I was at boarding school in South Africa for 10 of my 12 school-going years, with my family home in the then Northern Rhodesian Copper Belt. Up to Standard 8/9 (Grade 10/11), our family were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Since I can remember, my mom, Anne Groenewald, long gone to be with the Lord, whom many of the “oldies” in CAOG should still remember, was an individual predisposed to the things of the Lord, even before she met Him as her personal Lord and Saviour. As such, I was taught about Jesus from the word “go”. In fact, it was her testimony that she “gave” me to the Lord as did Hannah with Samuel.
In 1958, at the age of 11 (almost 12), during a compulsory weekly Sunday morning service in Krugersdorp North DRC, God spoke to my young heart in no uncertain terms. I don’t remember what the sermon was about, but still vivid in my memory is the fact that, despite the stares and giggles of my hostel mates, I was compelled by the Spirit of God to make my way from the back of the church building, against the stream of congregants leaving, towards the Vestry. There, amongst the imposing and daunting figures of the “Kerkraad”, I asked for the “Dominee” and that Godly old servant of the Lord introduced me to Jesus in a very personal and gentle manner, guiding me to receive Him into my heart!
In 1959/60 my family came into Pentecost via the Spade Reën Movement (“Blourokkies”), but shortly afterwards joined with the Assemblies of God in Chingola, Northern Rhodesia. That is where we came under the ministry of Brother Alfred and Sister Mary Brown, parents of Paul Brown and ex Congo Missionaries who had to flee the early 1960’s uprising and take-over, with only the clothes on their backs. Many of their fellow missionaries did not make it, some of whom were brutally slain. What a saintly couple they were, who left an indelible impression on my heart and life.
But I really only came to a most precious knowledge and fuller revelation of Jesus from 1964 onwards when our family was accepted into fellowship at Moore Road Assembly in Durban under the care of Brother Mike Attlee. What a privilege to have been established on the one true Foundation under his wonderfully caring and powerful ministry, with Sister Molly close by his side – indeed an experience afforded me by God’s grace that I would not have missed for any other. I went through the waters of baptism at Moore Road and was filled with the Holy Ghost at an Ashburton Convention. Like precious brethren I can remember up to 1969, when I left Durban for Pretoria, all of whom so richly contributed to my life, included my father-in-law, Thys von Möllendorff, Peter and Gerald Hawyes, Bob Williams, Monty Rethman, Cecil Botha, Bernard Hart, Gerry Denton, Henry von Möllendorff, Roland Holst, Jimmy Moore, Dave Templeton, Johan van der Westhuizen, Vick Klakkers,? van Leeuwen, Dave Newbronner and Douglas Boyd. And then the very dear Brother George and Sister Kate Hawyes, with whom I lodged for a number years just around the corner from the Moore Road hall and who treated me like a son in their home. How precious, fulfilling and satisfying those years were!!
Gone seem to be the days when most believers in fellowship were involved in meetings/fellowship 7 nights a week and on Sunday mornings. Active in outreach every Friday evening at Durban City Gardens and the Beach meetings once every 2 or 3 months on a Sunday afternoon. And we did not really know social interaction with worldly acquaintances, let alone miss it. Can I ever forget the December Family Camp of up to 10 days at a time at Zinkwazi, Ifafa Beach, Winkelspruit and Karridene. Of course there were also a few infatuations with lovely young ladies in the fellowship – strictly, yet caringly, overseen by Brothers Mike and Monty. In the end (under their noses, so to speak) I captured the heart of Elbie, my wonderful wife of 44 years now.
Indeed a life that I would not want to change in any way, because at the centre in all His glory, beauty and grace stands Jesus Christ, not only as Lord and Redeemer but also as the Father’s expression of love to a soul that would otherwise have been lost!