What God joined together: Chapter 9 — Love the stranger as yourself

  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

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

Rosemarie’s friends seemed to be happy with her decision to break off her relationship with me once and for all. Many of her friends had not approved of her romance with an African to begin with. Only her friend Elke was sympathetic, as she knew me when both of us had been regulars at the Christian Encounter group in Stuttgart.

In January 1972, my sister suspected that my heart was still yearning for Rosemarie when a letter arrived from Hermann (Harry) in which he wrote, “I think Rosemarie still loves you”.


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I moved into the Moravian Seminary complex in District Six as a full-time student at the end of that month. Henning Schlimm, our director, became my confidant and counselor. I shared the content of all letters from Hermann with him and his wife Anne.

I was one of three full-time students at the seminary. A big dose of cross-cultural pollination was administered to us as students during our time in District Six. Not only the formal theological studies, but also the extramural activities, with which our German lecturers brought us into contact, enriched our lives tremendously.

I became quite immersed in the race politics of the day. The banned and other literature that I had been reading overseas had stimulated activism in me. My interest was now more than merely aroused by the inequalities and injustice I was seeing all around us. I more or less expected to land in prison because of non-violent protest. The Seminary already had a bad name with the government because people of all races were meeting there. Even students from the renowned Stellenbosch University with their conspicuous maroon-striped blazers visited us. In those days, racial mixing was regarded as a subversive activity. Influenced by the emerging Black Theology, I was fond of wearing my ‘Black is Beautiful’ t-shirt defiantly, especially after I heard that its sale had been banned. With a felt tip marker I wrote ‘Civil Rights’ on the back of another t-shirt and ‘Reg en Geregtigheid’ [Rights and Justice] on the front. (This meant of course that I couldn’t wash this t-shirt for many weeks, but this didn’t trouble me much, as long as I could display these risky sentiments.)

Walking in the city with Martin October, the local assistant minister, and Gustine Joemath, my student colleague

In church politics we gave the denominational leadership a rough time. Some of the older ministers seemed to emulate the government in their dealings with opposition to traditionalism in the church, e.g. by banning young preachers.

In spite of my activism on more than one front, my heart was still aching about the fact that I couldn’t write to Rosemarie. This was quite prominent in my prayers. But mentally I was almost completely caught up in the race problems of the country. Coming from the teaching profession, the unchanged racial discrimination in educational funding and facilities was something for which I felt protesting publicly was worthwhile. We as seminarians joined a protest march organized by the predominantly White students from the University of Cape Town. This was in defiance of police orders to the contrary and I reveled in this sort of activism. On that particular day, I had a letter to Hermann in my pocket which I wanted to post before joining the protest. In this letter to Hermann, I stated that we expected to be arrested. However, we came away ‘unscathed’ as tear gas won the day and the demonstration was scattered.

Returning from the protest to the Seminary in Ashley Street, there was a letter from Germany. It had come completely unexpectedly, directly from my darling! I could hardly believe what I saw there in black and white. Her mother had given us permission to resume our correspondence.

Rosemarie’s mother had been challenged by the Old Testament Watchword on her own birthday: “…love the stranger in your gates.” On Rosemarie’s 21st birthday, the Lord had spoken to Mama Göbel through another word from Scripture: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” She knew that it meant for her that she had to accept me. She reacted positively, giving Rosemarie permission to write to me again! This was very courageous of Mrs Göbel who knew that this was definitely not the wish of her husband. Wasn’t it one of the pivotal signs we had prayed for, that the attitude of her parents towards our relationship would change?

I spent the last part of the June holidays of 1972 with my parents in Elim and there I had a frank discussion with them about my political activism. The direct cause of the discussion had been my request to have my personal copy of Pro Veritate, the organ of the Christian Institute, sent to Elim (at the Seminary we already had access to the controversial Christian magazine). With some satisfaction I noticed that my father, by reading this material, became more enlightened on some issues. In earlier years all of us had been influenced to some degree by the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) distortion of what was happening in our country, even though we were aware that much of the current affairs programming was a propaganda perversion of the truth.

I also discussed the issue of my love for Rosemarie at length with my parents for the first time. I spoke of my hope to get her to South Africa via racial reclassification. In response, they stated clearly that they would be prepared to sacrifice me if I went to Europe, rather than seeing me bring Rosemarie into the humiliations and injustices of an apartheid-permeated South Africa. I was too much in love to appreciate how generous their gesture was, though. They knew what they were talking about. My cousin, who had got married to a British naval officer in the early 1950s, had not been allowed to visit her parents, even after about 20 years.

Still, I insisted stubbornly that I would do whatever it might take to have both my Rosemarie and South Africa. I disregarded my parents’ discouragement from bringing her to the country. At the same time, we were oblivious to the fact that, back in Mühlacker, Rosemarie’s mother had not only written her daughter the letter in which she granted us permission to continue our correspondence. Evidently, she also wanted her husband to give his consent and blessing to our union. We were not even aware of the fact that she was trying to win Mr Göbel over.

A letter that Rosemarie had received from Anne Schlimm, the wife of our Seminary director, made a significant impact on her mother. Many years later we discovered the draft of a letter which Mama Göbel had written to Henning Schlimm, my mentor and confidant in Cape Town, in which she referred to me as A.C.:

… When A.C. came here unexpectedly, my husband unfortunately refused to meet him because he thought that A.C. should have refrained from further contact with our daughter after the explanations in his letter.
I utilized the occasion to meet A.C. at the house of our married daughter. I thought that I had to warn them against such a marriage because of the conditions in Africa. I told him that Rosemarie could be isolated there and rejected by the Whites as well as the Coloured population, yes, even despised and hated. We simply fear for our daughter, that she would be exposed to such a life.

A.C. confirmed to me on that occasion that he saw his future role in Africa. You will – I trust – not be affronted by the fact that we here in Mühlacker had put our hopes in Rosemarie becoming betrothed to a reliable, believing young man when A.C. came here.

After having spoken to various other people who had a connection with Africa, the contact with A.C. looked so hopeless. That’s why his sudden arrival was such a shock to us. Now I do not want our daughter to marry someone else just because of us, because that would also be dishonest to such a partner. Just as much, we do not want her to remain single. I am convinced – and I know this from my own experience – that God will lead A.C. and our daughter in the right way according to His eternal purposes, because they want to surrender themselves to His will. They and I pray towards this end.

Unfortunately my husband cannot be consoled by this and he has no trust in prayer to God. Thus he suffers a lot, worrying about our daughter. His nerves are already very frayed because of over-exhaustion. He thinks that it is a case of romantic fanaticism with them. Time and again he tries to persuade Rosemarie because he foresees so many grave dangers and risks in a marriage with A.C. Of course I am suffering under this estrangement between father and daughter.

When we celebrated Rosemarie’s 21st birthday in July, she gave me the letter from your wife. Later Rosemarie told me how she saw this letter as an answer to prayer. The evening prior to this, she had prayed to God for clarity regarding His plan. I then went through a similar process. I had a sleepless night after this day, with the embitterment and disappointment of my husband clearly playing a role. I asked God again and again for help and discernment of His will. The next day, when I felt so terrible, I got clear Scriptural guidance from the daily Text Book: “Love the stranger as yourself.”

I want to do this with all my heart. Should A.C. become my son-in-law according to God’s will, I shall surely learn to love him like the husband of my other daughter. But I also wish so much that my husband would not have such fear and worry about Rosemarie’s future, that he will gradually come out of his bitterness towards the two young people…

Encouraged by the development, my mentor, Reverend Henning Schlimm, facilitated a teaching post for Rosemarie at the kindergarten of St. Martini, the German Lutheran Church in Cape Town. I was unaware of the great courage Pastor Osterwald, the local German minister, had displayed to appoint her. The racist attitude of some of his congregation members would have been very disheartening. He initially asked Rosemarie not to mention anything about the appointment in her letters to me. The authorities could very well open the letters, which was quite common in apartheid South Africa. This could have resulted in the iron hand of the law coming down on Pastor Osterwald.

Early one morning in October 1972, while I was on my knees praying for the country, I felt compelled to write a letter to the Prime Minister. In this letter, I addressed him with the word liewe [liewe = dear, liefste = dearest], which was definitely a little extraordinary. My natural inclinations towards him were definitely not charitable. In that letter I challenged Mr. Vorster to let himself be used by God like US President Lincoln to lead the nation in the ways of God. Basically, it was a letter of criticism, which could have landed me in hot water.

But I only received a reprimand, the standard reply to people who objected to the racial policies of the country on religious grounds. In this letter, the Prime Minister implied that I was involved in politics under the guise of religion. It was a typical government ploy to encourage church folk to make a sharp distinction between faith and politics. And indeed, many Afrikaner eyes in particular were blind to the apartheid heresies because of this.

I was also far from careful in other matters. In a newsletter to friends in Germany, I stated openly that Rosemarie would come and work in Cape Town the following year. That was looking for trouble.
At times I was just so naïve and irresponsible!

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