TESTIMONY: Trusting God to open music ministry doors

Frank Furniss, left and Johan Brits

Next month Christian band FRANK AND I are starting a Holy Spirit-inspired national schools festival tour aimed at stirring hope among South Africa’s youth. In a recent interview, band member Johan Brits shared some of the God adventures that he and Frank Furniss experienced along the way to their current project.

Johan Brits, 29 is a well-known South African singer, songwriter and music producer whose career dreams were ignited during his high school years when a number of prophecies were spoken over him stating that he was called for music ministry in South Africa and the nations.

The problem was, said Johan, that he didn’t really have “a special singing voice” and he doubted himself and questioned God.

One night he said the Lord showed him that as Noah had to prepare for the promised rain by building the ark, he had to prepare for the promised music ministry.

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“I had to come to a realisation that prophecies aren’t something that just come into fulfilment. You need to prepare and you need to align yourself with the prophecy,” he said.

For two years he diligently pursued voice coaching — and for nearly two years nothing happened.

“After that my voice dramatically changed in a good way. The Lord’s hand was on it because because He knew that I was doing something from my side out of faith — you know preparing for the blessing.”

In 2017 and 2018 he performed on the Gospel Skouspel stage with some of the biggest Gospel names in SA — and as his career boomed he also enjoyed significant song-writing successes.

But at the end of 2018 he said God told him to “lay down my mantle and pick up my new mantle” and
“what seems to be a demotion will be promotion in the Kingdom of God”.

At first he was puzzled by the instruction but later he understood that God wanted him to start singing and ministering with Frank Furniss, a talented SA guitarist, producer, songwriter, worship leader and singer he had met the previous year when they had both performed at the same event in Cape Town.

He said Frank, 39, is “almost like John the Baptist — he goes everywhere the Spirit leads him” and “not a lot of people understand his calling but he is very solid”.

“I remember when we started walking together the Lord said: ‘Leave this Johan Brits thing and start this Frank And I thing’ and we started the Frank And I band.

“And all of a sudden everything died. I mean musically — I wasn’t invited anywhere,” and radio stations no longer played his music.

For the next four to five years Johan and Frank hardly pursued any music as the Lord prepared their hearts. It felt like it was a time to lay down music and their own plans in order to die to themselves and live more for God.

“In those four years the Lord sent us to rural areas where we ministered to a lot of people and I saw miracles in front of my own eyes and I came to realise what it really is to be a disciple. A disciple is not a weekend thing. A disciple is not when you get the mic. Being a disciple is laying down your own life for Christ to stand up within you and to do only the will of the Holy Spirit.”

One day, said Johan, while he was sitting in a restaurant in Brackenfell, Cape Town, watching a rugby match broadcast, he felt in his spirit God saying: “You guys must go to Nashville [USA] now.”

I said: “But Lord, I don’t know anybody there. I don’t know what will happen.”

And the Lord said: “Go to Nashville now. I am going to open doors for you.”

Johan said he shared the message from God with Frank who immediately said he had received the same message at the same time.

They wondered how the trip would work as they lacked funds. That weekend as Frank was prayer walking near their home in Paarl a vehicle stopped next to him and the driver got out and asked Frank where he had been the whole morning.

Then the driver, who was unknown to Frank, told him he had driven past him a few times during the week and during his quiet time he felt God tell him to give him money. He handed Frank a pile of cash.

So, Johan and Frank went to Nashville. Each morning they prayed for an hour or so, asking God to direct them. For the first four or five days they went to coffee shops where they ministered to people. Some people gave their lives to Christ but Johan said he still kept asking God to show them His real purpose for their trip to Nashville.

One Sunday, nearly two weeks into their trip they were praying about which church service to attend. The Belonging Church in Nashville or a little church in Franklin? The Lord sent them to the little church. There were about 40 people there and renowned Christian artist and songwriter Michael W Smith sat down in the pew next to them.

“So, we had the opportunity to spend some time with him and everything. But we felt like the Lord said that was not the main reason why we were there.”

Another morning, they felt led to go to a Starbucks coffee shop. That day every time they stood up to leave the Holy Spirit seemed to push them back into their seats, urging them to wait for something that was going to happen.

That afternoon, Johan said, a man who was in the shop with his girlfriend kept on staring at them. It was unnerving. Eventually the man approached them and said: “Listen dudes, do I know you from somewhere?”

When they said no, they were from South Africa, and in the US for the first time, the stranger said: “Don’t you guys want to come and swim at my place? This is a weird request but don’t you guys want to come and visit me?”

Johan said they felt a peace with the strange invitation and left with the couple. During conversation with their host, Billy Falcon, in the swimming pool, they discovered he was a prominent songwriter who had written about 60 songs for big-name artists including Bon Jovi, Cher and Stevie Nicks.

Johan asked him why he had approached them. He replied that he was a born-again believer in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit had told him not to leave the coffee shop until he had spoken to them.

“It was amazing. And so we started journeying with this guy — becoming friends and writing some songs with him. Bon Jovi heard one of the songs — he actually tweeted it on his Twitter.”

By then Billy Falcon had started playing in the band with Johan and Frank in Nashville and Bon Jovi told them he would like to sponsor them with a years’ management.

That was an exciting prospect. But first, Johan had a very compelling reason to return to South Africa — to get married to his girlfriend, Elzaan — now wife and mother of their baby daughter who was born two weeks ago.

Johan and Elzaan Brits with their daughter who was born on July 15

In an interview, Elzaan told Gateway News she met Johan at the same time he and Frank met each other. Some time before that, she had a dream in which God told her it was her season to meet her husband. She had not been looking for a husband and she just decided to leave the matter at the Lord’s feet. But on the day she met Johan she said the Lord told her he was her husband.

Again she left the matter at the Lord’s feet. After about five months He prompted her to tell Johan she believed he was to be her husband. She said she told him there was no expectation on him — it was up to Jesus.

Elzaan said Johan felt a peace with what he shared but didn’t tell her. They became friends and journeyed together. After about three and a half years Johan asked her to marry him.

She said she left her corporate job in April this year to partner Johan fulltime in his music ministry where she assists with admin. She said she is very excited about the upcoming schools festival tour.

Johan said that their plans to release an album in America, which were birthed during their time in Nashville, were interrupted by Covid. They still trusted that they would get back to this project but for now, their priority was to pursue the schools festival tour. The tour will begin on August 15 when they will visit towns on the N2 national road route from Cape Town to East London, connecting with schools along the way — inviting them to participate in a music talent competition built around Frank and I’s latest single, Wake Up.

One of the challenges they had faced in taking on the schools festival tour was trusting God to provide additional band members who would share their vision to bring hope to youth across SA and beyond.

Johan said their prayer was answered one day, when they were playing music at an event in Brackenfell, where they played with a drummer, Shadley Easthorpe and bassist Kurt Randall.

As they played together they sensed that they were on the same page spiritually.

“Frank and I just felt these were the two guys we were looking for. And what’s very interesting is the moment we said: ‘Guys, listen we feel like you guys must join our band” and everything they were like ‘YES!’ They were so excited.”

In the past when they recruited musicians they had found it difficult to keep them excited about the journey. “But these guys are so invested in the journey and it’s almost like they are they are also like me and Frank,” he said.

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