap, Rosemarie and I started to do prayer walking in this suburb, asking the Lord to lead us to those people where the Holy Spirit had done preparatory work.
New Part‑time Studies
A positive result of my involvement in door‑to‑door ministry in the Muslim areas was that I discovered that my knowledge of Islam was completely inadequate. I asked permission from our mission leaders to do a post‑graduate course in Missions at the Bible Institute in Kalk Bay that would include a special emphasis on Islam.
As part of my part‑time studies I had to produce an assignment, during which I had to research the spread of Islam at the Cape. For this study I was referred to our friend Jutty Bredekamp, who had become a History professor at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). When I shared with him some of my discoveries, especially in respect of my misgivings about the misrepresentation of the work of missions with regard to Muslim slaves in the available literature, he encouraged me to publish my findings. He arranged with the South African library to have my paper printed in their quarterly journal. The idea was to let the contribution coincide with the tercentenary of the arrival of Sheikh Yusuf, the founder of Islam at the Cape. I discovered with sadness not only how Cape Muslims were maltreated by Christians at the Cape of Good Hope, but also how the outreach to them as a group was completely neglected.
Another assignment brought me on the track of Jesus in the Qur’an. These studies wetted my appetite for further research.
Church Planting in Bo-Kaap?
Soon Rosemarie and I were walking through the Bo‑Kaap once a week, praying for the area. We knew that the area became a Muslim stronghold through the demonic apartheid policy, when churches and Christians were forced to leave. Through prayer we wanted to turn the clock back and even more. We wanted to see at least one vibrant church planted in the area. The ten years of prayer for the Middle East that Open Doors promoted, gave us a good framework in which we wanted to accomplish our prayer goal.
But after only a few weeks we sensed that we should not go it alone in this venture because there were evidently also other spiritual forces at work. We had to get the backing of other Christians. As a family we were attending the City branch of the Vineyard Church as the Jubilee Church was called at that time. Dave and Herma Adams, the local leaders, also wanted to reach out to the Muslims, but the denomination in general had no affinity in this direction.
And then at last we got in touch with Cecilia Abrahams whose husband had been a Muslim until shortly before his death.) She was living next to the museum with her daughter and son for many years. Because she was a Christian, the authorities initially wanted to evict her from the residential area that had been designated for Muslims by legislation - an extension of the small pocket originally called the ‘Malay Quarter.’ Cecilia fought successfully to remain residing there. Before they could evict her, winds of change had started to sweep over the Mother City. Apartheid-related evictions ceased.
Resumption of a fortnightly Prayer Meeting
When Cecilia visited us in our home in Tamboerskloof, we learned that a SIM/Life Challenge missionary had held a fortnightly prayer meeting in her home before he had left for Kenya with his family. We promptly decided to resume the prayer meeting at her home in 73 Wale Street, in the centre of Bo‑Kaap. She introduced us to Daphne Davids, another Christian just across the road from her. In those days it was really a rarity to find committed Christians in that residential area. It had become almost totally Islamic population‑wise because of the apartheid legislation. We took up the challenge to see this process reversed, primarily through prayer. We also hoped to see simple home churches coming into being there. What a superlative task this turned out to be.
When SIM decided to stop their activities in Bo‑Kaap, Manfred Jung told us about one of their prayer warriors, the Afrikaner Hendrina van der Merwe. She was immediately ready and eager to join the new prayer group. On the first Monday after the first ever WEC conference in Cape Town, we started our prayer meeting for the Muslim world in general and Bo-Kaap in particular at the Abrahams’ home. I was the only male present when Hendrina shared that she is praying for four men to be part of our group. We decided to wait for concrete steps in the direction of planting a simple church until such time the Lord would give us four regular males as regular attending at the prayer meeting. Dave and Herma Adams, the leaders of our church, the local Vineyard fellowship (later it became known as the Jubilee Church) gave their blessing that I could invite people from the fellowship to join the prayer group. Soon Elizabeth Robertson and Achmed Kariem linked up. The latter two believers spawned further extensions of our prayer effort. When Floyd Daniel joined us soon hereafter, things looked pretty well. We were already three men! We got excited that we would soon be able to take further steps towards church planting in Bo-Kaap. But that was not to be! Not even after almost 22 years!
Meeting Muslim background Believers
Towards the end of June 1992 we were not really engaged fully in any ministry yet. But then things started moving. We got befriended to a few Muslim background believers Zane Abrahams, Adiel Adams, Achmed Kariem and Majiet Pophlonker. From them we learnt a lot about Islam in Cape Town, e.g. that Bo-Kaap should be a focus of our attention, as this could influence Islam in the whole of the Western Cape.
We learned a lot from Achmed Kariem and the other converts with an Islamic background. Achmed suggested for example that we should also start a prayer meeting on a Friday when the Muslims go to their mosques. This could be implemented very promptly through the mediation of Marge Ballin, a YWAM missionary who was involved with evangelistic work in the nightclubs. Without much ado we were allowed to make use of the ‘Shepherd’s Watch’, a former funeral parlour in Shortmarket Street where the Ark Mission was conducting services and caring for a few psychiatric patients.
Prayer for the Middle East
Elizabeth Robertson, who was now attending our Bo-Kaap prayer meeting, really loves Israel and the Jews. A few years prior to this she had been on the verge of marrying a Jew in Israel. Soon we decided to pray for the Middle East at every alternate Monday prayer meeting, now including Muslims and Jews in our intercession. Hereafter we visited the Beth Ariel fellowship of Messianic Jews in Sea Point from time to time. In later years Lillian James, who grew up in Woodstock, joined this prayer meeting. She had a heart for both Muslims and Jews.
When Achmed Kariem left for Bible School training in 1993, faithful Floyd Daniel came from Wynberg until he was incapacitated a few years later after a near fatal accident with his bicycle. For years hereafter we never even had three men for any length of time. The resumption of a stronger evangelical presence became our stated goal. Increasingly we saw that this was only possible within the context of a general spiritual revival in the City Bowl. And to effect this, we had to work towards church unity.
Cape 'Coloured' mission Contributions
Bruce van Eeden had been starting to organize Great Commission conferences with Dicky Lewis. At the one of July 1992 in Athlone we were invited to come and assist with children's work in Newfields, the suburb next to Hanover Park. In the latter township we would experience many a miracle of God.
Martin Heuvel, who pastored the Fountain Christian Centre, had also started the Cape School of Missions. The building was located in the complex where our house and ground in Tiervlei had once stood.
The name of the suburb was changed to Ravensmead. To me it was so special that the Lord had turned around the injustice of the expropriation of our property! The heart condition of my father, which developed because of that and which led to his early retirement in 1972, could thus possibly be regarded as some sort of seed of the Gospel.
Former Drug addicts as Missionaries?
The general indifference of the church to drug addiction, prostitution and gangsterism was something else that really made me sad. These are only three areas of concern that are a combined menace to the Cape Muslim community, thus where the united church could start repaying our debt. But all my efforts to get churches interested met with indifference.
When Achmed Kariem went to the Cape Evangelical Bible Institute in 1993, it looked as if my vision of former drug addicts from the Cape to be trained as missionaries started to take shape. That was unfortunately very premature as it ultimately turned out.
I had little hesitation to refuse my co-operation to the publication of a complete autobiographical book edited on my behalf a few months into 1992. David Appelo had not complied to our original agreement that he would send the manuscript on a ‘floppy disk’ first. I was not satisfied that my intention - that it should be a testimony to God’s goodness and grace - was coming through sufficiently after his editing. I was nevertheless sad to disappoint David, who had gone to such length to prepare Involuntary Exile for publication. Using the written word as a part of our ministry still had to take off. But I started to collate testimonies of Muslim background believers.
Writing down the stories of people like Adiel Adams and Achmed Kariem was almost natural. The testimony of Nabs Wessels, the wife of Chris, our friend was only minimally more difficult, but with our past common interest in the ‘struggle’ against apartheid, that was no sacrifice at all. While I was ministering on the Cape Flats, I heard that Esme Orrie had just converted from Islam. The Holy Spirit touched a chord in my heart when I heard that she was baptised together with a believer from Jewish background. Rosemarie and I always had a soft spot for the Jews. When I phoned her, she was quite upset. After having experienced terrible persecution from her family, she appeared very worried; she was anxious where I got her phone number. A few years later she was courageously sharing her testimony in many a church and via the radio.
Our Children as a top Priority
The composition of our marriage was very much a novelty at the beginning. We saw a contribution to racial reconciliation as a top priority, by getting involved with the establishment of a cross-cultural choir. At different occasions to which I was invited as speaker, I took along the cross-cultural choir that we had recruited. Apart from Grace Chan, our WEC colleague from Mauritius, we also had people from different races in the choir - including a Zulu and a few Xhosas. We collated the choir members predominantly from Capetonian Bible colleges. Rosemarie and I contributed a modern Dutch song. The content of the hymn spoke of the unity in Christ: Samen in de naam van Jesus - (United in the name of Jesus). We proclaimed his praise in different languages.
We saw the settling in of our children as the top priority of the first six months. The move from Holland was not easy for the one or other of them. Rafael especially had a torrid time. Also with regard to a local church fellowship I consciously restricted preaching engagements so that we would not be running around too much. In the meantime we prayed that God would show us where we should get involved. The ministry to street children was not confirmed but there had been many an indication that we should move into Muslim evangelism. For Bo-Kaap we had started praying but we also wanted some hands-on ministry. The thought came up to investigate Hanover Park where I had taught during the turbulent times in 1981. After a phone call to the Cape Town City Mission there, we soon sensed a confirmation that this is where we should get more involved.
Black and White together
Many Capetonians from different cultural and church backgrounds became our friends. We were approached to help train Xhosa young people in children’s work at a campsite in Strandfontein during the June holidays. The week was strategic when we got to know the gifted Melvin Maxegwana who was translating the teaching into Xhosa. For the rest, our ministry still had no clear direction. We started children’s work in Hanover Park and got involved in work related to social needs of patients at St Monica’s, the maternity home of Bo‑Kaap where I was born almost 70 years ago.
Margaret Curry, a member of the WEC prayer group in our home ‑ who had been a missionary linked to the Hospital Christian Fellowship ‑ introduced us to the matron of St Monica’s. I vaguely remembered that my mother had mentioned that I was born there. The latter institution hereafter played a special role in our getting to know people with diverse cultural upbringing. After initial insecurity because of her complexion and foreign accent, Rosemarie would usually then immediately get more trust from the patients when she mentioned that her husband had been born at St Monica’s.
Operation Hanover Park
Trying to unite the churches of the Mother City in ministry was a daunting challenge. It turned out to be much more difficult than I thought it would be when I started with tentative steps. The first move was to get believers to pray for Muslims and get converts from Islam and missionaries to speak in different churches on the Sundays during Ramadan.
By the last quarter of 1992 we had become involved with children’s ministry at the Newfields Clinic and with the establishment of what was dubbed Operation Hanover Park. The stimulus for the latter operation was given by a police officer, sergeant Crowe, who approached the churches after the law enforcement agents could not handle the criminality of the area any more. Operation Hanover Park came into being with Pastor Jonathan Matthews of the Blomvlei Baptist Churchat the helm.
Dean Ramjoomiah, a convert from Islam, was eager to be used by the Lord as the local missionary of the churches among the gangsters of Hanover Park. The Blomvlei Baptist Church, the main driving force of Operation Hanover Park, offered him and his family accommodation on their church premises. When a few other churches pledged financial contributions, things looked very promising. Our idea of solving the gangsterism problem on the long term, by starting Christian children’s clubs in different parts of the township, got many people excited. It looked as if our vision of local churches working together in mission and evangelism was coming to fruition. At the same time it would have given an example to the rest of the country how to combat criminality and violence.
A miracle happened: Hanover Park experienced its ‘most quiet Christmas ever’, according to an aged resident. A combined prayer effort by Christians from different churches was the mainstay of the operation.
12. Swimming against the Stream
The year 1992 ended with our WEC conference in Durban. At that time the conference used to be held twice a year. The midyear conference had been held in July in Cape Town for the first time ever. At the conference in our Tamboerskloof home – WEC South Africa was indeed still very small - it had been decided ‘to strengthen the stakes, to consolidate the present work. That meant that our colleague Shirley Charlton would remain at the Cape, instead of going to Johannesburg (and Rosemarie and me taking over from her as WEC representatives in the Western Cape). At the same time we sensed clear confirmation that we should get more involved in Muslim Outreach. That is how we saw it.
At the conference in Durban the missionary colleagues were however not yet prepared to allow us to continue with Muslim Outreach, because that would mean starting a new ministry. Officially WEC South Africa had decided to concentrate on recruitment. We really had to fight all the way against the decision not to start new ministries,. Having fought many a verbal skirmish over the years, this was not new to me at all. For Rosemarie it was the Broederraad of Utrecht all over again, including the tears. The presence of Neil and Jackie Rowe, former British WEC leaders, saved the day for us. Otherwise we might have left WEC to do Muslim Outreach outside the confines of the mission agency. The Lord had called us into this ministry and we were not prepared to budge, even though I did not put it to the conference as strongly as that.
The start of our second year in Cape Town (1993) coincided with more disappointments. Right in the beginning of the year a wrangling for title and position saw the Operation Hanover Park disintegrating. My decision to decline a leadership position in this movement proved very costly. I was rather wary of giving the impression of being someone who returned from overseas with bright ideas and from outside the area, over‑riding the local leaders. The quality of the local leadership had already impressed me tremendously. But the unity was completely lacking. I was not versed enough in spiritual warfare to discern the danger. Even the prayer meeting that had been the mainstay of the movement - where the believers went to a different church every month - dwindled in terms of interest.
Our vision to train children’s workers also never came off the ground. We had no solution to counter the lack of discipline and perseverance of gifted potential workers. That seemed to be part and parcel of the ‘Coloured’ township sub‑culture.
Service of Love and Concern
We still thought that the establishment of a drug rehabilitation centre ‑ as a service of love and concern to the Muslim community ‑ would be a very effective way to make inroads into the ruling demonic forces. The related problem of gangsterism had spawned the establishment of Operation Hanover Park. A tract by Dean Ramjoomiah, our co-worker, written in the slang of the gangsters, touched Ivan Walldeck, a gang leader. Dean also succeeded to organize gangs to play soccer games against each other instead of shooting at each other. Soon peace was returning to the township. To God be the glory for the answer to the prayers! But hereafter Dean got estranged from the Blomvlei Baptist Church. He also drifted away from the fellowship of other believers locally.
Changing Church Fellowship yet again?
In the meantime we were increasingly unhappy with the church at which we were worshipping. The initial interest in the outreach to the Muslims appeared to be limited to Herma and Dave Adams. Achmed Kariem, the lone Muslim background believer in the fellowship, like-wise found no interest when he spoke to someone from the church leadership in this direction. Liz Robertson, who almost got married to a Jew, found that the church had only real interest in church planting in the Black townships. That was of course much easier than trying to reach out to the resistant Jews or Muslims.
Rosemarie and I attended the foundation class of the church with a view of becoming full members of the covenant set-up. Though we liked the idea of commitment, we had no liberty to join a church that had so little vision for the body of Christ in general. That is at any rate what we perceived at that time. With the proximity of Hanover Park to Toronga Road in Crawford where the Vineyard Church - as the Jubilee Church was called at the time - it would have made a big impact if they also joined up with Operation Hanover Park. But no interest was forthcoming.
We knew that these reasons were definitely not adequate to stop attending the fellowship, but we were now praying seriously what we should be doing. Prior to this we had been changing churches a few times because of relocation. We wanted our children to get settled again in a fellowship where there was warmth and love. One of the last things we wanted was to change our regular Sunday fellowship yet again.
Just then the church leadership came up with a suggestion that made the decision very easy for us. Instead of the separate entities at different venues for the Sunday morning service, the church members decided to congregate centrally at the former Waverley blanket factory in Observatory. We were not happy to attend a church some five kilometres away. We saw this as God’s answer to our prayers. But to find another church where we would be happy as a family was yet another matter.
Just at that time we heard that Louis Pasques and his wife Heidi were interested in Muslim outreach. Louis was a student at the Baptist College at this time and leading one of the three daughter fellowships of the Cape Town Baptist Church, just like the Vineyard Church had been doing.
The arch enemy seemed to give us one hammering after the other, but the Lord also encouraged us. In the second quarter of the year we felt that Rosemarie should visit her ailing mother again to relieve her sister Waltraud. When we lived in Holland, we would go to Germany in the school holidays to give Waltraud a break. But how could we finance such a trip from South Africa?
The very morning we started praying seriously about the matter, the telephone rang. It was Waltraud from Germany. She and her husband had been thinking about funding a trip for Rosemarie to visit them. That would be much cheaper than trying to get the bed-ridden mother into an old-age home for two weeks. My cousin Milly Joorst and her prayer warrior friend Magda Morkel came from Genadendal to cook for us in Tamboerskloof while Rosemarie was away. That was the beginning of a close prayer relationship to these two prayer warriers.
The Lord himself seemed to lead us to the Cape Town Baptist Church using Vanessa, the 8-year-old daughter of Brett Viviers, one of the elders of the church. This family belonged to the Tamboerskloof cell of the church. Vanessa had been terribly troubled by the calls from the minarets in the nearby mosques of Bo-Kaap. Her father suggested that she should start praying for the Muslims. A whole group from the church pitched up one Monday evening at our Bo-Kaap prayer meeting in Wale Street. From that group nobody continued to attend our prayer meeting regularly, but the visit was decisive in forging our links to the church, even though we were far from excited about the fellowship itself. But we also knew that the perfect church does not exist.
We heard that Heidi Pasques and her husband Louis were very much interested in going as missionaries to a Muslim country. This became the factor that made us join the fellowship. Furthermore, two members of our Bo-Kaap prayer meeting, Hendrina van der Merwe and Daphne Davids, already belonged to the church.
While Rosemarie was in Germany, money became available that her late father had intended as a bequest for the education of his grandchildren. For months we had been experiencing the need of a guest room. This was amplified at the latest occasion with Milly and Magda. The close relationship with Lothar and Barbara Buchhorn at the nearby German Stadtmission that contributed such a lot to make our children feel at home, was an added boon. However, we did not feel comfortable to approach the Buchhorns again and again when we had visitors.
Rosemarie’s visit to Germany also contained a temptation. While being there, she heard how nothing was done to reach the many Turkish people of the area in a loving way. In order to share the Good News with the children of the guest workers, it would not even be imperative to learn their language. In due course the enemy would abuse this snippet of information as a temptation to return to Germany.
The Country in Turmoil
Over the Easter Weekend of 1993 the whole country was thrown into turmoil when the news came through that Chris Hani, a leader of the Communist Party, was murdered. He had been mooted for high office in a new ANC-led government. For a few days the country hovered on the brink of civil war. The brave action of a ‘White’ woman who had seen the car of the murderer driving away - followed by the swift action of the police - prevented a major escalation of bloodshed. Civil war may have sent us packing our bags to leave the country. The murder of Hani demonstrated the urgency of the situation, resulting in the date of the elections set soon hereafter for April 27, 1994.
Just after Rosemarie’s return to the Cape in July 1993, the whole of South Africa was shocked out of its wits. On the last Sunday of that month terrorists killed a few congregants and maimed many believers wantonly in the evangelical St James Church of Kenilworth a Capetonian suburb. It was a miracle in itself that not many more people were killed.
Satan probably planned this to become the start-shot of the revolution. It had been preceded and followed by many attacks on innocent civilians, including Amy Biehl, an American exchange student. Although the date had been set for the first democratic elections, hardly anybody expected the run-up to the elections to be peaceful. Black townships like Khayelitsha were no-go areas for anyone who was not Black. Our friend Melvin Maxegwana from the City Mission
of Khayelitsha where I had preached in between, had to flee for his life. The local civic organization had concocted allegations against him. As a pastor with contact to other races, he was suspected any way of linking up with the ‘Whites’.
But satan had overplayed his hand. The St James Church massacre turned out to be the instrument par excellence to start the movement towards reconciliation when those family members who lost dear ones received divine grace to forgive the brutal killers. The killing of people during a church service sparked off an unprecedented urgency for prayer all around the country.
Round about the same time we received a letter from the German owner of our home. She wanted to sell the house, but she gave us the first option to buy it. Our landlady was definitely not the only person who wanted to sell property at this time. In fact, just about everybody who was in the position to emigrate, was considering this option.
With money that would be coming from Germany soon - an inheritance to our children from their late grandfather - we were now in the fortunate position to consider buying a suitable house. Up to that point in time we did think about it, but a bond on a house with four bedrooms was well beyond our means. It was still the question whether the bank would grant us a bond because we had no fixed income. With Bo-Kaap and Hanover Park as the main areas of our activity, we looked at possibilities to purchase a house geographically somewhere between these localities in a residential area like Pinelands.
Robbed and Conned
While these thoughts were still milling through our heads, a traumatic event shook us to the roots of our existence. Whereas the violence and turmoil on the East Rand, in Natal or even Khayelitsha was still on the periphery of our lives, the weekend starting with the second Friday of September 1993 had us reeling.
After the children had left for school at about 7.40h. Rosemarie and I had a short prayer session. Just after nine o’clock I had to fetch a few old ladies for the monthly WEC prayer meeting at our house. Here we would especially pray for our missionaries from South Africa and for those ministering in other parts of the country. To my horror, I had to discover that our old Micorbus was stolen.
The events of the next 30 hours were traumatic in the extreme. Our emotions swung like a very long pendulum from the heights of elation to the deepest despair. For many years hereafter I tried to document a complete report of the events, but I was never able to finish it within a time limit where the memory of the events were fresh enough.
On the Friday morning we discovered that our Microbus was stolen, at the one o’clock prayer meeting a new ‘convert’ came to our meeting - a drug addict who purported to have just been ‘saved’. 30 hours later we found out that he was a conman. In between this fake convert had fooled us terribly. His demonic demeanour removed my vision for a drug rehabilitation almost completely.
The events of the weekend highlighted the temptation to return to Europe. The Lord however did not give us peace to leave the Mother City as yet. In fact, over twenty years later we are still living in Vredehoek in the home that we actually bought. A sequence of special circumstances made the purchase possible.
Taking back what satan has stolen
The indifference of the churches for evangelistic outreach was a scourge all around the Peninsula. The situation in Woodstock and Salt River was among the worst in this regard. The two suburbs had become predominantly Islamic within a few years.
We got involved through a missions week with theological students at the Baptist Church that Pastor Graham Gernetsky organized with students from the Baptist College in March 1994. Reverend Gernetsky was open to the suggestion that we should do some prayer warfare with the students not only in Bo-Kaap, but also in Woodstock in an attempt to take back what satan has stolen through drug abuse, prostitution and gangsterism. The congregation had been closely linked to two churches in Roggebaai and District Six that had to be sold because of apartheid legislation. We prayed at the sites of the former Baptist churches that had respectively been in Jarvis and Sheppard Street.
The prayer walking in Woodstock was very significant. On our prayer walk with the Baptist students we heard of a young pastor, William Tait, who had started to minister in the area from 1989. (Two years later Pastor Tait would play a pivotal role in the prayer drives at religious strongholds in 1996) The nearby Presbyterian Church was not a ruin yet, but nevertheless completely dilapidated. The area had become Islamic after the Christians had moved out. The initial reason for the decay was the expected implementation of Group Areas legislation to this area. In the early 1990s the increase in drug addiction, prostitution and gangsterism were the causes for many Christians to move out of the area. Muslims invariably replaced them.
The two derelict church buildings depicted the state of the body of Christ in the area. As we walked the streets, we prayed that the Lord would revive his Church, that the character of the suburb would change yet again, but this time in a positive direction. We discerned the same principle that saw vast areas of the world becoming Islamic. Just like the Middle East - where once biblical Christianity was thriving with leaders like Cyprian, Tertullian and Augustine - had been stolen by the enemy of souls through the slackness and indifference of the Church, the devil had his way in Woodstock. Just as Communism and apartheid were prayed down, I saw here another possibility of a visible example – next to Bo-Kaap - to encourage believers to claim back the Islamic strongholds of the Middle East.
On the final Sunday evening of the mission week that we conducted with the Baptist College students in March 1994, some of the students gave short testimonies. We presented our slide series and I preached on John 4, Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. This sermon was planned to be the first of a series of three on that chapter. The country was going through a traumatic period at this time. I stated in my sermon that I sensed the same spiritual battle that we had experienced in Europe in 1989, reminding the believers that what had been achieved there is primarily to be attributed to prayer. On this account I meant to encourage the believers. The Cape Town Baptist Church was only one of many around the country where regular prayers went up since the St James Church massacre. In many homes groceries and guns were hoarded in preparation for the worst scenario. A bomb scare at the German school and contingency plans for the expected emergency situation after the elections brought home the seriousness of the situation.
More Lessons of March 1994
The mission week became one big lesson in spiritual warfare. One morning at the early time of prayer that started at 5 a.m. - Rosemarie shared what she had ‘discovered’ in Galatians 1:8,9 viz. that even an angel can bring a false message if that would deviate from the original Gospel revealed in Scripture. This amplified to us the origins of the Qur’an that Muslims believe was brought to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. It is well-known that the crucifixion of Jesus is denied in the Muslim sacred book. We were filled with more compassion towards the Muslims as we discovered that they have been deceived without their knowing it. This became to me the pristine beginnings of a major study of the Angel Gabriel in the Bible, the Qur’an, the Talmud and the Ahadith. (The latter are Islamic traditions of Muhammad’s words and deeds that are regarded as equal in authority to the Qur’an.) After studying the content of the ‘revelations’ that Muhammad was said to have received, it was all too clear that the Qur’anic Gabriel was not identical with the Biblical angel who had visited Mary and Elisabeth. The Nestorian Syrian monk Bahira who had suggested to Muhammad that he would be a prophet when he was a mere 12 years old, obviously did him a great disservice. This sent his originally Christian wife Khadiyah and her priest uncle on a completely unfortunate track.
The more I studied, the more I discovered how deceptive the arch enemy was, that he has indeed been masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14); that the consistent omission of everything alluding to the Cross in the Qur’an cannot be coincidence. This discovery came about when I prepared teaching for a group of Muslim background believers and for a radio series.
Another lesson of the mission week was quite painful to me. When I taught the Bible College students something about the history of Islam in the Western Cape, I broke down in tears. I had to discover that deep in my heart there was still resentment towards the Dutch Reformed Church. I suppose that it developed when I saw how the denomination opposed the government when Mr P.W. Botha and his Cabinet were ready to remove the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act from the statute books.
Two of the student participants at the mission week were Kalolo Mulenga and Orlando Suarez, respectively from Zambia and Mozambique. The seed had already been sown in my heart to see South(ern) African Blacks as future missionaries. Now the increasing number of expatriates in Cape Town came into my vision as future missionaries to their own people just like the Samaritan woman of John 4. The lessons in cross-cultural outreach that the Master Teacher passed to us through this chapter were going to guide us during the next few years profusely. I not only used the conversation of our Lord Jesus with a woman from another culture as a prime example for the outreach to Cape Muslims, but we were now concentrating on the local converts from Islam. We noticed how much more effectively they were reaching out to their own people.
Concretely we thought to have found our Samaritan woman of the Bo-Kaap. But we were over-zealous, suggesting to do Bible Study with her. Thereafter her interest clearly waned, although we remained good friends to this day.
Slaughtering of Sheep in Bo‑Kaap
During our sharing the Gospel with Cape Muslims we felt like trying to hit a brick wall. We were reminded of the book Peace Child that we had been reading during our missionary orientation in Bulstrode, England. In this book Don Richardson, the author, had been praying for a key to the hearts of the tribal people of Papua New Guinea they attempted to reach. We now also started to pray for a key to the hearts of the Cape Muslims.
Witnessing the Islamic slaughtering of sheep in Bo‑Kaap on two occasions was a real blessing to my wife and me. The ceremony really brought to light the biblical prophecy of Isaiah 53 that I had learnt by heart as a child. To see how the sheep went to be slaughtered ‑ without any resistance ‑ reminded us of Jesus, whom John the Baptist called the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We sensed that we had been given the key to minister to Cape Muslims. In subsequent years we noticed how many of them opened up whenever we shared from our experience at the slaughtering of sheep in Bo‑Kaap.
That Muslims commemorate the sacrifice of Abraham at their major Eid celebration, made me aware how near to each other the three world religions Christianity, Judaism and Islam actually are. The narrative of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son is central to all three faiths.
It surely was a blessing to discover somewhere along the line that according to the Midrash - so much part and parcel of the rabbinic oral teaching traditions - Isaac was purported to have carried the fire‑wood for the altar on his shoulder just like someone would carry a cross. The voluntary ‘binding of Isaac’ was another notable tenet among the many features of common ground. I learned that the Jews nevertheless still have an objection: that human blood is not acceptable for purposes of sin atonement. For me as a Christian, this objection is sufficiently covered when I take into account that the prophecy of Isaiah 53 saw the suffering servant as a sheep brought to be slaughtered. (To us as Christians the suffering servant is a clear pointer to Jesus, the Lamb of God.) In Islam the oral tradition the son to be sacrificed sadly became Ishmael.
Special Answers to Prayer
It was special to see how our prayers for Woodstock were being answered. Soon after the mission week we heard that the local Assemblies of God fellowship under the leadership of their young pastor William Tait, had started with early morning prayer meetings. Every weekday, at 5 a.m., a few church members would intercede for a change in their crime-ridden residential area. The diminutive Baptist Church of Woodstock decided to call a minister. Edgar Davids, their choice, proved to be a real visionary man of God. The minute fellowship later took the bold step in faith to buy and renovate the ruin of the old Dutch Reformed Church in Aberdeen Street.
There was also some fruit to observe in our ventures with Muslim background believers. We invited Zane Abrahams, Adiel Adams, Salama Temmers and Majiet Pophlonker to come to our home to discuss the possibility of starting a monthly meeting in Bo-Kaap as the forerunner to planting a church in the Muslim stronghold. The character of the planned meeting was completely changed when apart from Louis Pasques, one of the local Baptist church leaders, two other ministers from that denomination turned up. Nelson Abraham belonged to the mission committee of the denomination and Angelo Scheepers was the regional coordinator. Somehow they had the idea that we should plant a denominational Baptist church in Bo-Kaap. Graham Gernetsky, the senior pastor of the church, had already become excited when I pointed out during my teaching during the mission week at the church that their former daughter churches in Jarvis Street in Bo-Kaap and Sheppard Street in District Six were lost because of the Group Areas Act.
Perhaps it might have been easier to try and start up a denominationally linked Baptist congregation in the church building in Jarvis Street that now belonged to the Cape Town Photographic Society. However, I resisted the idea vehemently, thinking of all the Muslim background believers in the Cape who came from different denominations. Adiel Adams supported me in my views, but he then suggested that we should have an over-arching ministry across the Peninsula.
The Birth of Friendship Ministries
The support of Adiel was important because the dynamic Angelo Scheepers is his brother-in-law. I insisted that a convert from Islam should lead such an initiative. Before long Friendship Ministries was born under the leadership of Adiel Adams. The decision was however not strategic, because the emphasis was shifted from Bo-Kaap through this move. The leadership given by the initial group was neither clear nor persevering. It petered out after a matter of months.
My second sermon in the Cape Town Baptist Church on John 4 was held in May, just after the unique elections on 27 April 1994. I had invited Zane Abrahams to come and give his testimony at that occasion. Due to a communication misunderstanding, he didn’t come. I erroneously thought that I now had to make up for it. I shared far too much from our personal experience. That was unfortunate. I had evidently offended some church members when I made a joke out of the fact that Rosemarie was expected to come into the country without her husband on our honeymoon journey. I was not asked anymore to complete my series of three sermons. An important reason for the indifference to Muslims hereafter was that the church leadership became embroiled in internal bickering. Interest in any outreach, least of all to the Muslims, waned in the months that followed. A week of early morning prayer with Bob Bosworth, hyped up some excitement but the writing was already on the wall. There was no real unity, the basic ingredient for any church outreach.
Praying for the Conversion of Muslims
The miracle happened that has been documented in many books - peaceful elections countrywide. Nobody could deny that this was God’s supernatural intervention: the result of the countrywide prayer effort that had been ignited by the St James Church massacre.
Jesus Marches were planned for a Saturday in the month of June all over the world. In a letter from our friend and missionary colleague Chris Scott from Sheffield (England) he wrote about their preparations for a Jesus march in their city. Inquiries on this side of the ocean landed the co-ordination of the whole effort in Cape Town in my lap. I had high expectations when I co-ordinated about 20 prayer marches in different parts of the Cape Peninsula, liaising closely with Danie Heyns and Chris Agenbach with regard to the northern suburbs of the city and the immediate ‘platteland’ (country side). Strategic contacts were forged at this time, notably to churches in Mitchells Plain and Logos Baptiste Gemeente in Brackenfell.
I hoped that this venture would result in a network of prayer across the Peninsula. However, the initial interest that our second attempt with the updated slide series had stimulated in various areas fizzled out. I deduced that it was not yet God’s timing and that we should do a lot more to stimulate the unity of the body of believers. For the first time I shared here what I had researched about the influence of the Kramats, the shrines on the heights of the Cape Peninsula.
A strategic contact of this initiative was Trefor Morris, who was closely linked to Radio Fish Hoek, a pioneering Christian Cape radio station. Trefor had been a regular of our Friday lunch time prayer meeting till his retirement. He had been a link to the radio station, when we were invited to come and give some advice and teaching to the ‘prayer friends’ of the station who had to speak to those Muslims who phoned Radio Fish Hoek. His radio series on old churches was valuable to me as an inspiration for further research. It also was a model for a series on biblical figures in the Qur’an and the Talmud that was transmitted via the radio station towards the end of 1997 and repeated in 1999. Another important contact of this initiative was Freddie van Dyk, a linked to the Logos Baptiste Gemeente in Brackenfell. Freddie van Dyk’s attendance at our Friday lunch hour prayer meeting led to our very strategic hospital outreach.
Another concrete positive of 1994 was a movement towards Christ in many Muslim countries. In 1992 mission leaders had decided to call the Christians worldwide to pray for the Muslim world during Ramadan. This was a natural follow-up of the call of Open Doors for ten years of prayer for the Muslim world in 1990. Everybody was still vividly remembering the spectacular result of the seven years of prayer for the Soviet Union.
Meeting Muslim Background Believers
At one of our first discussions with Manfred Jung, a missionary colleague, the idea came up to write down the testimonies of converts from Islam. After we had Majiet, Zane and their families with us in June 1992, the seed had already been sown in my heart when I heard Majiet’s moving story. I enjoyed collating the testimonies from some of the Muslim background believers, sometimes making notes at meetings and once I went with a tape recorder to a house. The result was ‘Op soek na waarheid’, a booklet that we wanted to launch at a prayer seminar in January 1995. Elizabeth Robertson - one of our regular prayer warriors - was on hand to draw a beautiful cover for the booklet that was later also translated into English. Testimonies of Muslim background believers were later also written down, edited and distributed as tracts. I had hoped that the publication of Search for Truth could become a CCM (Christian Concern for Muslims) joint venture. Knowing how volatile testimonies are, my missionary colleagues however all got cold feet. In the end we had to publish it under the name of WEC alone.
Special networking however did take place when Pastor Johnnie Louw, a retired Bible School principal of the AFM, requested different missionary colleagues to write a booklet on sharing your faith to Muslims. Originally written in Afrikaans, he had it translated into English. Thereafter it was distributed in different countries. Elisabeth Robertson from our Middle East prayer group, made a drawing for the cover of the booklet, as she had been doing for our booklet Op Soek na Waarheid / Search for Truth.
13. Whippings as a Blessing
The new year 1995 started well. We received notice of a substantial sum of money paid into the account of our mission by Rosemarie’s godmother. We saw that as God’s provision to enable us to book air tickets for our four-month home assignment in Holland and Germany. Our home church is in the former country; Rosemarie’s family and other supporting friends are in the latter one. There would also be sufficient funds for the printing of “Op Soek na Waarheid”.
Just after the school holidays we had a Muslim seminar lined up in Rylands, a predominantly Indian residential area. That we could stage the event in a Muslim stronghold was already significant. For the rest, the seminar was not a resounding success. Our time schedule for the publication of the testimony booklet was much too tight. But this was only the start of many disappointments and attacks. It was clear that the booklet of testimonies was strategic in our spiritual fight against the enemy’s hold on people. We had no clue that this would unleash one whipping after the other from the ranks of the arch enemy.
Lessons in Spiritual Warfare
Rosemarie and I were thrown into some turmoil when a brother seriously meant to teach us a lesson or two on the Toronto Blessing. He suggested that we would be missing out significantly if we did not have this special anointing. At one of the churches where the blessing was rife, I witnessed excessive ‘laughing in the Spirit’, but I could not really appreciate it.
We went to the Lord with the question. His lesson was unequivocal when our 8-year old daughter Tabitha had to cry unabatedly, just as I was about to go to the church fellowship in question. The Lord had laid such a burden on her for the lost. Tabitha wanted to know whether she could give her life so that others could be saved from a lost eternity. Romans 9, where Paul agonized in a similar way, came alive before our eyes. Rosemarie explained to her that Jesus did just that when he died for our sins on the Cross of Calvary. For us the penny dropped: it is not our laughing, but our weeping for the lost that honours God more!
What started off as a blessing in Toronto, was evidently abused by satan. The fellowship that started off so well with a heart for the Muslims and Bo-Kaap grew cold and disinterested in outreach. In fact, within a few months the fellowship experienced there and at Cape Town Baptist Church where the Toronto Blessing reared its head, big splits followed.
In preparation of the prayer seminar, I gave to Gerda Leithgöb some of my research on the establishment and spread of Islam. Among other things we interceded for a prayer network throughout Cape Town that could cause a breakthrough in the hearts of Muslims. We also started praying into the area of strongholds like shrines which keep them in spiritual bondage.
When I mentioned the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 60 that referred to the two eldest sons of Ishmael and the 'camels of Midian' in a Messianic context as part of a devotional in our Friday lunch our prayer meeting, the Lord used that to start calling Gill Knaggs into the mission to the Muslim world. The Isaiah pericope was an encouragement to me to expect Muslims to come to the Lord in due course in a significant way. (We had started praying for the Muslim world as part of an Open Doors call to do it for ten years. Gill was merely attending our prayer meeting on a one-off basis. But this set her in motion to pray about getting involved in full-time mission work. Soon Gill was used by God to get YWAM in South Africa more interested in the Muslims. Concretely, an interest developed in Egypt, where the mission group started to network with the Coptic Church in that country via the links through Mike Burnard of Open Doors.
Spiritual Forces Unleashed
We still had little clue of the spiritual forces that are unleashed during the Islamic month of Ramadan. We still had to learn that because we had been thrust into the front line of the spiritual battle at the Cape. We needed a lot of prayer covering.
The battle really heated up during Ramadan. In two cases we escaped serious car accidents on the highway by a whisk. In one of the instances it was very near to a miracle that Rosemarie was not killed. Some strange things also happened to our 1981 model Mazda that we had bought after our minibus had been stolen. Twice I had to be towed to a garage but on both occasions they found nothing amiss with the vehicle and also thereafter we had no problems with the car. It was evident that there were dark powers at work.
Our nerves were tested to the extreme when our two-monthly missionary allocation did not arrive. It left the bank in Holland all right, but inexplicably it never arrived in the FNB bank account of our mission headquarters in Durban. In the meantime we started using the money that was scheduled for the air tickets for our home assignment in Holland and Germany. Some tense weeks followed when the airline with whom we had booked but not paid, cancelled our seats. (Cape Town was fast becoming a favourite destination for tourists.) The tension in the family to get seats became so bad that everyone in the family forgot our 20th wedding anniversary on 22 March. A minor car accident in the morning that day when I hit a car down the road that was reversing out of his port was a small part of what we saw as a satanic backlash. Later the same day we baptised five persons, who had come from Muslim background in Mitchells Plain. Two of these came from our ministry.
But all is well that ends well. On the evening the home ministry group of our church fellowship sprang a big surprise on us. We had no clue what they were up to when they came to our home for a special farewell. Everybody in the family had forgotten that it was our wedding anniversary, but Carol Günther did not. She arranged with the participants to bring along enough to eat to make it a very special celebration. The day became perfect when the gentleman of Club Travel, who had been working overtime, phoned at 21h that he could secure seats for us, thus only a few days before our intended departure! The three older children could fly on a youth fare of Lufthansa, with the rest of us flying Air France.
Confession once again
It came really as a special boon when Christians overseas starting organising a Reconciliation Walk following the path of the Crusades the following year. Bennie Mostert (Jericho Walls) faxed the lengthy confession of the organisers through to our Cape CCM Forum on the very day that we had one of our meetings. It looked to me as if God had his hand in it. But it turned out to be no cakewalk. In our meeting the lengthy confession was turned down out of hand because it was regarded as not relevant for us in South Africa. I managed to salvage the idea, suggesting that we should then write our own confession. At our Easter Conference 1997 at Wellington I reminded the missionary colleagues of the idea at a meeting of the leadership. They promptly gave me the homework to write a draft and send it to the relevant people in preparation for our leaders meeting in October, 1997. It looked pretty obvious to me that the bulk of them were just procrastinating, but I did not want to let them off the hook so easily. The matter was much too important to me for completely leaving it at that.
The general disappointment at the basic disunity among our missionary colleagues was only one of a series of knocks. Just prior to the Easter conference we had to bury my father on the Elim mission station and shortly thereafter Rosemarie had to fly to Germany for the funeral of her mother.
While Rosemarie was in Germany, I spoke to Nadia telephonically. Nadia manipulated matters cleverly, so that I arranged with Rosemarie telephonically that we would take her into our home after Rosemarie’s return from Germany. Louis and Heidi Pasques, our pastor and his wife, agreed to accommodate Nadia until Rosemarie would be back. This we did at great personal cost. At the same time this highlighted the need for a discipling house.
I was encouraged when I visited my dear friend Jakes - breaking away for a few minutes from the CCM conference in Wellington. He shared his resolve to go on pension soon. Thereafter he wanted to get involved with Muslim outreach again. That made me quite happy, but it was not to be. A little more than a month later he had a stroke. When I prayed with his wife Ann in hospital, he was in a coma, with little hope given that he would survive. The next day our dear Jakes was with the Lord.
When Rosemarie and I arrived at the church for his funeral, there was not a single seat available.
I did not mind at all to sit on the wooden step just next to the coffin, which contained my late friend.
On the same evening of Jake’s funeral, Rosemarie had symptoms of having had a stroke as well after Nadia had manipulated in such a way that Rosemarie felt compelled to drive her to friends after our return from Wellington, although she was extremely exhausted.
Ishmael and Isaac: Sons of Abraham
As I studied different biblical figures in the Bible that are also found in the Qur’an - for use with our meetings with our Muslim background believers - a pattern became clear. I discerned that all pointers to the Cross of Calvary in the 'Old Testament' are consistently left out in the Qur’an. To check my discovery, I also studied the same personalities in the Jewish Talmud. Here I was struck by a further tenet, viz. how close early Christianity was to Judaism. Yet, I detected that many Christians have to be reminded forcefully that both Ishmael and Isaac were sons of Abraham. I discovered furthermore that the traditional rivalry of Jews and Muslims has hardly any basis in the Pentateuch: Moses was living quite peacefully among the family of Jethro, a Medianite priest. Even though I know that one should not equate Muslims with Ishmaelites, it was nevertheless good to discover that the Midianites were regarded as Ishmaelites (Judges 8:24, Gen. 37:25‑27).
Someone pointed out to me that the descendants of Ishmael are actually referred to in the Bible much clearer than I had ever thought. In the context of Messianic prophecy and global salvation, Isaiah 60 speaks of various peoples who will come to God when they see His light. To some Christian people ‑ and very likely also to Jews ‑ it may be discomforting that among those who will come to the glory of the returning (coming) Messiah will be ‘Midianites’, who are regarded by many as the traditional enemies of God’s people. In fact, Kedar and Nebaioth, the two eldest sons of Ishmael, are mentioned by name (Isaiah 60: verses 6 and 7). More and more I discovered that the enmity between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac is definitely not enshrined in the 'Old Testament'; that this is part of satan’s strategy of divide and rule.
An 'ambivalent' View of the Nature of God
I detected ‑ as I was re‑reading a portion of the letter of Paul to the Romans ‑ that a biblical view of the nature of God does also include one that many knowledgeable Christians would normally describe as Judaic‑Islamic: the perception of a rigid almost harsh God who wills what he wants, who rules almost despotically. This is completely in line with portions of the 'OT' where God seems almost unjust, e.g. when the prophets speak about the sins of Israel (see e.g. Hosea 4‑10). With this position Christians might not feel very happy, but it is nevertheless also a 'New Testament' concept. Both 'NT' and 'OT' agree: God does act sovereignly, but he does not treat us like robots.
Yet, Jeremiah 18:7ff has special actuality for Capetonians. Evangelicals who think that God is obliged to bring to pass the many prophecies over the Mother City - without united repentance and prayer - would do well to see that the Bible forces a good rethink on the matter: ‘...And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it’. The believers ‑ and I refer to Jewish ones in particular ‑ have a pivotal role to play viz. ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. South Africa saw in 1994 how God miraculously intervened after a fairly united spontaneous prayer movement. The only flaw was that there was not a semblance of joint expression of gratitude for the Almighty’s sovereign deliverance from massive bloodshed. May we have learned from that experience to improve on that performance!
I became convinced that if Christians were willing to accept corporately that we cannot put God into a box of Western Theology ‑ the Scriptures have originated in the Orient ‑ we might find Muslims and Jews more open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A more complete message seems to be: God is loving and forgiving, he is slow to anger but there comes a time when continued sinning will call forth his wrath. (Somehow quite the opposite came through to Islam. The Qur’an says that Allah is swift in taking account (Surah 24:39), quick in retribution (Surah 7:167). Furthermore, the verse from Jeremiah 18 quoted above repudiates the Islamic doctrinal tenet that God does not change His mind.) The Bible repeats more than once that the Almighty is in principle unchangeable and sovereign, but not arbitrary and aloof. Compassionate and remorseful prayer moves him, especially when it is done corporately. We note e.g. how the Ninevites averted the destruction of their city through corporate repentance as a result of Jonah’s preaching.
Furthermore, I believed and still do that Capetonian Muslims are much closer to Biblical Christianity than their religious peers in many other parts of the world. Dr Yusuf da Costa, an academic and religious leader from Kensington, has showed quite conclusively (e.g. his contribution The influence of Tasawwuf on Islamic Practices at the Cape, in Pages from Cape Muslims History, p. 129‑141) how Sufism extensively influenced Capetonian Islam. In concentrating on the mystical side of Sufism, Christian scholars have often overlooked a major point of common ground with Sufi Muslims. Like possibly no other Muslims, the Sufi segment believes in the love of God. “...the deep influence of Sufism has ensured that the Muslim too believes in the love of God.” (Nazir‑Ali, - Islam: a Christian Perspective, 1983:p.61) Committed Christians could empathise easily if we consider that “The earliest Sufis... saw that obedience to God must be a heart response rather than mere observance... They laid great stress on a personal experience of God... respond to Him with love.” (Nazir‑Ali, 1983:61)
Yet, I also have come to see that exactly this is the treacherous part of Sufism. Because Sufi’s also have supernatural experiences, they are so often not aware when satan is deceiving them. This happens also with Christians when they do not take seriously that satan was a liar from the beginning, an imitator par excellence. An occult element became part and parcel of Folk Islam at the Cape, e.g. with the commemoration of the deceased - 7, 40 and 100 days after their death. (On the Christian side, Roman Catholics also offer prayers for the deceased for nine days). Scripture clearly prohibits praying to the deceased and the implication of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 16 is pretty clear that it is pointless to pray for people after they have died.
The deduction that one can be saved through purgatory - derived from 1 Corinthians 3 - is not based on sound theology. This somehow seeped through to Islam. In Islamic thinking the concept grew that one can cancel out the sins through alms, good deeds and other acts of benevolence. The context of 1 Corinthians 3:15 makes it clear that Paul wrote to believers, encouraging them to ‘go for gold’, advising them to use durable material in the ‘building’ process. Paul emphasised that the end result is God’s building, of which Jesus is the (only) foundation. We are mere co‑workers. To use good works to get saved from the test of the fire would make a travesty of the context. In other references Paul makes it clear what the real rewards are, viz. spiritual growth in one’s own life and being a blessing to other people. Mature spirit‑filled Christians were his crown, his joy (Philippians 4:1). Sufism brought the love of God back into the picture but it did not rectify the major mistakes of Orthodox Islam that had developed from the fallacies of the early medieval church. Thus there was hardly ever any teaching that the expression of God’s love was the obedience of Jesus as His Lamb that was ‘slaughtered’ innocently for the sins of the world. Sufism also never challenged the doctrine of works, the idea that man could earn his salvation through good deeds. This is a concept that is completely contrary to 'NT' teaching of works of faith. Benevolent deeds are only an expression and a result of our faith. (As Protestants we have to concede though that Martin Luther was not helpful in this regard, tilting the 'New Testament' balance between faith and works towards the former.
Cape Muslim Clerics highlighted
Furthermore, I believe that Cape Muslim ulema (Cape Islamic clergy in general) are not of the extremist type. The vocal, violent reaction represents a small minority of Cape Islam. This was demonstrated when the Cape ulema (Islamic clergy) strongly objected to the killing of Rashaad Staggie by PAGAD on 4 August 1996. They even distanced themselves from PAGAD at a later stage.
I am grateful to a Muslim academic of Bo‑Kaap, the late Dr Achmat Davids, where I could always pop in for a chat about my research. I was positively impressed how he reacted to my criticism of some of the things that he and Robert Shell had been writing. Davids actually encouraged me to go ahead with the South African library publication that however still never took place.
Increasingly, I got to understand the difficulties and the day‑to‑day struggle of followers of Muhammad in their search to please God. The example of one of their prominent Sufi leaders, the late Maulana Sulaiman Petersen ‑ became to me the background to discover the equivalent of a Muslim in the Bible: the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). The Roman soldier excelled through his giving to the poor and his regular prayers. God who sees the heart, responded to the alms to the poor and regular prayers ‑ which would be the equivalent of two pillars of Islam. Cornelius received a supernatural vision.
The net result of my research on Islam and the spread of this religion in the Western Cape has been a sense of tremendous guilt. Therefore I continue my ‘open letter’ with a series of confessions. I am aware that I cannot speak on behalf of all Christians, but I would please like to ask my Muslim friends to accept it as a personal confession. I pray that many other Christians will be able to ascribe to it as time goes on.
13. Time to Apologize?
I regard it as a major deficiency that I have never made a serious attempt at dialogue with Muslims about matters of faith in earlier days. (In the case of Jewish clergy and laity I hardly had any chance.) As part of an attempt to improve on this, I thought of the ‘open letter’. I regard it as quite a shame on us as Christians, that after so many years of mutual contact, Muslims (and Jews?) at the Cape have still not heard clearly what Jesus Christ could mean to them. To all intents and purposes they have never come to understand the real, undistorted message of the Bible.
Of course, it could be easily explained rationally in the South African context. In discussions that I have had with Muslims in the more distant past, it became quite clear that in their perception, Christianity was linked to the apartheid ideology. In my feeble attempts to speak about my faith, one argument that left me quite uncomfortable was the one that ‑ unlike Christianity ‑ there is no apartheid in Islam. I never tried to counter this allegation, even though I knew a) that Muslims also discriminate b) that the repugnant apartheid ideology was actually diametrically opposed to faith in the biblical Christ. It is fortunately common knowledge in the meantime that every attempt to justify apartheid with the Bible is tantamount to heresy. The bitter clashes of different factions of Islam are also no secret anymore.
Another Brand of Apartheid?
Let me continue with another confession: we South African Christians have allowed an apartheid brand of Christianity to cloud the issues. We have neglected to communicate the true message of the 'New Testament', e.g. that all walls of partition between human beings have been broken down through Jesus Christ. In fact, the first church in Jerusalem consisted of people from extremely diverse cultural backgrounds, although all of them were of Jewish extraction.
Further confession pertains to a heresy that flows from this. The denominational division of churches is unfortunately not yet seen as such, even though from time to time it has been verbalised. Here in South Africa it was e.g. included by implication in the unequivocal rejection of all forms of apartheid at the Rustenburg confession in 1990.
I had no good answer ready when one of my High School students of Hanover Park asked me in 1981: Why do you have so many churches? I am afraid that I have to confess that even at the present time Christians are still allowing doctrinal differences to confuse people of other religions. I call the disunity of churches a heresy ‑ another brand of apartheid ‑ because Jesus saw the unity of His followers as something of great importance. It is recorded in the Gospel (Injil) that He prayed for all those who would follow Him, to be one (John 17:21-23). John 17:23 is still valid, viz. 'that they may be brought to complete unity.'
Paul evidently also regarded this as of great importance. He taught not only about the different parts of the body (Romans 16 and 1 Corinthians 12) but he also wrote ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit’. Paul evidently knew that unity is something to strive for and to work at. Earnestly he appealed to the bickering church in Corinth where factions had developed. He reprimanded even his own fans in the church for hero‑ worshipping him or the followers of Apollos and Peter, pointing to God alone who can give spiritual growth. His letter to the Corinthians included a moving plea: ‘I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 1:10‑13 and 3:1‑5). Unanimity is by no means implied. In Ephesians 3:10 Paul taught that God's 'multi-coloured wisdom' is demonstrated into the spiritual realms through the church.
The teaching of unity as a biblical priority has been grossly neglected. Religious leaders through the ages fell into the trap of allowing themselves to be hero‑worshipped. They caused splits and division through a strong emphasis on some doctrinal tenet.
In our own days we have seen prominent Christian leaders become victims of fame. In a subtle way the heresy of apartheid caused some believers to lose their sense of biblical priorities. Quite a few church leaders, who started off as committed believers in Jesus, were side-tracked in the struggle against apartheid, losing their passion and urgency to reach the lost. I was one of those who nearly lost my way in this regard.
I was deeply moved when I discovered that the theological issues with which Muslims have major problems (the Deity and Sonship of Jesus as well as the Trinity) had been the very doctrines over which there has been such a lot of bickering among Christian theologians. Yes, even to‑day Christians often oppose each other on petty denominational and doctrinal issues, on wrong grounds. Shame on us! When are we going to learn that division and splits caused by competition and rivalry are diabolic and therefore demonic?
The Crusades and other Christian Albatrosses
My next confession does not refer to a typically South African problem. Yet, it may be that some Capetonian Muslims and Jews are still troubled by the abuse of crosses during the crusades many centuries ago. I am aware that because of this, the cross is a hated symbol in many countries. I am confident that I speak for all sensitive and sensible Christians, if I say that we are sorry that the tag Christianity had been put to behaviour that completely contradicts the spirit of the Cross. Jesus’ injunction, to take up one’s cross and follow Him, means an invitation to self‑denial, a yes to suffering and persecution. The crusades were thus a travesty of the intention of His invitation. Jesus taught a radical life‑style including the injunction to love your enemies. Provocation is no excuse, because Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. The idea to ‘defend Christianity’ against any onslaught, has hardly any 'New Testament' basis. In fact, when Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, attempted to resist His arrest using a sword, Jesus repudiated Him: ‘all who take the sword, will perish by the sword’ (Matthew 26:5). Without in any way condoning the brutality of some Jewish soldiers in Gaza, the West Bank and Palestine, I dare to state that true followers of Jesus are utterly ashamed of the atrocities meted out to Muslims in Bosnia by people calling themselves Christian. The mentality that was guided by an economic motive and that played a role at the first Crusades appeared to rise its head again with the USA-led war in Iraq in 2003. The circumventing of the United Nations caused the ideal - getting rid of the terror reign of Saddam Hussain – to appear more and more like a smoke screen. It would be great if all Christian clergymen and evangelists, who organize evangelistic campaigns, would refrain from using the term ‘crusade’ for these events!
Pro’s and Cons of religious Tolerance
We should be really grateful for the spirit of religious tolerance that had become a cherished tradition of South African society. We have been spared the violence stemming from religious fanatism, with which many other countries are still battling. In areas like the old District Six and the Malay Quarter of Cape Town, where Muslims formed a substantial part of the population, there was hardly any religious conflict ‑ in fact, Muslim children attended church schools on no mean scale and individually the converse also took place.
The solidarity of Muslims and Christians in the opposition to apartheid legislation did play a role in the eventual demise of the resented ideology, even though it was not a major factor. But the mutual tolerance had a significant deficiency: we hardly spoke to each other about our faiths. Whereas Muslims theoretically had ample opportunity to get to know the basics of the Christian faith, e.g. through the radio, TV and open air services, a general lack of basic knowledge about Islam even among the Christian clergy is still prevalent. This has led to unnecessary tension and bitterness. Many ‘Coloured’ women, who got involved in a relationship with Muslim men leading to marriage, became completely estranged from their families. The major reason for this was that they were isolated, kept away from their relatives. But in many cases ‑ possibly the great majority ‑ the families did little from their side to keep the communication lines open to their estranged family members. If this had been done and dialogue engaged into, much bitterness and anger could have been prevented or avoided.
On a personal level, we have also felt an increased urge in recent years to give more attention to (messianic) Jews. Our common spiritual ancestry ‑ going back to Abraham ‑ has given a soft spot for the Jews to my wife and me.
Furthermore, I refused to allow the hardening of attitudes e.g. in the wake of the PAGAD saga to deter me from continuing not only with my friendship to all and sundry ‑ more especially also to Muslims. I continued to pray that I might resemble Jesus more and more who gave His life for me, so that others also want to become followers of Jesus.
Cape Town emulates Sodom
Sexual perversion had become a spiritual stronghold in the New South Africa, which got the country firmly into its grip. The new government since 1994 outlawed racism, but it opened the floodgates of sexual perversion with laws to legalize abortion as from 1 February 1997. Gay tourism started to thrive. With a renowned church leader speaking favourably about homosexuality, even the church appeared to back practices, which have a clear biblical veto. It seemed as if the legalistic past was handcuffing church leaders. They simply refrained from speaking out against this trend just as the bulk of pastors were silent during our apartheid era. There was for instance complete silence with regard to the surmised origins of HIV - men having sex with animals and thereafter spreading the disease among gay men in the 1970s, although the pandemic became increasingly out of control.
Cape Town took the continent-wide lead to emulate Sodom when the Western Cape’s person responsible for tourism seemed to have a free hand to promote the Mother City, competing with San Francisco and Sydney for the title of 'Gay capital of the world'. I was rather sad to read that support for the gay movement was led by the Dean of St George’s Cathedral, the church that had played such a big role in opposition to apartheid. Our friend and pastor Louis Pasques made a point of it to share his personal experience and deliverance with the dean of the cathedral, but that appeared to be like water on a duck’s back.
A casino in Goodwood with all the known vice surrounding such institutions - at the site where agricultural shows and evangelistic meetings were held in years gone by - typified the moral degradation of the metropolis. A 24-hour prayer watch was needed to counter this. Our Hendrina van der Merwe, faithful prayer warrior of our Bo-Kaap group, had been praying for years for such a prayer watch.
Rosemarie and I had been praying regularly with Heidi Pasques, Hendrina van der Merwe and Beverley Stratis. Trevor Peters, the tour guide of the Groote Kerk, became a regular at the local police station every Wednesday morning from 2005.
On the last Sunday of 2003 we visited the Calvary Chapel service when we bumped into Heidi. (Demitri Nikiforos, the pioneering pastor there, Demitri Nikiforos, the pioneering pastor, had married Karen, the daughter of Graham and Dawn Gernetsky, who had been the pastoral couple at Cape Town Baptist Church. Demetri had been the Sunday school teacher of our daughter Magdalena). Heidi hinted that she and Bev had special news for us. They could hardly wait to see us in the evening for our prayer time with them and Hendrina in her little flat.
There they told us that the Lord had made it clear to them that Bo-Kaap was a strategic stronghold. We were ourselves rather surprised, that the penny took so long to drop with them. We were extremely blessed. This was to us the confirmation that we should not relocate, that we had to remain in Cape Town. Hereafter the three became part of the core group for our monthly Signal Hill early morning prayer till the end of 2004 when Hendrina's earthly life was terminated, to be with her Lord.
Reconciliation of Jews and Muslims?
Already in 1993 we started with a monthly prayer meeting for the Middle East, which evolved from a fortnightly meeting in Bo-Kaap. The vision grew to see Jews and Muslims reconciled around the person of Jesus Christ. This vision received fresh nourishment when we prayed on Signal Hill from September 1998 every alternate Saturday morning at 6 a.m. Signal Hill is situated just above three residential areas associated close with the three Abrahamic religions. Tamboerskloof is a predominantly ‘Christian’ suburb, Bo-Kaap still is very much of a Muslim stronghold and in Sea Point the bulk of Cape Jews are living. For many years our love for the Jews found very limited expression. This changed from the end of 2004 when we increased networking with missionary colleagues who ministered to Jews. It is my firm belief that Reconciliation of Jews and Muslims at the Cape would send powerful signals around the globe. We have in Cape Town the special situation where we have sizeable minorities of Muslims and Jews next to the majority group of Christians. On top of that we have a heritage and history of representatives of the three Abrahamic religions who have been living harmoniously next to each other for decades in places like District Six, Bo-Kaap and Green Point until the 1950s. Of course, at that time no one even thought of the possibility of a common movement like the one we now have in the Middle East. The first tentative steps have been taken. As in every effort of reconciliation, a price has to be paid. But the biggest price of all has already been paid by no less than God himself, who gave his one and only, his unique son to reconcile us to himself. This is the basis of Paul’s challenge to all followers of the Master, viz. to get reconciled to God, to accept his gift in faith, the death on the cross for our sins.
An extra Word to Capetonians from Christian Background
The last 23 odd years here in the Mother city have been a great blessing to me all round. My ‘dialogue’ with Muslims in particular, has helped me to understand my own faith better. The more I got to know different facets of Islam, the more I came to understand what Paul said about the veil that covers people when the law is read (2 Corinthians 3:15). It became so clear to me that the Mosaic law to which Paul referred, can be substituted with so many things. It could be Qur’anic law, but it could also be equated to church tradition and all sorts of works and acting by which man tries to earn his own salvation.
I experienced a challenge to share the gospel in a loving way with people of all persuasions, like someone who had discovered water in the desert. In fact, this is what I said to an Islamic adherent who had confronted my wife and me with the question why we share our faith with Muslims. He replied: ‘We have our own water.’ While acknowledging the validity of his view, I also tragically sensed the bondage of the veil that all forms of legalism cause. What can I do when I discover that the water has been poisoned? This also happened in many a church where man‑made doctrine or tradition nullified the word (Mark 7:8, 13). Can I do much more than appeal to theologians to examine the ‘water’ and give the results honestly through to their followers? Christian theologians have become guilty, e.g. by confusing teaching and their lack of determination and resolve to pass on the biblical injunction of the unity of the body of Christ.
Muslim scholars have made out of Muhammad what he himself never intended to project, e.g. a ‘sinless’ prophet - whereas Islamic history, the Qur’an and the ahadith themselves point to his fallibility. Jewish academics generally fail the test as well, by not allowing their adherents freedom to study the biblical claims of Jesus to be the promised Messiah and divinity objectively. Fortunately Jesus revealed himself supernaturally to both Jews and Muslims, very significantly in the Middle East in recent years through dreams and visions.
A major challenge gripped me, as I was able to get in quite a few sessions of private study the last few years. Somewhere along the line I discovered that the stimulus for the formal abolition of slavery worldwide had its origin at the Cape. Dr Philip, who had been a missionary in the Cape Colony, through his book Researches in South Africa influenced public opinion in Britain significantly. He was furthermore a personal friend of William Wilberforce, who was a British evangelical parliamentarian at that time. Wilberforce became the main driving force towards the outlawing of slavery. There is a new challenge to us Capetonians! Could we be the advance guard yet again, this time to emancipate the world of all demonic religious enslavement, to usher in the return of the King of Kings? A yearning grew in me to see the gospel train steaming out of Cape Town!
Before this can happen, more confessions may have to be made. Thus the church has to take much of the blame for the establishment and spread of Islam here at the Cape. It is high time that we as Christians start paying off the debt. Remorseful confession is the right way to start, followed by concrete steps of restitution.
For many years I was aware that the various expressions of apartheid are demonic. In my recent studies I had become aware of the fact that satan has been very successful in keeping the spiritual descendants of Abraham apart. For one, the divided body of believers in Jesus ‑ with so many pastors building their own kingdoms ‑ would probably be very unwilling to concede that they are actually crucifying Jesus again and again in this way.
On the other hand, I am still so scared of publishing something which could cause division among believers. After seeing how allergic my missionary colleagues reacted to even my mentioning of regret for the actions of the Church, I doubt whether I would ever dare to see this 'open letter' go beyond a blog on the internet. I do not want to be the cause for many believers to stumble by causing division!
Encouraged by the arrival of Floyd and Sally McClung at the end of 2006, my wife Rosemarie and I detected kindred spirits as we now endeavoured to see a church planting movement started among those foreigners who have come to Cape Town.
One thing led to the other until we joined the Church Planting Experience (CPx) at the beginning of 2008 with the intention of becoming members of the All Nations International team. Along with our Friends from Abroad colleagues we now look to partner with local fellowships to see believers in home groups from the nations equipped to minister in future in their countries of origin.
It is a tragedy of history that great men were so often loners - with insufficient vision for the spiritual dynamics of separation as a tool of satan. Paul, the unique apostle, Luther, the special reformer and Muhammad, the great statesman, all belong to that category. The common denominator with all three great men was the harsh reaction to opposition at a latter stage of their lives, after humbly starting off as seekers of truth. In the case of Paul, he was one who still had to learn how much he had to suffer for the name of Jesus (Acts 9:16) after he had persecuted followers of Jesus. But later in his life he referred with intemperate language to the so-called Judaizers - but nevertheless fellow believers - who differed with him, calling them dogs (Phil. 3:12). It would be helpful if Christians were willing to acknowledge that Paul’s difference with these believers was not handled in the spirit of his own teaching in 1 Corinthians 13.
It is likewise sad that all of these men were basically misunderstood. It is nevertheless incomprehensible how someone like Paul, who was prepared to give his life for his people (see Romans chapters 9‑11), is still perceived by Jews as someone who had cut himself off from them. To me, there is only one explanation: it is a demonic conspiracy! On the other hand, it is exciting how God overruled any conspiracy of such a nature to bring about major reform and Gospel expansion.
May I suggest that we look for ways and means to rally around the Man from Nazareth, the greatest Jew down the ages. The Samaritans ‑ the spiritual ancestors of the Muslims ‑ described him as the Saviour of the World (John 4:42). It became even more clear to me that hierarchical (pyramid) structures that have become customary in many a church, mosque and synagogue, are actually diabolic. Before the period of the second temple in Jerusalem, even High Priests had been primi inter pares (first among equals). I have learned to understand that it was Jesus’ mission to make out of the off‑spring of Abraham ‘a light to the nations’. It is my conviction that the whole world will be the better if this comes to pass. Let us unite under the banner of the victorious Lamb and prepare for His return in glory as the Messiah and the King of Kings.
I take liberty to append an email that I received a few years ago. In many ways it reflects my heart-beat, summarising much of what has grown in me over many years.
A fresh breeze is blowing
By Godfrey Tinka
A fresh breeze is blowing. In this hour, God is calling and leading His Church back to the humility, simplicity, and mutuality of the Early Church as seen in the New Testament. He is saying, "For 1,700 years you have done it your way. Now you are going to do it My way." We are now in the midst of the early days of a sovereign, very radical, new move of God that will result in true, New Testament Christianity and the final fulfillment of the Great Commission. This new move of God is characterized by the following:
1. From serving God to knowing God.
Most of us have known about and served God for years. Now He is calling us to truly and deeply know Him, and supremely love Him and Him alone. True fruit will be produced naturally as we intimately know and love Him.
2. From a Gospel of "easy-believism" to the Gospel of the Kingdom.
In the 1960's people were encouraged to "accept Christ." This often resulted in shallow conversions, people who were not truly converted. Today, God is calling His servants to preach "the Gospel of the Kingdom" which requires us to call men to repent (turn from sin) and to make Jesus their Lord or King, the Sovereign ruler of their lives.
3. From the efforts of man to the works of God.
The days of putting out a sign, starting some programs, and conducting services to do God's work are over! We must learn to "do God's work in God's way." We need to wait upon Him; learn to know His voice; get our direction from Him alone; and obey promptly and totally. We must pay the price for revival. We must give ourselves to united, intensive, extraordinary prayer and warfare. We need to believe God to confirm His Word with signs and wonders. We need to implore God to teach us to do His work His way – and be ready to make drastic changes as He does just that. Then the fruit will be produced by Him – and He will get all of the glory.
4. From insecure, wounded people to people made whole by Jesus Christ.
Most of us have had traumatic experiences and have received deep wounds from other people. The word "salvation" means soundness, deliverance, wholeness. Jesus wants to heal us and set us free – body, soul, and spirit – to live a life of total victory. He is today raising up an army of such people – made whole by Him in every way – to live an abundant life that brings glory to God.
5. From being told by man what to do to learning to hear God's voice and doing what He tells you to do.
For too long we have gotten our revelation and guidance from others. God wants us to grow up, learn how to hear His voice (John10:3-5), and get our understanding of truth and direction from Him. And yet, of course, we need to do that in an attitude of submission towards all.
6. From clergy-dominated services and programs to mutually-participating communities of believers.
We are used to attending "a church" and participating in "a service" led by "the minister, clergy, or pastor." But such is not the case in Scripture. The Early Christians, for three hundred years, gathered in their homes to experience "koinonia," to share their lives with each other (Acts 2:42-47). They gathered together to build up one another by that which each one shared with the group (1 Corinthians14:26, Ephesians 4:15-16, Hebrews 10:23-25). The moving of God's Spirit in supernatural expression and power was an important aspect of these gatherings (1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14).
Today we have developed a spectator Christianity where a few (the "clergy") perform and the many (the "laymen") observe. Many of our Sunday morning services are nothing but a religious "production." We have made idols out of the Sunday morning service, the pastor, the building, pulpit, choir, platform, etc. We need to repent and return to the humility, simplicity, and mutual participation of the Early Church.
The indication that the time is ripe for this transition can be seen in many churches today where godly people ("laymen") who have been deep in the Word for twenty years, and have gifts and ministries that God has given them, are getting "bored" with being spoon-fed. They are eager to do some sharing themselves. God has been teaching them much, taking them deeper in understanding the Word, intercession, etc. Yet, when the Body of Christ gathers together, there often is little or no opportunity to share.
7. From one-man leadership to team, servant leadership.
The early Christians worked in teams: Jesus sent the twelve and seventy out in pairs; Paul always had associates (Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla and Aquila, etc.) working with him; the churches were led by a group called elders (Acts 14:23, 20:17-32, 1Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-5).
Today we have borrowed our organizational patterns from Roman Catholicism, the military, and the corporate world, and have developed religious hierarchies, where men rule over men, in contradiction to Matthew 20:25-28, 23:8-12, and 1 Peter 5:3. And most of these religious systems have perpetuated one-man leadership, i.e., "the pastor of the local church" or the president or director of the para-church organization. This generally leads to domination, manipulation, autocratic rule, and personal failure. We have developed charismatic leaders who entertain and who use God's people and finances to fulfill the leader's dreams.
Today God is loudly calling His Church back to the simple patterns of the Early Church where those in leadership walk in humility (1 Peter 5:5-6), work in teams, are submitted to one another (Ephesians 5:21), are servants (Matthew 20:25-28), and are coaches, releasing all others into ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).
8. From being "meeting" oriented to being "relationship" oriented.
The standard often used for evaluating how committed one is as a Christian has been how regularly he attends the standard meetings of the church, i.e., Sunday School, Sunday a.m. service, Sunday p.m., and Wednesday p.m. God doesn't care how many meetings we attend – or don't attend! He is concerned about relationships. He is concerned that you have a committed, growing relationship with Him; He is concerned that your relationship with all others is without sin; He is concerned that you have a deep, committed, growing, wholesome relationship with a small group of fellow Christians; and He is concerned that you develop natural, loving relationships with several unsaved friends in hopes of seeing them come to Christ.
Let's get off of this "meeting kick" and start developing relationships. Let's make sure that we are "without offense toward God and men" (Acts24:16). Let's put a priority on one-to-one and small group time together. Let's restructure our church services to be times of building relationships with God and with one another. There should be time during the service to share with one another and pray for one another as stated in James 5:16. Meetings and programs come and go – only God-ordained, committed relationships last. We must give priority to relationships.
9. From gathering in church buildings to gathering in homes.
Jesus never erected any buildings and He never said anything to His disciples about erecting buildings. He taught that true worship has nothing to do with a place (John 4:20-24); and that His Kingdom is within us (Luke 17:21).
The Early Christians gathered in their homes (Acts 2:46, 5:42,11:12-14, 12:12, 16: 40, Romans 16:5,16:2; 1 Corinthians 16:19,Colossians 4:14, Philemon 2). The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem went to the Temple, but after it was destroyed there is no record of Christians in Jerusalem, or anywhere else, having any desire to erect "church" buildings.
For three hundred years the Christian Church was home-centered: just believers coming together in their homes to worship (Acts 13:2) and praise God (Acts 2:47), pray (Acts 12:5), read the Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:13), encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25), sing (Ephesians 5:19,Colossians 3:16), listen to the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42), have a meal together (Acts 2:46), have the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:22), etc. When the group grew too large for one home, one could assume they simply began to meet in two. What a simple way to expand: no expensive building programs, fund-raising, or facilities to maintain. Think of the money saved that was used to fulfill the Great Commission and to minister to the poor.
Today God is restoring these simple home-centered meetings to His Church. In China, and other "closed" nations, secret house-churches are the way of life for most of the Christians. In many pioneer mission situations, the converts are won in their homes through door-to-door evangelism or home Bible study groups. The young believers are then discipled in home-centered meetings. In some places a "church" building is eventually erected, but in other places the times of coming together are kept in the homes. In large, crowded cities, like Hong Kong and Singapore, many of the churches are house-churches. There is, in fact, a growing house-church movement world-wide. Even in suburban North America, one of the most popular Christian activities is home-meetings, during the week or on Sunday evening. God is leading His Church more and more back to the home. We will see this trend continue to accelerate world-wide. In fact, we could see the church buildings closing quite quickly in many nations through a change in non-profit tax laws, an energy crisis, a political upheaval, an economic collapse, war, or end-time persecution. This writer believes that Jesus will find His Church primarily meeting in homes when He returns.
10. From looking inward to looking outward
It is easy for all of us to become involved in our own lives and forget others. But Jesus said we were to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39) and that we will be judged in respect to our ministering to others (Matthew 25:31-46). The Bible further exhorts us to not look out just for our own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Too often we have been too concerned about our own needs, and have become a "bless me" club. Too often the Church has been too concerned about its own continued existence rather than about the great needs in the world and the fulfilling of Christ's Great Commission. The Church has taken a defensive posture, functioned as a hospital, and attempted to care for all of the believer's needs and wants. It is time to take the offensive, begin to function as an army, and go out to evangelize the world, trample on the devil, and take this world back from him and deliver it to Jesus. God is looking for soldiers! God is calling His Church – a fresh breeze is blowing.
God’s revival rain is soon coming. Oh, I know there are many claiming it’s already here, but they are experiencing a brief shower. God is sending a drenching rain that will last and last. We need to be prepared for it. I believe it’s on the way, and like Elijah said, "I hear the sound of the abundance of rain." It’s time to get off the mountain and run the course that God has set before you.
 These documents, of which the present manuscript is one, plus a few others can now be found on our internet blog, www.isaacandishmael.blogspot.com.
 Psalm 118: 17 says I will not die and live and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
 Originally Engel (meaning angel) was a German name and Joemat was a slave name.
 Later my programme was changed to a single year, a practical year with the Evangelische Jungmännerwerk in Stuttgart.
 I took the latter subject by correspondence with UNISA in Pretoria.
 Our property that consisted of eight big adjacent plots, had more or less been expropriated under the guise of slum clearance. My parents were paid out a pittance and a few years later a shopping centre was erected on the premises.
 Rev. Goba later became a theological professor at UNISA next to high office in his denomination.
 In recent years the building complex was renovated and changed to house the City’s Library.
 A fuller report of our visits to South Africa can be found in Home or Hearth or Involuntary Exile.
 In 2001, the MRA movement changed its name yet again, to Initiatives of Change (IofC).
 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’.
 In the church council there were in fact more females than brothers.
 The title alludes to one of the biblical Beatitudes, Matthew 5:6. Geregtigheid in Afrikaans has the double meaning of righteousness and justice.
 In 2001, the MRA movement changed its name yet again, to Initiatives of Change (IofC).
 A fuller report of the visit to South Africa can be found in Home or Hearth/ Involuntary Exile.
 In the MRA Muhammad and Ghandi were given reverence in those days in interfaith fashion which we could not appreciate.
 I thought to have discerned some influence of Honger na Geregtigheid when I read about an open letter that Dr Boesak wrote to Dr Schlebusch, a Cabinet Minister. Later he openly clashed with Bishop Tutu because of the willingness of the Anglican bishop to continue talking to Prime Minister Botha.
 Later I discovered that the letter, written under a psueonym, was distorted there to such an extent that one could hardly recognize the original.
Translation: Love drives out fear
 I had vocalised an objection when someone approached me to assist with the translation of parts of a biographical TV documentary about Allan’s life on the German TV channel ZDF. I could not detect the evangelist Allan Boesak of his youth in the script. I may have angered him extremely when he perhaps preferred to keep that part of his past out of the limelight.
 Blacks were only allowed to be in the ‘White’ cities and towns under restricted conditions, if allowed at all.
 I did not experience this as a tragedy though. I was merely enquiring to test the waters after the repeal of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act in 1985. It was in my view more of a case of testing the waters, to see if the cost was clear to make concrete plans.
 The premises of Haywood Road 33 in Crawford was very much involved in this saga.
 I continued working at the original ‘Honger na Geregtigheid’. To this end my daughter scanned the A4 version in. At the end of December 2016 I discovered that it was actually incomplete. I nevertheless pasted it on the Internet on our blog www.isaacandishmael.blogspot.com. I had however no liberty and drive as yet to do more work on As die Here ie Huis nie bou nie en Sonder my kan jylle niks doen nie.
 The actions in Crossroads, KTC and Nyanga played a significant role as part of the runIn 1985 the relevant act was repealed.
 A sort of prison, where folk were incarcerated for less serious crimes.
 Sister Kooy was also involved in the evangelical movement of Holland since the Second World War when they were caring for the persecuted Jews and for the destitute with famous Dutch people like Corrie ten Boom and Brother Jan Kits (sn).
 Soon hereafter we bought a second hand TV for 50 guilders that we left in Holland when we came to South Africa in 1992.
 He was one of the group of clergymen whom I had met on Schiphol airport in 1979.
 This church came into being as the continuation of the Sheppard Street Baptist Church of District Six, after the area had been declared a White residential area in 1966.
 A few years later the Lord was to use Ivan Walldeck to disciple Rashied Staggie, a well known drug lord who became a follower of Jesus
 That would fortunately change later after PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) started terrorising the Western Cape. Pastor Alistair Buchanan of the Jubilee Church got very much involved with the Cape Peace Initiative in 1999. When the main church moved to the old Italtile building in Observatory at the beginning of the new millennium things changed marginally with regard to Muslim Outreach.
 The institution changed its name subsequently to Baptist Seminary.
 This was only destined to return in 1996 when PAGAD (People against Terrorism and Drugs) terrorised the Western Cape.
 A series of teachings on John 4 followed as part of our devotionals for courses on Muslim Evangelism. I subsequently edited that into a treatise based that I called A Revolutionary Conversation.
 Salama and her husband C. were regulars at our convert meetings when we held them on Sunday afternoons from 1994. They later joined the Good Hope Christian Centre, becoming pastors of the new church planted by the mega church in Mitchells Plain. Colin suddenly passed to higher glory at Easter 2003 after being ill only very briefly.
 Strictly speaking however, the Midianites stem from a son of Abraham via Kethura.
 Romans 9:15 actually refers to what God had said to Moses, Exodus 33:19 (A few other 'OT' verses with the same message are: Job 23:13; Psalm 115:3; Ps. 135:6; Proverbs 15:8. )
Compare e.g. Ps 81:8ff where a reminder of Yahweh’s intervention and aid is interspersed with His wooing and warning of His people.
 This was in fact the venue of my own conversion experience on 17 September 1961.
 H.H. Ben‑Sasson (ed), A History of the Jewish People, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd, London, 1969) p.233