Being in charge of the safety, security and emergency planning at Karoo Mighty Men Conference (KMMC) is no normal job of work for Riaan Janse Van Vuuren, even though he has 30 years of experience in this field and is the assistant fire chief in Kimberly.
First of all, he has sacrificed two weeks of his leave from work each year for the last five years to do the job, and secondly even though it is no holiday, but an intense time of long working hours, responsibility, service and administrative tasks, he goes home refreshed in mind, body and spirit.
“Although as the safety, security and emergency services team, we spend most of our time working at KMMC, rather than listening to the inspiring messages given by the speakers; nevertheless each staff member at the KMMC venue operations centre (VOC) testifies to the personal and spiritual change they experience at the event each year,” says Janse Van Vuuren, safety officer at KMMC.
“Every year we come to serve, nonetheless by the end of the weekend we are so blessed by God’s Word, the presence of the Lord through His Holy Spirit, the fellowship with brothers in Christ, and what we have witnessed, that we go home changed and more mature Christians.
Serving materially, blessed spiritually
“We come to KMMC to serve materially, but go home blessed spiritually.
“For example, last year Tyron Knight did duty at a gate at the vendors’ area when a stranger came to him asking ‘what do I do here? What is going on?’
“After asking a few questions, Tyron learned that the gentleman had lost his work, his family, his possessions, and that his children didn’t want to see him.
“Tyron prayed with him, and encouraged him to attend the Saturday evening service, which he did.
“When Tyron saw him again, he was like a new man! He had committed his life to the Lord Jesus, found forgiveness and said he had a reason to live, which all lifted Tyron as well.
“Likewise, while conducting security rounds last year, I came upon an elderly man attending the event together with his son, his grandson and his great grandson.
“What an honour to see four generations of fathers and sons serving the Lord together, which was, and still is, an encouragement for me to pray for my sons daily and to encourage them to serve the Lord.
“I really pray that I will have the honour to see with my own eyes my sons and their sons serving the Lord,” says Janse Van Vuuren.
He reports that through working at the KMMC the emergency, safety and security team members have become firm friends and formed a bond, which is not easily broken.
“This is the event during which we can sit down, be real towards each other as friends and brothers and really open up – it is during these ‘sessions’ where both spiritual and personal issues are sorted out and new vision is born.
“We have been brought closer to God through KMMC and grown closer as brothers in Christ.
“I can also testify to new friendships that have been built because of the KMMC; friendships that have developed with KMMC organising committee members, which have deepened my relationship with the Karoo.
“Nowadays, as a ‘Karoo-born kid’ myself, I cannot drive through Middelburg without stopping for coffee with these friends.”
Janse Van Vuuren and his emergency planning and co-ordination team are all from Kimberly. Many of the members have been involved in the Mighty Men Conference (MMC) movement since 2008 when Angus Buchan requested that he assist with the emergency planning for the events at his farm Shalom near Greytown.
“Thereafter, Jannie Moolman, KMMC co-ordinator, requested that we join the team for the Karoo Mighty Men Conference assisting with the emergency planning. Since 2014 we have also assisted with the security arrangements.
“We always try to put our own team together consisting of people who have a background in emergency planning, safety, security and logistics and who are also united in Christian fellowship.
“We have more than 200 years’ experience in emergency planning, security and logistics among the team members that form part of the VOC staff where the entire safety and security operation in respect of the event is coordinated including: logistics; security issues; medical concerns; fire control; parking; translations; whether the programme is starting on time; is the sound clear; are radio broadcasts being transmitted; lost items; fire control; emergencies; and any other need that may arise,” says Janse Van Vuuren.
Integral part of KMMC
Moolman says the VOC team, led by Janse Van Vuuren are an integral part of KMMC and have been critical to managing both the growth of the event and its well-ordered running each year.
Janse Van Vuuren explains that the need for a VOC team is not just one of good event management, but is required by law.
The Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act No 2 of 2010 provides for measures to safeguard the physical well-being and safety of persons and property at sports, recreation, religious, cultural, exhibitions, or organisational events.
The Act stipulates that the physical well-being and safety of all persons attending such events must be promoted and protected; and that the planning, management and enforcement of safety and security at the events must be handled by people experienced in the field of safety and security.
“The Act prescribes that an emergency plan must be completed as well as plans for: risk assessment and mitigation; environmental health; fire services; traffic control; police operations; security, and medical services.
“All of these operations must be co-ordinated from the VOC,” says Janse Van Vuuren.
Although the KMMC runs smoothly each year there are always safety and security issues that have to be dealt with, which vary from medical emergencies to people not following fire regulations, accidents and logistical challenges.
Lord has provided the right people to meet challenges
However, Janse Van Vuuren says the Lord has always provided the right people to manage the challenges.
“I remember getting a call at the VOC about a medical crisis. Fortunately the doctor was at the VOC and was rushed to the scene of the emergency.
“On arrival there was a young child suffering from convulsions and the doctor battled to get his airways open, calm him and stabilise him.
“However, out of the centre of the large crowd that had gathered a man appeared saying, ‘I am a paediatric doctor, can I help’ and within a minute or two an anaesthetist had also arrived.
“The exact right personnel arrived at the exact right time to take care of the emergency – God ordained!”
Janse Van Vuuren remembers back to the day he and Moolman sat on the veranda of the old Renosterberg farmhouse and Moolman described the KMMC organising committee’s vision for the as yet non-existent KMMC.
“I bought into it immediately because Jannie shared the desires of his heart and vision for KMMC, which resonated with my heart.
“Five years later we are still on the KMMC journey that has been a wonderful experience and one during which we have all grown in relation to each other and in our relationship with our Holy Father.
“It has been a privilege to see how the KMMC organising committee has grown in faith and how their trust in God to provide has developed as the event has expanded, because managing an event for two or three thousand men is very different to managing an event for thirty thousand men, which brings greater responsibility and a need for vastly improved organisational skills.
“KMMC has also inspired all of us from Kimberly to hold our own Christian events to glorify God in the Northern Cape,” says Janse Van Vuuren.