Summary: “A Passion and a Call” shares a moving account of a couple’s willingness to sacrifice and follow God’s leading in making a commitment to “resurrect” a church magazine during their retirement years.
In Romans 12:1, Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
In the challenge to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, more is involved than just the physical body. In the concept of the unity of man, the body would include the mind, the spirit and the soul. It would encompass all that man is in his or her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. In offering to God our bodies, it would include our character, our personality, our talents and our abilities.
This call to dedication came to me when I first entered the ministry in 1949. But in 1991, as I was contemplating retirement after 43 years of ministry, a fresh call to sacrifice came to me. The call came suddenly and in an unexpected way.
In 1989, the South African Signs of the Times ceased to be published. The Signs had its beginnings in the 1890s. At that time, a missionary paper was published in South Africa. In 1923, that paper’s name was changed to the Signs of the Times. Under that name, it had been a beacon of light for some additional sixty-six years.
So, in 1991, the Signs had been silent for almost two years, and a number of voices were calling for its “resurrection.” The conviction came to my heart to try and do something about it. At the time, I was a member of the South African Union Committee and, as such, I tried in different ways to bring the item to discussion. After meeting with several committees, I was given the opportunity to present a proposal to the full Union Committee.
I prepared a dummy of the magazine and presented the whole scheme to the Committee. The members listened attentively and, at the conclusion, voted to grant me permission to restart the Signs of the Times. My proposal was to launch the new venture by printing 50,000 copies of one edition.
When I raised the question of finance, the brethren told me that there was no money for this new endeavor. As a result, I asked the Committee for permission to raise the funds and they graciously gave me the “green light.”
I went home that day with the challenge of trying to raise R50,000 (rand). I tried for several weeks but made no progress. Then one day, the Lord said to me, “Eric, why don’t you give the money?” I answered, “Lord, you know I don’t have that kind of money!”
But the conviction remained, so I spoke with my wife Ruth about it. As we prayed together, we felt impressed to approach the bank for a mortgage on our home. At that time, we still owed R19,000. However, we arranged with the bank to take a bond on our home for R45,000 and the indebtedness on our home rose to R64,000. But now we had the money to print the Signs! Stepping forward in faith, we printed 50,000 copies of that special launch issue in August l991.
By the end of l991, I took official retirement and Ruth and I began our journey in the self-supporting enterprise of publishing the Signs of the Times. There was a lot of work involved in printing that first batch. I had to arrange bank accounts and realized that I would have to work hard to save money. Only my wife stood by my side to help. We also had to market the 50,000 Signs to our churches and post them as well. I had no secretary to assist. We did find a kind woman to do the address labels on her home computer and she has been producing the labels since that time—for the last fourteen years.
Judging from the response, we decided that we would begin by printing a bimonthly issue from Jan/Feb l992. Since then, we have published a journal every two months. We print 15,000 copies each time, and these are produced in English and Afrikaans. In addition, we have printed a special issue for about eight years. Of the special issues, we print from 20,000 to 30,000 copies, and once printed 48,000 copies of one issue.
As we proceeded with the work in 1992, by the end of the year we discovered that we could repay most of the loan we had taken out. God is good and He has rewarded our faith!
He supplied every need
Over the years, we have seen many evidences of the Lord’s special help. I remember an incident several years back. We had to mail all the Signs at the end of the week and I said to my wife, “We only have R1000 in our checking account and we need R6000. I do not know how we will manage.”
The next day a woman called from a thousand miles away and asked, “How are things going?”
“Fine,” I said. She then told me that she wanted to deposit R3000 into our bank account. We were most grateful. The following day another woman phoned and said, “An offering for Signs was taken in our Sabbath School class and we did not have money on hand. We would like to deposit R2500 into your bank account.” I had no problem in paying the R6000 postage at the end of the week. God, indeed, is faithful.
Another incident made a deep impression. The Signs endeavor now has a budget of R500,000 a year. Recently we ran into a deficit of over R50,000. Just around that time an amount of R79,000 came to us from the estate of a dear woman who had been a keen supporter of the Signs. This is the only benefit we have received from an estate and it came right when it was needed!
The passion continues
The Signs continues to be our passion. I thank the Lord for my good health at the age of 78. My wife, Ruth, also enjoys excellent health and turns 80 soon.
Every week we have evidences of God’s blessing. Applications for Bible lessons keep coming in and new applications for the Signs reach our desk regularly. We are thrilled to see the rich rewards of dedicating ourselves to the Lord. He will use us, as we remain open to His calling.