The Buffelshoek community recently celebrated the 100th birthday of their most senior resident, relentless soul winner and fiery Gospel preacher Reverend Lucy Ngobeni.
According to her identity document, “Kokwana Ngobeni” as she is affectionately known, was born in 1918 but she insists that this is the year when she becomes a centenarian.
It was a day full of thanksgiving and celebration as the Silinda and Ngobeni families showed their gratitude to God for the life of Rev Ngobeni who was still going out on Gospel missions in her 90s and event pointed people to Christ at her 100th birthday event.
Rev Lucy has seen and experienced much heartache in her life, having buried her husband, a young daughter and her sons. But on this special occasion it was all joy as the family looked back at their matriarch’s long and fruitful life.
The event was organised by her grandchildren and was attended by family, friends, the church community and members of the local municipality.
Being the oldest member in the community comes with certain privileges. On the day of her event, the local supermarket sponsored food and other resources. A giant cake to celebrate all her 100 years was organised by her family, much to the delight of the children who also attended.
Kokwana Ngobeni was born in Buffelshoek. She is the eldest child of Julia Silinda Sitichi and Fayifi Sitichi. She went to school at Ferguson Memorial Mission. It was here that she met her future husband Nelson Thutha Ngobeni. They married in 1938 at the International Holiness Mission church at Cottondale. The Ngobeni’s were blessed with four children. Their eldest child, a gir,l unfortunately died when she was still very young. Her death caused the young mother to not want to see young girls and she could not look at young women because their sight brought unbearable pain.
Her husband Nelson gave his life to the Lord when he was a young boy. He accepted the call to ministry in 1952 and went to Swaziland to study theology. The young Mrs Ngobeni accompanied her husband to church but was not fully committed to the work of the Lord. She had not given her heart to Jesus and was merely a churchgoer.
She converted to Christianity in 1958 after a special visitation by the Lord during an evening devotion at home. One night when her husband was leading the evening devotion at their home, a fellowship meeting attended by other believers from the church, the Spirit of God arrested Lucy Ngobeni.
After this encounter she was never the same again and gave herself fully to the work of the ministry. Her particular strengths were soul-winning, house visitation and evangelism campaigns.
From the very beginning of her ministry she showed tremendous strength and courage, preaching the Gospel in areas that were sometimes very dangerous for a woman. She preached in public outreaches and went to homes, door-to-door in large townships in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpompo.
As she boldly proclaimed the Gospel in streets, at times, she would be surrounded by a crowd of hostle people, putting her life in danger.
Other women feared for her life as the message of Jesus Christ was not easily welcomed in some communities but even in the midst of danger Kokwana Ngobeni continued to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
She knew that her message was not readily and easily accepted. She counted the cost and made the choice, to preach the uncompromised Gospel. She says when people ridiculed her her, she became more on-fire to preach.
She noticed that when God sent her to places and she hesitated she would become sick. She vowed that as God spoke she would do and she would go and deliver the message as the Lord commanded her to deliver it. Even in her 90s God was still sending her to places.
She shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ even to her unbelieving family. One of her younger brothers was a sangoma, a witch doctor until she won him over to the Lord. He became a pastor who God used to touch many lives and to deliver many who were bound. Many souls were also saved under his ministry.
Nelson and Lucy Ngobeni preached and pastored together, pioneering many churches in the Church of the Nazarene (COTN) South Africa. Their legacy as a couple continues to this day in the many lives that they have touched and in the many churches that they started.
Among others they pastored at Jabavu (Soweto), Saulsville, Mamelodi Pretoria and in the eastern district at Okkernootboom, Rolle, New Forest, Cottondale, Timbavati and Thulamahashe in Mpumalanga.
Thulamahashe is where they built their family home and where their grandchildren still reside. Rev Nelson Ngobeni went home to be with the Lord in 1995 and at the death of her husband. Lucy took over the leadership of their various ministries and churches.
Kokwana’s commitment to the Gospel serves as inspiration and guide to how a committed life can be used by God. In her 90s she still travelled to distant lands. She is known as one who is close to the Lord in everything: for her to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Quite recently in her 90s God told her to deliver a message to a pastor in Mozambique. She often wondered why God would continue to send her, even in her old age and a young pastor told her that it is because she is completely devoted and available to God.
Her legacy in the faith, in the Kingdom of God, especially her role in the history of the Church of the Nazarene in Africa, is documented. She and her husband are credited as being some of the pioneers of the denomination.
Their story and involvement are written in a book by Paul S Dayhoff titled Living Stones In Africa: Pioneers of the Church of the Nazarene.
The COTN in South Africa turned 100 years in 2019. It is a global church with branches all over the world. More than 611 000 Nazarenes in over 8 600 churches and preaching points, organised in 115 districts and 15 pioneer areas, constitute the Africa Region.
Nelson and Lucy Ngobeni were instrumental in the growth of the COTN in South Africa. The Scripture says the work is plenty but the workers are few. Kokwana Ngobeni is one of the few.
As she looks forward to meeting her King, a quest and a wish that she has held for many years to join the saints in heaven. she still preaches repentance because her passion is souls. Soul winning and the kingdom of God lies at the heart of who she is.
This is why, as a young wife she went door-to-door to share the message of salvation, and why she continued to put her life on the line, counting the cost and found Him worthy to pay the ultimate price if needs be.
Even at her recent centenary celebration party she was still calling people to the Master. She was telling them to repent. She was still calling people to the Light.
Her favourite verse is 1 Corinthians 6:19 — “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” She laid her life down in service to the Lord. Her life is not her own.
The work remains great. Who will take up the baton? Who will join the work? Who will go to the fields and plough?