On Thursday 17 January 2019, I arrived back at the office after a successful Bible placement at the Johannesburg Central Prison. A gentleman holding a Bible was standing at my office door. I invited him in and asked if I could possibly help. He introduced himself as Pastor Matthew. He told me that he was going from door to door to try and raise funds to repair his church-tent, which had been ripped to pieces by a storm. I told him that unfortunately, I didn’t have any money for him, but we carried on talking about the things of the Lord and got onto the topic of the Gideons.
“Oh the Gideons saved my life,” said Pastor Matthew. “I was in Johannesburg Central prison lying on my bed, planning on how I was going to kill myself. It was on 26 November 1997. I remember the date because it was my mother’s birthday. Someone from the Gideons came into the cell and gave me a Bible. He spoke to me, but I took no notice of what he was saying. Later that day, I decided to read the Bible, and from that moment on, I lost the desire to kill myself.
The Gideons came to the prison again a few days later, on 5 December. This time I wanted to hear what they had to say, and I gave my life to Jesus on that day. I read my Bible every day and God started talking to me. He told me I was going to be a pastor. He even gave me the name of the church. God told me to go and talk to some of the long-term hardened inmates – most of the time, they chased me away and threatened to stab me, so I asked God for guidance. His answer was: “Fast and pray”. Sometimes I would fast for 30 days for those men, and I saw their hearts become soft and more willing to listen to the Gospel.”
Matthew was transferred to the Pretoria Central Prison where he finished his studies, along with three other certificates from various Bible schools. He became the first person to be an inmate at that correctional facility as well as one of the facility’s official pastors. He was released in 2003 and went on to form the “Emmanuel Church” in Randfontein. He joined us today on a visit to the “Sun City” prison where he had found the Lord all those years ago. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, he and I never got to see the inmates, but he has vowed that he will go back again.
A message to all my fellow believers out there: We may never get to see the fruit of the seeds we sow, but be obedient in your labour, because God’s Word never comes back void (Isaiah 55:11).
Mark 1:17 “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” During our honeymoon, Michelle and I went on a day tour and arrived at a temple where the second-most important Hindu idol apart from India was located. We decided not to enter, but rather stay on the bus. While we were drinking something, I noticed our bus driver standing outside. I went up to him and said, “You do not ask why we have not entered the temple? The reason is that we believe in Jesus Christ, who did everything we need to be saved on the cross.” At that moment, a second driver joints us, but I continued, “The most important question is, where do you go when you die?” He stated that no-one could know. I stated that we as Christians know because the Bible says the Jesus went to prepare a place for us and that when we die, we will be with Him in heaven. That is what I believe, and I am sure of it.
They then said that they have Bibles but only the Old Testament. When I said that I can give them English Testaments should they be willing to accept, they agreed. I went back to Michelle in the bus to fetch two English and two French PWT’s (Personal Workers Testaments). Back at the drivers, I saw that a third person joint them. I gave the two French PWT’s to the first two men and an English PWT to the new person, joking that I give the English Testament to him since he appears to be British. They laughed and said, “He looks British because he is from Britain!” I could not see any difference in their facial features.
The English-speaking person asked what my belief is, and I stated that I am a Christian. He shook my hand and said that he was also a Christian. Our driver asked if he could instead have an English Bible, where after the English driver gave his Bible to him. He thanked us and said that he would share the English Bible with his son. When the second driver left, our driver said that he prays every morning and every night. When asked who the God he prayed to was, he said, “Eternal God.” I then stated, “His Name is Jesus Christ. Learn more about Him in this Bible.” He then said that it is good to have the Bible because he curses a lot. I said that Jesus accepted him as he is, and read Matthew 11:28 for him, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I then asked if he will accept Jesus in his life, and he answered, yes. Just there, we formed a group of men, holding hands, while I lead him in praying the sinner’s prayer.
The joy that I experienced on the in front of a Hindu temple was so enriching. To Him alone be the glory!
My son, Christoff, became a Gideon at the end of 2018. Just before Christmas another Gideon, doctor Chris Thirion, took Christoff with him on a prison Bible placement. While Christoff was praying for the Bible placement, God showed him the image of a prisoner with a large scar beneath his left eye. For seven years the Gideons were not allowed to place Bibles at Harrismith prison. Only since 2019, the Gideons were allowed to visit the jail and hand Bibles to inmates. They could never hand out more that 50 Bibles at a time. Christoff and Chris walked from section to section, but could not see any prisoner with a scar underneath his left eye. At the last section the person with a scar suddenly appeared before them. “I don’t want a Bible from you!” he said. Christoff turned to the man and said: “But I have a message from the Lord for you – will you please forgive your mother?” Suddenly this hardened criminal fell to his knees and grabbed Christoff by the legs. He started to cry. He could forgive his mother! Suddenly the other inmates rushed forward to receive a Bible. That morning in December, just before Christmas, 476 Testaments were placed. What a wonderful gift for them who were dejected, without hope and vision, confined to the prison cells. Since then Chris and Christoff visit the prisoners every second Saturday and then bring a message of hope and encouragement for the men. As Psalms 107: 10 & 13 says: “Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in iron… Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.”