“A Seed Was Sown”
(An honest, bold and humbling Confession of a WHITE Christian Afrikaner pastor, who accepted his newly adopted BLACK Grandson)
I was born in 1950 in the Free State town of Bethlehem (South Africa) and grew up in Aliwal North, a small countryside town on the fringe of the Karoo in the North Eastern Cape of South Africa. My parents where both white natives of the Karoo and brought me up as a proud young Afrikaner in the traditions of the Afrikaner. My father was also a member of the Broederbond [a secret Afrikaner fraternal and initiatory organization, dedicated to the promotion of the interests of Afrikaners, based on so called Christian National principles, which was also the heart of the Nationalist Party under the Apartheid regime and the premiership (in my lifetime) of Dr H.F. Verwoerd en Advocate B.J. Vorster – Afrikaners, based on so called Christian National principles, which was also the heart of the Nationalist Party under the Apartheid regime and the premiership (in my lifetime) of Dr H.F. Verwoerd en Advocate B.J. Vorster – Google: “Afrikaner Broederbond” for more info.].
My father and mother were always very good to their black employees – I can still fondly remember Daniel, one of my father’s friendly, loyal and hardworking employees. I frequently went with my father to the coloured- and black townships for his work as one of the Municipalities’ electricians – I never spoke a word, only stared at the different way the coloureds and blacks had to live in the townships. I treasure wonderful moments as a child when we visited friends and family on their farms and how all the children of different colour and race played and swam together, we ate “roasted mealies” in their homes (a “stroois” – a mud house with thatched grass roofs). I never heard a negative or derogatory word from my parents about black or coloured people. I was not brought up to be a racist, we just did not live or eat together – I never was a racist till today, BUT……
My parents were both devoted Christians and we attended the “Gereformeerde Kerk” (Reformed Church – paedo Baptist) on Sundays (both services and even once a month on a Saturday evening in preparation for the Communion service on Sunday morning). I always had this dream and longing (and calling) to one day become a minister of the Gospel – I can remember how as a young child, I stacked apple boxes and used it as a pulpit. Loudly and passionately I preached and dramatizing Bible stories in my bedroom to a pretend congregation. Many years later my calling and dream became a reality and I started my B.Th degree in theology at the Potchefstroom University (now called North West University, Potchefstroom Campus) in 2000 and eventually became a minster (pastor) in Vereeniging in 2005.
I always defended God’s Name and His honour whilst at school, to such an extent that I proudly owned the nickname of “Priester” (priest) amongst the boys.
At the end of 1968 the unavoidable happened – I had to attend compulsory military training. Our country was at war. This war was mainly fought in South West Africa (now Namibia), Angola and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe – the country where my lovely wife’s grandmother was a missionary and where my mother-in-law grew up). The politicians blatantly lied about this war against the Communists.
Many terrible things happened during this war. As youngsters we were brainwashed morning, noon and night. We were taught to hate, to discriminate and to kill. At the young age of nineteen my fellow teenage comrades and I were subtly taught to use the skills of hatred, discrimination and killing of the black Communist terrorists.
A seed was sown…
Lots of friends were lost during this time; blown away, torn apart, mutilated by the Terrorist’s landmines; shot dead in ambushes. One of my Afrikaner forefathers (general de Wet an ancestor of my mother) invented guerrilla warfare against the British in the Anglo Boer War between 1899 and 1902 – ironically this technique was now been used against us by these “Communist terrorists”. Apart from the physical trauma many young men’s lives were ruined psychologically and emotionally. A seed was sown…
I did not hate black people at the time and I did not underestimate their raw emotions and experiences of this terrible war. My understanding of the mutual horror made me once remark that if I was black I could have been a terrorist…but a seed was sown – a deep rooted seed.
For greater understanding I would like to take you back in history. My ancestors fled Europe for their faith – many of them killed or imprisoned during this time – bloodshed, loss and pain is a part of my ancestral heritage. My Protestant forefathers arrived in South Africa during the late 1600’s. During their settlement and integration in the Cape Province during the early 1800’s, many had to defend their farms against the “isiXhosa impi” (a black ethnic group’s foot soldiers – see map). During the late 1830’s, due to the loss of life they were eventually forced to “trek” (leave their burned down farms) deeper into Africa in the hope of finding peace. Unfortunately they were then confronted by the Sesotho and the isiZulu (ethnic groups in South Africa – see map). Thus my heritage of bloodshed, loss and pain continued.
I was also and always fascinated by the giant painting of my forefathers (the Voortrekkers) fighting against the isiZulu at Blood River on 16 December 1838 – a painting that was hanging in my Grandfather’s house. This was the battle where the Voortrekkers took a public vow (or covenant) before the battle, promising the Lord that if they win the battle, they will build a Church (which can be seen in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal) and forever honour this day as a holy day of God. During this battle, a group of about 470 Voortrekkers defeated a force of about 10,000 isiZulu. Only three Voortrekkers were wounded, and some 3,000 isiZulu warriors died in the battle.
Forgive? Yes, no problem, BUT… a seed was sown!
Then came the British (called the “Tommys” by the Afrikaner, a.k.a. the “Boere” – the Afrikaans word for “farmers”) with more than 500 000 soldiers, because they wanted to colonize the old Transvaal- and Free State Republics, especially the nowadays North West Province and Gauteng where all the gold was. The Anglo Boer War broke out in 1899 and lasted till 1902. In comparison to the British, only a handful of “Afrikaner Boere” fought against them.
Thousands of Afrikaner men (“Boers”) were shot dead on the battle field . About 30 000 Boer farmhouses and more than 40 towns were destroyed. Children, white women and children and black people were put in concentration camps. Towards the end of the war there were more than 40 camps housing 116 000 white women and children, with another 60 camps housing 115 000 black people. These camps were overcrowded, the captives underfed and the conditions poor. There were limited medical supplies and staff and diseases like measles, whooping cough, typhoid fever, diphtheria and dysentery resulted in 1 in every 5 children dying. 26 370 white women and children died in the concentration camps, 81% of the casualties were children. It is estimated that more than 15 000 black people also died in the separate black concentration camps (stories are told that the British soldiers even put nails in the women and children’s food; the British did not care for the sick, etc. – that is why Emily Hobhouse came from England to help the women and children in the concentration camps).
(See: http://www.sahistory.org.za/war &
In 1985 my uncle and aunt were brutally murdered on their farm outside Middelburg (Eastern Cape) by four young black men. My mother was taken to the scene by the police on the same night, whilst the bodies of my uncle and aunt were still in the house – she herself had to clean up the bloody scene and was severely traumatised by it.
Forgive? Yes, no problem, BUT… a seed was sown!
After my military training I went to Pretoria Teachers College in 1970. I was handpicked to become one of a handful of young Afrikaners to become part of the “Ruiterwag” (name derived from the Afrikaner horsemen during the Anglo Boer War at the turn of the 19th century) an image organisation (for young Afrikaner men) of the “Broederbond”.
With my recent experiences in military training and the ongoing war I wanted to reach out to other races and ethnic groups to have a better understanding, but did not really know how. In 1972 as chairman of the Afrikaner Student Association (the “ASB”), I decided to organise an evening where one of the Black leaders of one of the then Homelands would be the speaker of the evening. The student hall was packed and students of many other campuses attended this historic evening. After the meeting the student leaders enjoyed tea with the speaker where further shared discussions continued. The next day I was promptly ordered to attend a meeting with the rector (who also was a member of the Broederbond). I was reprimanded for my actions and was informed that such an event was never to be organised again!
Some time after I obtained the four year professional THED-Diploma (education), I also obtained the B.A. degree from Potchefstroom University and quickly advanced form teacher to school principal. In 1995 (the year after the first democratic elections in South Africa) I was promoted again and became principal of a much larger school in Carletonville (another piece of irony – the school was named after Danie Theron a Boer fighter and hero who fought in the Anglo Boer war and eventually been executed by the British not far from the school).
For the first year or three, the school remained an Afrikaans medium school, but eventually I convinced the School Governing Body and parents, that we must “open up the school’s doors” for black learners as well – they accepted the proposals and we were the first school in the town to become a dual medium school (amongst six other Afrikaans medium schools in town).
As principal of this school I was invited on the 06th March 2001 to attend the inauguration of the statue of Danie Theron at Fort Schanskop in Pretoria by the late President Nelson Mandela. I will never forget that day! I was in awe and deeply struck by the impressive figure that was Madiba, I listened intently and was blown over by his kind and loving way he addressed the dignitaries and descendants of Danie Theron. I had deep respect for the way he paid tribute to a white South African hero that fought against British imperialism and oppression.
I am currently pastor of an Afrikaans speaking Reformed Baptist Church in the Vaal Triangle of the Gauteng province and I am part of an association of evangelical churches in Southern Africa. The majority of brothers are black and African. I have attended several and preached at more than one conference in more than one African country – and I love all my African brothers and sisters in those countries.
I still was not a racist, BUT… a seed was sown!
Why am I telling you all these things about myself, my ancestors and South African history? Because I did not realise the subtle indoctrination over many years of the school curriculum and the Apartheid government, that sown the evil seed of racism in my heart. This seed laid dormant, waiting for the correct moment and circumstances to germinate. After almost 64 years, at the latter part of 2013, I was confronted with the seed. My second son (I have three sons) who is married to a beautiful American girl (her father is a pastor of a similar church than ours – a Reformed Baptist Church, not far from us) unexpectedly asked me how I would feel about becoming a grandfather to a little black boy – suddenly the seed had germinated – at once – immediately – boom! I was shocked; I was confused!
Forgive? Yes, no problem. …BUT that seed suddenly germinated!
For a couple of months I experienced turbulent emotions and thoughts. I battled against thoughts of hate, rage and an unforgiving attitude.
I also realised that I had a problem with some of the American pastors in the Church circles where I as the only Afrikaans speaking pastor rub shoulders with other pastors. Why the Americans? Because they initiated the idea of adopting black orphans and they and their church members started to adopt black babies by the dozens. I just felt that this was a “band wagon” that they subtly and or openly motivate their members (and my son and daughter-in-law) to adopt. I heard more than one person (not in my son’s church) saying that they are battling with a guilty conscience, because they don’t want or can adopt – for a while, this was “oil on my fire”.
Something that even worsened these mixed emotions was the fact that my son and daughter-in-law, together with my only grandchild (a precious little girl and only grandchild at that stage) are leaving for “Xxxx” (country name disguised in order to protect them as missionaries in a hostile country) early 2016 as missionaries and I also had to handle this emotions while battling with the emotions of the news about the adoption AND MY DEEP ROOTED SIN! Understand me well – I am extremely thankful to the Lord for choosing them to serve Him in “Xxxx” and to follow in his Dad’s footsteps in serving the Lord fulltime, but on the other hand, I must also handle the emotions of children and especially a granddaughter that we will not be able to see for long periods of time (they won’t be coming home during the first three years at least) and we will most probably never be able to visit them in “Xxxx”.
I eventually realised that my conflicting emotions, was not about adopting babies, but adopting BLACK babies – The seed has indeed germinated! How can I call myself a Christian and a pastor?
For the first time I was confronted with the reality of a seed that was sown in my life, many years ago – a seed that now suddenly started to grow and show it’s true growth potential! I realised that this little unknown germinating seed was becoming an ugly and unacceptable allophylian plant.
By the grace of God…
I started to realize that I was in sin. I harboured and cultivated an unknown sinful seed over many years.
The Lord however is good – very good and very gracious to His children and will never let go of them. Sometimes I prayed about this and sometimes I just could not pray about it, but as 1 Joh.5:9 says ~ Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. There were times that I just could not pray about this, but the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed our High Priest and I now know that He intercedes for me with the Father ~ Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. 3For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (Hebr.8:1).
Slowly but surely the Lord is helping me to break free and I can already see that this little plant is starting to change in order to become a wonderful and beautiful tree.
What brought the change? What helped me? Off course it is the Lord, because it’s only He that can change sinners and sanctify them. It is only the Lord Jesus Christ that can forgive, because He has paid the price in full on the cross at Calvary. It is only the Lord Jesus Christ who can renew sinful man. He is indeed busy doing just that in me.
The Lord however also uses other means of changing us and apart from working deep inside me through the Holy Spirit, He also uses man to help us. Only about a week ago I, on the spur of the moment, shared my struggle with a fellow pastor – a coloured man! Why in the world I shared it with him – a coloured man, I won’t know – but the Lord knew! What was his reaction? He told me that he understands and that he knows that all people, including coloured people are racist from time to time (and not necessarily coloured on white, but also coloured on black). He and his wife has a little child and they adopted a black orphan a while ago and his father went through exactly the same battle that I am going through – wow!! Suddenly the proverbial penny started to drop – I was beginning to see the light! Praise the Lord – he is indeed worthy to be praised and to honour and to live for!
For the past two years, I’m preaching through Hebrews and I now realise that I was preaching in the first place for myself, without realising that the Lord is busy preparing me for this conflict and confrontation with myself; my sin and my confrontation with the Lord. I was busy contemplating what happened at Gethsemane and His suffering on my behalf – His suffering that cannot be equalled by any man’s suffering – and He went through it for me! The Gospel of Jesus Christ sustains me with personal assurance of God’s grace and love, so that I can rejoice with Habakkuk. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab.3:18). The Son of God loved me; He gave His life for me, how dare I look down on other people; how dare I look down on a little baby and how dare I put my feelings and preferences for colour and race before the Lord’s will for my children and a little black, marginalised boy? I had to do and I must do what Jerry Bridges in his book “Discipline of Grace” says, “…preach the Gospel to yourself”, in other words as C.J. Mahaney explains in his little gem, “Living the Cross Centered Life”, I must continually face up to my own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life.
The Lord miraculously changed this ugly germinating seed with deep roots of an unconscious racism with a beautiful plant of life and love which has the future potential to produce forgiveness, understanding and acceptance. He gave me this victorious freedom by confronting me with the reality of my unconscious unknown sin. He gave me a choice to choose between Him and my newly acknowledged sin. The Lord was gracious to me, because many years ago, alongside the evil seed, the seed of His Gospel was also sown, thus the Lord had already started to enable me to live through this crisis and make my choice an easy one.
He had taken all my simple prayers over many years and had transformed them into perfect prayers that He as my High Priest could present to His Father thus enabling me to live through this crisis and be freed – Praise His Holy Name!
The Lord confronted me and as Job, for the first time (to my shame) I listened and hear what Job’s reaction was ~ Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ 5“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:4-6).
The seed of the Gospel has germinated and exterminated the evil seed of racism
Any day now I will become “Oupa” (grandpa) of a little black boy, called “Bbbb Cccc” (name disguised in order to protect his privacy and safety). I will pray for him to come to Christ and that he will be able to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and King, together with his “Oupa“.
I am a little nervous of meeting “Bbbb Cccc” for the first time, but what “Oupa” is not a little nervous of meeting a new grandchild. I firmly believe that the allophylian plant has been replaced and by the grace of God, this seed is becoming a beautiful tree!
Forgive? Yes, no problem, BECAUSE… a seed was sown…
…a seed that, by the Grace of our Lord, suddenly germinated and by the forgiving and restoring grace of Jesus Christ, is becoming a beautiful tree –
“Bbbb Cccc” van der Walt, Jacobus Albertus van der Walt’s first grandson!
“One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see”
Joyfully in HIS service,
Kobus van der Walt (Pastor: Three Rivers Baptist Church)
P.s.: If you are battling with sin, or affliction in your life – never give up. A terrible sin was part of my life for more than fifty years and most of the time I wasn’t even aware of it, BUT for the grace of the Lord, He had a plan with and for my life and He, out of the blue, confronted me with myself and He eventually delivered me from those fetters – NEVER GIVE UP, because the Lord NEVER GIVES UP ON US!!!
- Visit our Church’s Website: http://3riversbaptist.co.za (both Afrikaans and English Sermons)
- Please read this article (“Delighting in the Greater Adoption”): http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tc/2014/03/12/delighting-in-the-greater-adoption/.