I mean the kind of divine miracles I see quite frequently at my church when a violent, wretched evil man is transformed into a gentle, humble servant of God. Those are real miracles.
Here’s a story of one of these miracles from South Africa. It appeared yesterday in our Sunday bulletin:
one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law
of commandments contained in ordinances, that in
Himself He might make the two into one new man,
thus establishing peace.
– Ephesians 2:14-15
On November 27, 2009, I saw the meaning of that promise come to life in an unforgettable way. It began with the graduation from Christ Seminary of our academic award winner, Martin Seliane. Martin, a former schoolteacher and headmaster, was also an ANC (African National Congress) activist. In his former life, Martin was unsaved, violent, and a heavy drinker. He was involved in much insurrection and was not only infamous among the national security people, but also among his own people. To Martin, shooting another man with a gun was a walk in the park.
In 2002, through attending a meeting set up by some Campus Crusade workers, Martin saw the Jesus Film and was immediately convicted and made a confession and literal “about face” with his life. Eventually he felt called to the ministry, and during 2005 Bible college was the main thing on Martin’s mind. He needed training, and after looking at some dismal schools he heard about Christ Seminary, so he reluctantly made the long trip up to see a “White Baptist” seminary. Coming from the Assemblies of God Church, Martin was skeptical, but he was willing to do almost anything to be a pastor.
After a spirited interview, Martin was accepted into our program beginning January 2006. During his first week of school he divulged to me that until 2002 he hated whites and was a serious political activist. He also asked if Benny Hinn used expository preaching. I told him, “After four years, you will be able to answer that question for yourself!”
After reading John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel according to Jesus (as well as many other books in the seminary) and learning how to interpret the Bible, Martin became a ball of fire. He wanted to personally challenge and transform “all those ‘other’ churches where he came from that aren’t reading and practicing the Scriptures correctly.” With gentle discipleship, we convinced him to grow in the grace of Christ, and to remember his own humble beginning.
God had wired Martin for boldness. Just two years ago (during his third year at Christ Seminary), he read an article about a prominent South African political figure named Adriaan Vlok. This article stirred Martin up so much that he invited Vlok to attend his church (a shack in a township squatter’s camp) and speak at a conference there. Vlok accepted, and there was a great testimony to Christ. A new relationship blossomed—so much so that Adriaan attended Martin’s graduation last November.
From a human perspective, no friendship was more unlikely. These two men should have been enemies, and at one time, they were.
From 1986 to 1991, Vlok served as South Africa’s Minister of Law and Order. He presided over the final years of the apartheid era. Facing increasingly intense opposition and political unrest in this period, the South African government—through the State Security Council of which Vlok was a member—planned and implemented drastic repressive measures, including the use of hit squads, bombings, and assassinations of anti-apartheid activists. No one was more assiduous in implementing the harsh policies of the Botha administration than Vlok.
Vlok, a longtime member of the Dutch Reformed Church, would never be accused of being an altar boy. It was he who ordered the 1987 bombings of theaters screening the anti-apartheid film, Cry Freedom. Vlok presided over national security strategy, and commanded South Africa’s secret police, which rounded up more than 30,000 “enemies of the state.”
Vlok’s reign was especially violent. It was the era during which skills were perfected in chemical and biological warfare. It was also the period during which Vlok was in direct control of a feared murder squad. Under Vlok, black activists were murdered in numerous ways, and prominent opponents of apartheid had reason to fear.
In 1995, Vlok’s wife committed suicide, and this heartache drew him to the Lord and to reading Scripture. Despite being raised “in the church,” Vlok had no relationship with Christ. Yet the Lord intervened in a great way. In 1997 Vlok willingly appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and confessed to much wrongdoing, even to the false accusation and detention of Shirley Gunn [a well-known anti-apartheid activist]. Many political enemies said “not good enough,” or “not enough…what else did you do?” Adriaan, however, was undeterred, and confronted many of his cohorts and counterparts at the senior levels to follow his lead. Few accepted.
Adriaan felt he had to do more. This is when he took a step that shook the nation. In late August, he arrived at the Union Building in Pretoria, the seat of government, and asked to see Frank Chikane, the director general at the Office of the President. Clutching a towel, a bar of soap, a Bible, and a plastic bowl, Vlok apologized to him for apartheid, and gave the minister a Bible.
He then asked to wash Chikane’s feet, saying, “I have sinned against the Lord and against you, please forgive.” Chikane reluctantly obliged, and Vlok was able to visibly demonstrate repentance. Since then, Vlok has washed the feet of 10 women in Mamelodi, a black township near Pretoria—mothers whose sons were brutally murdered by the police under his authority.
How is it that the former Minister of Law and Order of South Africa, who thought nothing of killing, torture, and deception to prop up a false kingdom, is now united with, in fellowship with, and endeared to a man who was a political thug who thought nothing of killing his enemies, abusing others, ignoring his family, and was actually in the crosshairs of the “secret list” for termination of his fellow brother? There is only one answer—Jesus Christ.
It is only through Jesus Christ that any of us can see ourselves as we truly are, and that we can see God truly as He is. It is through His death and resurrection that we are made new—completely new. We are given a heart that beats for others, because it is a heart that beats for God.
When Martin preached alongside Adriaan at a recent conference, he said (I paraphrase), “The Bible speaks of forgiveness and reconciliation, but the words describe a situation in a historical context long ago and far away. Today, right before your eyes, you are all witnessing what these words really mean.” This is a picture of the true power of God on display.
Through this relationship, we see one of the largest walls of separation in the twentieth century shattered to pieces, and two very different men who can now finish each others’ sentences.
Because, most importantly, both preach Christ.
Grace Church Missionary