What God joined together: Chapter 10 — Stormy waves

  1. What God Joined Together: Chapter 1 — Getting acquainted with God’s higher ways
  2. What God Joined Together: Chapter 2 — Don’t marry a foreigner
  3. What God Joined Together: Chapter 3 — Don’t get involved in politics
  4. What God Joined Together: Chapter 4 — The girl from Mühlacker
  5. What God Joined Together: Chapter 5 — Love grows where my Rosemary goes
  6. What God Joined Together: Chapter 6 — Miles apart
  7. What God Joined Together: Chapter 7 — A confession with serious consequences
  8. What God Joined Together: Chapter 8 — A final farewell?
  9. What God joined together: Chapter 9 — Love the stranger as yourself
  10. What God joined together: Chapter 10 — Stormy waves
  11. What God joined together: Chapter 11 — Reunited
PHOTO: Barth Bailey/Unsplash.com

A serialisation of a fascinating new book by Cape Town missionary and author Ashley Cloete about love across the colour divide in the apartheid era. Each week we will publish a new chapter. YOU CAN ORDER THE E-BOOK VERISION AT https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1144423 or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B1381P29

In those days it was normally easy for a European to get a visa for South Africa. Not only that, but the government in fact encouraged immigration from Europe; so much so that the South African government often even paid for their flights. In expectation of her visa application being granted without any problems, Rosemarie resigned at the children’s hospital in Tübingen. She also sent ahead a wooden box with her books and other belongings to Cape Town. The year thereafter I would send personal belongings ahead of me when I left South Africa in 1973.

As Rosemarie was preparing to leave for South Africa, her friends at the independent evangelistic church in Tübingen which she attended gave her a hard time, though. She had been baptised among them and had grown tremendously on a spiritual level. Her friends, however, did not support her decision to resume her relationship with me. And to be fair, they had a genuine point. In their eyes, Rosemarie had hardly had the opportunity to get to know me properly during my stay in Germany in 1970.

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Rosemarie was pleasantly surprised when a ‘Coloured’ South African from Gleemoor (part of the suburb Athlone) in Cape Town pitched up in her residential area. My darling thought this was the perfect opportunity to send me a cassette tape via this gentleman. On this recording she included Pastor Osterwald’s advice: “I have to tell you that your decision to start on this daring venture will lead you into many a conscientious conflict…”

She had no reason whatsoever to suspect that this man could have been linked to the South African security network. But in those days BOSS (the Bureau of Social Security – in many ways the South African version of Hitler’s Gestapo) was also tasked with keeping ‘problems’ like our romantic relationship across the colour bar out of the country.

The link between this gentleman or his landlady to the South African authorities became quite clear when a certain kommissar [detective] assured Rosemarie soon hereafter that she might not get a visa or work permit to enter South Africa. It was evident that this ‘detective’ knew the content of the cassette tape and the tape never made its way to me in South Africa. Further enquiry brought to light that the BOSS agent who had introduced himself to Rosemarie was not actually known to the local police in Reutlingen4.
Completely unaware of what was going on in southern Germany, I was still counting the days to the beginning of March 1973 when Rosemarie was due to arrive. How disappointing it was when the first of March came and went without any news of her visa and work permit! I was completely stunned when my darling phoned me on the direct line from Germany which had just come into operation.

She had received a letter from the South African consulate. The content, which confirmed what the detective had said, was shattering: I regret to have to inform you that your application for permanent residence in the Republic of South Africa has been declined…

No reason was given, although the reason was fairly obvious to those who knew the country’s racial policies. Rosemarie was also refused a work permit without any reason given. The disappointment we experienced at that time was immense.

After all our relationship had been through, and the great battle Rosemarie had gone through with her parents, this sudden turn of events came as quite a shock. It seemed inevitable that I would have to leave the country if I wanted to marry her.

Looking back, we discerned that the Lord had been very gracious to us. Our brittle love would have been put under extreme pressure by the sphere of secrecy that would have been necessary to maintain our relationship in apartheid South Africa. Theologically, we were also miles apart at that time. I had become rather liberal under the influence of Black Theology and the teaching at the seminary. At the same time, the spiritual environment in which Rosemarie was moving in Tübingen was very intense and she grew tremendously over this time. It is doubtful whether our sensitive relationship would have survived the double tension of politics and theology if Rosemarie had been able to come to South Africa in March 1973.

Despite the work permit rejection, we thought it would be important for Rosemarie to at least get acquainted with South Africa and my family. So she applied again, this time for a tourist visa. However, this was also refused.

Instead of coming to South Africa, Rosemarie went to Israel with Elke Maier and other Christian friends to work in a children’s home in Migdal. During this time in Israel, her love for the Jewish nation deepened and she also gained a much deeper understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures, notably God’s purposes and plans.

As for me, after Rosemarie’s second visa refusal, I had to face the fact that my resolve to have both Rosemarie and the country I loved and felt so strongly called to serve in, was nothing more than an unrealistic dream. I had to choose. I wavered for some time, incredibly unsure of what to do. However, our Church Board cooperated optimally. They suggested that I could go and work with the Moravian Church in Germany at the end of the year.

The Lord was evidently also working in my life, chiselling away many a rough edge. My student colleague Fritz Faro had strong interaction with the Jesus People, a group of young men and women with links to the hippy movement. We appreciated their radicalism, but we seminarians had problems with their apolitical stance. We could not accept, for example, that people from the different races were sitting apart in their church services. We could not leave their stance unchallenged and we invited one of them, a young fellow from Zimbabwe, to join us in a public demonstration of our unity in Christ. He immediately agreed to join us in playing choruses on our instruments at Muizenberg beach. This could
have led to arrests, as this beach was racially designated ‘for Whites only’ but we were quite prepared to take this risk. To our great dismay, the brother from Zimbabwe later phoned, opting out of the plan with a flimsy excuse. We learnt that other believers had advised him not to come along with us.

I felt similar tension within me when we invited a ‘Black’ speaker to our youth service in District Six. The South African Council of Churches had declared the month of August as the month of compassion and member churches were challenged to do something practical. As our contribution in August 1973, we asked one of our CI friends, the Congregational Church minister Claude Goba, to speak. But this was possibly one of the first occasions that there was a ‘Black’ South African on the pulpit of Moravian Hill Chapel and it was not surprising that an honest congregant left the sanctuary demonstratively the very moment Claude Goba walked to the pulpit.

(Admittedly, we three seminarians had done something similar, leaving another church service when a local pastor persisted with segregated seating for visiting Germans.) Claude Goba’s sermon caused me to do some deep soul searching and my inner tussle came to a head. Was I not like Jonah, running away from the problems of our revolution-ripe country? To cop out cowardly was the very last thing that I wanted to do! The result was an intense inner struggle between the love for my country and my love for a foreign girl who could turn me into an exile.

I so much wanted to make a contribution towards racial reconciliation in South Africa. I thought, perhaps a touch too self-assured, “I can be of better service here in my native country than anywhere else.” I would yet have to be brought down from that presumptuous pedestal. I started praying that God would let me fall in love with a ‘Coloured’ girl who could be the ‘equal’ of Rosemarie. I did not feel that my job in contributing towards racial reconciliation in South Africa had been completed. Yet in the end, I could not face the idea of a life without Rosemarie. So, after much deliberation and many discussions with Anne and Henning Schlimm, I finally decided to join Rosemarie in Germany.

I was booked to leave fairly soon after completing my theological exams, not only because I wanted to get to my beloved Rosemarie as soon as possible. Almost just as important was the fact that my passport would expire soon thereafter. I considered that I could perhaps get peace at heart by applying in time for an extension of my expiring passport. Yet I simply couldn’t muster the courage (or faith?) to apply for the extension in South Africa! I just couldn’t bear the real possibility of a negative response to my application. I feared that my low-key political involvement of the previous months, such as the public display of my opposition, for example by wearing my defiant t-shirts, could have jeopardized such an extension. So following in the footsteps of my cousin who had married an Englishman around 1950, all of us expected this to be my final farewell to South Africa.

After the many youth camps and the like which I had attended over the years, I regarded myself accustomed to occasions of parting.

This time, however, it was almost unbearable to think of bidding farewell to relatives and friends. The finality of leaving behind my family was the hardest of all. Five years before this, I had cried on the deck of the steamship the Pendennis Castle as I watched Table Mountain gradually disappear into the distance. But back then I was determined to return to the country. This time I would have to expect, to all intents and purposes, never to return. And then there was also that gnawing uncertainty: Was this God’s will or was it my own way?

In the months prior to their departure from South Africa, various leaders of the Christian Institute had their passports confiscated at Jan Smuts Airport, Johannesburg, as they were about to leave the country. Although I was only a very inconspicuous member of this organization, one could never know. The presence of Dr Beyers Naudé at our youth rally just a few weeks before my scheduled departure did not augur well for me. His passport had also been seized. Would the passport official let me through or would he be tipped off to my detriment? Although I was never directly involved in overt opposition politics, there were a few semi-political reasons for fearing the seizure of my passport. On the day when I was to fly to Germany, I was nevertheless quite composed, knowing my future to be in God’s hands. The uncertainty about where I was supposed to be in order to be in the centre of His will – in Germany or South Africa – perhaps also helped me to relax somewhat.

I had written to Rosemarie that I would phone her from Johannesburg if they had confiscated my passport. So on the day of my departure from South Africa, Rosemarie waited tensely at the Karl Heim Haus in Tübingen, where Hermann (Harry) resided. He had closely observed how Rosemarie had initially made preparations to go to South Africa. She had also told him of the difficulties she had experienced with the Christians in her church fellowship who could not accept the possibility that it could be God’s will that she should marry me, an African. For many of them the refusal of the visas had been a sure sign that we were not meant for each other. But Hermann had stood with us through it all. He knew that we considered every step prayerfully, desiring to obey God in everything. Together they were hoping that there would be no phone call from South Africa, as this would have meant that I had not been allowed to leave the country.

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