Johan Kotze – Letter – South Africa

Dear friends,


My correspondence has been sadly neglected. Please pardon me for being so slow in replying to your most welcome letters received in past days. I can assure you, they were very highly valued. Thank you for your patience with me in spite of being so tardy.


We have been having gospel meetings in two different places with a few people attending. One young man actually made his choice known in one of the recent meetings that we tested. He is married to Geraldine, one of the young professing ladies, and they are expecting their first little child. He has come a long way as an outsider and we have been glad to watch the Lord’s work unfold in his life. Geraldine and her parents met the truth some years ago through Daphne Martin, the sister worker through whom I also professed. Daphne and Erica Phaal were having meetings at Potchefstroom at that time and Erica one day went to buy something at Clicks. Geraldine’s mother, Sharon, was working at the checkout point and she was searching for the right thing. When she saw Erica entering the shop, she wondered if this could be what she was looking for? She prayed in her heart that the Lord would send that lady to her checkout point if she was one of His children. Wonderful that Erica was led by the spirit of God, even to go to the right till that morning. Who would have thought that we needed the Lord’s guidance when going into Clicks to buy something? When Daphne introduced Sharon to me at convention she said, “Now this is your very own sister.” Geraldine has been working in the city for a few years and we have admired the steadfastness in the truth. We trust that they will be very useful in the future as a couple serving God together.


There’s also an older lady attending the meetings together with Austin and Susie Gouws, two of our friends. She is the very religious person, and it may take a while for her to see the light. We had a pleasant visit with her the other day and we were glad to get to know her a little better. As long as she attends, there is certainly hope that one day the light will shine through and she will see the mystery of Godliness and be delivered from the darkness of organised religion.


We also enjoyed our Little Bible studies on Wednesday mornings, were the ones of the other hopeful contacts that we have. Christel grew up in a professing home but she is not professing herself. She is married to a lawyer who specialises in the labour law and that means a fair amount of travelling to different towns for him. He doesn’t seem to be interested in the meetings himself at this stage but certainly doesn’t hinder her, for which we are very glad. We have been reading the Gospel of Mark, chapter for chapter, and have been glad for the discussions it led to.


We are hoping to have our special meetings soon. That will mean that our gospel meetings will have to come to a close pretty soon. There hasn’t been a great deal of interest from outside, but we have been glad for the support of our friends. They always make us feel that they also value the meetings. These days with security regulations in our country as they are, especially in a city like this, it is very hard to do house-to-house visiting like in former days. At most homes, one wouldn’t be able to gain entrance unless the people inside gave their consent. People in our country now are very suspicious of strangers coming to their door. People have unfortunately come under many false pretences, and then robbed or attacked people. We are therefore very glad for the contact we still have through our friends and they certainly do their best to try and invite others.


Our first special meeting will be the one for the Zulu friends here at Pretoria held on the 21st of August. Our own special meetings for the rest of the people here in Gauteng will be on the 4th and 11th of September. After that, we hope to attend the ones at Bloemfontein, East London and Durban as well before returning to our field.


This morning Uncle Louis van Dyk and his companion together with Andy Robijn, Laurie Edwards, Maureen Spies and Patricia Rafferty, left for Zimbabwe. We trust that they will have a safe journey and not too much trouble at the border today. That country has been in a sad state for quite a while now. Most things are in short supply, so they had to take petrol and many other things along with them. The friends in that country have been wonderful in the way they have coped with the situation. We certainly admire their courage. It is also not an easy task for the workers in that field now, but they have proved the Lord in a very real way and the work is steadily continuing. There’s always been good interest among the Shona people in that country.


I worked in that country for a number of years and they were good years. The Shona people in that country have been very receptive to the Truth. Neddie Mahwehwe’s father, Baba Dick, was the first black man to profess in that country. He was working for Mrs. Olsen at the time. There was a Sunday night meeting in that home and he used to listen from the kitchen through the keyhole. One night, a lady had to leave the room on account of her child crying and when she went out, she noticed Dick running away. This lady told Mrs. Olsen about the incident and the next Sunday evening, Mrs. Olsen herself went to investigate.


Mrs. Olsen herself then found Dick listening at the keyhole. She asked him to come in and sit inside the meeting room. After listening for a little while, the workers came and had some gospel meetings. Dick didn’t take long to understand the truth. Shortly after he made his choice known, he wanted to be baptised. The workers explain to him that it was necessary to wait a little while and prove himself first. The next week he was back, asking them again about this matter of baptism. They again explain to him that it was necessary for him to wait a little longer. The next week, he came back with the same request. The older worker then agreed. He told him that after he brought their tea in the morning, they could go down to the Little River and he would then be baptised. At two o’clock the next morning, there was a knock at the door. They asked him to return to bed and come back with the tea at about five o’clock, which he then did. They went down to the river and baptised him. If they were to explain to him from Scripture why he had to wait longer, they would have had a difficult task.


Not very long after this, he went to Mrs Olsen and asked to be released from his job so that he could take these good tidings back to his own people in the reserve. She tried to reason with him and explained to him that while it was a good desire on his part, he still wasn’t established enough in the truth himself. He should wait a little while and become more experienced and then he could go after that. However, Dick could not be persuaded and took his leave.


But things didn’t just open up as quickly as he thought they might. He had a few people in mind whom he was sure would also embrace the truth just the same as he did. This took time. For a while, he had to have his meetings all by himself under a tree. Many of the people in the district made fun of him. The elders of the Dutch Reformed Church came to him and asked him what he thought he was doing, teaching the people that they were wrong. They argued that they were after all the church that printed the first Shona Bible. This meant that they actually claimed to be the modern day scribes of our time. Dick told them what the Lord Jesus advised us concerning the scribes. We ought to do what they tell us to do but not to do as they do. This was indeed a very good answer. One has no doubt that God was teaching him step by step.


Neddie’s mother told us about a time when the five of them walked from Serima to Harare to attend the convention. In those days, Convention was always held over Easter weekend. It was easy enough for them to determine when convention would be. It took them about two weeks to get there because it is approximately a distance of 200 km that they walked. They arrived at Harare on the day before the convention started. Dick was the only one who could speak a little bit of English. He went and announced their arrival. When the workers came out to greet them, they got a fright and ran away. The next day, five of them, the only five black faces in the tent, sat and listened to the truth for the first time. This was a very touching story the old lady told us that day at convention. In front of us was a sea of black faces, a whole tent full of them and among them about five black workers at that stage. God’s work is surely amazing.


After convention, they undertook the long journey back home again. She got very ill, and in a state of delirium, she saw a funeral in progress. She realised that this must be her own funeral because her husband and two children were standing there weeping. For a moment, she wondered where she was going, and then she saw a gathering of people that resembled the gathering she saw in the tent. She felt that she would be perfectly safe if she could just make it to that gathering. She didn’t understand the language but she understood the spirit of those people and she knew that those were God’s people.


I really enjoyed the years I worked in Zimbabwe among those humble, sincere people. They are amazing folks, not complaining, just taking life in their stride and making the best of it. We could learn a lot from them. Our thoughts certainly go with them and we wish them well for the coming conventions.