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Awakening Church to “Better Together” message

 

Adriaan Vlok, Alexander Venter and Trevor Nthola at the “Better Together” conference.

I experienced a severe turbulence on a recent plane landing in Port Elizabeth. The kind that induces a short prayer but also serves as a reminder that my city is deserving of its moniker as the “windy city”.

As we went through the clouds I realised that if God was to save me, He was also likely to save all other passengers on that plane. In other words, my fate was tied up with that of my fellow travellers.

This is a thought that came to me when I attended a conference on racial reconciliation. The conference, held recently at Fountain Vineyard, Christian Fellowhip in Port Elizabrth was aptly themed “Better Together”.The speakers were Alexander Venter, Trevor Nthola and Adriaan Vlok.

First up on Friday evening, August 17, was Trevor who – like his name-sake Trevor Noah – had the audience in stiches as he told stories of how he fought to keep his faith during the turbulent times of apartheid.

Like many other young men, Trevor was radicalised and hardened by what was taking place in South Africa in the 1980s.

Defining moment
At Fountain he narrated an incident that became a turning point in his life. He was in a church service in Soweto with “whites” who had decided to fellowship in that township. Somehow he found himself remonstrating with one “white” brother and this was a defining moment that led Trevor to pray that God should never allow him to be part of a homogenous congregation (either all-black or all-white).

Trevor was followed by Alexander Venter who is the author of the book Doing Reconciliation. In the 1980s Alexander led a congregation called “Joweto”, which attempted to bridge the divide between Johannesburg and Soweto believers.

Alexander started his session by introducing himself as a “recovering racist”. He said he was breastfed prejudice from a young age and grew up seeing nothing wrong with a system that treated non-whites as second-class citizens.

But all that changed when a Bible school student challenged him to visit Soweto. There he was confronted with the raw anger and hurt from young black men who met a white person they could finally ventilate to. Like Saul who had his Damascus experience, Alexander had his divine moment on the freeway out of Soweto. The almost two-hour interrogation had taken its toll on him and he stopped along the road and cried out to God.

Trevor Nthola and Adriaan Vlok in discussion at the conference.

Alexander mentored Trevor and assisted him access tertiary education way before the current discussions about university access for non-white South Africans. Trevor is now completing his PhD, focusing on the life of Adriaan Vlok, a man he calls his friend.

Eyes were blinded
“Oom Vlok” was a former Minister of Law and Order in the old regime and therefore one of the chief enforcers of apartheid. He revealed that they were so blinded by the perceived need to keep the races apart that they failed to see that all groups were equally deserving of love and acceptance.

When his eyes were opened, he was convicted that he needed to make amends by apologising to some of his former victims, such as the Rev Frank Chikane, and by revealing it all during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Vlok shared of his sadness aboyt whites who continue to defend apartheid and who try to rationalise its existence.

Trevor, Alexander and Adriaan now work alongside in awakening the church to the need to continue the ministry of reconciliation. They all realise that we are indeed “Better Together” than we are apart.

 
 

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5 Comments

  1. Pete says:

    Great recap Afrika, apparently the recordings will be uploaded soon – thanks Vineyard for organising and hosting this very important Conf. Better together – ask Jesus today how you can truly show love someone you haven’t before 🙂

  2. MARION LE ROUX says:

    This is something we can all do – be more kind than necessary, more loving than expected, more friendly than required and showing respect for everybody that crosses your path! Stop for the one person…make a difference where you are.

  3. Sydney Opperman says:

    Is “togetherness” what The Head of the BODY (the CHURCH)prayed for? (John 17)? Is ONENESS to radical?At the present moment the BODY of CHRIST is divided into thousands of “occupied territories” each with its own exclusive “billboard”.When have been baptised by ONE Spirit into ONE Body. The instruction is for the edification of the BODY not for the mutilation of the BODY. We sing ” There is only ONE God, and there is only One King, there is only One Body with tears in our eyes but we don’t demonstrate that ONENESS.
    Different

  4. Pam Fairley says:

    Hearing Adriaan Vlok’s testimony on that Sunday morning at Fountain Vineyard, was absolutely mind-blowing, especially for me having lived most of my adult life during the apartheid era and being aware,to some degree, of the evils of that policy. I was reminded again that only the mighty power of God can bring about such a deep heart-and-mind-change, such a transformed life, as we see in Adriaan Vlok! It was a challenge to persevere in prayer for our country! Our Father hears the fervent prayers of His people and with Him all things are possible!