OCEAN VIEW BEGINNINGS : A Lighthouse in the Darkness
By David Croudace
Ocean View, South Africa, is a town of violence, where drugs and drug lords hold sway. There is an average of more than 50 drug-related murders every year. Most nights, one hears gunshots and, these days, often in the daytime as well.
In the late 1960s, only three believers lived in the town. For Christian fellowship, they would travel to the Steenberg assembly, which was about 25 miles away. Ernest de Vries, with a few others from Steenberg, started making weekly visits, holding evangelistic cottage meetings in the homes of unbelievers and open-air services in the township. Not seeing any fruit for several years, they were on the verge of giving up when, early in 1970, a man got saved—the answer to the Steenberg believers’ prayers.
In 1977, a missionary from the UK 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 transportation.
Mike Schilder, an unsaved man but one of the few who had a vehicle, agreed to help transport them to the gospel hall in Steenberg. This was God’s plan to reach Mike, since he heard the Gospel for the first time in his life at those meetings. The seed was planted, and by the close of the meetings, Mike was under deep conviction.
The Steenberg believers continued their outreach in Ocean View, and Mike started to attend those meetings, which led to his salvation that same year. A young woman, Debbie, also got saved shortly afterward, and eventually, they married. They were so keen to get the Gospel out, they converted their double garage into an attractive hall.
Assembly testimony begins
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, while off the coast of Namibia and alone down in the engine room, he fell to his knees under great conviction of sin and trusted Christ as his Savior. When Eddie came 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 onward. He and his wife, Brenda, have grown tremendously, and my late wife, Grace, and I guided them in 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 believers felt it was time to set up a local assembly testimony in Ocean View. Besides the Breaking of Bread 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 programs, the children were attracted to go there. The new assembly changed the cottage meeting into a gospel outreach meeting to try to reach them again. Besides going to a different home every Thursday evening, they would invite people 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.
Trophies of grace
Raymond had heard the Gospel through the cottage meeting at his home. Sometime later, he was sitting in his garden on a 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 Savior.” 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 so he could hear all that was preached.
After the meeting, Mike, Eddie, and I gathered around 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 trust in Christ as his Savior.
Instead of requesting his own large church to take his funeral service, Raymond asked us to do so because he wished everyone to hear the simple gospel message preached 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 people.
P., a more recent convert, had been on drugs for many years and had misled his three sons into the same lifestyle. Two of his boys died in drug-related shoot-outs. When P. was finally saved, he witnessed to his third son. At only 15 years old, his son was already hooked on drugs and refused to listen to or attend any meetings. In 2022, drug lords also shot him dead.
To hear such trophies of grace pray at the Breaking of Bread is a delight to one’s heart. Saved from the gutter, they just love the Lord with all their hearts.
Ocean View has never been a safe town. Mike once said, “Having the meetings at our home and trying to raise a family have been challenging. 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 must be monitored each evening because of increased gunfire, which often makes it unsafe for believers to attend since they all have to walk to the hall.
J.’s mother died in childbirth, and his father, who lived on the streets and struggled with alcoholism, tried to bring him up. However, when J. turned seven, his dad told him he was big enough to look after himself, so J. started a career of begging
and stealing. He went up the nearby mountain with nothing but a small piece of canvas as protection and lived alone up there, coming down to beg or steal each day.
Eddie and Brenda regularly feed kids who are on their way to school. They often fed J., and eventually, they 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 Savior.
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. is another one of the children Eddie and Brenda have tried to help. They would regularly invite him 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 from going to the meetings because all the shooting in the town made it dangerous. The sad result is that now, as a 13-year-old, C. is a member of a small gang and fast becoming addicted to drugs.
Grace and wisdom
Many are hearing the Gospel through the testimony of this small assembly, which is a lighthouse amid life-destroying darkness and sin. This small assembly in Ocean View requests 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.”
David Croudace is commended from North York Gospel Chapel in York, Pennsylvania.
Originally published in Missions magazine, May 2023. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at CMML.us/magazine/subscribe.