"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

When God Rends The Heavens And Comes Down!

    When God rends the heavens and comes down – this is revival! With the sound of rushing wind God did rend the heavens and come down to a missionary and a small group of Zulu Christians gathered in an old, white-washed stable in Natal, South Africa. It was in early 1967 that this little number of penitent seekers were hushed into silence by a wonderful manifestation of God’s presence in their midst. The work of salvation, deliverance and healing God set in motion at that time has continued during these 25 intervening years and even today, is increasing.

    On the grounds where the work is now centered, Kwa Sizabantu, there is a building which seats 10,000. One hundred and twenty Spirit-filled workers minister daily to around 1000 seekers. The workers also travel in teams to other locations for ministry, within and outside South Africa. Tens of thousands have heard the pure Gospel proclaimed and have received Christ as Saviour. Although special healing and deliverance meetings are not held, God has graciously healed and delivered many hundreds, setting free witches and witch doctors, Satanists and others helplessly bound by sin and evil habits, and healing some literally on their deathbeds. Transformed lives which have stood true through the years attest to this being a genuine and wonderfully blessed work of God.

    South Africa today is going through troubled times. Since the official dismantling of apartheid, various black groups are vying for leadership. As a result there are intimidations, riotings and killings. Twenty-two thousand lost their lives during the past year. Christians, who do not want to join in the violence are sometimes threatened and opposed.

    This revival center is not so "heavenly-minded" as to be of no earthly help in the present crisis in the country. It is providing instruction and encouragement for the Christians, helping them to "stay upon their God" and His Word. In 1991 a conference involving leaders of 71 churches and Christian organizations came together at Kwa Sizabantu, to pray and agree on the Biblical stand they should take on the matters threatening and spoiling their country. The group issued a bold statement strongly affirming their stand upon the Word of God as the basis for the Gospel they will proclaim, and rejecting such non-Biblical teachings as humanism, socialism and communism.

    Young people facing violence in schools, sought help at Kwa Sizabantu. The result has been the forming of an organization, Christians for Truth, now numbering 23,000 adherents who take a Biblical stand, strengthening one another, and gaining respect throughout the nation.

The Beginnings

    What brought God down to work in this blessed way? The one through whom God began to work is Erlo Stegen. Erlo was saved as a teenager through the ministry of his German Lutheran pastor in South Africa where the Stegen family lived. At once, after his conversion, the Word of God became very sweet to him. Nothing in the world compared to it, and the love of Christ surpassed anything else on earth to him.

    When the calling came from God to preach the Gospel, he wanted to preach the truths as Jesus had done.  He carefully studied in the Gospels how Jesus taught.  His prayer was, “Grant that I may preach as You did!”

    After training, Erlo acquired a tent and for twelve years, he preached the Gospel to the Zulu people. The crowds which attended his meetings and the number of those who responded, were greater than other evangelists were experiencing at that time. But increasingly Erlo felt disappointment and even dismay. Time and again he was "shaken to the core" as he returned to areas where he had previously held meetings, and found that most who had been counseled were living lives that were hardly any better than before their conversion. These would be gathered and ministered to and encouraged in the right way. But a later visit would reveal a return to the same condition and the ministry had to be repeated.

    Erlo believed and preached the Bible but what he saw happening in his ministry was not what he believed the Bible proclaimed. It was not what was supposed to follow the preaching of the Gospel. It was not what happened in the early church. Battling discouragement, he prayed and worked harder. Next to the Bible he studied revival.

    Once he was approached by a widow who had a mentally deranged daughter who was a terror far and wide. Someone had directed the mother to Erlo after hearing him preach. "Is it true?" the mother asked. "Is Jesus Christ alive? Can you speak to Him? Please ask Him to heal my daughter," she begged in desperation. She had sold practically all her possessions to pay witch doctors to help but to no avail, she told him.

    Erlo accepted the challenge. He brought the girl to a place of prayer, and he and three colleagues prayed literally night and day for three weeks, until he almost broke down. Still the girl was as violently destructive and as deranged as ever. He had to take her home in defeat.

    Perhaps he needed to study and preach more on faith, he concluded. Once after preaching on "Only believe" (Mark 5:36), he was approached for prayer by a lady with a blind husband. "Come tomorrow and we will pray for him," responded Erlo. Again, after earnest prayer, Erlo had to concede defeat. He might have said, "Perhaps it isn't God's will" or "Perhaps it isn't God's time," but his heart was not satisfied with that. He almost succumbed to doubts and questioned whether today's church could even expect what the early church experienced. His prayers for revival faded.

    But still he had to face those Zulus who said, "Christianity is the white man's religion." "Oh, God," he prayed, "help me convince these people that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind, of the Zulus also."

    And then he began to pray for revival again. In 1966 he gathered with a small congregation of 20 to 30 Zulus, and they began a Bible study to see how their lives compared with the Bible. They read in John 7:37-38 the words of Jesus: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me as the Scripture hath said, out of his inmost being shall flow rivers of living water." Rivers of living water! This is what they wanted. They felt dry and fruitless. Living water! Rivers! Not a stream and not only one river.

    Jesus had said, "He that believeth on Me as the Scripture hath said…" What did the Scripture say that should believe? They agreed to study the Bible to find out whether they believed according to the Scripture. They would accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God. They would not try to explain away what it said or to justify themselves. They would take the Word even above what they had been taught in the past. They would let the Word speak to them and judge them.

    They came together at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily for prayer and Bible study. They chose the Book of Acts to study. God began to search their hearts by His Word and by His Spirit. Sin was revealed, sins like pride and being more concerned about people's opinion of oneself than God's opinion. As the weeks went on, their times of prayer and study turned into times of crying out to God for mercy upon them because of their sins.

    Once when Erlo was concerned that their crying to God might be overheard by some prominent people of the community who played tennis nearby, he thought to close the windows.  God said, "All right, if you close the windows, I'll stay outside. You care too much about what others think."

    Erlo came to see that the reason for the failure of lasting results from his preaching among the Zulus was not so much due to their weakness or other reasons he was accustomed to giving – but he saw the problem as within himself.

    Of one purpose in heart and mind, the little group humbled themselves before God, each one absorbed in getting his or her life right with God. There had to be full obedience, everything laid on the altar, a taking of God's will in place of their own, a confessing and forsaking of all sin. So in earnest did the group become about seeking God and humbling themselves before Him and getting their lives pure in His sight, that they did not take time off even for the customary Christmas celebration.

God Comes!

    And then one day while they were seeking God, there came a sound like wind, and a great consciousness of sin. But there was also an awareness that God had come into their midst. They were quieted before His almighty and holy presence. It proved to be the dawning of a new day in their lives and ministry.

    The Holy Spirit began bringing to them people who needed ministry. Day and night people began to come. It became a constant flow – nominal Christians and heathen. Sometimes groups of 200 and 300 came, wanting to be helped. There was hardly time to eat and sleep. No one told the people to come. They were drawn by the Holy Spirit. Something within urged them to come, they said.

    One of the first to come was a witch. Erlo was astounded when she appeared. "Who told you about us? Who told you to come?" he asked. "No one," she said, "I felt compelled to come."

    Erlo had previously traveled thousands of miles to reach witches and to try to win them for Christ. Through the years he had been able to bring only two witches to Christ, and one of those had backslid. Now here was one seeking help from him, and she soon found salvation and deliverance from the powers of darkness whose servant she had been.

    Some who came with physical needs were healed even before specific prayer was made for their affliction. It came after their sins were confessed and their hearts were right and surrendered to God.

    Authority in prayer was given to the little group. Two schoolboys who prayed together daily kept a list of those whom they asked God to bring to the service and to save. At the services they would check off the names as the different ones came in and were saved. Almost without exception, the names were all checked off. Two ladies likewise had their prayers so fully answered that Erlo would sometimes ask before the service whom they had prayed for, so he would know who to expect to come and be saved.

Mission Station Established

    After four years the Lord gave a property for Kwa Sizabantu mission, and the work has continued there, the buildings gradually increasing in size as the ministry has grown. There is a hospital on the grounds, not having a medical staff, but having praying counselors. It is completely a work of faith, with no charges made, but God providing needs, often in a remarkable way, as prayer is made and faith is exercised. Many tests of faith must be met.

    Miracles of many sorts have taken place on the grounds and in the ministry in outlying areas. But always the emphasis is on having the person confess and forsake sin and get right with God. Probably every miracle that occurred in the book of Acts has been seen in this revival among the Zulus. There have been outstanding instances of divine guidance. The story is most remarkable. To God be the glory!

    Some of the Herald of His Coming staff who heard Erlo Stegen speak recently here in our area can verify that there is no sensationalism, but a sober earnestness in his manner. This is said to be the same manner in which the revival runs. He emphasizes the necessity to "Watch and pray" as Jesus tells us to do. When God works, the devil also works. There must be constant watchfulness against error and anything the devil would interject, or anything that might be of the flesh rather than of the Holy Spirit.

    The Word of God is simply and clearly proclaimed. It is carefully adhered to and is faithfully lived out in daily life. Love, joy and unity are in evidence among the ones of different races and denominational backgrounds gathered at Kwa Sizabantu.

    The workers minister in teams. Their gifts complement one another. Happenings, and visions and dreams, are constantly checked against Scripture. As all keep humble before the Lord and practice utmost obedience to the leading of God, the blessed work goes on.

    Erlo Stegen says, if God can send revival among the Zulus, He can do it anywhere in the world. God is willing! Where are the people of faith, people willing to seek until God does rend the heavens and come down? It is reported that only about 30%, one in three, who start to seek for revival actually experience it. There is a price to pay. God help more of us to meet His conditions and prepare the way for His wonderful works to mankind, works that will tell for eternity!

    When revival comes, many, many find new life in Christ and they endure to the end. Without revival, many, many needlessly go to perdition. Is it worth the price? In the light of eternity, there is only one answer. Yes, yes, it is worth any price to "win for Christ the rewards of His suffering."