I was born and raised in a church going family, as a matter of fact, my father was the superintendent of our Sunday school. We attended church in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, a multi-cultural congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church.
When we moved to Johannesburg the church we joined was totally different and because of my father working shifts on the mines they no longer attended church regularly, but us children attended Sunday school and went through all the religious formalities of the church.
After matric I went to the University of Pretoria to study medicine and the big city had an enormous impact on me. We were 1280 first year students starting off knowing quite well that only 250 can proceed to the next year. This created immense pressure and insecurity for the students and I was certainly not the brightest star.
After the July holidays of my first year I went to the student counselling facilities looking for help and guidance. I found a wonderful old gentleman, Chappie van Vuuren, who counselled me. He told me there is only one thing in life that you can be really sure of and that is whether you are saved or not. I told him that I literally grew up in the church, but he said that even if you stayed in a garage all your life long that didn’t make you a motorcar.
He introduced me to Jesus and I was born again of the Spirit. He told me to read my Bible daily and to pray regularly, which I did.
I passed my first year, went to second year medicine and started a serious relationship with my wife, Marie, who was also my High school sweetheart and we decided to get married after she had finished her studies. Although we did not serve the Lord initially we could look back later and see the Hand of the Lord providing for us. We got a lovely sub-economical house, against all odds and for next to nothing. My wife even found a job at a school close to us.
After I qualified we moved to Klerksdorp and from there to Rustenburg where I was part of a seven man practice. Everything was going well, professionally, economically, socially but at home things weren’t going well.
One year during the Easter period my wife attended a Christian rally. On the Wednesday afternoon of that week I had a social cricket match and because of the after-match celebration I came home very merry. My wife confronted me and said that if we could not serve the Lord together she could not carry on with our marriage. This got me thinking.
I made a serious dedication to the Lord and we started serving Him as a family. One Wednesday evening there was a service for prophesies at Church. On the Monday before I had a visit from the marketing manager of a large international Pharmaceutical Firm. I had done some work for them while working in a hospital in Klerksdorp. Their SA medical director was retiring therefor I was offered the job. I truly believed this was from the Lord. The benefits – four times the salary, a house and car in Johannesburg, at least 3 months a year at Head office in London –who could ask for more? Both Marie and I were very excited about this. The interview was set for Friday but according to them it was a mere formality – the job was mine!
We decided to go to the prophetic service on that Wednesday evening while the kids stayed at home with our domestic worker. As you might know these services can be long and drawn out. At about 9 o’ clock we were ready to leave but decided to listen while the Minister was prophesying over the son of our friends. When he had finished we got up to go but he called us as he had a Word for us. He told us that he could see us working with people, broken and sick people, and helping them. Then he simply said that God did not want us to go but to stay here. Nobody else knew about the offer to leave for Johannesburg except Marie and I. We decided to be obedient, to follow His Word and to stay in Rustenburg. I phoned the Pharmaceutical Firm and they wanted to reschedule, they told me that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. I was confused, I didn’t know what to decide. We prayed. God convinced us and we started believing that He had a plan for us in Rustenburg.
Our belief was soon to become reality. My wife started Neo Birth, a Crisis Pregnancy Centre, now expanded into Touch Community Network, bringing hope to thousands of young people. It led to the opening of the Lighthouse children’s home, taking in and caring for orphans. The last count we had was that more than 200 young babies have found forever homes, changing their destiny. The staff from Touch does valuable work in the communities around Rustenburg, playing a vital role in the squatter camps, training and supporting care givers of an Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program. In our wildest dreams we would not have even thought of the abundant blessings that God had awaiting us when we turned down that job offer – blessing that no money could make up for.
29 Years ago I started working with Bishop Kevin Downing and Sister Georgina Boswell from the Catholic Diocese in Phokeng, amongst the poorest of the poor, bringing them food, clothes and healing. Today there are 11 clinics and the HIV program has impacted about 3000 people. All glory to God.
We realised that we only saw our own benefits and comfort but God, as always, had His eye on the widow and orphan and He could see the bigger picture. Thank you Lord Jesus for guiding us when we were enticed by the material things, money, luxury etc. Thank you for always having a better (and bigger) plan for our lives when we walk with you.
Where you are is not by chance, you are part of God’s better plan for the bigger picture.
Neil van Schalkwyk
If and when this Testimony has spoken into your heart, please go to the Commitment page.