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Topic: Blessed (11/29/04)
TITLE: Blessed beyond measure
By Henry Swart
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Then who did it, you may ask. Who is responsible? The answer, my answer at least: It was God. He’s the guilty party; He’s the One that did it to me.
It all started on a warm summer’s day, back in late November of 1914. I was living is sunny South Africa back then. The gold mine I worked in was close to Western Area, in what was then called the Old Transvaal. I was only a Shift Boss then, and had about two dozen black men working under me. We didn’t call them blacks in those days, though, we still called them kaffirs. Nowadays things are different, but back then it was still like that: We would crack the whip and they would say, ‘Yes, Boss. No, Boss. Three bags full, Boss.’ Some call them the ‘good ol’ days,’ but I disagree.
Back then I didn’t disagree, though. I liked being the boss, I liked giving orders, and to be completely honest, I liked beating up a kaffir who stepped out of line. When I was having a bad day, trouble with the wife or the like – I would often look for trouble just so I could beat one of them up and get rid of my frustrations. You might think I’m a monster, but back then it was common practice.
One man on my team, Solly Tsimba, had it particularly bad. He wasn’t a native South African, but from Zimbabwe, which meant he got flack from both whites and blacks. He was a devout Christian, though, and seemed to take everything in his stride. I noticed over the years that he went through the same trials as the rest of us, but responded to them differently. When I had marital problems I turned to alcohol; when his wife cheated on him he forgave her and took her back – something I probably wouldn’t have done. When people gave me trouble, I hated and resented them; when people troubled him, he just loved and forgave them. I thought of Solly as a weakling until that fateful day that changed my life.
It started like any other day: We clocked in at 06:00 and descended, down number one shaft, into the depths of the earth. At about 06:45 there was an explosion. When the dust settled and the screaming stopped, I realized that six of my workers and I had been trapped in a confined space. Everyone panicked – everyone except Solly. He calmed everyone down and started tending the wounded.
By lunchtime we had been banging on the walls for more than five hour, with no reply. The air reeked of sweat – more from fear then from heat, I think. Solly had been praying softly next to me and finally spoke up: ‘Boss, if we die today, will you go to heaven?’
On any other day I would have ignored the question, but not that day. I knew that the roof could cave in at any moment, our supply of oxygen could run out – there were more than a dozen things that could go wrong.
‘I don’t know,’ I had to confess after some deep thought. ‘I think I’ll go to heaven.’
‘If Jesus asked you why He should allow you to enter heaven, what would you say, Boss?’
‘I don’t know, Solly. I guess I’d say I attended church. Occasionally, at least.’
‘Attending a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than visiting a bakery makes you a piece of bread. Jesus will only allow you in if you know Him and serve Him. If you want, I could introduce you to Him, Boss’
I wanted that very much. I realized then that all my resentment, all my hatred, did not benefit me one bit – it was a curse that kept me away from God.
Solly introduced me to Jesus and the rescue team found me with tears streaming down my dust-covered face. I remember stepping out of the shaft, seeing the summer sun, and thinking, ‘This is the first day of the rest of my life.’
Today my 83 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all serve the Lord. I’m ninty years old, Solly’s still my best friend, and I’m blessed beyond measure. And as I said: it’s not my fault, God did it – He’s to blame.