Letter 4 - History of South Africa - Rooigrond, Mafeking - November 6, 1977

Dear Ivy,

Joey Meiring (a sister worker) wrote to us and said that you would very much like to know more about Fanie Koekemoer's life. Well, I will tell you the first part - from when he and his wife made their start in Lichtenburg, after that Dirkie (my husband) will tell of the time when Fanie became a leper. It is truly a remarkable life story, which must surely be recorded in Heaven!

When I was a young girl - approximately 15 years of age, we lived at Rooigrond (in the Transvaal) about 25 miles from the diamond diggings. My parents and I were professing at that time. My father was then, for a time, on the diggings. After the sorting of the diamonds, the gravel was thrown aside and then people came and bought the gravel at £1 a bag as they could still find small "sand diamonds" in the gravel. The two Koekemoer women came and bought gravel also, their names were Maggie (Fanie's wife) and Ralie. Because they had such beautiful long hair, my father (Piet Viljoen) said to them, "It is strange to see women with such long hair, as I thought that it is only Christians who have long hair." They were very upset and said, "Yes, but we are Christians." Then my father told them about the "Way." They were very interested and the one woman, Ralie Koekemoer, received such a clear vision of the Truth that she expressed her desire to also serve the Lord (but not her husband, as yet).

The next year, 1928, Willie Brown and Arie Blomerus arrived and stayed with Joe and Suzy de Kock on the diggings, where they had gospel meetings. At these meetings Fanie, Maggie his wife, and his brother Jacobus (Koos, Ralie!s husband) made a start to serve God.

I can't remember how long after this it was when they moved from the diggings. Koos and Ralie went to the Rand, and Fanie and Maggie moved to a farm, "Vetpan," between Koster and Ventersdorp, where he worked as a farm foreman.

We heard that the Koekemoer brothers worked in the small hole, at the diggings, where they used a pick, etc. While they were hot and wet with perspiration, they were drenched by a downpour of rain. As a result of this, Fanie contracted leprosy.

I remember visiting them at Vetpan and that Fanie was always sick and usually sat in the house. He appeared so tired and despondent.

Dirkie:

It was at the end of 1931 when I left school, as a young man of 18 years that I met the Koekemoer family. My, parents, who lived in the area, at that time, had already met them and told me about conversations with Uncle Fanie (as we children addressed him). My older brother often told me that if there was ever a true Christian on the earth, then it was Uncle Fanie. At that time he was always sick, but very seldom stayed in bed. That year, the family still went to convention and we looked forward to their return so we could hear more from them about The Way. (It was his last convention.)

In the beginning of 1932, Ben Buys (who laboured in India) and Arie Blomerus came to that area and held gospel meetings. I am glad to tell of the wonderful privileges we enjoyed with the Koekemoer family in their home. Later, gospel meetings were also held in our home and in the house of Lucas and Sannie van Vuuren. In that mission, my father, mother (both since passed away), Lucas and Sannie van Vuuren, and myself made a start. It was in April 1932.

In July of that year, the doctors confirmed that Fanie had leprosy. Arrangements were made to send him to Westfort, near Pretoria, and his family was notified accordingly. It was a great shock for all of us, but much worse for uncle Fanie. Especially as he knew that he would be separated, as long as he lives, from his family. It was sorrowful times for us. That August he was sent by train, in a specially prepared coach, from Ventersdorp. Everybody was at the station, but even then, no one was allowed to even shake his hand.

In the last Sunday morning meeting before he left, he gave out the hymn No. 82 in Afrikaans (If In deep distress, 0 Lord, we come; our helplessness appeals to Thee"). It was a hymn that we could hardly sing and there wasn't a dry eye in the meeting. He left his wife with 5 young children between two and ten years of age.

We often visited him on a Sunday at Westfort, where we were allowed to have a little meeting with him in a shed. No direct physical contact was allowed with him. He was always encouraged and told us about the people whom he had been able to speak to. Several made a beginning at Westfort, through whom others made their choice who, under other circumstances, may never have come in contact with the Truth.

We think of a few: like Cornelius Appelgryn and his family, uncle Jan Badenhorst (who died in 1977), his late wife and their children, Grieta du Toit, from Rustenburg, also Cornelius' children.

I also still remember a young man Kosie Styman at Westfort and several black people.

Uncle Alec Pearce was a regular visitor to Westfort and once said Fanie's name could have been put on the workers list, for Westort. I believe Fanie died in 1946 and was buried by uncle Alec - at the end of that year, uncle Alec also passed away.

What was so wonderful about Fanie was that he never spoke of his illness. His portion and pleasure was to tell others of the Way and how good it was to think of his spiritual decendance of whom I and my family could also be counted. We are glad that God has done great things for us, through him.

Jeanette Naude, from Trichardt, can also tell you much about him. She gave school tuition to the Koekemoer children in their own home.

These things about uncle Fanie are but a few that I remember. It is many years ago, but I remember them very well. I hope this can be of some help to you.

I close with good wishes and love to you,

Your brother and sister,

Dirkie and Polly Grobbelaar

* Translated from Afrikaans