Where did it all start?
I belief my calling occurred in response to God’s walk with me. I grew up in a home where my parents did a great job in modelling the tenets of the Christian faith to me and my siblings. We have also been exposed to evangelism events where we hosted the workers on our small farm and of our neighbors explaining the Gospel to them through film, song and teaching.
My earliest memory of a cross-cultural experience was my friendship with the son of our domestic worker. He must have been a bit older than me, but we enjoyed playing together and exploring everything around us on that small farm. It was also my first experience with loss. One winter he went away for a long time. I was told he went to another school. I later learnt that he died in an initiation ritual that he had to attend to enter manhood.
I grew up with a strong desire for harmony and justice and a belief that all people must be treated equally and fairly. In a country where “apartheid” and “separate development” was government policy I was many times frustrated and saddened by the injustice the political system imposed and felt drawn to other languages and cultures. In 1985 I was part of the choir of the University of the Free State and we toured Europe, At Heathrow airport I witnessed how a group of young Turks ransacked the luggage of travelers in a waiting area and how the police apprehended them rather heavy-handedly. This incident stayed with me for a long time for no apparent reason.
After completing my compulsory military service and my B.Iuris law degree from the University of the Orange Free State, we got married in Bloemfontein in 1987. My first full-time job was as state prosecutor in the Magistrate Court in Bloemfontein. Magda was working as registered nurse in Universitas hospital. During our study years in Bloemfontein we were very involved in youth ministry and we did youth camps whenever we could.
This all changed when I was transferred to Hartswater in the Northern Cape as State Prosecutor. Our son was born there in 1989 and within three years I was transferred to Cradock in the Eastern Cape as a Magistrate in the Department of Justice. Our daughter was born here in 1993.
We were involved in the local congregation and in Cradock another desire was born – to do evangelism and explain the Gospel to as many people as possible. I was trained as an Evangelism Explosions III trainer (EE III) and I did many house calls and visits to businesses with a team of evangelists to share the gospel the EE III way. It was also in Cradock that we were exposed to world evangelism for the first time. The congregation where we worshipped were involved in a ministry amongst the gypsies in Bulgaria. To hear that there were people in this world without an opportunity to hear the Gospel even once in their life time was a life-changing revelation.
When the missions team of the congregation started to plan a visit to the gypsies in Bulgaria we were interested, but things took a whole different turn. One Sunday in March 1995 there were two announcements that caught our attention. The one was about the mission team inviting church members to join the planned outreach to the gypsies in Bulgaria. The other was about the South African Action for World Evangelism (SAAWE) inviting interested people to join them on an outreach to Turkey.
What happened next is best left for the next post.