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History - Stretching the church PDF Print E-mail
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A call was made to Leon van den Berg, a fourth year student at the Baptist Theological College, on 15 November 1992.

Rev Leon van den Berg and his wife Sandra responded to the call to pastor the Baptist work in Empangeni in January 1993. With inspiring preaching and with a meaningful visitation ministry, Pastor Leon formed a sound foundation for growth.


1994 opened with the prospect of EEIII, Lay Renewal Weekend, and the Reach and Teach programme. The latter took over from Noah’s Ark Day Care Centre, which began in January 1988 by Barbara Clur and closed in December 1993.

On 12 February 1994 the Empangeni Baptist Church celebrated 25 years since its birth — a testament to God’s faithfulness and leading.

27 April 1994 saw our country enter into its first democratic election. The country was fearful of possible widespread violence and Christians were called to pray. We, as a congregation, responded to the call and corporate and individual prayer was encouraged. The election came and went, a new government was in place with little violence taking place. We thank God for His deliverance during this period.


October 1995 saw the leadership seeking God’s vision forward. God’s leading was that the local Church families must be built up together with reaching out and becoming a more Mission minded Church. Yes, God in His wisdom, had made it possible for the Church to sell Sunbury to the Mahon Mission Organisation who specifically reached out to the Zionists. So Sunbury remained a Mission Station. It must be mentioned that 1994/1995 was a difficult time for the Church because of the impending sale of Sunbury. For some it was a sad time as they felt the Church had lost its vision for Sunbury as a means of reaching lost souls and there were those who felt Sunbury was a stumbling block to the Church’s road forward. At times the Church was in a split situation. Prayer and listening to God’s leading were the victors in the end. Yes, God is good in all His ways, even though we might doubt the wisdom of His ways at times.


The following was reported in the Missions Report for the AGM of 1996: “We have been delighted to hear exciting news from the Mahon’s at Sunbury.� On further inquiry as to what the exciting news was, we were told that many Zionists are turning away from this sect as men are trained and sent out into the field. God, in His foresight saw that Sunbury can be a light on the mountain lighting up the world.


Sunbury, to this day, is still impacting Zionists in South Africa under the mission ZEMA. Financial resources gained from the sale were used to support Steve Richards to be trained and serve on the Doulos Ship for two years. A team also attended the Love Southern Africa 96 Conference at Wits University, followed by an outreach trip to Siavonga in Zambia. A young Zambian man was left behind to continue the work established there.

“Reach and Teach�, a training ministry for sewing suffered a severe setback as all their machines were stolen. However, the women rallied around and machines were donated so that this work could continue. Pastor Alpheus Mkwanazi was of great help in translating and leading the women to the Lord as they sewed.

1997 was a violent year and saw the escalation of crime in all areas of the community. A huge outcry took place when one of Zululand’s finest surgeons was murdered. We as a Church joined in the protest march that took place at the time, and also in prayer, committing the crime situation to the Lord.

On March 3, 1997, the Christian Helpline, operating from the Church grounds, came into being. 157 cases were dealt with by July 28, 1997. An extract from the AGM report of 1997 reads: “God provided wonderfully in every cent needed for the project, stationery, advertising, even a VW Combi with its fuel, insurance and maintenance costs covered for a substantial period in advance. The Combi is used mainly for the transporting of rape victims between the Rape Crisis Centre and the District Surgeons in Empangeni and Richard’s Bay. This also creates an opportunity for outreach as we are able to pray for the ladies and give them the Zulu version of the Ultimate Questions booklet. This ministry was discontinued late 1997, but God has replaced this firstly with the Prayer and Care Ministry that has developed in to the Clinic Ministry at the Clinic, which is run once a week from the Church buildings. And the Hospital Ministry has also come into being due to the need that was being felt.


Murmurs of a local casino were first heard during the this year, 1997. Little did we know then that this would become a reality in the town by 2003.

The week of September 1-7 1998 was the week of outreach which we, as a Church embarked on. The speaker was the Reverend Conrad Mbewe of Zambia. The total community was to be reached with talks to Church Leadership, Community Services, Police, Businesses, Empangeni High School, Bible Studies, local ministers, Youth Coffee Bar, a Men’s Breakfast, and the Ladies’ Spring Tea. This was a daunting task, but the Lord was present and many were moved to commit themselves to Christ.


Leon will always go down as the man who got involved in the community and was loved and respected by all with whom he came into contact.

As Pastor Leon van den Berg had left us for Wychwood, Germiston, we as a Church formed a Call Committee, and in prayer turned to the Lord for guidance. The Lord’s plan was to leave us without a Pastor for 2 years. However He saw to it that the pulpit was filled with men who could bring God’s undiluted Word to the Church. The Church went through a trying time and many tears were shed, but we came through it all the more spiritually filled and mature. Membership remained constant and 9 baptisms took place.

The Church felt we should look to see where God was working and then join that work. The Scripture we leaned on while looking to the Lord’s leading was 1 Corinthians 2:4-5. He led us to ZMO (Zululand Mission Outreach) which is a tent ministry operating in rural Northern Zululand. We visited the area of operation and were convinced this was where the Lord wanted us to assist. We have been prayerfully and financially involved ever since. We have helped with the training of team members at Barberton Training Centre. We have also visited the tent on numerous occasions to show tangible support. God is blessing His work with the establishment of churches and filling them with converts. We have been humbled to see rural folk walking many kilometres to attend an evening service and then walking home again in the dark late at night. We are still involved in this ministry.


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