[notice]When Gateway News asked Debbie Janse van Rensburg to write down how she and her husband Fanie ended up pursuing adventures with God in the Eastern Cape village of Morgan Bay, she began her story in her early childhood. “As I wrote I realised that all the experiences tie in to each other to get us to where we are now, so I needed to include all the important bits in order for it to make sense” says Debbie. This is Episode 2 of her inspiring and heartwarming story.[/notice]
Episode 2 – Far from the city
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” ~ Psalm 37:4
In 2001 we were offered the opportunity to run a Beach Lodge in a remote area in Mozambique – so despite having absolutely no experience in hospitality, we grabbed the chance with both hands, giving up our secure city jobs, to head off into the sticks as we had always dreamed of doing – and we loved it ! We didn’t find it hard to adapt at all and having no electricity, running water and having to drive 70km to get to a phone or get a phone signal, only made it more fun. We were in our element. Fanie started a little prayer group each morning with his workers and slowly but surely more of his staff started to attend and ask questions and what a breakthrough that was for us because it was also here in Mozambique that we came to learn, first hand, about just how very real spiritual warfare is!
The area had a number of witch doctors who met regularly right behind our little house, so we very quickly came to realise that in order to survive and make a difference, we were going to have to spend a LOT of time in prayer – which we did. And slowly, slowly we started to see God at work – it was amazing. We truly felt that THIS was our mission field that we had been dreaming about, but God had other plans and looking back now I believe that He put us in Mozambique for that time to show and teach us many things – a bit like putting us out in the field for practical lessons after all those years in the Church doing the theory. I kept getting malaria – three times in the space of about six months – and after my third bout, the doctor advised us to move to a non-malaria area as I was no longer responding well to treatment. So with a very, very heavy heart, Fanie drove alone all the way back to Mozambique from Pietersburg, as I couldn’t go back, to pack up and say good bye to everyone. We shed many tears at that time as we just could not understand why God would put us there in our mission field and just when we felt like we were starting to make headway, we had no choice but to leave. Sadly, we returned to Pietersburg, found jobs and settled back into suburban life.
During this time, we began to focus on the fact that we had not fallen pregnant yet, despite trying for the last six years or so. After removing a cyst from my ovary, doctors could not see any reason why we shouldn’t fall pregnant, but still nothing happened. I tried all the old housewives’ remedies, we cried, we prayed, we argued, all to no avail. Eventually, for the sake of our marriage, we agreed to just enjoy each other and leave the rest to God.
A year and a half after leaving Mozambique, we once again came to the realisation that we just weren’t cut out for city life. So,much to my husband’s amusement, I started to buy the Farmers Weekly on a regular basis and sent out our CVs to any job offer that was looking for a couple – the only criterion we were interested in was that the job had to be in a remote area. Of all the positions we applied for we received only one call back, from a hotel looking for a couple in a little town called Morgan Bay in the Eastern Cape, almost 2 000km away. Once again, although crazy, we just knew that this was where God was calling us – so we left our cushy jobs, loaded up our old trooper and off we went.
We settled in immediately and once again, God went ahead and made a way. We didn’t have anywhere to live but suddenly there was a house on the market which ‘just happened’ to be in our price range if we were able to sell our Pietersburg plot, and the house ‘just happened’ to be split level and open-plan which is just what we needed if we were going to bring my parents down to live with us which we wanted to do. During the time of trying to find bank finance for the balance of the house, the access road to Morgan Bay was tarred from the highway, making it much more accessible and so the prices of houses just skyrocketed . However, the elderly gent who owned the house that we were trying to buy, never wavered ; he could have sold his house to someone else at three times the price, yet he said that he had given us his word and would not go back on it. So after much, much effort and visiting banks and with the help of the hotel owner, we finally managed to secure a bond to cover the house and were able to go back and fetch my parents and the dogs. That was truly God at work for us, yet another miracle to add to all the others in our lives so far!
We have spent many happy years here in Morgan Bay and have seen God doing the most amazing things. One of the East London churches, Crossways Christian Community, started to hold their annual Ladies’ Retreats here at the hotel. I started to attend the retreats and soon we also tried to get to a few of their services on Sunday mornings in town when we could. We also learnt that the pastor of this church also ran a children’s home in the area, for abandoned and abused babies. Slowly God was opening up the way ahead, for what was to come – we just didn’t know it at the time.
In January 2010, Fanie and I set out on a trip from Morgan Bay to Vanderbijlpark to visit his parents. On the morning of the 22nd, after camping in the Drakensburg for the night, we set off on the last leg of our journey and at about 3.30pm on a dead straight road in the Free State, a white bakkie came towards us; we were the only two cars on the road at that time and suddenly the bakkie lost control and hit us head on! The weird thing was that I could see it all happening, almost in slow motion, yet I didn’t make a sound and immediately this amazing, total peace just came over us. Our vehicle rolled down the embankment, coming to stop on its wheels but with the cab almost totally flattened. The other vehicle had also rolled and had landed way behind us somewhere in the bush, without the driver who had been thrown out. Fanie was slightly dazed but managed to climb out his window but I was pushed up against the dashboard and not able to get out. When a young boy finally managed to cut my seat belt loose with a piece of broken beer bottle, I clambered out of the window straight into the arms of a large black lady who just held me, and then she whispered in my ear: “This is a miracle, you know !” Only then did I turn around and look at the vehicle, or rather – what was left of it. When I turned back, the lady was gone. I was still standing there with blood pouring down my face, broken ribs, Fanie all hunched over, barely able to stand, our car a total write-off, but yes, we were alive !!! We were taken by ambulance to Bethlehem hospital where we spent one night before being discharged. I learnt later that my cousin, here in East London, had woken up on the morning of the accident with Fanie and I heavy on her heart – and so she prayed and prayed for us and I KNOW that because of her prayers, God was right there with us in that accident – He was the calmness we felt in that cab and he held us tight when that car hit us.
Shortly after this, my Dad became ill here at home. We took him to the doctor but Dad continued to get weaker. I am still not sure if Dad knew what was wrong and didn’t want to tell us but he made us promise that we would not take him and leave him in a hospital – he wanted to be at home. So we did – we kept him home and we nursed him. My Mom was amazing with him – she is a small lady, where Dad was really tall, yet she was his hands and feet 24/7, never complaining. Fanie and I helped when we were home from work. Although a sad time, I believe we were also very privileged to have been with my Dad through this. We all took turns to sit with Dad, to talk to him, pray with him and just to be with him. Then one evening, we could see he was battling, so Fanie went outside onto our deck and got on his knees, praying to God for healing – after a while Fanie came back with a big smile on his face and said : “Dad is going to be okay”. He then went and sat with my Dad and prayed with him, also telling him that he would make sure Mom and I were okay if he wanted to go home, and that he would look after us. That evening Fanie and I slept on a mattress in the lounge to be close to Mom and Dad, and later that evening, just past midnight, my Dad peacefully passed away, at home, with us, as he had wanted.