On my right leg I have a mean looking scar. I was scarred on the day news of Pastor Paul Daniel’s resignation as pastor and president of His People Church were officially announced to all the members of the church. I was not there. On that day, perhaps during those same hours, I was bitten by a vicious dog. It leapt from behind the walls of a house and it bit me. How it was able to jump that high, nobody knew. The owners were apologetic. They said it had never done that before. It was an evil day. I was beyond upset. Why did bad things happen to Christians I wondered? I stood in the cold waiting for a lift that would take me to hospital, who knows if the dog had rabies? I spent what felt like hours contemplating why bad things happened to Christians. I found solace in the apostle Paul who was beaten many times, shipwrecked, imprisoned, at times he thought he was going to die and yet, he was more than a conquer in Christ Jesus. The day was cold. The clouds were beyond gloomy. I wondered, what is going on? It was a day I wished had never existed. The Biblical Apostle Paul had provided me with perspective though the cloud of evil would not lift. If such tragedies befell a devoted follower of Christ such as the Apostle Paul, why should I escape?
I arrived late at night where I was staying in Rondebosch. “So? What was the announcement at church about?” Louisa feared to share the announcement with me particularly upon learning of the extraordinary events I had already suffered. She believed that I would be crushed. Naturally, it seemed as though everyone was already knocked hard by the news. Reluctantly, Louisa shared the news with me and for the first time, my day from hell made sense. I responded with a sense of relief: “Ah, now I understand what was going on today!” My soul had been in turmoil for at least 12 hours. Nothing was easy. My traumatic experience all of sudden felt like a gift of grace for me to understand how to receive the news. All my thoughts had a reason for being. I watched people suffer for months and years because of that experience. Many fell away. I felt shielded from it all, the ugly wound over my calf muscle was my perspective. I’m not proud of the scar but it is my scar for life.
Louisa had told me that they had watched a video where he announced his personal failure and was therefore resigning. This was the dreamer who once wrote these words that still echo in my heart: “beating the door of my heart for something larger.” This is the founder of His People Church who began with one mere University of Cape Town student, a church which he built up to several congregations and church plants. It was a church decorated with the finest young leaders whom he had developed. This was the man who dared us to dream dreams so large that only God could fulfil. This was the man of faith under whose leadership the word impossible seemed illogical. This is the church I was told Nelson Mandela once walked in upon hearing music as he walked past. This is the church of dreams and that dream shutdown quite suddenly, with this announcement. It had obviously been ending for a little while before the announcement. Months before he had been sharing stories Sunday in and Sunday out about the history of the church. Little did we foresee it, we were being prepared for the imminent dark cloud that was already approaching.
I had felt compelled to write him a letter to tell him my story and to thank him for the work he had done. I thanked him for blasting the lid of smallness and for daring us to dream. I came from a place where I had not encountered people of true faith and then I found young people, hundreds of them who were captivated by God, full of purpose and were encouraged to be more. Of course, there were problems but I was lost in the euphoria. Every worship service I saw a cloud of light inside the building. I thought this was not uncommon, until one day I realised that I no longer saw it. Now, another kind of dark cloud closed in on us and we were trapped inside of it.
On the first Saturday of this August, I was walking around at His People building at N1 City. I found myself remembering how the name His People had come about. I recalled how it never came through a strategy meeting; it was born out of a movement. I recalled how I heard Pastor Paul tell the story. People were asking these new converts as they were growing on campus: “who are you?” They told him that people are asking; who are we? What should we tell them? He responded: “Tell them you are God’s people. You are His People.” And so it was. His People. I smiled as the story came to mind. I loved that it was born out of a movement.
I had been away from church for a while since I had been out of town for a work program. On that Sunday I heard an announcement that there will be a meeting about a possible name change. What?
… to be continued