Probably an insignificant day for most, but a day of double importance and real meaning to me.
Firstly our country was founded on 6 April 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape of Storms, and it became known as the Cape of Good Hope. Since 1952 with the celebration of our nation’s third millennium, the 6th of April was declared a public holiday known as van Riedeeck Day.
The second and most compelling reason for this date to be so important to me, is because on 6 April 1956 on Winklespruit beach, halfway to Illovo, ,under deep conviction that without Jesus I would not make it, I sat down on the beach and accepted God’s gift of salvation by receiving Jesus as my Saviour and Redeemer.
From an early age I served the Lord. I contracted rheumatic fever at the age of 7, when in grade 2, towards the end of the second quarter. I was confined to bed for 4 months and 9 days. During that time my mother, who, at the age of 45 was pregnant with my youngest sister, took care of me. She was ably assisted by my grandmother who lived about half a mile, on foot, away from us. The rheumatic fever was very severe and I was left with some serious kidney problems and a leaking heart valve. During that time I was visited by many adults, even the pastor himself, and the head elder in our church, Mr. Kruger. He was retired by then but about 30 years before he was the head master of the primary school my mother attended. He heard that I, at that age, was reading from the Bible all the time. He gave me Isaiah 43:1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine.”
Almost at the same time my grandmother, gave me Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God, is with you wherever you go.”
After all of this, in 1956, at a SCA boys camp at Winklespruit, on the 6th of April, which was only the 3rd or 4th day of the camp, under the impression of the preaching of a fiery young pastor, I understood and believed one verse of scripture, Rom. 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This verse from scripture and the pastor’s clear and uncompromising preaching, was the light from heaven that shone over me and forced me onto the sand of Winklespruit that afternoon when I received the gift of God and I accepted Jesus as my Saviour and Redeemer. A few days later, in front of thousand high school boys, I testified to this in the last assembly of the camp, together with dozens of others.
Since then there were many incredible moments of living on the mountain underneath a cloudless sky, drinking from the fountain that will never run dry: Living in Beulah Land.
One such a mountaintop experience was in April 1958, again at a SCA Camp in Fountains, Pretoria. Whilst at the camp, I fell sick with rheumatic fever again, at least that was my own diagnoses, based on my knowledge after frequent bouts of this sickness the previous 8 years of my life. My condition gradually deteriorated until I went to the Camp Leader, Dries Steyn, who was aware of my health problems, and who was a man of real faith. This was on the 5th April. He listened to me and replied: “Go back to your tent. Tonight we shall pray for you and if you still feel sick tomorrow morning, come and see me and I will give you a train ticket to go home. As tomorrow, the 6th, is a public holiday the entire camp will be going to the Rand Eastern show in Johannesburg. You can go with them and when they disembark at Johannesburg, you can carry on to Randfontein.” Needless to say, the next morning I felt completely healthy and spent the day with the boys at the show.
I knew the Lord healed me from a bout of Rheumatic fever but kept on living like I had for the previous 8 years, heeding all the precautions that my doctor had advised me to take.
It was not until 1961, when I was declined for life insurance, and my manager advised an appointment with an intern specialist, that I learnt that the Lord completely healed me on that night in 1958. The intern’s diagnoses, after a very thorough examination: “I find no trace of any of the ailments you just told me about. You can live a normal live from now on.”
When talking about this to my beloved aunt, she told me that during one of the first bouts of rheumatic fever, the doctor told my parents that I was not likely to live past 15. I was 15, going on 16, the night Dries Steyn said they would pray for me. Only then did I understand why so many prominent adults visited me during my first bout in 1950.
Those times were precious and are some of my best memories.
At times thereafter I wandered far away from Jesus, I found myself in pigsties, in dens of iniquity, Ivory Towers of self-importance and arrogance, but from all these God delivered me again and again.
Glory to His Name.