And God said, 'Don't quit!'
July 20 2001 by Gilbert T. Huffman , A first-person account

And God said, 'Don't quit!' | Friday, July 20, 2001

Friday, July 20, 2001

And God said, 'Don't quit!'

By Gilbert T. Huffman A first-person account In the early spring of 2000, a team of four traveled from the Surry Baptist Association to Paarl, South Africa, as volunteers to assist the pastor and congregation of Boland Baptist Church in evangelism, teaching and personal witnessing.

My hosts for the three-week stay in Paarl, a beautiful wine-producing area about 40 miles north of Cape Town, were Johan and Lindie Pansegrouw. Johan is the pastor of Boland Baptist Church but finds it necessary to work as a house painter (when he can find work) in order to supplement Lindie's salary as a legal assistant. They are the parents of three-year old Peter, a lively lad who spoke only Afrikaans when I arrived but knew several English words and phrases when I said good-bye three weeks later. Lindie was pregnant at the time and has since given birth to Philip.

The church was founded in 1995 in a building abandoned by another Baptist church, and the leadership decided that the new church would serve a bilingual, multiracial congregation. Johan preached his first sermon there in 1995 to a congregation of three people. Today the average attendance is more than 40 and growing.

In addition to preaching, Johan spends his time and resources to minister to the people in the town, on surrounding farms and in nearby squatter camps. He uses his personal car as a "church bus"- making two or three trips to different farms and squatter camps before and after each service. One night he packed 14 farm children into his small vehicle and drove them to the youth meeting. In addition, he teaches Sunday school and conducts home Bible studies on the farms and in squatter camps.

His hectic schedule was as amazing as it was tiring. We walked through the mud and rain in a squatter camp to get kerosene for a family to cook supper; spent half a day trying to get proof that a couple in the church was legally married; transported a sick woman to the doctor; provided care for two teenagers whose single mother was in the hospital; saw that a girl who had been sexually molested received counseling; witnessed to people in the hospital emergency room who were suffering from stab wounds, injuries incurred in automobile accidents, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses, etc.; and carried food to people who had nothing to eat.

One of Johan's favorite roles is working with the children who live on the farms in beautiful Paarl Valley. He is the only father figure and role model most of them have and is the only adult who plays with them, gives them hugs, encourages them and tells them that he loves them. The fathers of the kids can be seen sitting around open fires listening to loud music, gambling, drinking wine and using drugs from the time they get paid on Friday afternoon until time to go back to work on Monday.

The children look to Johan for the guidance and inspiration they are missing in their homes. One 12-year old boy told me he had quit smoking and drinking since he started attending church with Johan. He accepted Christ as his Savior while I was there. A young girl said that her father could not come to church because "he always gets drunk on Friday night." Church is often their only refuge from the unpleasant environment at home.

Johan, a former air force pilot who flew fighter jets over Angola, is a true servant of God, but his church is unable to offer him a regular salary. He often becomes discouraged and feels he cannot continue to rely on Lindie's income to support his growing family.

To add to his woes, he faces resistance from the white families in the fine homes surrounding the church who resent the colored kids being there. The neighbors fail to realize that the children have no place to play on the farms and that the only love and attention most of them ever get comes from Johan and others in the church.

I was not aware how difficult it was for Johan and the effect it was having on him until I had worked along side him for more than a week. At that time he told me that before we arrived he had made a very difficult decision. When we returned to North Carolina he was going to tell the congregation that he could not carry on any longer and the doors of the church would be closed. He had prayed about the matter and asked God to lead him in the right direction, and the decision had been made. He saw no other course to follow.

God was not ready for the church to close and had other plans. One day while I worked with the youth of the church, Johan was in his small office cleaning his desk when God spoke to him in a most remarkable and unexpected way.

Lying on his desk was a bookmark, which would change the history of Boland Baptist. On it was printed a poem by Jill Wolf entitled "Don't Quit," and it read:

"Don't quit when the tide is the lowest, for it's about to turn. Don't quit over doubts and questions, for there's something you may learn. Don't quit when the night is darkest, for it is just a while 'til dawn. Don't quit when you've run the farthest, for the race is almost won. Don't quit when the hill is steepest, for your goal is almost nigh. Don't quit, for you're not a failure until you fail to try."

God spoke to Johan through that tiny bookmark - and he heard. He knew it was God's plan to keep the church open and that he would obey God.

He asked if I placed it on his desk, but I did not know anything about it. However, when I told Kay Hamlin, one of the volunteers on the team, about it, I saw tears streaming down her face. She said a colleague at the community college where she teaches gave her some bookmarks to hand out in South Africa. She placed one on Johan's desk never knowing that God would use it for a miracle just as He used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.

That small bookmark, donated by a stranger, traveled from North Carolina to keep the doors of Boland Baptist open. God will use it as the key to open the gates of heaven for lost people in that small multilingual and biracial church, the town, squatter camps and on the farms. They have a pastor who heard God speak through the bookmark when He said, "Don't quit!"

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Gilbert Huffman, a retired school administrator and moderator of the Surry Baptist Association, is currently planning his third trip to South Africa as part of the Baptist State Convention's partnership. Following retirement he volunteered to teach one school year at Gambia College, the only college in the tiny West African country of The Gambia. He and his wife, Mellie, are members of Dobson First Baptist Church.)

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7/20/2001 12:00:00 AM by Gilbert T. Huffman , A first-person account | with 0 comments
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