“Firstly above all, we want to acknowledge our Father in Heaven who created all things. We honour You as the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings”
Those were the words of welcome that the Intercape Sleepliner hostess spoke at the start of my recent trip from Johannesburg to PE on board one of the buses of Southern Africa’s largest, privately-owned intercity transport service.
“Yes!” I exclaimed inwardly, as she continued with a prayer for protection and blessing for every passenger on the journey, concluding with the words: “We pray for safety on the roads and we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ so that You will be glorified. Amen.”
But while I appreciated the company’s unashamed acknowledgement of our Lord, Jesus, and a Christian movie that was screened during the trip, a quick search on Google shows that some passengers take offence to what they describe as “trapping” and “brainwashing” passengers.
Intercape Pastor and Employee Wellbeing Officer, Hanli Marais said: ” Our ethos is displayed prominently on our website and we also make it clear on our tickets sold to the public that Christian content will be screened on the bus.”
She acknowledged that the company does face a significant amount of flak from the media as a result of its bold Christian stance and “Intertainment” programme featuring Christian movies.
Not fazed by opposition
“But we are not fazed. We receive many compliments and positive testimonies as well,” she said. She emailed me a copy of one of the testimonies, by a young former New Age woman who testified that the prayers and movies on an Intercape bus in 2008, which she had hated at the time, had played a key role in leading her into a life-changing relationship with Christ. The young woman, who said she sometimes used to carry 650 occult crystals around with her, said: “Jesus came and fetched my heart out of the Intercape bus, even though I had turned my back on Him and rejected Him. He came and fetched me in order to love me. He cleansed me of everything that was ugly and dirty. All of my past sins were wiped out!”
Marais, a pastor and industrial psychologist, said that Intercape sole-owner Johann Ferreira is committed to a vision of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Southern Africa through the medium of a well-run and profitable bus service.
Indeed the company invests in safety and service, with its own training academy in Cape Town and the inter-city transport industry’s largest network of service depots and offices in South Africa. Last month Intercape became the first in the industry in South Africa to introduce G7 luxury double-decker coaches which include unique safety and comfort features. Intercape was also the first inter-city transporter to establish routes in other Southern African countries and now operates in seven countries in the region: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi.
Unique ministry vision
However, it is the unfolding ministry vision of the company that is most unique. It is a vision that began when Ferreira purchased all of the shares of the company in 2008 and was led to start a weekly church service at the company’s Cape Town head office, as well as a charity outreach to poor children in neighbouring Guguletu. Those beginnings have developed into the I-Foundation, an initiative which overarches the company’s internal and community transformational goals.
Marais explained that the foundation comprises three arms, I-Care, which currently includes six child and youth-oriented feeding and upliftment outreaches in Cape Town and one in Widhoek; I-Equip, which impacts marginalised people through skills training and job placement; and Intercede, an internal initiative which facilitates prayer and spiritual development in small “forum groups”. Building on the company’s commitment to the Unashamedly Ethical movement, I-Equip is currently driving a programme called Character Transformation in the Workplace, which is aimed at building a commitment to ethical conduct and service excellence in every Intercape employee throughout Southern Africa.
Next year, in response to prophetic words about ministering in Africa, the company will be moving its head office from Cape Town, which has been the headquarters since 1979, to Pretoria. From the new base the company will undertake a big thrust to take the I-Foundation with its practical demonstration of the gospel into Africa.