Caesar came reluctanly to Youth Alive in Soweto back in the sixtiesat the insistence of his friend Diamond. He deeply resented whites (and we white missionaries were there) – because of apartheid and what it did to him and all Africans, but even more personally, because he’d lost his leg. A white truck driver hit him while twelve year old Caesar was riding his bike on a country road. It’s not clear whether the driver drove on or whether he took Caesar to a hospital. But hospitals were few and far between in the rural areas, and they were unable to save his leg.
Caesar continued to come to Youth Alive, foaming anger and resentment, but as he heard the Word of God he accepted Christ. One time my husband Al found him sitting outside his house trying to find a way to improve the way his crude prosthesis fit. Al helped him fit it more comfortably and that was the beginning of a long friendship.
Caesar was still argumentative and defensive, and he and Al spent many hours discussing the racial issues. Caesar became a strong leader in the high school club, an evangelist in the local high schools, and in 1970 was chosen as one of four young men to travel with a quartette to the United States. While there he was offered opportunities for education, and returned to South Africa in 1976 with an MA from Wheaton Graduate School – right into the heat of the riots and “troubles” which eventually led to the change of government and the end of Apartheid.
For eighteen years Caesar led Youth Alive as well as establishing a church in one of the Soweto suburbs. We would hear from him from time to time, but over the years we began to lose touch. However, as Al was lying on his deathbed here in Colorado in 2008, Caesar called. Al died knowing that Caesar was still actively serving the Lord.
So one of my desires going to Africa was to see Caesar again. We had to juggle dates because he was leaving for a speaking tour in Germany in October, right at the time my travelling companion had arranged to leave for Africa. She re-arranged her schedule and I was able to spend two and a half days with Caesar and Chumi on their “farmette” outside Johannesburg. His R &R is to feed the gold fish in the pond, convinced that they come when they hear his voiceJ
Here are the surprising things I learned Caesar had been doing since he turned the leadership of Youth Alive over to another leader he’d trained. (And Youth Alive is doing well – just check out their web site!)
For ten years he was chairman of the board of the World YMCA—many of them strongly evangelical in other countries around the world.
He helped his sons plant several churches in the Soweto/Johannesburg area. I visited two on the Sunday I was there – one of them met IN a Dutch Reformed Church. Under apartheid blacks couldn’t even visit a DRC church(which was the church of the Afrikaners).I was amused to see them load the huge speakers and drums into a van after church – a scene we see often in our transient churches here in America
He has been involved in starting-up fourteen businesses to provide jobs for Africans, especially among his own Bakubung tribal people. He inherited land in the tribal area from his grandfather, but under apartheid no African could own land. Now he and his brother are developing about ten thousand acres which have been turned over to them.
These businesses involve such things as grain projects and raising vegetables to sell to a cooperative. He is currently working with Woolworth’s (a high end department store chain) which also sells groceries. He is hoping to develop a dairy to provide them with two million litres of milk per month.
Meanwhile Chumi, a leader in her own rights, is active in local women’s projects, helping them to become self sufficient and volunteering in community needs. She provides for three adult sons still living at home and a husband who seems to be on-call everywhere (he manipulates two cell phones).
I felt honored to stay in their home and to sit out on the verandah having breakfast. One of the purposes of my journey to Africa had been fulfilled.