Last week South Africa celebrated Heritage Day. We are so blessed to live in a country steeped in rich cultural diversity. It’s shaped us into a bold and vibrant nation. If we forget the bad for a moment and focus on all the beauty that unites us, then there is so much to be grateful for. The land of South Africa is not just rich in beauty, with it’s rolling hills, sandy beaches and abundant wildlife but is also rich in cultural diversity. Our foods are vast in variety, our languages complex and musical, our passion deep and energizing. There is nothing more beautiful than South Africans enjoying the Spirit of Ubuntu.
I am a Christian, Indian South African. That order is exactly how I’d like my identity to be remembered. Before all else I am a Christian and today I would like to celebrate that portion of my heritage. Every year around this time we dress up culturally, sometimes I choose the African dress, sometimes the Indian. All to celebrate this portion of our heritage but this year I thought about it a bit. I am more grateful than anything else that I have inherited Jesus from the generations gone before me. So, I took a little time to ask my family some important questions about how our family found Jesus.
Three generations ago, in the days of my great grandparents a young Englishman and his brother were called to serve Jesus, their names were J F and Alex Rowlands. These brothers ventured to the small town of Pietermartizburg with their parents, who were missionaries at the time. During this time, they felt the call of God on their lives to serve God. Pastor J F Rowlands had a strong desire to make an impact in the Indian community and he availed himself to Gods work. What followed was years of preaching, thousands of salvations and generations impacted, of which I am proud to say I am a part of.
One day Pastor J F Rowlands lead a crusade in the area of Dawncliffe, Westville in an Indian Community. Many people attended that tent crusade and amongst the multitude were my great grandparents Kuppan and Mary Jacob. As he ministered their hearts were changed as they were introduced to a loving Savior who offered them eternal life. They accepted the call for salvation and that night changed the course of their lives and generations to come. My great grandmother was a faithful member of the church. She held a position of deaconess and helped Pastor J F Rowlands baptize many women. She prayed over all her grandchildren intently and sowed seeds that we in the future generations reap today.
My dad, Pastor Vernon Jacob, always attributes much of his ministerial success to the long prayers his granny would pray over them as young children. Today I too find deep appreciation in my heart for this woman who boldly served Jesus without restraint. Another story my dad related to me over this weekend when discussing this impactful heritage was an interaction, he shared with Pastor J F Rowlands. He was only a young boy at the time, possibly around 7 or 8, and Pastor Rowlands had arrived to preach the word. All the young boys rushed to help him carry his bag but on that day Pastor Rowlands stopped them and said these words, “Woaaah, everyone wait. Today YOU will carry my bag” as he pointed at a young Vernon. He followed that with “and one day, YOU will be a Pastor.” To a very naughty child at that time I am unsure my dad ever considered that would be a reality. Today he leads a church that has seen hundred, if not thousands, of lives impacted by the Gospel of Jesus which is shared from our church every week.
Today I honour these two men, along with my great granny and dad. Thanks to the seeds they have planted, my heritage is richer. Both Rowlands brothers never had children and dedicated their lives to the Lord. Whilst they may not have a biological genealogy, they have impacted generations far beyond their reach and have in turn inherited hundreds of spiritual sons, daughter, grandchildren and beyond. There are very few churches that now exist in Durban and Pietermaritzburg that have not been in some way impacted by the lives of the Rowlands brothers. When I think about my heritage, I am above all else thankful that my family found Jesus all those years ago.