Ilse Marran, the passionately committed chairperson and founder of the newly established branch of the ACDP in Jeffreys Bay, had absolutely no interest in politics or in the news.
In fact, for most of her adult life, as a South African expatriate in Dubai, the mother of two young girls had no intention of returning to the land of her birth, let alone of living in Jeffreys Bay.
But God had other plans which he began revealing to her and her husband Stuart over the past five years.
After some years in England the couple lived in Dubai for 12 years.
She said they felt safe overseas. The only news they heard of South Africa was negative. Periodically they visited South Africa on holiday to see Stuart’s family in Cape Town and her family in George. During their trips home they felt “vigilant” and agreed that South Africa was no place to raise a family.
“When we were in South Africa people always asked us if we would ever come back and our standard reply was: ‘No never, we will just come back to visit’,” she said.
But about five years ago, just before they were due to visit South Africa, her mother unexpectedly bought a house in Jeffreys Bay – a place that Ilse and Stuart had only visited as teenagers. They both felt excited about the prospect of visiting the new seaside “holiday house”.
Strange things started to happen
Then some strange things started to happen. Their eldest daughter, Isabella, 7, was 18 months old and Ilse was pregnant with Gabby, who is five now. During the start of their holiday trip, while in Cape Town, they were once again asked if they had plans of returning to South Africa. To their surprise, without any previous discussion with each other, both of them replied that they would only consider returning if it was to Jeffreys Bay.
Thereafter they visited George and then went to Jeffreys Bay.
“As we drove into Jeffreys Bay I felt God say: ‘This is it. You are going to live here’,” Ilse said.
“I came under strong conviction and felt compelled to go and see the principal of Victory School – Fanie Vermaak at that time– and put Isabella’s name down for Grade R,” she said.
They returned to Dubai expecting doors to open for them to return to Jeffreys Bay but things did not go as expected. Her mother, who had bought the Jeffreys Bay house with a view to starting a language school there, sold it within six months and moved to Kuwait where she is currently the principal of a school. Her mother had often tried to persuade Ilse and Stuart to start a language school but they had resisted saying they were not educationists like her.
Their life in Dubai where they had been going through tough times financially started to improve.
“I decided maybe I hadn’t heard God say that we would live in Jeffreys Bay. But it was always in the back of my mind,” she said.
Return to South Africa
By a year and a half later their situation in Dubai had deteriorated and they had to return to South Africa. She thought perhaps Jeffreys Bay was on the cards again but it seemed that was not to be. Stuart lost his job and they stayed in Cape Town with his father who had Parkinson’s disease.
After two years by which time she had put Jeffreys Bay out of her mind, she overheard an aunt and uncle talking with friends and mention Jeffreys Bay.
“Immediately I heard God say: ‘Now is the time to move there,” Ilse said.
Things started to fall into place. Stuart who had settled into a new job said he would not even consider moving to Jeffreys Bay unless his boss allowed him to continue working remotely from there. His boss agreed. They did not have a car. But an aunt and uncle who were going overseas said they could use their car for 18 months.
His jaw dropped when he heard the message
Then in October 2014 Ilse asked Isabella’s preschool teacher to ask a friend in Jeffreys Bay whether she knew of any suitable accommodation for them in the town. At a preschool year-end function she asked the teacher if she had spoken to her friend. She replied that her friend did not know of any accommodation but had given her a strange message for Ilse and Stuart. The message was to tell them that they “really must start a language school in Jeffreys Bay”. Ilse said her normally unemotional husband’s jaw dropped when she fetched him and asked the preschool teacher to share the message with him.
She phoned her mother in Kuwait and told her about the strange message. Her mother had said nothing to them about her language school vision for four years. But she told Ilse that during that week God had put it on her heart to do something about establishing the language school.
Ilse and Stuart and their daughters moved to Jeffreys Bay in January 2015 where they found accommodation that ticked all of their boxes. Her mother secured a guesthouse and the South African franchise of a UK language school and they set a plan in action whereby Ilse and Stuart would run the guesthouse and partner with her mother in running the language school which will open in August. Foreign students will study there and live in the guesthouse where they will be continuously immersed in English.
With the challenges of motherhood and the new business ventures and the stretching faith journey of having to pay off the guest house over the next year, now would not seem to be the time for Ilse to launch a political career – especially since she has no history of interest in politics or current affairs.
A life changing conference
But in November 2015 Egeiro Ministry hosted a Middle East conference in Jeffreys Bay to provide a Christian perspective on events in that region. Ilse said she and Stuart felt drawn to the conference because they had lived in the Middle East for a long time.
At the conference she said she was deeply moved by a talk by ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley.
“I felt God’s presence when she began to speak,” she said. She was struck by Dudley’s wisdom and the way she honoured people in parliament with whom she differed in matters of faith and politics.
She said that she had always voted for the ACDP because of her Christian values. But as she listened to Dudley she appreciated for the first time the great value of the ACDP parliamentarians “who are bravely protecting our rights and freedoms and making a big difference despite their small numbers” at a time when there is a big push to take away religious freedoms that Christians take for granted.
At the conference she “saw a picture of herself campaigning for the ACDP” but it was so out of character that it embarrassed her and she put it out of mind.
God doesn’t need a crowd
But she felt so strongly that more people needed to hear Dudley’s message that she invited her to speak at a public meeting in Jeffreys Bay in May 2016. She was bitterly disappointed when only 14 people attended the meeting but Dudley assured her that sometimes God does more among few people than among multitudes.
Dudley concluded her talk by saying there was no ACDP branch in the Kouga region so nobody could vote for the party unless somebody was willing to stand up.
“As she said that I felt God’s presence and I remembered the picture I had seen of me campaigning for the ACDP. I looked around but no-one else was standing up. I looked at Stu and said: ‘I really feel like God is telling me to stand.’ He said: ‘You’ll be great. If God’s saying it, then do it’.”
She did it.
Ilse has launched a Kouga branch of the ACDP which is fielding candidates for the August local government election in Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp, St Francis Bay and Kareedouw.
She says she has been criticised by opposition party supporters for being irresponsible by splitting the vote and hurting their chances of defeating the ANC in August.
Standing for God’s Word and values
“I am concerned that the focus of many Christian voters is to stand with the ‘big guy’ to defeat the other ‘big guy’, when it should really be about standing for God’s Word and values.
“My hope is that God will use us to encourage Christians to be informed about the values that each party is standing for and whether those values truly represent God’s word and whether they can really align themselves with values that are contradictory to God’s word.”
She encouraged Christian voters to visit the website www.votersguide.org to see what the different parties stand for. She also encouraged voters to listen to ACDP leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe’s manifesto speech at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_UNiVYGWvs
In a publicity poster outlining her views she says: “I feel called to stand for Biblical values and a culture of honour, integrity and respect among all people regardless of their beliefs, protecting the religious freedom of Christians without infringing upon the freedom of those who disagree with our values….
“To stand with the minority to bring God’s Kingdom values into our community and our nation and the nations — God is in the habit of using small armies to defeat the masses for His glory….I cannot align myself with any party that defies and opposes God’s Word — regardless of their size…. In South Africa if the masses voted according to their values the ACDP would be the ruling party and our land would enjoy the blessing and favour of God as a result of obeying Him and standing for truth that brings freedom.
“To stand for truth and leaders who have shown depth of character, wisdom and integrity and who have proven themselves faithful with the little, and are ready to become rulers of much, conducting themselves with honor and wisdom, respecting the views and beliefs and freedom of those who disagree with them and working together to see South Africa be the prosperous, blessed Nation it can be….”
Ilse can be contacted at email@example.com