From Jesus Army’s Radical Christian History series:
A building seating 10,000, crammed to capacity each week. 1,000 seekers daily. Healings. Deliverance. Radiant joy. A story from a revival of old? No. It is happening today in South Africa.
When Afrikaner Erlo Steegen was converted as a teenager he found the cry welling up inside him:
“Lord, I want to preach like You did!” He also felt his heart drawn to his black brothers. After some missionary training he acquired a tent and for twelve years preached the gospel among the spiritually starved Zulus.
Many came to the Lord as a result, yet few continued in the faith. Erlo was indignant that God was not being glorified and so he gave himself to prayer and the study of the Bible as well as reading about past revivals.
As a result God dealt with Erlo, humbling his ambition. Once he was approached by a widow, who begged him to prove the power of Jesus’s name by healing her mentally deranged daughter. With three others he prayed day and night for three weeks, but without success. A broken man, he returned the girl to her mother still unhealed.
Worse still, in a country racked by apartheid and centuries of oppression, the Zulus constantly challenged him: “christianity is a white man’s religion. Show us that Jesus loves Zulus, and show us that whites can love blacks.”
Finally, in 1966, Erlo began meeting with a group of some 20 Zulus to pray to God to invade their lives. They took as their key text John 7:37-38 : “If anyone thirsts, let them come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture says, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” – That was their desire. Not a trickle, but floods.
As they met together twice a day, the Holy Spirit began to show their sins and their prides and their lack of love. Bible studies turned into sessions where they cried out in anguish over the state of their hearts. The group had to learn to be utterly exposed to ridicule, even as christ had been.
At last, at a prayer meeting early in 1967 at their base in the town of Sizabantu, was a sound like the rushing of wind. Everyone felt the mighty presence of God and knelt in awe and worship. It was the turning point. From that day it seemed, God turned ona tap in heaven. People sought them out. Groups of 200 at a time would arrive, longing to find God.
Suddenly the power to heal was let loose among them. One mother had sold her last possession to seek hospital treatment for her paralysed daughter – in vain. Now the girl was brought to a meeting at Sizabantu and instantly healed! At the same meeting a leper, so disfigured that nobody could bear to be near him, was healed and walked home with normal skin. Blind eyes were opened. The lame walked. Some, sensing God’s presence, were healed even before they reached the tent.
Several women were guided by visions and dreams, even receiving names and addresses of people as yet unknown to them. They would tell Erlo and these people were then visited and brought to christ – among them some notorious gangsters from Durban.
In the 25 years since the revival began, the tent at Sizabantu has been replaced with a huge, hangar-like building seating 10,000, but this is now too small!
Workers go out in teams, always guided by the Holy Spirit and with a specific purpose. There are doors open wide to the gospel in schools. Sizabantu has become the venue for church leaders seeking reconciliation and wanting to pray for their strife-torn land. And Erlo Steegen regularly says: “If God can send revival among the Zulus, He can do it anywhere.”
Source: K. Koch, God Among the Zulus (Mission Kwa Sizabantu, RSA 1981); Documents “Experiences” (Centre Missionaire, carhaix, France 1991).