“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
The Apostle Paul writes this after a very sharp rebuke to the church in Corinth. This church had suffered much affliction, mostly due to its own sins and blatant allowance of unholy living. The suffering was a consequence of the church’s own sin.
I would suggest that much of the afflictions we go through personally or corporately as a church can be attributed to our own sin—we simply do not tremble at his word anymore. We have lost what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord!
It is evident in our lack of prayer and our lack of self-sacrifice for the sake of each other and the name of the Lord.
For this reason, I praise God for those moments of mercy when he allows us to be confronted with such evil that we have no other recourse but to fully depend on him for our last breath. Oh, that the Lord would do so, more often than less. There is nothing better that can bring the theology in our heads to life than when we are thrown in the furnace of affliction.
“A minister’s trials and comforts are permitted and sent for the benefit of the church. What a miserable preacher must he be who has all his divinity by study and learning, and nothing by experience!” (Clarke)
I trust that this ministry update will inspire prayer, thanksgiving and a steadfast confidence in the gospel of our God.
The Maneville Family
We continue to trust God for the salvation of our kids. Our eyes are fixed on the Perfector of our faith—that what he’s done for us he will do for them as well. We trust that the message of the gospel, with its implications upon our conduct in our house, will soon break through the hard exterior of our children’s unregenerate hearts. We covet your prayers to that end.
Charlene and I have been encouraged as we see the Lord at work in our marriage. It remains hard work as we navigate through busy schedules. I am thankful for a godly wife who keeps me grounded and accountable. She does not shy away from reminding me that it honours God more when I honour her by putting her first before ministry. She has been a strength to me and an encouragement when I sometimes least expected it.
Mom and Dad’s 50th Anniversary
What a milestone for our family and our church. We are in a community where marriage is not valued or esteemed. We are so grateful that the Lord had kept my mom and dad together through all the conflict, trials, and pain they endured.
They are such an example to us of what it means when Scripture commands, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9).
These two faithfully attend all gatherings and are at all open-air services whether it is cold or not. They are faithful gospel witnesses to their neighbours and sought out by the community for prayer. They are pensioners who still feed the kids of the community. At the age of 75, and suffering from Alzheimer’s, my dad still does street preaching. He still weeps over his sins and still comes knocking on my door when he needs an explanation for something he read in the Bible. They are such an example to me of what it means to be zealous for the Lord!
Just for Laughs
My wife was praying with our three-year-old son, Noah:
Charlene: “Lord, please touch Noah and make him better.”
Noah: “And for Uncle Louis sick.” (Uncle Louis is ine of the members in our church.)
Charlene: “Lord, please touch Louis and make him better.”
Noah: “And Uncle Quinton’s leg.” (Quinton severed his Achilles tendon.)
Charlene: “Lord, touch Uncle’s leg and—”
Noah: “No! Him mustn’t touch Uncle’s leg! He gonna make him eina!|”
An Unexpected Surprise
While I was away on ministry meetings outside the province, my wife organised a few members of the church, together with her friend, Lizelle, from Kraaifontein Baptist Church, to set up my office at our church building as a birthday gift.
Local Church Ministry
It has been such a blessing to see the Lord adding to our church.
We just completed with our new membership classes and are looking forward to welcoming another nine people into membership. We are not quick to bring people in as members. It usually takes up to a year for someone who applied for membership. The process takes a bit long as we require the person from day one to become actively involved in the life of the church. Besides the 3–4 months membership classes, which deals with theology and ecclesiology, we require everyone to work through the Biblical Discipleship handbook produced by the elders of Brackenhurst Baptist Church. By the time we introduce people as members, they have been long part of our church community.
Please pray for Cohen and Emma, Ricky, Chadwin, Sachion, Britney, Liyema, and Louis and Rochelle as they join our local church family. Each one of these has a remarkable story of how the Lord used the members of this local church to bring him or her the truth of the gospel.
If you have not visited us yet, you should come spend some time with us and hear the remarkable work that the Lord is doing. I am convinced that your prayers have everything to do with it!
What’s Your Emergency? Man Down!
Recently, the fastest man alive discovered that if you outrun or outplay a kid in the streets of Bellville South, it will cost you dearly!
For a long time, Quinton has been known to be one of the fastest men in our community. He would run against high school kids who were praised to be the fastest on their school and race them—and beat them by a very large gap. When it came to sports, he would outplay the young guys. He is very competitive and usually wins. Actually, I don’t recall a time that he ever lost. Whatever sport he did, he usually came out on top. Recently, he was playing touch rugby with some of the kids in the street. They couldn’t catch him because he’s “the fastest man alive.” While he was not looking, one of the kids kicked his Achilles heel from behind and that was the end of it. You can imagine the pain the man suffered.
He went for surgery and was told to let the foot rest for at least eight weeks. Well, last week he took off the foot brace to rush a child to hospital and a few days ago he walked to a funeral service that’s probably more than a kilometre from his house.
He can be very stubborn, but I praise God that his zeal for the gospel is just as stubborn.
Renovations of the Heart
As many of you know, we are hard at work with renovating our church building.
We are grateful to the Lord for having completed the roof and the ceilings. We are busy preparing to build the boundary wall. This has proven very challenging as the gang members in our community are not happy with this wall going up and they are trying their best to frustrate the work.
The first day, after the trenches were dug, we found a lot of the concrete that was dug out back in the trenches. Some had also emptied their rubbish bins and the remains of a toilet in the trenches. One of the contractors lost a lot of his tools, and some of the supplies that are needed for the wall has been going missing. Some gang members try to aggravate the workers, but we are thankful for some community members who are ready to step in and to call these men to order.
We have had to hire more security for the safety of the workers and to keep the equipment secure.
These have been very testing and a means of the Lord renovating my heart.
Having to do sermon prep with kids constantly cussing at each other and community members demanding your time and contractors needing assistance and fearing that they are not safe, because they are being aggravated by gang members.
Quinton is home after severing his Achilles tendon, which means I’m the only one that can be at church to deal with the contractors and the people from our community that they employed. On Friday, I had to literally chase down about thirty kids, probably between ages five and nine, who were throwing rocks on the newly fitted roof, because they like the sound that it makes when the rocks fall on the corrugated sheets. These are the same kids that knock out the windows, because they like the sound of breaking glass.
As I was speaking to some of the kids, I quickly had to dodge some stones flying my way. A kid, probably five years old, was laughing while throwing stones at me and the kids I was addressing. By God’s grace, none of the stones hit me and I’m not easy to miss!
I remember saying while speaking with the Lord about all this, “Lord, we asked you for this building, because it is surrounded with gangs and drug dealers and addicts. It is right in the centre of darkness where the light of the gospel is needed. You gave us the building and we are so grateful. Now give me the focus and peace to prayerfully work on the message for this Sunday and allow that the cussing and screaming and noise of the community fuel my prayers and devotion.”
Please continue to pray that we will shine brightly for Jesus right here. I don’t know of any other church that does.
Making an Imprint
It has always been my passion to invest in local pastors who are planting churches in the hard places. Specifically in schemes like ours, townships and rural areas in the African context. I’m so thankful that HeartCry agreed to partner with Imprint, which allows Tommie and me to do training of pastors in areas where HeartCry missionaries are working and to get involved in pioneer work where there is no evangelical witness at all. Our focus is the area of ecclesiology, which we believe is a much-neglected area. God gave birth to the church and has determined how the local church should function and how that local church, regardless of its context, should represent Christ and his gospel in this world. Please pray that this partnership will bear much fruit and serve the church in Africa well.
Like the Thief on the Cross
Almost two months ago, a sixty-two-year-old woman (let’s call her Maud) was brought to my parents’ house by her daughter. She was in pain and was looking for pastor Quinton to pray for her, but he was not home so she came to my mom.
My mom prayed with her and the Lord answered by giving her immediate relief from the pain, so that Maud was amazed. She was in pain the whole day from throughout the night before. My mom proceeded to challenge her with the gospel and explained to her the need of her soul. She told my mom that she has rejected God throughout her life and my mom shared with her the good news that God will not reject those who come to Jesus in humble repentance and faith. My mom told her to bow her knees before the Lord and to confess her sins and to ask God to save her. Maud left rejoicing in her salvation and from that day on referred to the Lord that she has been rejecting throughout her life as “my Jesus.”
My mom, together with my wife and the ladies of our church, started discipling Maud and daily we could see the Lord’s grace upon her. Maud’s health started deteriorating. She struggled with breathing and kept complaining about her stomach. She could not eat without having tremendous pain. We finally got her to a hospital and she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, which was already too far spread.
For several days, she slept at my parents’ place and some nights at pastor Quinton’s house. This was good as she was with believers who could share God’s word and pray with her continually.
Yesterday morning (20 September) she asked to be taken to my parents’ house again. She was asking to see my mom. My mom had prepared a room for her for when she sleeps over at her place. That morning, while she was lying in bed, too weak to sit up, my wife was singing with her, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” I read Psalm 23 to her and encouraged her in the Lord and prayed for her. She was so full of joy!
My mom said that she told her that morning that she is going to be with her Jesus.
Some of the other ladies from our church also came to encourage her and to sing hymns. They were all in good spirits with Maud smiling and laughing. With all the ladies in the room my wife proceeded to bath her, and while all were laughing and talking she breathed out her last. What an amazing way to meet your Maker or as she puts it, “her Jesus.”
This is the amazing grace of our Lord for the worst of sinners. Amongst the worst in our community, Maud was considered the scum of the earth.
Maud and her husband used to be some of the biggest drug dealers in the Western Cape. Everybody knows her history. All her kids were introduced to drugs by her and worked for the family business. She sold her only daughter into prostitution from a young age. We buried her son a few years ago, who died screaming from drug overdose while my wife tried to help him. Her daughter is still on drugs. She told my wife that it is because of her mother that she is the way she is, because her mother introduced her to this lifestyle. Charlene told her that her mother did not just introduce her to that dark life, but during these two months her mother also introduced her to Jesus. She agreed that Jesus has changed her mom and that she could not deny it. Please keep praying for this young woman.
Maud had a lot of blood on her hands. Like the thief on the cross next to Jesus, she squandered her life with no regard for God or others. People still tell horror stories about her. We have shared the gospel with her and the drug addicts in her house several times over many years, but she continued to reject the gospel.
About two months ago, our gracious God providentially led her to my mom who lovingly and boldly shared the gospel with her and surrounded her with saints who once also frequented her drug den. For almost two months, she experienced the love of a gracious God through his church in full view of her family and a community who knew where she came from. What a God-glorifying gospel witness!
What a privilege to be part of such amazing work God is doing in our community.
This is why we persevere, because God not only did this for Maud. He did it for so many of us… and Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
NOTE: What follows next is a lengthy account of what transpired when the Lord saved me and JJ from a brutal gang. You can skip to the prayer request if you don’t have the time to read this. I am grateful that you got this far.
The Lord is Faithful
On 25 February, the day before we would end off our month of corporate evangelism, a skinny gang leader (let’s call him JJ) came weeping, desperate to have “this Jesus” save him after hearing the gospel that Jesus forgives the worst of sinners. He said that he heard about Jesus many times, but not this one. He needed the real Jesus!
Immediately, Quinton and I started discipling him. For the two weeks following that day, he was with us every day, cold turkeying his way off the drugs that he’s been addicted to since he was a teenager.
He now had to learn to be a godly father to his kids and a godly husband to a wife whom he had abandoned so many times. He needed to reconcile with his parents, especially with his father whom he hated and swore he would kill if he saw him again.
As the weeks turned into months, we saw tremendous change as JJ started reading the Bible to his family and interacting with his parents and reconciled with his dad who told me, “Now I really believe there’s a God, because no one else could have changed his son.”
It wasn’t long until JJ’s wife started visiting the church. After several weeks of visiting and interacting with our ladies, she reached out to my wife to talk to her about Jesus. She sent a message to say that she can’t live like this anymore and that she needs the Lord to save her. My wife met with her and she made a profession of faith. She almost immediately started evangelising the drug addicts and prostitutes that used to buy drugs from her. This was such an exciting work that the Lord has started and an open door into some of the hardest areas.
The gang that JJ belonged to is one of the most brutal gangs in the Cape flats. They are responsible for most of the killings in the township. These guys are deeply involved in witchcraft with one of the leader’s mother being a sangoma (witch doctor). To belong to this gang, you need to kill someone and to get out you need to kill someone or be killed, or one of your family members will be killed. “That’s the law” as they put it. “Blood makes everything right! Blood in, blood out.”
JJ knew that he would have to go back to the gang and face them some day. He knew that it would cost him his life. It’s been six months since he’s been away from the gang. He’s not contacted them and they don’t know where he is.
Our church has provided him and his family with a place to stay and have employed him as caretaker of our church premises. He used to mention to us that he needs to go back, but his wife was totally against it and we did not understand at the time the serious of the situation.
Then his mom got mugged. The same week his dad was chased down the road by a guy with a long knife threatening to kill him. Then two guys broke into his parents’ house and held his parents and sisters and kids at gun point. They scared them and took their phones and a laptop.
This was the gang drawing him out. This was a strategy that he taught them. As his mom and dad described the guys who did this, he knew exactly who they were. He knew that if he does not go back to face this gang that they will kill one of his family members.
That night, when he got the news that his parents were held at gunpoint, he was like a mad man. His wife called me telling me that JJ just left the house filled with rage to go kill those men who did this. She said that if he goes there that he will be killed. A few hours after looking for him, one of our deacons found him at another lady’s house weeping while she was praying for him.
He said that he had walked out of his house with blind rage and did not know how he ended up at this lady’s house. This lady had been praying for him for years. She is a counsellor at one of the homeless shelters that he also ended up in a few years ago.
He said that he was not that guy anymore. He could not take a life anymore. How will he be able to protect his family now? He knows that those guys will kill his family if he does not show up.
I called up the church and called for a week of prayer and fasting to seek the Lord’s wisdom and favour in this situation. Some of our friends from other churches and people from all over joined us in prayer.
I told him that we will not make decisions now, but, after a week of seeking the Lord, we will trust God’s providence. My prayer was that the Lord would show JJ that he is sovereign and that life and death is in his hands not in the hands of any gang.
At the end of the week, that Monday we met to talk about the way forward.
I was convinced that I had to go with him to face this gang and I was very afraid but also at peace. I had discussed this with my wife and we’d prayed about it.
I was so proud of my wife when she told me, “We have told JJ that his life is not in the hands of this gang, but in God’s hands; so how can I not let you go as if your life is not in God’s hands as well. If the Lord brings you back then we’ll praise him, but if the Lord takes you through this gang then that’s God will and we will still praise him.” To which I replied, just to break the ice, “Do you know where all my policy documents are?” We had a laugh, but we both understood the seriousness of what was about to happen.
JJ was not happy with me going with him, because he thought that we will definitely be killed. They might even ask him to kill me. “I’ve never seen anybody come out of this alive” he told me.
We left the Friday morning at about 9:00 AM because that was the best time to get the entire leadership of the gang. This was the time when they came together to plan the weekend’s crimes. We were going to a place where only the leaders were allowed in. In the past, they would severely punish their “soldiers” for entering that place uninvited.
Quinton wanted to go with, but I told him it would be wiser for him to stay. Both of us can’t put ourselves in harm’s way and leave the church without elders. After he and my wife prayed for us, we left.
The reality that I might see my Lord that day kept me at peace. JJ was noticeably afraid. He told me, “Pastor, these guys might say we can go and then shoot us both in the head, but that would be better; at least we won’t see it coming.”
I decided to change the conversation and to talk to him about how mighty our God is and that whether we live or die today we will see the might of almighty God today.
As he directed me in through potholes and very narrow roads that led to dark alleys straight from a horror movie, we finally stopped at a place that was completely closed in with one small entrance. As soon as the car stopped, I saw two guys checking out the car. They saw JJ and greeted him with respect. I stayed in the car. One guy was in front of the car and the other on my right. These guys were guarding the entrance. The guy in front freaked me out a little because he kept staring at me like he expected me to do something.
In about five minutes, JJ came out and I was relieved that it went so quick. He told me that the main guy was not there and that the guys inside told him that, just the day before, he cut up the girl that used to wash JJ’s clothes with a saw. He told me that this guy enjoys killing people like that and that he always carries this saw with him. So they don’t know if he is going to be there today, but I needed to come in because the guys don’t want to believe him when he says he is following Jesus now.
So I went in with him. Going through this small gate brought me into some sort of compound with a lot of shacks facing towards this little gate. There was only one way in and out and it was through that small gate. The first door to the left was where the leaders met. It was a small room with two beds and a table and wooden self-made chairs. Two guys were inside. On my left was a guy with a knife in his hand cleaning his pipe, about an arm’s length from me. Opposite was another guy sorting out drugs and all sorts of stuff that was unfamiliar to me. They both looked a bit high.
When JJ introduced me as his pastor, the one on my left said something derogatory, which made me know that he does not like pastors. I remember praying, “Lord please don’t allow this guy to stab me with his knife.”
As I began to introduce myself and to tell them that JJ was following Christ now and that he was no longer on the path he used to be on, I could sense someone standing behind me. When I looked around, I saw a young man, possibly in his late twenties. I smiled and politely invited him in. As he walked in he brushed himself against me to show his annoyance.
When I saw the look on JJ’s face, I immediately knew that this was the leader. JJ literally trembled with fear at the sight of this man. His lips began to quiver as he started speaking to this guy. I prayed that the Lord would help him and give him courage, knowing that a sign of weakness from him would cause these guys to disrespect him and might cause our death.
As JJ spoke, I could see the Lord strengthen him as he started to tell them what the Lord had done for him and that, this time, he met the real Jesus.
The leader wanted to know whether this was one of the schemes according to the “book” (the rule book that the gang follows). JJ used to run schemes like this with other corrupt pastors who held so-called “revival” campaigns and get gang members to pretend that they are saved or “getting saved” to draw a crowd in order to get money from the people. A couple of years ago. I mentioned about a gang who planted a church in our community using the exact same strategy.
JJ told him that this time it was different and that he had met the real Jesus, who had changed his life and who could change their lives as well.
The leader looked me in the eyes and told me that he also used to go to church, but then he found that the pastors were worse than the people on the streets. So he left the church and joined the people on the streets and that’s where he still is today.
At that moment, I was sure we would not make it out of there alive. I could feel the tension rising. JJ interjected by saying, “You’re right: There are many pastors like that out there, but this is not one of them. This church gave me a job and a place to stay.” This really shocked this man. He asked surprisingly, “And they are paying you? Wow. Salute, my brother!”
This gave me the opportunity to share the gospel with them and to let them know that Jesus will receive anyone who turns away from their sins to him. To which the leader responded, “Never, I can never leave the way. I will die here.”
Then the conversation excluded me and JJ completely as this leader addressed the other two men in the room. They were speaking some gangster language using words and phrases that seemed very cryptic, but everyone except me seemed to understand. He then spoke directly to JJ and made some oath where he mentioned something about a wire and a glass and footsteps. The bit I understood clearly was when he said to JJ that no one will touch his family and no one will touch him, but if he goes back on what he told them today, they will kill him.
I later understood that the glass meant that they will watch him and that the wire meant that they will communicate and that they have ears on the ground everywhere.
As we were about to leave, I asked them if I could pray for them. JJ looked at me in disbelief with his head shaking as to say, “Not a good idea.” The leader looked at me and said, “What? Pray?” I said, “Yes I would like to pray for you guys.” He reluctantly agreed and I prayed that the Lord would save them and show them grace. I prayed the gospel so that they could hear it again. We said our goodbyes with JJ rushing to get out of there.
As we drove away, JJ was overwhelmed with what had just happened. In the past, he was the one who had enforced the rules of the gang and something like this had never happened before. He went on like a madman, saying over and over, “What is this that the Lord has done? God is amazing, God is great!”
This was truly an amazing work of God. I have been in a few tough situations already. I even had a man high on drugs point a gun at my head. This was on another level. I pray God will never put me in such a situation ever again. I was scared and could feel a sense of evil like I’ve never had before. Writing this does not do justice to what happened and it might even make me out to be some brave hero-like man. I promise you, I was cowering on the inside and had to keep myself strong for JJ’s sake. May the Lord alone get glory for this. He knows what kind of a man I am, but he kept me and he kept JJ and spared our families and the church much grief.
God is Faithful! We Are Not!
This was such an awesome victory that the Lord had wrought! The church rejoiced to have their pastor and JJ back in one piece. Some of the brothers in the church, who used to belong to the numbers gangs, told me that they did not think we would make it back, because the gang that JJ belonged to was known to be one of the strictest and most brutal gangs.
We were all rejoicing with JJ that he was finally free from the hold of his past life and that his family was safe. God had done great things for him and for our church. Many of the saints who joined us in prayer sent us their best wishes and were praising God with us as if they were here with us. We could feel the love.
It was not even a week while I was on a ministry trip with Tommie from Imprint that I got the news that JJ got into an argument with his wife and left and no one knows where he went.
Sad to say, we now know that he went back on drugs after being clean for six months. It is typical for addicts that went through rehab to fall back between three and six months. Any heightened emotional experience can trigger an overwhelming need for a fix. During this time, they will use any conflict as an excuse to fall back into the drug habit. This is no excuse, but it explains some of the dynamics involved.
I cannot deny what we experienced that Friday morning when we met with those gang leaders. I cannot deny the conviction with which JJ shared his testimony of salvation to them. I am hoping that, like the prodigal son, God will bring JJ to the pigsty and bring him to his senses and that he will return broken and repentant. If he does not, they will kill him, or he will have to kill someone for them to keep his life.
Please pray with us for the Lord to bring JJ back to him and to his wife and the church.
- Praise God with us for his continued grace upon our church and for adding to our church those who are being saved and those being set free from the false Christianity around us.
- Praise God for his continued protection on those members who faithfully share the gospel to those “undesirables” in our community.
- Praise God for fifty years of marriage and the godly example of my parents.
- Please pray that, as a church, we will walk in the fear of the Lord and that, as elders, we will be an example of what it means to tremble at his word.
- Pray for Quinton’s speedy recovery.
- Pray that those who recently finished the new membership classes will be grow in the grace of God with us and serve well.
- Pray for the safety of the workers hired to build the boundary wall and all those busy with renovations on the church building.
- Pray that the Lord will grant JJ repentance and that he will return to God, his wife, and the church.
- Praise the Lord for keeping us safe and delivering us from a brutal gang. Pray that the Lord will use the gospel we shared with them to save them.
- Praise God for saving Maud’s soul and for using her to be a witness to her daughter and the community about the saving grace of our God to save the worst of sinners.
Thank you for taking time out to read my report and for praying for us.
Yours in his service,
Mario F. Maneville
Reformed Faith Mission Community Church
Belville South, South Africa