Under the Thorn Tree
That is how it came about that I set out for the great gold city. My first task was to take two young men to a specialising psychologist. (They had been unable to cope with life any longer.) From there I called on some friends in Johannesburg. They had arranged a little birthday party. Late that night, after a hilarious evening I was dropped at the front door of the evangelist. Wearily the man opened up and showed me to my room. He had only just returned from an evangelistic campaign. I had already in Germany heard of evangelistic campaigns. But who ever went to the meetings of these ‘Pietists?’ Here, however, I was face to face with an educated man who did not blush at the word evangelisation.
Alone in my room I stood a moment or two at the window watching the fleeting clouds trying to halt the rays of the moon; a struggle between the dark and the light. In my own heart a similar conflict was raging. I felt half sorry I had come. But there was nothing I could do at the moment so I decided to turn in and get some sleep and see what happened next.
The next morning, immediately after breakfast, Mr Helper called me to his room and asked me what I wanted. I was taken aback. To ask a straight question like that was just not done. So I answered like a Zulu: ‘No it is nothing.’ But the desperate need could not be concealed for long. The next moment I looked up startled. This man, a layman, had taken up the Bible and had begun to read to me, the pastor, a word from the Bible. A wave of anger rose within me. ‘What has this man, unstudied in Theology, to say to me?’ Thought I, ‘what can he teach me? Did he learn Greek?’
Calmly the evangelist turned over the leaves and read quietly and deliberately, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…’ The ready answer rushed to my lips, ‘Born again? I am baptised…’ Then, suddenly I heard with other ears,’…born again…’Am I born again? Am I?
‘Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out…’ The layman had not read these words but had spoken them very softly, almost whisperingly. Again it nearly took my breath away. ‘I never came to Him…No, I certainly never did.’
Must I tell you how, for three days, we prayed together again and again – or rather, how the evangelist kept on inviting me, ‘Come, let us pray…’ And how he then prayed so simply, in childlike faith and so much to the point…? Shall I recount how everything within me rebelled, how I did not want to have anything more to do with him, how I wished I had never come?
On the third day, at half past three in the afternoon I suddenly saw the light through the Word, ‘Him that cometh unto me…’ I saw it, I willed it and I did it!
This happened on a large slab of stone under a thorn tree. Overhead the sun streamed down from the sky of the deepest blue. ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His Name…’
This word had caught fire for me at last, and shone within like a bright star in darkest night. It is as simple as that. So simple that a child could understand. And it had taken such a long time, such a very long time.
Silently I followed brother Helper, threading his way through the thorn bushes. Time seemed to have been standing still, but actually the shadows around us had grown long. In amazement I looked up into the evening sky; I am a child of God.. after all these years of distress and straying – His child, His very own beloved child. That night I slept without a sedative. The next morning I read the Bible.
Then something else happened. It happened at family prayers. The brother opened the daily motto book and read, ‘Go to thy house, unto thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee and how He had mercy on thee.’ Was that meant for me? I have never doubted it. Once again the living God had spoken to me personally.
The commission was plain and unmistakable, the way clearly indicated; my service was to be witnessing. My recording of this is in accordance with the commission received in this decisive hour of my life.