Ivan van Vuuren, 80, and his wife, Margaret, 72, are getting ready to establish a new church in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, alongside the Kruger National Park.
In fact, God has given them a dream to plant several churches in order to reach the lost — and to establish a mission trip base for people of all ages from all over the world, says Ivan.
The couple have been serving as elders at Joshua Generation Church in Melkbosstrand, Cape Town for the past three years. But their adventurous journey together goes back 53 years when when they were married and lived in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
‘Choose between Jesus and me’
“We were married for about 4 years when my wife came to conversion and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour after spending a weekend with her parents. When she returned home she was so excited and told me that she was in love with Jesus. I could not understand how she could love another man especially one she had never seen. So I told her she has to choose between this Jesus and myself.
“Well she chose Jesus and I promptly told her that our marriage was over and would contact the lawyers to get a divorce. While this was going on I left the county and ended up in Norway which was the furthest point away from her. But thank God Margaret and her mother went into agreement to pray for my return and salvation.
“After a few months I returned home and my first words to her were that we should try and work out our marriage again. I said it’s on condition that she stop talking to me about this religion business. She replied that it was not religion but a relationship that was needed. So we left it at that. Four years later the Lord by His Holy Spirit got hold of me and convicted me of all my sin and for rejecting His free gift to me. (To cut a long story short) I was drawn by the Holy Spirit to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. And together we started serving the Lord which led to studying His word and serving Him.”
Ivan says that after his conversion and baptism with the Holy Spirit, his life seemed to change.
“We had a business in Vereeniging manufacturing electrical components. This business started to thrive and I was approached by a certain party to make a few alterations in our books as he was able to place this business on the stock exchange and we could all make millions. But the Holy Spirit convicted me of this wrong doing and eventually after many discussions trying to persuade me to agree I requested our bookkeeper to transfer all my shares over to this person and I walked out of that business without any income.
Calling to reach the lost
“I then started another business which God blessed and He led me to be involved with the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship, who had a great influence in my Christian life. It was after this that I realised that God had called Margaret and I to start evangelising as He laid lost souls on our hearts.
“We then started providing finances and purchased bicycles for African Christian men to go out and minister in various areas.”
The fired-up couple then felt led to move to the Margate on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast where they met up with other Christians and shared their desire to reach out to unsaved people. They were directed to a cane field where people gathered outside a store.
“Well the first Sunday the two of us arrived at the store and started preaching about the love of God. This continued for quite some time, but the response was poor. All we had attending our meetings were three to five children. I used to return home and weep my eyes out before the Lord asking if this all that is going to happen.”
But one day after he spoke about how Jesus had healed many people something happened.
“A young Indian man approached me after this meeting and inquired about healing saying: ‘I hear you heal people’. I replied you heard wrong, I cannot heal anyone; only Jesus can do that. He asked me: ‘Where is He? I said He is present with us right now. This he could not understand. He explained to me that he had a child who was suffering and needed to be healed. I said bring the child and we will pray for a healing to take place.
“The following week this man arrived with his child and family and he brought the child who was covered in sores all over the body which looked like crocodile skin. The sores were filled with puss oozing out; it looked horrible. For a moment I paused and wondered, can God heal this child? Margaret and I prayed and prayed. I was almost to afraid to open my eyes. Eventually I did and as I looked upon this little body all the sores and all the puss were still the same; nothing had happened. For a moment I felt disappointed. Then the Spirit of the Lord spoke tHrough me and I said to the parents: ‘Now you have to put your faith in God. Go home and bathe the child in a basin of water and the sores and scabs will fall off.’ There was no way I could say that in my own strength. It was God all the way. Well the service ended and the parents went home.
“The following week the family were back together with a crowd of other people. The parents were called up and I asked what had happened. They duly opened the child’s vest and as I looked I could see that God our Healer had done a miracle. The child was healed and not a mark was left behind. From this miracle the meetings grew. This whole Indian family surrendered their lives to Jesus. Many other miracles took place and from thereon a church was established and grew.
“This young Indian man was taught the word of God and eventually continued as the pastor of the church.”
Thereafter many more events took place along the South Coast leading to the planting of more churches, says Ivan.
He says that he and Margaret take great delight in returning to areas where they have established churches “to witness the growth in the saints that has taken place in our absence to the glory of God”,
I asked Ivan what keeps him and Margaret desiring to plant more churches at their age. Does he not believe in retirement?
“Retirement? NO! I believe in being re-fired; the only retiring will be on the wheels of my car,” he responds.
“I believe that as the word of God says: ‘To who much has been given much shall be required.’ I was doomed and heading for hell. But God in His mercy and grace transformed my life and gave me and my household a future. We either ‘evangelise or fossilise. I don’t want to end up as an old fossil!”
Ivan says God has given the couple the dream of planting “another couple of churches” starting with a charismatic church in Hoedspruit.
“My wife and I want to see a base established in the Hoedspruit area which has over 200 game lodges which many people from all over the world come to visit. One must ask oneself: ‘How many of these people know Jesus as their Saviour?’ By establishing a gathering place we believe that we together with others helping can reach the lost by having gatherings at these lodges where the Gospel can be preached.
“In addition to that my vision is to have this base where young and old from all over the world can gather for their mission trips to South Africa. This could be the launching pad for such outreaches.”
Speaking about the task ahead of them, Ivan says it is going to be a big step of faith. He says Joshua Generation Church has offered to support them for the next six months.
“This is an area that needs the Gospel among the various ethnic groups. In time we trust that others will catch the vision and slot in to reap the Harvest for Christ Jesus.”