[notice]By ANNA-MARIA LOMBARD — originally published in www.scratchpages.co.za[/notice]
It could be you…or the unassuming guy sitting next to you in church…in fact God can download solutions for the world’s problems to anyone who’s ready to lay down their lives to implement His plans.
In the case of the thorny problem of cable theft that has cost South Africa over R5-billion annually, God gave the solution to a regular guy next door – quietly-spoken, down-to-earth Jif van Zyl. And it’s been the ride of his life.
A mere six years ago Jif’s life was coming apart at the seams. On the surface it looked okay: His high-flying corporate career as business development director for Chinese telephony and white goods importer Haier was solid as the company expanded into Africa. He was earning dollars, working in an exciting venture and had even successfully fought off cancer just a few years before. He seemed to be THE MAN.
But beneath the surface, trouble brewed. Working hard meant partying hard and having to keep up with the Joneses meant incurring debts. His marriage was faltering under years of unresolved hurts.
It was around April 2008 that an uncle invited Jif to the Mighty Men rally on the farm Shalom, belonging to evangelist Angus Buchan near Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal. The “Christianity thing” was not Jif’s scene, but he agreed to check it out – he could do with a weekend away to ponder the crossroads he faced with his wife, Celia. It was make or break time for their marriage.
Unbeknown to Jif, his uncle had never stopped praying for his salvation. That night in the tent, surrounded by 60 000 men, Jif found himself sitting in a hole – his chair literally sunk into a hole in the ground – and he understood it to be an apt metaphor for where he was at in life. “I saw everyone with their hands up in worship…I didn’t know who this Angus was, had never heard of him…but that night the Holy Spirit took me and as Angus started talking, he was talking right at me. There was a big farmer in front of me, weeping, and I thought if he’s crying then maybe I’m not so crazy. I took the decision to follow Jesus.”
Visions number one and two
On the way home, filled with new-born zeal, Jif experienced what he knew had to be a vision from God. He didn’t have it in himself to conjure such images. The road back to Johannesburg led past Heidelberg where he’d been born and raised. Driving through, he saw how later that year, there would be a Mighty Men rally in his hometown, and Angus would be there.
Clear as day, Jif saw it – and it’s just as well, because the vision sustained him through months where it seemed like Angus would never be able to make it.
When we operate in this high level system we will be able to fulfil our mandate to feed the hungry, care for the widows and orphans and be a blessing to all the families of the earth. The reason we are battling to fulfil this task that we have been given by God is that too many believers continue to operate in the lower level economic system of the world. “
“I can’t tell you what it’s like when God tells me something, but it’s so solid, that I just know. It was April and he showed me what I was going to do in October in Heidelberg. He gave me a vision and I knew Angus would be there. I shared it with my uncle…I could see he was incredulous. It was insane. But I was in that honeymoon phase with God after getting saved.”
“Having known me at school, the principal’s eyes grew wide in shock when I walked into his office claiming that we were going to have a Christian event at the school. I still didn’t have a date in mind and I asked God to show me. When the principal opened up his diary, there was only one weekend available in October.”
When it looked like Angus couldn’t come, there was just peace in me. Some guys wanted to cancel, but I had to stand up and say “this is what God has told me…I will go according to His word”.
“My father’s schedule is booked two years in advance,” said Angus’ son Andy when Jif got to visit Shalom again, after submitting numerous written requests. Angus’ secretary confirmed there was no way he’d be able to come.
In the meantime, the Heidelberg community, knit together from hard-core farmer stock from a range of different denominations, supernaturally pulled together and kept praying into the vision that Jif was now starting to implement. Provision for the R500,000 budget miraculously materialised as everyone pitched in.
And then Angus called: In prayer, he felt God had impressed on him that he should come.
“Part of the Heidelberg Mighty Men process became a healing process with my wife as we went to meetings together, prayed together.” Jif’s repentance had to be real if he was going to win back Celia’s heart. “I’d said many things before, but those words had been empty. I had to lead by example.”
Before the rally Jif had a second vision one night. “Phillippians 4:5” he saw, and wrote it down as he woke up. This scripture would be the signature theme of the rally: “Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon]” (AMP).
At Mighty Men Heidelberg, Jif gave his testimony – “all six months’ worth! There were about 10,000 people and when Angus made an altar call, 3000 came forward…and the most beautiful picture,” says Jif, swallowing hard, “was when my father came forward to give his heart to God. It was amazing.”
Was the rally training for what was to come? Training of how God would lead and provide?
Vision 3 and the cross
In 2009 came the dream. Of a deceptively simple device that would help prevent cable theft, both underground and overhead. Jif knew that he knew…it was from God: “It was so clear, I could see His hand…how it would work…so clear.” Jif saw the clamp that would cover the cable and he saw a code engraved on the metal: 7-15-4. Only later he discovered that the numbers correspond to the alphabet letters that spell “God”.
Jif shared the dream with Celia and friends who seemed to think the idea had merit, but it was business as usual as he stayed on at Haier.
“Then one morning, while I was having my quiet time, God asked me if I was prepared to carry His cross. I knew what it meant…I knew that it wasn’t an easy answer. For two weeks I wouldn’t have quiet time. I couldn’t answer Him yet.” But Jif thought it over and talked to his close circle.
“Two weeks later I took up my Bible again and said yes God, I will. Are you sure? I felt Him ask.
Suddenly I felt my hand running over Jesus’ back. It was so real – I could feel His scars and what they signified. All I could do was cry and say “please just be merciful with my family, but with me you can do what you want”…not knowing what lay ahead. That’s why it’s so serious, taking up the cross – do we really know what Jesus did for us when He took up the cross? Obviously He died for us. So was I prepared to die for Him? That’s why it took me so long to fully grasp it.”
Not long after, still employed by Haier, Jif felt God ask him “who are you working for?” I’m working for You, Lord, Jif answered. But God insisted: “Who do you rely on for your monthly upkeep? You ASKED for wisdom, I’ve GIVEN you a product…now WHAT are you doing?”
It was pretty clear to Jif that he should resign. He spoke with Celia – she could see this wasn’t just a show. They’d recently also joined the Akker Christelike Kerk, where they were baptised together. So Jif called the Haier CEO and resigned. At first they convinced him to stay, saying he could pursue his project on the side. Then three months later they abruptly changed their minds and said he could go almost straight away.
It came as a shock, after all. Jif still had the Jones-life – the cars, houses, accounts and debts. “Celia was amazing – ‘if that’s what God said,’ she said, ‘then that’s what you should do.’
Walking on the Word
Now Jif had to walk on what God had shown him. Without any money, offering shares in the future business, he got an engineer to develop the system. It was tough, because the engineer wasn’t driven by the same vision. A friend invested some money in development and research – but still there was no money for salaries.
And yet, for the 21 months that it took to get the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) on board, Jif did not go for one month without honouring his debts. Somehow God provided for the hefty household bills he had to cover, even when Jif had no plan.
“Would I do it again? If I didn’t genuinely have the clarity it would be difficult…I don’t want to go through that on my own.”
“Insane” favour followed – from having the patent registered, to obtaining the most intricate technical information on cabling throughout the country from Eskom. Godly connections, unforeseen partnerships, and ultimately the IDC’s precious buy-in.
“The patent attorney said it was too simple, we wouldn’t get a patent…but thankfully he was also a reborn Christian and when I told him where the device came from, he tried anyway and it turned out the patent didn’t exist.”
Just before the IDC deal came through, Jif was offered a brilliant job back in the world of corporate telephony. Excitedly, he told Celia, convinced that their prayers for financial stability had been answered. “Is that the Lord, or is it Jif?” she asked, and he knew full well where truth lay. “Three months later we engaged with the IDC, who has bought 42% equity of our company – unheard of! Only 8 deals were approved that year, of which we were one.”
With operating capital in the bank, Jif’s Aman Technologies could set up offices, employ the right team and build a state of the art testing facility complete with high speed cameras to run the prototype of the Cable Anti-theft Unit on different types of cable installations.
Now it’s roll-out time. Aman has just signed a distribution contract with the government of Mozambique. Deals have been concluded with ESKOM, City Power, a number of municipalities, Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.
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It’s a rush. But there’s always a trusted friend to remind Jif what it’s all about.
“Be still and know that I am God” one friend reminded him recently.
“I like guys who give me the truth,” says Jif, “if we can’t be honest, then we can spend time with anyone and talk Jesus. We often want to TALK Jesus, but not WALK Jesus. You have to be able to die for Jesus every day…it’s very personal deep thing. It’s not who I used to be, but it is who I am today.“
“God is more real than many people that I know. My hand over His back was real… touching the product He gave me is real…”