[notice]Alf James chats to Karoo Mighty Men camp commanders who play a vital service role in ensuring the smooth running of the annual camp near Middelburg attended by tens of thousands of men seeking a real relationship with God.[/notice]
Although taking care of problems and unforeseen circumstances throughout the day and late into the night, often in trying weather conditions, is arduous, Arno Ferreira has learned that by serving one often receives more than one gives.
Arno, who is from Dewetsdorp in the Free State, has served as a camp commander at the Karoo Mighty Men Conference (KMMC) since 2014.
Last year, conditions on the first day of the conference at Renosterfontein farm on the edge of the Karoo’s Sneeuberg mountain range were extremely demanding with dusty autumn winds gusting so severely that many men could not assemble their tents.
After a long day helping to solve challenges deep into the cold of the night Arno arrived back at his tent tired, frustrated and freezing.
He asked himself why he was doing what he was doing?
Arno decided that three years of being a camp commander at KMMC, after five years of taking groups to mighty men conferences at Shalom, was enough.
“Although the Lord gives you wisdom to handle the challenges, when you are tired and frustrated the weakness of the flesh kicks-in and I said to my team: ‘boys, I’ve had it; I’ve done my bit, this is my last year of serving as a camp commander at KMMC’.
“I was really exhausted and feeling sorry for myself.”
The next morning while standing guard at the gate leading to the stage, a young man approached Arno and started talking to him.
“He told me his family had gone on holiday to the sea for the weekend, but he told them he couldn’t go with as he was attending KMMC.
“I could tell he was upset as he shared his life-story with me.
“As he finished speaking I put my hand on his shoulder and gave everything that he shared with me back to God, because it is only God that could solve it.
“The young man told me he wanted to give his life to the Lord at KMMC.
“I asked him why he had not taken the opportunity at the service the night before. He replied, ‘but that is why I’m standing in front of you’.
“I was surprised and almost overwhelmed, but managed to lead him to the Lord in prayer.
Attitude and serving God
“When I said Amen I sensed the Lord say to me: ‘Arno your attitude stinks, you are complaining about dust and long hours even though you promised to serve Me. And look at this young person whose life was in turmoil — you didn’t even go and look for him, I sent him directly to you — how can you say you’re finished, you’re done’.
“I immediately repented and said, ‘God, I am so sorry for being selfish’.
“I went back to the tent and told the team the whole story and said, ‘boys I know I told you last night that I’m finished, but I will be back next year to do the job that God has called me for’.
“I was emotional and ashamed. I asked my team to forgive me for my attitude the night before, because there are people out there who don’t have what we have in Jesus Christ, yet I didn’t see the urgency of the situation or the yearning among people to have Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.”
In giving, Arno received the gift of a great lesson in service and being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“Life is about Jesus,” says Arno.
“I learned that I can have no greater purpose than playing a part in people giving their hearts to the Lord and getting their lives in order.
“It is all about getting men to know the Lord better and although I’m not a preacher I can help organise a camp.”
KMMC camp commanders
Arno first became a camp commander at KMMC after attending five Mighty Men Conferences at Angus Buchan’s farm Shalom.
“I changed from being a visitor at mighty men conferences to helping with their organisation, because the Lord put it on my heart that the KMMC needs people who are prepared to do the dirty jobs in order to make the event a success.
“I phoned the KMMC organisers and told them I was available to serve in any way, even clean toilets, to make sure the event was comfortable for those attending and that they could enjoy their time in the presence of the Lord in the Karoo.”
Jannie Moolman, KMMC co-ordinator and owner of Rusoord Farm on the outskirts of Middelburg, where the conference is hosted each year, says camp commanders are vital to the smooth running of the conference and the tent city that mushrooms-up during the three-day conference.
“Firstly, each camp commander is in control of a designated campsite and ensures that visitors fill-up that area in an orderly fashion leaving the marked out roads clear.
“Secondly, the camp commander must ensure he is available to answer questions, resolve challenges, and ensure there are no open fires or alcohol at KMMC.
“Thirdly, the camp commanders maintain a line of communication between the camps and the central headquarters for issues like security or the need for medical attention.
“Camp commanders attend a central briefing each morning together with security and medical staff, stage management and headquarters personnel; they are critical to the success of KMMC and the enjoyment of the event by the tens of thousands of visitors,” explains Jannie.
KMMC different to other mass gatherings
Arno contends that being at KMMC is unlike attending any other mass gathering, such as a sporting or entertainment event.
“Being a camp commander at KMMC is a privilege, the atmosphere at the event is extremely open and friendly; people speak and communicate with each other freely even though they may not have met each other before.
“The fellowship is wonderful — sitting in the veld for a few days as one of tens-of-thousands-of-worshippers brings everyone to the same level and removes any pretentiousness.
“The fellowship is genuine and there is no TV or anything to distract your attention — the fellowship is the real deal — when men see other men repenting they realise it is time to drop the show and acknowledge that they also need the Lord.”
Ed Kingwill, who farms between Middelburg and Cradock and has served as a camp commander at the KMMC from its establishment, confirms the openness and friendly atmosphere at the conference, which he says is out of the ordinary.
“It is unusually-easy to strike-up a conversation with a stranger at KMMC. One gets to meet people from all over the country cross-culturally that you would normally not have the opportunity of getting to know.
“KMMC is also special in the way it facilitates relationship building. I have been able to spend quality time with my son who helps as we serve in the camp each year. Likewise, through KMMC, I have developed a deeper relationship with my father-in-law, who brings a group of men from Alexandria.”
Another noteworthy aspect of KMMC, according to Ed, is Father God’s hand at work at the event.
Testimonies of God’s guidance
He testifies to one instance when, unbeknown to him, a cousin of his wife was attending the conference and had gone for an early morning run leaving his two young sons in the tent.
“His children went for a walk, still clothed in their pyjamas, to the cross on top of the koppie. On their way back they got lost and could not find their father or their tent.
“As God intended it, out of the many thousands of tents, they ended-up at my tent, which was a long way away from their tent.
“However, we were able to find their father and reunite them with him.”
In a second instance, someone Ed had seen around the campsite, but only spoken to briefly arrived at his tent on the Sunday morning during the service, which Ed had not gone to as he had to check the campsite.
“Out of the blue, he started sharing with me about an issue with which I had been battling and was totally relevant to me at the time.
“It was as though the Lord had sent him, like an angel, to minister to me. We ended-up praying together.
“Now every year we look-out for each other.
Potjiekos en Pêlle
“Another testimony is of a chap that was in our tent in 2012, the year KMMC had a ‘Potjiekos en Pêlle’, which gave men the rare opportunity to enjoy sharing a ‘potjiekos’ meal cooked in a pot big enough to feed everyone attending the conference.
“Fifteen-or-20-years-earlier, this person had been at loggerheads with an associate and had not spoken with him since.
“As the Lord had it, the associate had been to Port Elizabeth to watch rugby and on his return journey decided to stop-off at KMMC specifically to see what a mass-potjiekos meal would look like.
“The way the Lord willed it, these two men, who had been enemies and had not seen each other for many years, found each other among the thousands of men at the ‘Potjiekos en Pêlle’.
“Not only did the chap from our tent reconcile and make peace with his old enemy, but a pain that he had been suffering from for years was simultaneously healed.”
Ed says the way the Lord keeps His hand on even the tiniest details at KMMC is just amazing.
For example, one year Ed’s group’s borrowed main tent arrived without a tent pole. While they sought assistance someone overheard and said that a group from PE in the campground had mentioned they had an extra tent pole, which fitted their tent perfectly.
One of the aspects that Arno values most about KMMC is how the conference has developed cross-culturally.
“I’m happy to say that we have brothers in Christ from all nationalities and races at KMMC, where people are united by Jesus Christ as a family, as children of God, which is a powerful message to the country’s churches and politicians.
“In this country people are looking for political solutions, but the essence of the challenges we face is spiritual.
“This is a reflection of what happened when Jesus was on earth and the people of Israel were looking for national-political salvation from their rule by Rome that was related to their temporal kingdom on earth. However, what Jesus offered was spiritual salvation related to God’s eternal, heavenly Kingdom.”
Arno and Ed agree that the mark of KMMCs effectiveness is the number of men who return home changed by God’s grace and ready to serve their families and neighbours, which glorifies the Lord.
KMMC 2017 will take place from April 28-30 on the outskirts of Middelburg in the Eastern Cape on Renosterfontein Farm. For more information contact Ruthi van der Merwe at (M) 082 857 7839 (F) 049 842 3310 e-mail: email@example.com website: www.karoommc.co.za