“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:45-46
“I wish we could share what we have found in JoshGen with everyone in Grabouw”.
I remember the car rides back home after attending a JoshGen Gathering or Four12 Conference and saying those words to my wife, Leonie. The hope was always for a church plant in Grabouw, but in the same breath, I would never have thought that it would happen in the way that it did – and that we would end up leading the charge into Grabouw.
Early June last year, the President announced that churches would be able to gather once again, but only in groups of 50 people or less. We knew that Somerset West would be under pressure to accommodate all its saints, and the thinking at the time was that if the current 8 adults from Grabouw could find a spot to meet, it would open up space for more people in the Somerset West venue. The Lord was already ahead of us and we found a small venue at a local restaurant nearby.
On the 14 June 2020, as the first “lockdown baby” congregation within JoshGen we met in person for the first time, joined by some of our friends from JoshGen in Somerset West, and to our surprise were blessed by our first two visitors as well – Kyle and Eddie Norman (both of whom are still with us today).
It was that morning that we realised that meeting in Grabouw could very well be a work of the Lord and not just a temporary solution to a numbers problem.
The weeks that followed confirmed our feeling, as more people started to visit us on a Sunday, as we were the only church that was willing to open its doors during the months of June and July, when the Covid-19 pandemic was gaining traction.
At this point I need to say that the support from the wider JoshGen family and leadership was just out of this world. We received all the equipment that we needed to run a Sunday meeting within the first week, and both the emotional and spiritual encouragement was unheard of. It made such an impact not only on us, but also the other visitors that were getting to know the pearl of a healthy church family.
For the next three months, each Sunday we had a team visit us from the Somerset West congregation. They led worship, preached, encouraged, brought amazing words as well as so much life to us during that time. Since March this year, we’ve had visits from all over the JoshGen family, with Andrew extending outreach support until the end of 2021 for all the church plants. What a blessing these weekly visits have been to us!
I have learned that we need each other when it comes to taking new ground.
After two months we outgrew our venue and were faced with a problem, as the local school was not keen on renting out their hall to us due to the pandemic. However, yet again, God was working on our behalf. We contacted the school once more and this time they agreed to rent out their hall. In no time we had moved from a small, but full restaurant, to a large, 200-seater school hall. Our season with weekly visits from our friends in Somerset West too was over – oh how the Lord loves to shove us out of our comfort zones!
It was during those weeks and months that followed that our love and admiration grew for the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly when planting a church.
Yes, we can physically put out all the chairs, and do everything we can for a smooth Sunday morning gathering of the saints, but if the Holy Spirit doesn’t bring LIFE then everything will be hollow and fruitless.
The Holy Spirit not only brought life to our meetings, but people are finding Jesus! In the past year since planting we’ve had over 20 first-time salvations and recommitments. We’ve had 14 people respond with obedience to the word and have since been baptised. Then in November 2020 we prayed in 9 people who felt that God is adding them to JoshGen, and are currently doing another round of Orientation training with 14 adults who feel that this is their home. We currently also have three very active and growing community groups – it is so wonderful to see new leadership coming through over the past year, taking up the responsibility of leading a community!
What started out as 8 people meeting in Grabouw during a lockdown pandemic, has grown into a Spirit-filled congregation of 51 regular attending folks (34 adults + 17 kids). Only God!
We are excited as we see not only growth in numbers, but more importantly growth in character and relationship with Jesus. We’re not only called to be fishers of men, but also to disciple those that have been saved. A truth that I hear constantly in my spirit are the words of Oom Will Marais, “It is not only what you get saved out of that is important, but also what you get saved into”.
We’ve seen first hand how the Lord has corrected and re-calibrated skewed areas in our lives, with sound apostolic teaching by Andrew and many others. We’ve seen how people have embraced the blueprint of authentic church – as Acts 2:42-47 teaches. We’ve seen Jesus bring restoration to areas of hurt in many that have suffered past church hurt. We’ve seen Jesus deliver people from the shackles of sin and demonic oppression. We’ve seen 68-year olds, who previously thought this would be their time for “spiritual retirement”, take up their cross again, denying themselves and serving Jesus with everything they have.
There is still a lot of work for all of us to do in our beautiful and fruitful valley – but the harvest is ready! We are trusting the Lord for many more salvations, and to help us run the distance that He has called us to. The Kingdom of heaven, manifested through a healthy church, is the most precious treasure we could ever find in our lifetime – and once we have it, we are bound to “sell” all of our own desires and ambitions, so that others too can share in what we have found.