Seven Days Fasting and Prayer
July 19 - 26, 1986
Capetown is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its high mountains, fabulous beaches, huge port, lovely office buildings, plush greenery of trees, flowers, and grass. It also contains some of South Africans neediest areas like the squatter camp at Crossroads.
The Lord burdened me to have the prayer and fast in front of the beautiful historic City Hall in an area called The Parade. Just behind City Hall is a beautiful view of famous Table Mountain. Office buildings are on one side, the bus/train station is in front; the oldest military fort in South Africa is on the other side. This place had once been the beach where the first settlers arrived, the first preachers came, and the first cross arrived. Now the cross had arrived again. We made our home on the steps of a large statue erected by the English years ago, a statue of Edward VII. I did not realize it at the time but at this statue most of the drunks, prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, and homeless travelers congregated. When Joshua and I arrived with the cross, the smell was almost unbearable. It reeked with the smell of urine and vomit and yet just a few feet away, there are famous flower stalls that are open until midnight every night. It was quite a place to make one's home.
In the wintertime, the weather in Capetown is usually cold, rainy and windy, broken with short periods of sunshine. Joshua and I leaned our crosses against the statue and invited the group of Christians that were there to greet us to pray with us. Soon, crowds began to gather. Capetown is well known for its huge number of colored people, resulting from the whites of the past intermarrying with the local blacks. Now, I do not in any way like to keep using racial terms to identify people and I have sought in the book to keep those distinctions to a minimum. However, in South Africa, each person has been identified with a certain racial classification by the government as to whether they were white, colored, Indian or black. Even the housing regulations have been based upon these groupings. This is South Africans largest area of coloreds. A beautiful crowd of people gathered as we were having prayer early this first night. All of a sudden, the lights went off. This entire area of the city was blacked out. The police said that a major switch had blown. I guess the holy surge of fire from heaven was too much. Ha!
In Capetown we also have another big clock that rings from City Hall every quarter hour. It was the same in Johannesburg and Durban. I can't believe it. Every fifteen minutes for twenty-one days and nights I have heard the chimes. It seems as though I could not live without the ringing of the bells.
In Capetown, because of the massive number of homeless people, (as this was shortly after the disastrous rioting and fighting in the black area of Crossroads and KCT where there were thousands of shacks burned down in a power struggle between various black factions and tribal groupings) to allow people to stay and sleep, we would have faced massive difficulties of logistics. So here, unlike Johannesburg and Durban, those who stayed the night all stayed awake praying and ministering as Joshua and I used our newly arrived Landrover camper which was parked only a few feet away as our place to sleep late at night.
My heart is broken weeing so many children who live day and night on the streets. We have been trying to help some. There are places that we can take every one of the street children to live but shockingly the problem is that they could have a place to stay but they run away to live deliberately on these streets. That is the same problem with alcoholics and others that were here at night. We can take them to places where they can be cared for but the problem is in the heart, which is typical of other big cities around the world. But we are seeing some converted and changed and we are placing them in various centers for help.
Once today, two men staggered up, sat down and leaned against the cross. I said, "Do you know what that is?" They looked. It was seven o'clock in the morning. They didn't even know that they had sat down against the cross. I explained the life of Jesus and invited them to Christ. Soon they both walked away. Then, one turned, rushed back to me and said, "I am sick of my life and I can't go on." He was converted. This morning one man took five new converts to his church.
I moved Loretaq, my parrot, to my Landover and now she is much happier to be near me. The sun is shining and I sit here for a quiet moment. The heat feels so good. The warmth of the sun speaks to the seeds and life springs forth. Sprints grow and burst through the soil. Soon green, then flowers, fruit as the cycle has been for ages. "Oh Lord, may Thy Son Jesus shine over South Africa warming the hearts, bringing forth the seeds of love bearing the fruit of peace, justice and blessings. Oh, I do love the warmth of the sun, the chilling coolness of the night, the smells and sounds of life. This is truly it. The cross in the crossroads of life. Life at its worst and its best. Lord help me to make it through, this has been a real mission."
As I was sitting here writing these words in my diary, a South African television station came to film us again. They began to film me as I sat writing and then I saw an old man with only one eye who could barely walk with a slow shuffle. I could not stand to see him pass by. I got up, introduced myself to him and I read to him John 15:15 where Jesus said that He would be our Friend. I spoke to the man for a good while and then we prayed together. I saw a lovely girl who had been coming to pray and witness. She took the old man by his arm and helped him to sit down. She sat down with a friend of hers on the pavement in front of him and there this beautiful girl with blond hair, about twenty years old, sat talking to an old man who had no friends, who walked with a shuffle, who smelled like urine, and had one eye. This was a most beautiful sight. This is what life is about.
Later this afternoon, about 3:30, we were having prayer with a large group that had gathered. A lovely lady called for me to come to her as she stood at the edge of the crowd. When I got near her, she pulled me toward a man and a woman who were standing a short ways away. "Help me," she whispered. When I arrived at the couple, I noticed that the lady was wrestling to hold the man's hands down. She said, "Get the knife, get the knife," and then I saw this open knife with its flashing steel blade. I put my hand on the man's shoulder, slowly pushed the lady away and looked into the man's eyes." I said, "In the name of Jesus, hand me the knife." The man was weeping and trembling in rage. "I want revenge. I want to kill someone. My daughter was killed last Friday. I came here to kill someone but I saw the cross and I remember your son, a little boy, carrying his cross."
He looked and saw Joshua. "There! That's the one, that's the boy. Oh God, forgive me, I need Jesus " He was shaking in hate. I put my hand on his hand and lifted the knife as his grip loosened. "Here, come with me to the cross." The crowd of people moved back as they saw this knife wielding man of revenge. Joshua and I prayed with him and he gave his life to Christ. He said, I don't hate any more. I love everyone. If it hadn't been for the cross, I would have killed someone." The SABC television cameras had filmed this event. Some good Christian friends sat down with the man to do counseling and to help follow up.
One of the tragedies of human existence is the vicious desire for revenge and the inability of so many people to forgive. I have seen this over and over again. The evil act of one person justifies the evil act of another until that which is evil becomes normal and good and justifiable. As long as Northern Ireland lives in the memory of past injustices, there will be no peace today. As long as Lebanon seeks revenge for each cycle of killing, it is unending. If there are any two peoples that have suffered injustice throughout the years, it is the Jews and the Palestinians and yet because of unforgiveness and the spirit of revenge and payback, the bloody cycle continues. And so here, whether it be black tribal conflict or military conflict or discrimination and prejudice, until there is a time when one forgives no matter how great the atrocity there can be no peace. The Christian cannot live with the injustices and the dishonor that was brought upon Christ 2,000 years ago by those responsible, nor can the Jews live without forgiveness concerning the atrocities of World War II, nor can the Indians of America live today upon the past injustices, nor can Americans live out today the atrocities and bitterness of our bloody civil war or the days of inhuman slavery in the South. This man's freedom from hatred and revenge at the cross offers hope for a troubled world today because at the cross we find reconciliation for this is the universes greatest revelation. God offers peace and reconciliation, and the hope to the human race of coming into His family instead of pouring out revenge and destruction.
The television crew wanted me to go with the cross up to the top of Table Mountain, which overlooks all of Capetown. The mountain is 3,550 feet high and we had to ride to the top in a cable car. It was a beautiful view as the sun went down to a silvery sunset and we looked out over the city and prayed. How beautiful yet how great the need. These two thoughts filled my mind as we prayed through the night