Approaching twenty-one, I found it would be necessary to undertake secular work while continuing to minister within the Pentecostal movement. So, I went to Pretoria as correspondence clerk in the head office of the South African Railways engineering department.

In 1925 and 26, Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa, was a city of one hundred and twenty thousand people, nearly three-quarters European, a clean and well-landscaped city for the most part, laid out in modern rectangular-blocked design. It was an impressive city for the boy preacher from Ladybrand.

One of my first tasks, naturally, was to search out the work of the Apostolic Faith Mission. It didn't take long. In that city, too, the Pentecostals bore the reputation of false prophets among the main line denominations. The trail led to the Upper Room, a complex of several rooms and a main hall, situated in the heart of the city one floor above a quality chemist's shop, or drugstore. It was just one block from the main post office in one direction and one block the other direction from the great Central Dutch Reformed Church, the leading denominational church in the city. It was a marvelous sight on Sunday to see the crowds pouring out of each of the churches and mingling in the streets at the height of the day--the city's leading political, governmental and cultural figures on the one hand and the poor, outrageous "Apostolics"--that was the name given to the Pentecostals--on the other hand.

With the formal education and experience that I had acquired in those early years, it was not long before I had worked into serious ministry in the Upper Room, where the Lord moved dramatically and in such ways as to train me for the days and years ahead. The pastor, J.M. Francis, like myself, held a secular job and ministered only part-time. He needed help and eventually invited me to be his assistant. We shared the ministry, usually working in shifts, and that was the beginning of my more formal service as a pastor. What better place to start, I thought, than in "the Upper Room"?

 

The most famous member of that little Pentecostal church in the heart of South Africa's capital was the wife of the prime minister, General J.B.M. Hertzog. It was an interesting sight, both for us and for our neighbors at the Central Dutch Reformed Church, when Mrs. Hertzog would arrive in her long, black Cadillac and climb up the flight of stairs to the humble little Pentecostal meeting. To many it was scandalous; to us it was glorious. God is definitely no respecter of persons.

Mrs. Hertzog, who had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State, while her husband was leader of the National party, but before he became the prime minister, came to the meeting regularly except on Communion Sundays at the Reformed Church. Her husband consented to attend church on that day, and she was always by his side. The rest of the time she was with us.

The Dutch Reformed people almost lost the prime minister as a communicant at one point, however. He and his wife were together at the communion service, and an elder approached him. "Mr. Prime Minister," he said, "with all due respect, sir, your wife will not be permitted to take communion with us because she is an Apostolic."

The old man nearly exploded, and was ready to storm out of the church. "This is the last time I will ever come into this place or any like it," he said loudly enough to be heard for several pews around him. But his wife, a truly humble saint, held gently onto his arm, and quieted him. She appealed with all the power within her for him not to turn his back on the church. Despite his anger, he honored her plea the rest of his life.

He also stood by her in another controversy that became even more public. It centered on Mrs. Hertzog's baptism in water by immersion, which came on the heels of her involvement with the Apostolic Faith Mission in Bloemfontein.

First she discussed water baptism with the general and received his permission to take this step, even though it was contrary to the practice of the Dutch Reformed Church. Then came the storm.

In Bloemfontein, the Apostolic Faith Mission was building a new church. The baptistry was completed ahead of the rest of the building, and Mrs. Hertzog asked if she could have a private baptismal service there before the church was dedicated. It was arranged and a few invited people arrived to take part. But they neglected to lock the front door after entering and a curious passerby secretly followed them in. To his amazement, he watched the wife of the nation's prime minister being baptized in that new, little Pentecostal church.

Unhappily, that passerby turned out to be a newspaper editor and a leader in the National party. His newspaper produced a scoop that week and overnight the whole country knew of Mrs. Hertzog's immersion. Letters of condemnation and judgment flooded the prime minister's office from all quarters, and she was embarrassed for her husband's sake.

She went directly to him. "Look at this," she said, holding up several of the papers. He obviously was fully abreast of the stories. "I'm sorry," she continued. "I never meant to cause you such embarrassment. We thought we were arranging for a very private baptismal service, but one of your men got into it and this is the consequence."

The prime minister immediately dictated a letter to all his political colleagues and to the major newspapers. He offered no apology, no regret. The letter, as printed in the papers, expressed his gratitude for his "wonderful wife," described her commitment to the Lord, and stated flatly that her practice of worship was a personal matter that was not to be interfered with.

Within two days, the controversy was ended. And Mrs. Hertzog continued her life as an Apostolic--water-baptized as well as Spirit-baptized.

I learned another lesson from Mrs. Hertzog that has stuck with me all my life. I was ministering one Sunday and offered to pray individually for any people who wanted to come to the front of the church. A large crowd came forward, among them Mrs. Hertzog. I laid hands on several people and prayed for them, but I passed her by. It seemed presumptuous for me to lay hands on her.

As the prayers were ending, she caught my eye, obviously wanting to talk to me. As I approached, she said, "Why didn't you pray for me?" Tears filled her eyes.

"Out of respect for you," I answered. "You are the prime minister's wife. I didn't feel I could just lay hands on you."

She was stern and sad at the same time. It was the strongest she had ever spoken to me. "When I'm in the meeting, I don't represent the prime minister. Please remember that it isn't the prime minister's wife sitting in that pew. It's me. Don't ever in this church treat me with any kind of special respect. Outside, in the public, I'm the prime minister's wife. Here I am a child of God, just like anybody else."

That episode began a close and lasting friendship that was to affect my life at other times.

 

 

Right after Christmas, when I had become a regular part of the ministry at the Upper Room, a six-foot-seven fellow named Lorry Smit stopped me after the service. "David," he said, "I've got a niece and she's backslidden. She was so on fire for the Lord, but she's been hurt terribly because of something that happened, and now she's fallen completely away and won't listen to anyone."

At five-foot-eight, I had to step back to look up into Lorry's serious face. "That's too bad," I said.

"I heard you mention one time that you have a lot of sympathy for backsliders, and I thought maybe you could help my niece out. I'll take you out there to my sister's home if you'll go. I think you could help her."

He agreed to drop by for me that afternoon and we rode our bicycles a couple of miles outside of the city to a village called Mountain View, situated at the foot of a mountain. Upon entering the humble cottage, I was introduced all around to several uncles, aunts and other relatives, and then finally to a slender, medium-height, brown-haired young woman.

Lorry was saying, "This is Sister Jacobs, Brother du Plessis." I looked into the woman's eyes. At the same instant, it seemed, they were blue and they were green. It was impossible to say which with certainty.

Her face was virtually expressionless, no trace of a smile. "It is Miss Jacobs, please," she said softly.

"Very happy to meet you, Miss Jacobs," I said, instinctively bending at the waist ever so slightly, checking a temptation to laugh.

We walked to a couch along the far wall and sat down. I began to talk immediately. "Well, now, I think your remark demands an explanation." She lifted an eyebrow. "Uncle Lorry introduced you as `Sister Jacobs' and you right away say `Miss Jacobs.' What in the world has happened to Sister Jacobs? Didn't he have a reason to call you Sister Jacobs?"

"Oh yes," she said quietly, a smile creeping across her very attractive mouth and her eyes brightening for a moment, "I was Sister Jacobs, but now I'm Miss Jacobs."

"What happened to the sister?" I persisted.

She glanced at her hands clasped in her lap and then spoke, "I warned a woman in the church that the Lord wanted to heal her but that she would have to humble herself. The pastor heard about it and said my remark was of the devil. He said I had no right to talk to a great lady like that."

She lifted her eyes to mine before continuing. "I'm sure I got it from the Lord." Several seconds passed. "At any rate, I've stopped going to church. I don't want any more to do with it."

"Tell me," I said, "did you have a real experience of salvation?"

"Oh yes," she said, with wide-eyed emphasis.

"Tell me about it."

She began to unfold the story, and before long she was weeping. There was no question about her sincerity. The other relatives, including her mother, had left us alone as we talked, but, knowing that they all were believers, I felt they should help with the ministry to Miss Jacobs. I asked them to come and pray with us. We all knelt and, with virtually no urging, the young woman reopened her heart to the Lord Jesus and made a full surrender of her life to Him, while she continued to weep profusely.

When we rose, all strain and tension were gone from her face. She smiled easily and said, "Excuse me, I'll need another handkerchief," walking across the room to a table. Wholly unexpectedly and with unmistakable clarity, the Lord spoke to me at that instant, "That's your wife."

I was stunned. "Dear Lord," I thought, "I wasn't looking for a wife."

As she returned across the room, I looked fully at her. I was grinning uncontrollably. "Thank you, Lord. She's beautiful."

And that's how I met Anna Cornelia Jacobs, who had been identified by the Lord as the future Mrs. David John du Plessis.

 

 

Two days later, Anna and I had our first date. She agreed to go with me to the midnight service at the church on New Year's Eve. As I went to pick her up at work that evening, I wasn't absolutely certain I'd recognize her in a crowd. I was afraid that, having seen her only once, I'd miss her.

But I didn't miss her. She was working at the threepenny counter, the cheapest section of a five-and-ten-cent store downtown. The manager told me, as I inquired for her, "I put Anna at the threepenny counter because she's the prettiest and friendliest girl I've got. So when people come in they see this pretty girl, and they're always willing to spend threepenny just to talk to her."

At church, the congregation was singing, "Some through the fire, some through the flood, some through great trial, but all through the blood," when we both were touched by the Lord. Before we knew it, we were dedicating our lives to Him--together.

"This is too simple," I thought. "We only just met. I haven't even proposed to her yet." But there I was, whispering to her beneath the singing, "Let's dedicate our lives to the ministry. Someday you and I will work for the Lord."

Her eyes glistened. "Oh yes," she said, "I'll be a missionary."

The courtship lasted just over eighteen months. On Saturday afternoon, August 13, 1927, Anna and I were married by Brother Botha Opperman in the Upper Room. It was a simple ceremony, a simple exchange of vows. About one hundred people were present.

We intended to have no reception or anything special beyond the ceremony, so we immediately headed for the photographer's studio to have our wedding pictures made. It wasn't like today, when the photographers roam all over the place at weddings, shooting at will. We had to go to the photographer.

On our way back, we asked to be taken home. Brother Opperman had rented us two rooms in his simple residence and that was to be our home for the indefinite future. But the driver pulled up in front of the church again. "We'd rather go home," I said, a little embarrassed and becoming exasperated as well.

He turned around in the seat of his new car and said, "You'll disappoint a lot of people if you go home now," waving his hand toward the church stairs. So, up we went, and the Upper Room was filled with people. It was a wonderful reception. Seats had been moved, tables brought in; there were flowers and decorations. And beautiful Christian music filled the hall.

It was a party to honor the Lord--and us. But it had a time limit. In two hours, we had to clear the hall and restore it to its normal use; that night we began a series of special teaching meetings. The new couple started their honeymoon sitting on a church platform.

It didn't stop there. In one of those inexplicable things that the Lord either arranges or allows to happen, we received an unexpected week off to be together although we were too poor to travel anywhere.

It began just two days before we were to be married. Anna and I, at the same time, felt a certain strangeness, not really pain, not even noticeable swelling, but we felt a certain discomfort in our throats. "Oh no, Lord, no sickness, please!" We went to the doctor. Mumps. Both of us.

What now? "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Prov. 3:5). We knew it by heart.

So the wedding took place as scheduled. The doctor ordered us to take the week off from work. We apparently were healed, with no further symptoms or side effects. And we attended all the special meetings. God gave us a week together and with our family, the brethren--a perfect honeymoon.

 

 

Several months before the wedding, my father and I ran head-on into one of the two or three clashes that ruffled our close relationship in my early years. I wrote to tell him that Anna and I planned to get married and asked if I could bring her home with me. His reply was that, at twenty-one, I was too young. . . "I don't think it would be wise." I fired back my response, typically bristling: "In that case, then, I think I'd better not come home. I'll just follow the way the Lord is guiding me, and I'll get married."

Then silence. For many months.

After the arrival of our first baby, I took Anna to my father's house to stay for a short time while I made preparations for a new job. That visit melted all opposition and replaced it with deep love.

When I returned for her, my father took me aside. "If you make such wise choices in everything in life as you did in the choice of a wife, you will be a great success." Peace and affection were fully restored between us.

With the removal of the cloud, dad then proceeded to question me in great humor. "Did you go around the world to find a wife with exactly the same name as your mother?"

I laughed. "No, I didn't think of that at all. It had to be the Lord."

My mother's name was Anna Cornelia, as was her mother's and her grandmother's. My wife's name was Anna Cornelia.

My father's name was David John du Plessis, as was the eldest son in his family going back to his grandfather.

I was named David John du Plessis.

I smiled as I said it, but there was a certain solemnity in my heart: "Well, dad, there are things that you prayed for that you may not be able to do. Maybe I'll be able to do them. I'll do them in your name."

 

From: A Man Called Mr. Pentecost by David du Plessis, pag. 45-54, 1977, Bridge Publishing,  South Plainfield, NJ

 

 

Index