by David Croudace
Ocean View, South Africa, is a town of violence where drugs and drug lords hold sway. There is an average of over 50 drug-related murders every year! Most nights one hears gun shots and these days often in the daytime!
In the late 1960s there were only three believers living in the town. For fellowship they travelled to the Steenberg assembly about 25 miles away. Ernest de Vries, with a few others from Steenberg, started weekly visits holding cottage meetings and open-air services in the township. Not seeing any fruit for a number of years, they were on the verge of giving up when, early in 1970, a man got saved – this was the answer to the Steenberg brethren’s prayers.
In 1977 George Anderson (Northern Ireland) was asked to take a month’s ministry meetings as well as the Sunday gospel meetings at the Steenberg assembly. The believers at Ocean View wanted to attend each night but had no transport.
Mike Schilder, an unsaved man but one of the few who had a vehicle, was asked if he could help in transporting them to the gospel hall in Steenberg. This was God’s plan to reach Mike, as at those meetings he heard the gospel for the first time in his life. The seed was planted and at the close of the meetings Mike was under deep conviction.
The Steenberg brethren continued with their outreach in Ocean View and Mike started to attend those meetings, which led to his salvation in 1977. A young lady, Debbie, also got saved shortly afterwards and eventually they were married. They were so keen to get the gospel out they converted their double garage into an attractive hall.
Assembly Testimony Began
Shortly after getting saved, Mike witnessed to his brother, Eddie, who was on drugs and living immorally. Although Eddie was a tough nut to crack, the Holy Spirit was at work. Eddie joined the rough crew of a deep-sea fishing boat. One day, off the coast of Namibia, alone down in the engine room, under great conviction of sin, he fell to his knees and trusted Christ as his Saviour. Coming up to the deck as a new creature in Christ, his fellow fishermen could not believe the change they saw in him from that day onwards. He and his wife, Brenda, have grown tremendously and my late wife, Grace, and I have been privileged to guide them into how to go about doing personal work on the streets and beaches. Almost every day they are out talking to someone about the Lord.
God had begun to work and practically the whole Schilder family and a few others were saved. So, in 1984, the Steenberg brethren felt it was time to set up a local assembly testimony in Ocean View. Besides the breaking of bread meeting and gospel meeting, they started a Sunday school for about 80 children who would pack into the hall. Later on, a charismatic group started a new church in the town and with their exciting programmes the children were attracted to go there. They sadly never heard the gospel there, so never turned to Christ. Those children are now young people in their teens and early twenties but instead of being saved, they are drug addicts, drunkards and live a life of immorality.
The new assembly changed the cottage meeting into a gospel outreach meeting to try to reach them again. Going to a different flat every Thursday evening, they would invite the folks to the gospel meeting each Sunday evening in the hall. The Lord saw fit to bless His Word and some have been saved through this outreach.
as a new creature in Christ, his fellow fishermen could not believe the change they saw in him from that day onwards
Trophies of Grace
Raymond heard the gospel through the cottage meeting at his home. Sometime later he was sitting in his garden one Saturday morning, smoking some sort of drug. Suddenly, he threw his cigarette away and told his pals, ‘I’m through with all this. I’m trusting Christ as my Saviour.’ Raymond had cancer and at the last meeting we had in his flat, all his friends were present. He was too ill to sit, so he lay on his bed with his bedroom window open so he could hear all that was preached. After the meeting Mike, Eddie and I gathered round his bed, where, with tears in his eyes, Raymond told us a little of his life. He had been a wild young man, disobedient and disrespectful, bringing sorrow to his parents. As a young fellow, Raymond started taking drugs and for 32 years he wasted his life and suffered all that goes with addiction. But God had His hand on Raymond and led him to repent and put his trust in Christ as his Saviour.
Instead of requesting his own large church to take his funeral service, he asked us to do so as he wished everyone to hear the simple gospel message clearly. The following week he passed away to be forever with the Lord. His relatives rented a large hall and we were told that it was the biggest funeral ever held in the town. What a privilege to preach the gospel to such a large crowd of desperate folks.
P, a more recent convert, had been on drugs for many years and misled his three sons into the same lifestyle. Two of his boys were killed in drug-related shootouts. When P was finally saved, he witnessed to his third son. At only 15 years old, he was already hooked on drugs and refused to listen to or attend any meetings. Earlier this year, he was also shot dead by drug lords.
To hear such trophies of grace pray at the breaking of bread meeting is a delight to one’s heart. Saved from the gutter they just love the Lord with all their hearts.
Ocean View township has never been a safe town. Mike says, ‘Having the meetings at our home and trying to raise a family has been a challenge. There have been times when we felt like moving out. But because of our commitment and responsibilities in the assembly, and His great love, we are still here and kept to this day.’
After Covid-19 regulations eased, the prayer meeting and midweek Bible study restarted. However, the situation has to be monitored each evening because of increased gunfire, which often makes it unsafe for believers to attend as they all have to walk to the hall.
J’s mother died in childbirth and his father, an alcoholic who lived on the streets, tried to bring him up. However, when he turned seven his dad told him he was now big enough to look after himself, so J started a career of begging and often stealing. He went up the nearby mountain with nothing but a small piece of canvas as protection and lived alone up there, each day coming down to beg or steal. Eddie and Brenda regularly feed kids on their way to school. They often fed J and eventually asked him to come and live in a small room at the back of their house. They cleaned him up, cut his dirty shaggy hair and brought him to where they could help him on a regular basis. On Sunday evenings they would bring him to the gospel meeting and finally he trusted Christ as his Saviour. J still hankered for the solitude of his mountain and occasionally would tell Eddie and Brenda, ‘I’m just going up the mountain for a few days to get some fresh air.’ The Rastafarians have tried to get him to join their group but he seems to be resisting the pressure. Thankfully he now has a job, which is a blessing.
C was regularly invited for Sunday lunch and they would chat until it was time for the gospel meeting. As a seven-year-old, he would sit and listen respectfully to the gospel. However, his father sells drugs and stopped him going to the meetings because of all the shooting in the town making it dangerous. The sad result is that now as a 13-year-old lad he is a member of a small gang and fast becoming a drug addict.
Grace & Wisdom
Many are hearing the gospel through the testimony of this small assembly, which is a lighthouse in the midst of life-destroying darkness and sin.
This small assembly in Ocean View request your prayer, ‘Please pray for grace and wisdom and faithfulness to our soon coming Lord as we live and witness among such violence and among such needy people.’