This article was originally published in the February 2017 edition of ITMI Monthly.
One by one the rising summer sun’s warm rays revealed the quiet majesty of South Africa's Northern Cape. Yard by yard it illuminated the ministry property Gerhard le Roux’s family of 10 had poured many gallons of blood, sweat and tears into. Each aspect of Onseepkans Mission was cultivated from nothing with great effort, all to expand the mission’s reach.
When the Le Roux family first arrived 3 years ago, they immediately planted a large garden so they could eat - Onseepkans boasted no true grocery store, so the family makes once a month runs to the nearest store, about 2 hours away.
Their original garden was small compared to the garden that his family now cultivates every day. Learning to garden as a survival tool had been a rough road, peppered with loss and setbacks, but also blessed with renewed flourishing daily.
As the sun spilled into the chicken coop the foul announced their awakening with hungry squawking, Gerhard’s eyes moved over it, then to the pottery shed the family had recently set up.
The sun spills over the Northern Cape, South Africa.
They hoped to teach interested community members the skill, and sell their own pottery creations to support the mission.
ITMI’s Gerhard le Roux was overwhelmed with the many ways God had blessed his family's hard work over the years. He reflected on how the mission’s growth had become a beacon of hope for the community.
The community, who watches with restraint, are seeing that hard work and God’s blessing could make life better - a hope many had never in their lifetime considered.
The sheep added their hungry bleating to the cacophony of morning sounds, and his eyes moved to their pen.
His family was planning to sell a handful of the sheep, which would provide for the school materials they needed to homeschool their 8 children next year. As he thought about their hunger, he reflected on the similarities between sheep and people.
Without a shepherd, sheep have no hope. Sheep in this part of the world graze on lucerne. Lucerne is so rich that if the sheep eat too much, they bloat up and die in minutes. The sheep won't stop eating on their own. They need a shepherd, just like us.
“They are your sheep,” Gerhard prayed, returning in his mind to the sheep, “just as it’s your mission. Do with it as you please.”
Within minutes, four of his children let their 40 sheep into a tightly controlled plot of lucerne for grazing. It took all four of them to keep the sheep within the carefully rationed plot.
Just after they’d let the sheep into the lucerne, a woman approached one of the children. She had no food left in her house and had nowhere to turn. That child took the woman to Gerhard, who turned his attention to her.
As it became time for the grazing to end, the remaining three children attempted to end the grazing before disaster befell the sheep. But the sheep escaped past them, and before anyone could catch their breath, they watched 20 sheep blow up like balloons and expire.
Jannie, an Afrikaner neighbor who tried to help save the sheep, commented into his simultaneous phone call, “I can’t believe this guy! He’s not swearing or angry at all!”
Half the le Roux family’s assets. Gone. In minutes.
So what did the Spirit lead Gerhard to do next? “Give this hungry woman a sheep.” [She needs meat.]
Later, Gerhard was texting with the same man who Jannie had been talking with, and shared with him why they weren’t angry or panicked when they lost half their assets. “God is in control,” he said, “He allowed it.”
They gave the rest of the dead sheep away to the community and sold a couple of them to some seasonal workers. One community leader commented on their generosity in giving the sheep away.
Gerhard wants to start a new ministry of giving a sheep to the familes who have a death, Gerhard gets to share the gospel at the funeral and the family is not burdened to feed all the mourners.
Gerhard shared this distressing news with ITMI Director, Steve Evers. Steve mentioned the story to ITMI’s Charl van Wyk who also serves in South Africa. Charl immediately responded with, “Take enough to buy 2 sheep from my family’s support.” Steve did the same from his own support.
Later that week, Steve shared the story again with a Men’s Bible Study group, and mentioned Charl’s response. “How much is one sheep?” “Oh, about $80.” Their response?
“I’ll buy 5.”
"I’ll buy 5."
“I’ll buy 5.”
A few more people joined the cause, and just like that, the lost sheep were restored to more than before the God ordained mishap. Plus, someone decided to pick up the cost of the school fees, so they won’t have to sell any sheep to cover that!
God’s plans are always better than ours.
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.