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The Rest of the Story: Update on the 1993 St. James Massacre in Capetown

​Long-time readers will remember our reporting the vicious massacre at St. James Church in South Africa, just months before the "free and democratic" elections handed that nation over to Marxist terrorists in 1994. St. James, a multi-racial, evangelical church, was deemed a danger to the terror-mongers. During one evening service, five Pan-African Congress butchers, armed with assault rifles and hand grenades attacked during worship, indiscriminately killing men, women and children. Some will also remember the heroism of Charl Van Wycke, Frontline Fellowship staffer who chased off the terrorists with a tiny, five-shot, two-inch revolver. Now as Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story.

  • Brian M. Abshire,
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Long-time readers will remember our reporting the vicious massacre at St. James Church in South Africa, just months before the "free and democratic" elections handed that nation over to Marxist terrorists in 1994. St. James, a multi-racial, evangelical church, was deemed a danger to the terror-mongers. During one evening service, five Pan-African Congress butchers, armed with assault rifles and hand grenades attacked during worship, indiscriminately killing men, women and children. Some will also remember the heroism of Charl Van Wycke, Frontline Fellowship staffer who chased off the terrorists with a tiny, five-shot, two-inch revolver.

Now as Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story. Because of the very real dangers of ministering in South Africa, Frontline Fellowship workers are required to have firearms on them at all times. This is both legal and normal for modern-day South Africans. Though an officer in the South African territorials (our equivalent of the national guard), Charl is the least interested in guns, shooting or the military of Peter's staff (who are mainly ex-special forces types). Hence, since required to be armed, Charl self-consciously carried the smallest, lightest and most innocuous weapon possible.

The wisdom and foresight of Peter's requiring his people to carry weapons, even in church, was brought home during the massacre. The terrorists, like all cowards, believed they could perpetrate their butchery like wolves among sheep. However, in this case, at least one of the sheep had teeth of his own (albeit, pretty small ones!).

Charl caught up with the terrorists in the parking lot of the church. Firing at incredible revolver range, he actually missed all of them. But in God's providence, one bullet ricocheted off a car bumper, wounding one of the terrorists in the hand. Though he was not seriously wounded, this was enough to send the rest packing.

South African security forces eventually tracked the miscreants down to a "safe" house. In the ensuing gun battle, two of the terrorists were shot dead and two captured. However, identification was difficult, since all the terrorists wore black balaclava masks (much like the FBI and SWAT teams do in our country). However, there was blood on the ground from Charl's shot. And yes, you guessed it, DNA tests proved that one of the men captured was the same man that Charl had hit.

The man was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison. Now Charl is a courageous and dedicated Christian. While Christian duty may require him to shoot in defense of his brothers and sisters, his Christian ministry is missions and evangelism. Once the terrorist was convicted, Charl applied to one of the government's ministers for permission to go and talk with him about Jesus Christ.

The request went all the way up the bureaucratic channels before being finally being approved, the irony of which is that the terrorist commander who gave the order to attack St. James was now a member of Parliament. Now the new government of South Africa is very popular with the liberal press and a big part of their propaganda campaign is the "Truth and Reconciliation" commission. Amnesty for terrorists is now routinely given (though the fate of the "fascist," "racist" former security forces of South Africa, who fought against the terrorists, is still in question). When the South African Broadcasting Network heard that a member of St. James's church wanted to visit the convicted murderer, they rubbed their hands in glee and decided to interview Charl, the terrorist and his former commander.

Now, here is where the story begins to get funny. The situation at St. James had been in the news for years. Whenever news organizations had interviewed survivors, they self-consciously picked out the most mushy-headed members to put in front of the camera. Not to sound disrespectful, but when some members were asked what they thought of the terrorists and answered, "We just wish they'd come hack to church again, but this time, without their guns," I just had to shake my head.

St. James, like most broad evangelical churches, lacks a comprehensive world view. OK, this kind of statement sounds nice and is full of warm, mushy sentiment. But evil is real, and God wants evil stamped out. That's why in the old days, before a person was executed for a crime, he was given a visit from a minister and a last chance to address the crowd to demonstrate repentance and ask forgiveness for his crimes. Murderers can be forgiven, but they still must pay the penalty for their crime.

The point is, the SABC didn't know that Charl was the man who had shot the terrorist and thought him to be just another of the mushy-headed, bleeding-heart, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth liberals with more feeling than brains. When they interviewed him for the national news program, they asked him all sorts of silly questions, to which he gave concise, Biblical answers, testifying to the grace of God in Christ. Then the announcer, lowering his voice, asked Charl, "Now, there was one person who actually shot at these men. What do you think about this?" Now you know what answer he was looking for. He expected Charl to condemn the action and talk about love and forgiveness.

Charl looked the man right in the eye and said, " I would do exactly the same thing again. I was defending my church and my brothers and sisters." (While he didn't say it on the air, Charl also told me he now carries a bigger gun, with a bigger magazine, just in case!) He then launched into the Biblical basis for self-defense. From all reports, the interviewer did a double take that would credit an old Bugs Bunny cartoon! He was floored! So Charl kept right on talking about Christ, God's Law, etc. The SABC was running short of time that week and actually had to broadcast the entire interview, including Charl's outspoken Biblical witness, and the interviewer's shocked response. Charl also invited the former PAC commander to come to church, which before a national television audience, he could not gracefully refuse. (Scratch a terrorist, find a politician. Scratch a politician find a ??) Who says there is no justice this side of the millennium?

When Charl was able to visit the convicted terrorist, he brought him a Bible and some Christian books, most noticeably one about Hell. He uncompromisingly shared the gospel with him, urging him to repent of his sins, acknowledge Christ as his Lord and so escape eternal damnation. The terrorist is a hardened reprobate, and rejected the message, though he did find it amusing that his old commander, a convinced atheist, would be going to church.

The punch line of this story is that the terrorist has now appealed to the "Truth and Reconciliation" commission to have his sentence commuted. What he did, he claims, was a political act and therefore he ought to be released from prison!

Thus, Charl Van Wycke continues his ministry with Salt Shakers, bringing Biblical principles to hear on his crumbling nation while a convicted murder and a wicked government conspire to thwart God's justice. But there is no final escape for sinners. God will bring his righteous judgments against magistrates who flaunt his Law, just as he will the murderers they protect. These are hard times for South Africans of all races. The new government has found that the legions of terrorists they trained continue to rape, rob and murder, albeit now without political justification (though many did find gainful employment in the government itself). South Africa now has the dubious honor of having the highest crime rate in the world. Some cities are virtual war zones after the sun sets, with random acts of violence, carjackings, murders and robberies common. Meanwhile, the new government's bureaucrats wax fat on tax revenues while the poor, misguided folks who elected them continue living in squalor and poverty.

Before the elections, black Africans in South Africa enjoyed the highest standard of living on the continent. Now, the suicidal policies of Marxism and socialism are de-capitalizing the nation and giving the people the same hopelessness and destitution so common in the rest of Africa.

Meanwhile, the folks at Frontline Fellowship and the related ministries of United Christian Action and Salt Shakers, continue to wage spiritual war on the home front, hearing faithful prophetic witness against abortion, pornograpby, and humanism, even while continuing to minister to the suffering church in Angola, Mozambique and Sudan. Are they depressed about the future? Worried about today? Frightened by all the horrors of possible civil war? Not at all. These are postmillennialists we are talking about here. They know who is in control, and though few in number, are absolutely convinced that in time, Christ will be victorious. More than one person has told me of his great confidence in God's promises, even though, right now, things are pretty grim. But at least, as he said with a grin, you know who your enemies are! And there is every evidence that a genuine revival and reformation may be occurring in the churches. Some Christians, it appears, are finally waking up.

But they need help. Peter Hammond says they need more men like Charl Van Wycke. Men who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect God's people while hearing faithful witness of Christ. Men who are not afraid of standing up in troubled times and taking a stand, even if bullets and bombs are going off around them. Men who will take Bibles and medicine into Sudan, teach pastors in Angola and Mozambique, carry signs and petitions in South Africa. Men who can do more than talk about what needs to be done to set things right, but men who will DO what needs to be done.

Maybe someone like you?

Peter Hammond is looking for A Few Good Men. And what amazes me is that he really does think he'll find them here, in America! That's right, he says that Americans have the drive, the motivation, the organizational skills that Africans lack. He needs workers in the fields, writers, administrators, secretaries, nurses, doctors and a lot of grunts to carry Bibles and medical supplies into the war zones. Peter promises rotten pay, dangerous working conditions, had food, lousy accommodations and a task so great that it eclipses the imagination. But those called will be on the Front Line of God's victorious army reconstructing the entire continent of Africa.

For those who believe God may be calling them to work with Peter Hammond in Africa, contact Frontline Fellowship directly and ask for information: P. O. Box 74, Newlands, 7725 Cape, South Africa, Telephone (021) 689-4480; Fax (021) 685-5884;  email: frontfel@iacess29.

  • Brian M. Abshire

Rev. Brian Abshire, Ph.D. is currently a Teaching Elder associated with Hanover Presbytery. Along with his pastoral duties, he is also the director for the International Institute for Christian Culture, has served as an adjunct instructor in Religious Studies at Park University and is a visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at Whitefield College.

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