Gary Packer, professional golfer for more than 25 years and involved in development golf for township children, lost almost all his livelihood in the recent Port Elizabeth Walmer Township protests. His golf shop, which is at the Walmer Country Club, was looted of close to R400 000 worth of stock. But he says he is not angry — only saddened.
“I feel no animosity. I know it is only a small criminal element that caused all the damage and trauma. So many of the people there live under terribly difficult circumstances. These riots are hard on them too.” he says. “I have coached between 600 to 700 children over the last 20 years who have testified of the positive effect these golf lessons had on the successes in their lives, so I have many friends there. Also friends from the Joy to the Nations church we recently joined. About 60% of the members come from Walmer Township.”
When Packer first saw the damage at his shop, he felt devastated, but says “As a Christian, one must do what you can and leave the rest to God. This whole ordeal taught me to trust God more and He provided in different ways. People have been so good to us.”
Braveharts reach out
A group of golfers from different churches called Bravehearts, immediately reached out upon hearing of the situation, and donated a substantial amount of money to get Packer through the initial hardship. They are also organising a golf day fundraiser on 12 September to further help Packer get back on his feet, as well as help the Walmer Country Club to pay for their repairs .
Mentoring Letter 469 — It’s So Hard
[notice]The August 24 edition of a weekly mentoring letter which Bravehearts founder Anthony Jennings sends to subscribers: this one draws inspiration from the looting of Gary Packer’s golf shop.[/notice]
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Life’s storms don’t always announce themselves politely as they invade our lives. They are like the uninvited, unwanted guest who invites himself to the dinner table and devours all before him. Such was the experience this week of my friend Gary, a golf teaching professional for almost thirty years. Gary operates his golfing goods store at our local golf club, where he is well known and loved by all. Gary’s storm took the shape of residents of the neighbouring township who, in the process of protesting their own frustrations with their living conditions, chose to invade the golf club, trash all before them and loot and destroy Gary’s shop. Imagine the scene once police had ensured it was safe to back to the golf club. Imagine Gary’s emotions as he stood in the aftermath of this devastating, unexpected storm. He was shattered!
According to Anthony Jennings, founder member of Bravehearts, the field for the golf day was booked out within two days and they managed to secure more than 50% of their targeted sponsorships within four days. “We only got a positive response. To get sponsors so quickly is unheard of. God is in it. And it is so good for Gary to hear of this goodwill as he has been with the club for a long time and one tends to start feel part of the furniture. We as the Bravehearts have golf as our common interest, and Gary is one of us, and been a member of Bravehearts for a number of years, and this is what brothers do,” he says.
Packer also has a lot of appreciation for his community group at church. “They were just so good to us. They came to help secure the little stock that was left, clean up the shop and repair broken stands, etc. They supported us in many ways. I am just so grateful,” he says.
“Many people have asked whether I am going to move away now, but I have a strong sense that God wants me to stay right here. He’s got a purpose for me here though I am not sure yet whether it is simply to continue coaching, or whether it will be in a wider context.”
Packer says God is shaking foundations. “We as South Africans and Western society have been spoiled and tend to hold on to the material things around us. God says we must lean on Him, not on our own understanding. About a month before this incident I prayed with my pastor Brendon Locke about carrying a substantial amount of business debt. His prayer for my wife Kathleen and I was almost prophetic as he prayed for God’s supernatural provision. I have experienced His supernatural provision in all this,” he says.
How it happened
On the Wednesday morning of the protests Packer went to work as usual.
“There have been protests before, so I was not really concerned,” he says” But the company across the road did use a back route through the golf course to go home that afternoon, as people started to burn tyres.
On Thursday though, none of the club staff were allowed in due to all the road closures and burning barricades and he heard on the radio that things were getting out of hand.
“By midday I got a call from the security company that the alarms were going off at the shop, but that they could not go in. That was a devastating moment for me and I feared the worst. My wife prayed with me and a friend, who is a police officer, managed to get me to the shop in a Casspir,” Packer says.
What he saw at the club and the shop was real devastation. Windows were shattered, doors broken down, security gates bent open, offices turned upside down, all the clothing, shoes, clubs and other stock were stolen and what was not stolen was broken. Card machines were smashed, hole-in-one memorabilia were ripped off the walls, power cables outside the club had been exposed and burnt and all the alcohol in the pub stolen.
“All we could do was lock away the little that was left after the looting. Sometimes it is difficult when you try to do good and workers give information about the premises in exchange for a few free drinks. But things were bad in the Bible times also. So though it is hard, I will try to continue to do the right thing. As the quote says ‘all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’” Packer says.