Christ is sweeter than them all

Although I wasn’t born on the mission I consider myself a child of the mission as we have known the mission as long as I can remember and visited regularly for holidays or conferences. My parents were missionary teachers in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) at Morgenster mission station under the Dutch Reformed Church. Shortly after my birth in Zimbabwe, we returned to South Africa permanently. Back in South Africa, we moved from place to place over a number of years. It was during this time that we got acquainted with Mission KwaSizabantu and even stayed for a year at the mission in 1979 when I was three years old.

I attended schools in Louis Trichardt, Empangeni, Pietermaritzburg, Richards bay, and eventually Durban, where I finished my primary schooling. At this time my parents wanted to send me to Domino Servite School at KwaSizabantu to continue my high school there but I did not yet know the Lord Jesus as my Savior and did not want to go. My parents relented and so I attended schools in Durban for grades 8 to 11 (three different high schools in four years!). It was during grade 11 that the Lord started to work in my life. During the Christmas service at KwaSizabantu in 1993, the Word of God pierced my heart and I saw myself, my rebellion and sin in God’s light. I stayed behind after the service and could speak to a counsellor that led me to Christ as my Savior. During the weeks that followed I could make right with my parents and make restitution with many people I wronged as God reminded me. The Word of God became most precious to me and I longed to finish my final school year at Mission KwaSizabantu. I shared this with my parents and counsellor and one weekend when we visited the mission in January I went to speak with the new principal of the school, Miss Newlands. She told me that they would have a board meeting the following day and she would put it on the agenda. Shortly after that I received a phone call that I could indeed finish my schooling at the mission, pending an entrance exam, which went well. Initially it was quite a challenge having to change from Afrikaans instruction to English, but the quality of the school and teachers was so much better than any of the schools I’ve attended before that it did not matter. God’s Word and His promises remained extremely precious to me and I would use every spare moment during breaks or otherwise to study God’s Word. I also memorised large portions of the Bible during that time, and during later years, e.g. Proverbs 8, Ps 91, 118, 139, the book of Philippians, portions of Is 40 – 66 etc.

After school I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of KZN. During my third year I started to experience God calling me into full time missionary work at Mission KwaSizabantu, and the call only became stronger during my final year. Upon completion of my studies I was not disobedient to God’s call but went to the mission and worked at various departments, went on numerous mission outreaches all over the country, even to Mozambique and Botswana.

Today I’m working full-time as a Math, Science and Creation / Evolution lecturer at Cedar international Academy (formerly Cedar College), the teachers training College for training missionary teachers at the mission.

I can only thank God for what He has done in my life till today, how His grace has kept me, how He has taught me to listen to His voice and not seek great things for myself, but seek His will for my life. My mom taught us a song they sung at the mission school in Zimbabwe for the blind, which went something like this,

“I have made my choice forever
‘Twixt this world and God’s dear Son
Naught can change my mind, no never
He my heart has fully won
Take this world and all its pleasure
Take it, take it, one and all
Give me Christ, my precious Saviour
He is sweeter than them all
Sweeter, Sweeter than them all, sweeter sweeter than them all,
Give me Christ my previous Savior, He is sweeter than them all!”

I never learnt all the verses to this song, but could only remember the chorus well. During one True Love Waits outreach I was contemplating on the chorus when I was inspired to write down the following lyrics, which is also my personal testimony of what Christ has done for me!

Kwasizabantu Lives1) I have made my choice forever
‘Twixt this world and God’s dear Son
Naught can change my mind, no never
He my heart has fully won
Take this world and all its pleasure
Take it, take it, one and all
Give me Christ, my precious Saviour
He is sweeter than them all
Chorus: Sweeter, sweeter, than them all (x2)
Give me Christ, my precious Saviour
He is sweeter than them all

2) Since I’ve made my choice forever
Since my heart’s been fully won
I’ve found life, true life as never
Yes, this world can offer none
Oh, the firm, sweet hope, assurance
Found in Christ, and Him alone
Gives me patience and endurance
He is sweeter than them all

3) Now mine heart is yearning, longing
Be with Christ, my all He is
In His presence daily dwelling
Fellowship with Him ’tis bliss
But my work on earth must finish
Ere I hear my homeward call
Do His sweet will lest some perish
He is sweeter than them all

4) Now for Christ’s sake toil and labour
In His footsteps daily tread
Closely follow, turning never
Cleansed and washed from each foul spot
So the crown’ll be won forever
And His voice will ring, “Well done!”
Sweeter words, I’ll hear, no never
He is sweeter than them all!

My heart is filled with gratitude for what God has done and is still doing for me, my wife and my four children. Since the day I responded to God’s call to serve Him full-time at the mission till today I experience His hand leading me and guiding me and for that I am eternally grateful.

At the same time I tremble for those past pupils who went through Domino Servite School, received a quality of education which would be difficult to equal anywhere else in the world, received the precious Word of God daily, and yet are not thankful. And not only are they not thankful but they actively try to destroy the hand that helped them achieve what they are today. It reminds me of Paul’s terrible warning about unthankfulness from Rom 1, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. ”

And then Paul describes how God gives such people over to utter depravity.

Finally, Paul describes their end, “being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

I can only thank God for the privilege of attending Domino Servite School and completing my schooling at the mission. Till today I still consider Domino Servite School as the best school in South Africa, and I share the same sentiment with my wife and the four beautiful children God has given me. I thank God that my children can grow up at the mission and learn to know God from a young age, and have a purpose in life.

As others have written, if I should write all God has done for me it would become a book, but this is only a short summary of thankfulness for God’s goodness, calling me into His ministry to serve Him at Mission KwaSizabantu.

Andries van Tonder

Andries van Tonder