Crossing the culture divide — My first Mighty Men Conference

Retief Burger (left) and Joe Niemand (with outstretched arms) and the band did an outstanding job leading worship at the Karoo Mighty Men Conference. (Photo: Dave Stott)

The whole thing started with Trevor picking me and other traveling companions up and then off we went to Middleburg for what would my first experience of the Mighty Men Conference. This year’s one was called the Karoo Mighty Men Conference because of a decision taken in 2009 that these conferences should be decentralised and spread to various parts of the country. I had never been to ones held at Shalom in KwaZulu-Natal because frankly I never understood what the fuss was about. I had seen pictures of these, mainly, white males gathered on Angus Buchan’s farm, but this never seemed to be my kind of a scene. I never understood why I should travel so far to a testosterone filled atmosphere and then spend many days outdoors being exposed to the elements. Yet I did go this year’s Karoo MMC, and all thanks to Trevor’s powers of persuasion.

Anyway, we arrived in Middleburg late on Friday afternoon after a brief stop-over at Graaff Reinet. We checked in at Christine’s Guesthouse and were welcomed by the warm and friendly owner. One thing that struck me as we arrived for our first service on Friday evening was how well-organised this event was. The administration, the logistics, the sound equipment, etc. — everything was comparable with the best standards. The Praise and Worship and the speakers who spoke were good but sadly I could not follow most of what was going on because the medium of communication used was mainly Afrikaans. Although I have little command of “die taal” the singers’ and the speakers’ enthusiasm helped me not to be disconnected. As a result, my favourite song ended up being Joe Niemand’s “Ek sal nie bang wees nie.”

Men worshiping God beneath a glorious Karoo skyscape.

I felt bad that it was my first time being introduced to him and I felt that our disconnection from each other as different races is depriving us of the opportunity of benefiting from the talent that exists in our different cultures.  To me he is so talented and authentic he would make it as a cross over gospel musician and he should not be limited only as an Afrikaans singer. It is this excellence and that of the band that guaranteed that I never sat down during praise and worship whether they were singing an English or Afrikaans song. I noticed that the speakers deliberately stayed away from “preaching” but opted to speak to the audience. They spoke from their hearts and shared testimonies of what God has done in their personal lives. This approach seemed to have resonated with a lot of people.

The one theme that I picked up from many of them is the issue of racial reconciliation. We were challenged to narrow that gap that continues to divide us as different races. After every session my traveling companions (Trevor, Gordon, Theo) and I would have animated discussion about the speaker’s presentation and message. At some point we got a bit concerned as we thought that Angus Buchan would not be speaking at this conference. On Sunday morning, which was the last session, he made it onto that stage and I could not help but notice the profound respect everyone has for him. He has his own repertoire. This session was open to everyone, so all the wives and children joined us.

Facing up to pain
“Oom” Angus spoke about pain. That’s right, pain in all its permutations. Pain from a wounded soul, heart, body, relationship, etc. With tears in his eyes he passionately appealed to us to handle this, unavoidable, part of life with God’s help. He used an illustration about a boxer. He said a good boxer is not one who can give a punch but one who can take a punch. He also spoke about the pain that is brought on by foolish choices and behaviour. It was my first time listening to him in person and he made a good impression on me. Would I go to a Mighty Men again? Most probably and I might bring more other black folks with me, provided they can withstand the cold. I understand these conferences exist to help and encourage men to improve in their roles as fathers, husbands, leaders, etc. If everyone takes the experience back to their homes, work, business, community, etc. this country will change.

Speaking of change, a white fellow “mighty man” who stayed opposite my house in a suburb I used to stay in in Port Elizabeth came to greet me there. He was a panel beater who did not care much about the things of God. He told me that this was his second year coming to the Mighty Men and he has now stopped drinking and smoking and is committed to the Lord. To me this is what it is all about. Lives changed by God’s power and not just a mass camping out of men. And they know how to camp these men and know how to have a “lekker jol” too, which is something as darkie I would like to learn.


    • Amen indeed Mike

    • it was my1st time at MMC,i’ve recomitted my life to Christ,i intend to be more efected in God’s vineyard,i’ve allready recruited men for the next MMC

      • Good to hear Freddy. I pray that the Lord reveal more of Himself in your life. Nothing is more important that allowing ourselves to be used by Him.

  1. Hi Afrika

    Thanks firstly for introducing us to Gateway News.

    For those who do not understand Afrikaans, it is a little difficult. My suggestion to the organisers is improve on the display of the words during praise and worship. Sometimes the words were there and at other times not. I had to hum along a lot.

    That being said, it was a fantastic experience and I will make sure I bring some of my black brothers along next time.

    Looking at the blackberry status of the young english guys that went with us, all of them have quotes from the different afrikaans praise songs – “Ons koning kom om ons te haal” and “Hys die ruiter op die wit perd”, these songs are stuck in our heads.

    Overall a very positive weekend.



    • Well thank you for connecting in this Gateway platform. We want every SA Christian to be connected here. Pls feel free to also feed us any news you might have from your community. KMMC 2012 was a positive weekend indeed. I am sure with a few improvements in organisation here and there it could only get better. The big positive for me is that Angus ministers in English so I captured every word he said. I am confident that a gathering of this nature can be a catalyst that can transform this nation.
      Thanks Craig

  2. Amen, all praise to Jesus for such a wonderful weekend with so many men together worshipping God. You cannot explain how wonderful it is when you worship the Lord with the presence of the holy spirit that is so over whelming and you can’t explain it to someone that were never at MMC. This was my first MMC that I attended but defiantly not the last. Like Oom Angus had mentioned that its time that all Christians stands together as one unit does not matter from what province you are. I can’t stop thinking about how great it was and to Retief Burger and Joe Niemand, your worship was excellent, praise to the Lord for this. Amen

    • Yeah Morne you are correct worship there was anointed. Such events are giving us a taste of what heaven will be like. Indeed Ritief and Joe are gifted musicians. It is good to have such gifts in God’s kingdom. Amen

  3. Shalom!
    I attended MMC 2008 & 2009. It was fantastic but I thought it was enough for me. Friends convinced me to come along to the KMMC2012. I was pleasently surprised! The mix of speakers, the intimacy, the topics, and the huge sacrifices made by the locals. I believe it was very relevant, and if anyone believe that they have grown out of MMC… think again.
    Joe, your music, and worshipfull attitude is such a blessing!
    May we walk it out…
    Thanks, Derick, Bloemfontein

    • Shalom Derick,

      May we walk it out indeed. We are called to be doers and not just hearers. We will be guilty before the Lord if we don’t do anything we what we have been previlaged to participate in.
      I have not seen any other event that has brought some many Christian men from various cultural backgrounds together. We must ride on this goodwill.
      Thank you

  4. Hi Afrika.
    Some people are gifted with words and the way you have written and shared your experience must be complimented. I have sat the past couple of days to put my experience on paper and has struggled to find a simple way to share. Well done Afrika! It truly has been an awesome experience and a revival in our country is shured, as long as we keep following God in obedience! Thanks You!

    • Thanks Jacques,
      Clearly the Lord has use for all of us and this why He uses us differently. When I listen to people like Joe Niemand I often wonder how life would be for me if I was that vocally gifted. But then again the Lord saw it fit not to grant me that ability. Anyway the Church is supossed to dwell in unity for us to experience God’s move in our nation (Ps 133). Indeed, let us walk in obedience to the Lord. Thanks again

  5. Was my first time to go to a MMC, even if I’m Italian and I couldn’t understand most of what was said as the MMC was mainly in Afrikaans , I really enjoy it. Please next time do it in English I will bring many people with me. God bless all the organizer, the speakers and all the participant. God is great.

    • Hi Ramano,
      I suposse the fact the men who are originally from other countries also do attend means that the issue of language should really be evaluated. I suspect you were not the only non-South African who was there. But then again I agree with you that God bless the organisers for this effort regardless of one or two limitations some of us experienced. There were definately more plus (es) there than minus (es). The Here is groot.

  6. Hi Guys
    This was my 2nd MMC and what a blessing seeing how we as fellow south african’s can do God proud.And we shouted to the world that we as south african can live and pray in harmony if we keep our focus on God. Would help if the balance between afrikaans and english can be adjusted. See you next year.

    • Cyril you are right that an event like that shows us what is possible in this country. Only in God can we breach the divide of race, sex, class, etc. We just need to live these values in our every day life.

  7. Trevor Jennings

    Great article Afrika! It was good fun spending the weekend with you,Gordon and Theo.It was also the first time that I had a “cross-cultural” room mate. We must be coming right!I also appreciated you sharing with us the challenges of running a church in today’s townships. It was like doing a “Cross Cultural Studies Course” 101 at Varsity again.

    • Hahaha Trevor it was quite an experience for me too. I thought you were jocking when you said we would be room mates in Middleburg. Well I think the trip gave us an opportunity to get to know more about each other. So I thank the Lord for that “cross course” we both had.

  8. Hi Guys, This MMC was my 5th year. I 1st went to MMC 2008 with that huge tent. This is one date on my calender that I will never miss. The MMC is such a awesome tool that God gave us to spread the gospel. In 2010 God gaved me a normal person working for my dad in a small town called Herbertsdale (Close to Mossel Bay) to arrange a gospel evening with Retief Burger. The first 1 happend on 3 September 2011 and this year God said again. So on 20 October 2012 we are attempting to host the biggest Gospel evening that was ever held in the Southern Cape. The cost is astronomical but if God can pay for all the MMC`s what is this for Him. God changed my life on 18 April 2008. I have never looked back, to God belongs all the glory. Blessings to all!!!

    • Hi Theo,
      It seems that you are sold out to MMC and nothing else can buy you out from what you are experiencing in the MMC. Praise God for what He has done in your life.
      All the best with your event with Retief Burger. May the Lord supply all your needs and use this event to touch many lives in Herbertsdale. Bless you

  9. The speakers were special and great. Witnessing is always more powerfull than sermons. The Holy Spirit could move more freely and boy did it move that weekend!! Fantastic. Many lives were changed and when God does the changing it lasts. All the glory to Jesus.

    • There is a place for speaking from your heart and there is place for speaking from a prepared sermon (Eccl 3:1). The trick is to know which one applies when. So I agree with you Bill that the speakers applied the right strategy in the right place. If they came to us with a sermon I think some people could have been turned off. Glory to God

  10. Wow. Sir.

    thank you for sharing the experience. I give God the Glory for the pannel beater (I know him)

    • Thanks Myali. Oh I did not know you know my former neighbour. His life has been transformed I tell you.

  11. thanks Afrika your article brings back good memories! God is good! Ek sal saam met jou nie bang wees nie!

    • Yes Petrus those were very good memories. I cannot forget the giant potjiekos cooked there. I came out of there with a deeper appreciation of the Afrikaaner culture and way of life. I like the sense of family I saw in them, especially on Sunday. Also I was encouraged when I witnessed the relationships between fathers and their sons. How the farmers work so well with their sons on the farm and such. Some of us blacks sadly have been brought up only by our mothers because our fathers are either intentionally absent or deceased. Ek stem saam met jou “Ek sal nie bang wees nie.” My son will know a different life than I have known. Bless you Petrus

  12. Allan Verreynne

    Hi guys
    I was away in Australia at the time of the KMMC. A businessman helped sponsor 4 of our guys to go, guys who certainly could not afford it. Boy, these guys were blown away by the entire experience of the fellowship, worship & ministry. It was a spiritual injection that they really appreciated. Great to hear these personal tectimonies. Keep charging for the King guys! God bless, Allan

  13. Do you guys know that the other meaning of the acronym MMC is Medical Male Circumcision. I thought that is an interesting fact.