For the past 21 years feisty missionaries Boet and Annatjie Walker have been preaching the gospel, feeding the hungry, and uplifting the poor in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth.
Now both approaching 70-years-old they are putting their energies into starting new upliftment projects at their Jesus is Lord Ministries base in Kleinskool. Along the way Annatjie has shrugged off breast cancer and a stroke and both are adamant that they will keep on serving as long as the Lord gives them the strength to continue.
The couple left their home in Pretoria in 1987 to move to PE where they sensed God had called them. After arriving in the city with a car, a caravan and R160 in cash they started a counselling ministry in Cape Road. But in 1989 God called them into missionary work and they began holding open air evangelism crusades in the Northern Areas. They did their best to disciple new believers and began collecting food for the many poor and hungry people they encountered. At one of their crusades a 12-year-old girl’s blind eye was healed and as a result her entire back-slidden family returned to the Lord.
Boet said that they would have been content to carry on with open air ministry for the rest of their lives but that God had other plans. In 1996 an elderly businessman Peter Kleinsmidt showed him a vacant plot in Kleinskool where he said he wanted to build a centre where poor people could be cared for, and that God had told him that he had chosen Boet to run the centre. They started building a hall on the land. Kleinsmidt died before it was completed in 1997 but his sons-in-law still supported the ministry that continued there. Eight hundred people packed into the hall for their first service during which an alcoholic was instantly delivered from his addiction — the first of many miracles witnessed at the mission.
Over the years God had inspired many projects and had provided for all of their personal and ministry needs, said Boet. Annatjie began a sowing and handcrafts project to give hope and dignity to local women. They also expanded their feeding projects and today fed 500 to 700 unemployed adults after a church service every Tuesday morning and 400 to 500 children after children’s church on Fridays. Sovereign Foods supported them with 500kg of chicken soup packs a week and a supermarket provided a weekly donation of 300 loaves of bread. From time to time the Global Food Bank gave them food and they also received food donations from various churches, and they distributed fresh vegetables which they grew themselves.
A number of shipping containers — all donated — provide storage space for food and equipment as well as space for various projects carried out adjacent to the hall. In one p urpose-modified container a nursing sister runs a weekly free clinic for the local community. “She arrived one day and said God had called her to provide this service,” said Boet.
The Walkers have also built a double-storey discipleship training centre using concrete blocks made on-site in one of their upliftment projects. They are supported in their work by 20 staff members who are all local residents who became Christians through Boet and Annatjie’s ministry. A number of them overcame addictions and illnesses.
Boet said poverty and widespread unemployment were at the root of social evils in the area. Alcohol and drug addiction, violence and abuse of women were rife and all of this was witnessed by children because everyone lived together in small, crowded shacks.
Boet said Jesus Is Lord Ministries was like a lighthouse in the community, providing hope in an environment of despair and blessing people with an experience of Christ’s love for them. At a memorable service about two months ago many crippled people were healed. “I remember feeling so mad at the devil for destroying people. And as we prayed for them many were healed.” He said they often prayed for work for people attending services, asking men to hold their identity documents up in the air as they prayed. “We have heard of a number of them finding jobs.”
Earlier this year, while wondering what he could do to give more hope to men, Boet said he suddenly felt inspired to build a training workshop. The complex, comprising an engineering shop and a carpentry shop is being erected between two containers on a concrete slab base, with roofing and internal walls made of donated materials. The workshop was nearing completion and Vodacom had agreed to donate engineering and carpentry equipment. “The men are excited and are always asking when it will be ready,” said Boet.