Gateway News interviews Cape Town missionary and author Ashley Cloete
Tell us about your early roots
I was born and raised in Cape Town, but lived in Germany and Holland for many years. I was born in Bo-Kaap when it was still a predominantly Christian residential suburb with a strong Islamic vibe just under 75 years ago. I spent the bulk of my childhood in District Six when many Jews and Indians had shops there.
Isaiah 55:8 and 9 (God’s higher ways and better thoughts) would run like a golden thread through my life. I came to learn that adversity and suffering seem to be among God’s prime instruments to bring about significant change in the lives of people and even in countries.
In the 1960s I was deeply impacted and mentored in evangelism by Ds Piet Bester, the minister at the local Sending Kerk. There he also ignited a spark in my heart for missions.
An invitation to the CSV Stranddienste at Harmony Park at the end of 1964 indelibly touched me. There I discovered the power of prayer and the importance of networking in the Body of Christ.
How did your time overseas impact your life?
I met my wife German Rosemarie while studying overseas in 1969 and 1970. Our marriage in 1975 led to my exile from the country I had loved so dearly and longed to return to intensely. We served as a pastoral couple in Moravian congregations in West Berlin and Utrecht (Netherlands).
Rosemarie and I started and led Stichting Goed Nieuws Karavaan, a local evangelistic agency in Zeist (Netherlands), with volunteers from different churches and Bible Schools of the region. There we also started the first group of believers in the Netherlands of the Regiogebed (the Dutch version of Dave Bryant’s Concerts of Prayer.) This was just one of various similar circumstances that nudged me to put to paper how God divinely intervened in answer to prayer.
Two books that I bought in 1969 respectively fuelled a) my personal prayer for persecuted Christians in Eastern Europe and b) a yearning to nudge Christians to unite in prayer and activist opposition to apartheid, typified by a manuscript that I called Honger na Geregtigheid.
I was overawed to discern how God worked in my life in answer to prayer, but all my writing until 1991 centred too much around myself. In a rather activist mode I attempted to use my pen (and later computer) to bring about change in South Africa from abroad. (The Holy Spirit subsequently convicted me to confess my activist arrogance in an aerogramme to the new State President on October 4 1989.)
When did you return to SA and what did you do?
After our return as a family with five children in January 1992, we were involved with the prayer movement and Muslim evangelism, operating as missionaries of WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) International. An interest in and love for the Jews were in the back-seat in terms of priorities at that time.
Since 2003 we have been focusing on compassionate outreach to refugees and other foreigners. We were involved in the founding of the missionary NPO Friends from Abroad in the process, serving subsequently as leaders.
Discerning the historical importance of the distortion and change of Duivenkop to Duivelskop, I joined forces with Advocate Murray Bridgman and Pastor Barry Isaacs in 2009 in a small committee that started off in an attempt to affect a name change of the mountain peak to Doves’ Peak that we believed could have significant ramifications.
Discovering that the sons of Abraham buried their father together (Genesis 25:9) and that Romans 1:16 included the words ….to the Jews first created the need for correction in our ministry, which we could never really implement fully. From the former verse we were involved in a very low-key way with Isaac Ishmael Ministries with Messianic Jewish believers. (This did lead to two visits to Israel in 2011 and 2014 and the formation of the Isaiah 19 prayer room as part of the meetings to help forge a spiritual highway from the Cape to Jerusalem in 2010.)
While we continue to pray for the lie and deception of Islam to be fully exposed we pray that many foreign and locals Muslims may come to faith in Jesus as the Lord as well as praying that many Jews may discover that Jesus is indeed the Messiah that they have been waiting for.
How long have you been researching and writing about the history of the Cape?
History was a major subject of my BA degree. However, I only delved seriously into further studies after my discovery of my inadequate knowledge of Islam after our arrival at the Cape in 1992. Two assignments for my post graduate degree in Islamic Studies at the Bible Institute of South Africa School necessitated research into the history of Islam at the Cape and the occurrences of Jesus in the Qur’an.
Three sermons on the Samaritan Woman of John 4 and some info I picked up on Abraham’s sacrifice in Genesis 22 in the first weeks of 1992 at the Cape set out the parameters of what would become manuscripts later. Similarly, introductions to the few known Muslim background believers at that time made me quite eager to write down their stories. The nudge for this had originally been given to me by a missionary colleague, resulting ultimately in my first printed publication Op Soek na Waarheid.
The comparative study of the Abrahamic religions – Islam, Judaism and Christianity — would become much more than a mere hobby. The discovery of the problematic spiritual roots of the Qur’an and the dissemination of this information via radio was material which had to be handled very sensitively at that time.
The many good libraries at the Cape enabled me to do in-depth research in Cape church and mission history, various aspects of Islam and Judaism.
In the run-up to our coming to South Africa my passion for writing and research was fuelled when I discovered the potential for missionary recruitment of this country. This would lead to a manuscript with the ultimate title A Goldmine of Another Sort. (Prior to that I had already written a few incomplete autobiographical manuscripts.) When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2003, my wife challenged me to bring some order and finish manuscripts. That led to me bringing some finality to some of them, starting to drop them on an internet blog (isaacandishmael.blogspot.com) that I started in 2008.
Your writing has also delved into the subject of past and prophesied future revivals in the Cape?
In my treatise Spiritual Dynamics at the Cape, I highlighted the interaction between the Abrahamic religions. In my researches I had discovered that events happening at the Cape had been impacting events much further afield. Thus, the fact that the two volumes of Researches in South Africa of the missionary Dr Philip contributed to the ultimate outlawing of slavery in the British Empire, inspired me.
With my background of low-key personal involvement and experiences via the prayer movement in the bringing down of the Communist Iron Curtain from 1989 and the dismantling of the apartheid edifice, the fallacious ideology of Islam became our next big prayer target.
We were happy that our mission agency WEC International encouraged prayer such a lot. Terms like “strategic prayer” and “prayer walks” became common in due course. The nudge by a local Muslim background believer to have a time of prayer during the Friday lunch hour from September 1992 was ultimately also used in other countries.
When I converted some of that material to Some Things wrought by Prayer, some commonalities in the run-up to revivals at the Cape came more to the fore. Information about various prophesies about a future revival that would start at the Cape, made me long to contribute to that in what ever way I could from a human point of view.
Getting believers to network to give visible expression to the Body of Christ locally in the Cape Town City Bowl, e.g via combined prayer events or worship services remained a challenge where the Lord had to remind me from time to time that unless He builds the house, we as builders would toil in vain (Psalm 127:1).
We got personally involved in the run-up to the Global Day of Prayer in 2005 after a prayer event at the Moravian Church in District Six in November 1997 when the former slum of Cape Town was still desolate and forlorn due to the apartheid demolitions of the 1970 and 1980s.
I hoped to get my studies of a further reduction of the material published in 2010. That was to be the 150 year anniversary of the last big revival at the Cape. I was not discouraged too much that publishers were not interested. I still enjoyed working on the material, which I ultimately self-published from personal funds as Seeds Sown for Revival in 2009 with another small reprint in 2010. I ordered 500 covers to be made and used them over a number of years in small batches.
What led to you publishing your new e-book “Revival Seeds Germinate” now?
By mid-2019 I was thinking that printed books were not viable any more due to the glut of material available online, notably via WhatsApp. I nevertheless started praying about whether I should get certain material that had been on my computer for a long time into the open — perhaps even in printed form. I did not want to rush into printing anything which would be merely a good idea. I prayed for concrete confirmation by the end of July 2019 on whether I should move towards that goal.
I was blessed when I received a phone number on the 31st of July 2019 that I could call. When I phoned Anneline of Sela Publications, I expressed my own doubts about the suitability of the title Revival Seeds Germinate. She responded that she had completed a painting, a photo of which she would like to send to me. When I saw it, I was overawed! The painting now used on the cover of all three parts of the book is the reproduction of Fertile Ground by Anneline de Hout. It looks very much as if I had ordered someone to paint something that would complement Revival Seeds Germinate!
In due course however, the original revision of my book Seeds sown for Revival had been expanded to such an extent that I decided to move towards a publication in three parts. (I attempted to highlight how some of what I wrote about in Spiritual Dynamics at the Cape had also been seeds towards revival.) The ramifications of Covid-19 seemed to have made the printing of books even less viable. Thus I decided to publish Part 1 initially as an e-book, with some marketing for a printed version to test the waters.
What are your hopes for this book?
The reason for publishing all my manuscripts on the blog www.isaacandishmael.blogspot.com was to give God the glory for the great things He has been doing here from the Cape and in my life, in answer to prayer. Readers can read the bulk of my writings there free of charge.
I would be very happy if young people especially will be blessed and challenged to trust our Father in Heaven for big things. Notably it would bless me if the material could become an instrument for believers, young and old, to be activated to pray for and/or getting involved in some way in the spreading of the Gospel from our shores.
How can people obtain a copy of Revival Seeds Germinate?
You can order the e-book (Revival Seeds Germinate Part 1 / 246 pages) from Sela Books at email@example.com or 082 5634407. You will be asked to make a donation of any amount into the account of SELA Books or Friends from Abroad, whereafter you will be sent a link to download your e-book.