In celebration of the life of Edward Thomas, by Ros Thomas
You can’t really export something that you don’t honestly believe in. It has nothing to do with your circumstances or your feelings but your unflinching trust in an unchanging God. It is better not to say anything than to be a fake. On the other hand, when God is doing a deep work in your life, you can’t help yourself; He simply pours out of you.
That’s how Ed and I were from the start. Benzene and matches wherever we went. Each being inspired further by the other. I was the networker and Ed added the depth. Although we both worked full time jobs in the beginning, evangelism was the undercurrent of our every move. It was deeply satisfying. We learnt to live simply so that other’s could simply live. Our own children, started arriving early in our marriage and they were part of our happy band. I became a full time mother when they were born and got involved in all sorts of things with them and at the same time reaching out to all kinds of lost people. Many came to live with us!
Weekends in our early marriage looked like this: We had a house church; Saturday evenings we had a youth group which included supper; Sunday mornings, at the crack of dawn, Ed preparing spiritually, me cleaning up, preparing lunch and then both of us leaving for Cliffview Primary school at around 8am where Ed and I were Sunday school teachers. The highlight of that time was seeing the whole Sieberhagen family receiving Christ as their Saviour one by one- last of all was Bill their father who was a successful bank manager. The whole family years later became missionaries (mainly in Muslim countries). Our son Michael’s second name is Dean after the eldest Sieberhagen son.
We would rush home to prepare for the morning service and the Sunday school teachers who were teaching in Riverlea township in the afternoon would have a quick cup of tea. Then the morning service and then Riverlea in the afternoon, and sometimes an evening meeting.
Then it was students from all over Africa who lived with us to learn English. That went on for 7 years cooking for them 7 days a week. Many came to RUC and many had their lives totally transformed by God.
All the while, over the weekends, Ed was in the prisons mentoring people and teaching them. How they loved him! Later at Gold Fields he and his dear friend Gerald Gossman had Monday lunch time Bible studies for about 12 years for the people working there. A rewarding time for them both.
Then I became a part of a youth church just being around young people and loving them. Our first week brought in a 20 year old lad found on the corner area of C.R. Swart and Beyers Naude on every drug under the sun. He received Christ that night and moved in and He has been clean of drugs for 13 years now and has a wife, 3 children and a successful Nursery School where he teaches, mentoring young children, many of whom don’t have daddies of their own. He spoke at Eds memorial.
About the same time, Celeste our third child arrived home from Wits University with Musa Manzi. Broken and homeless after his mother and sister died leaving two daughters. He was kicked out of Wits that November because he had to return to KwaZulu Natal twice to do their funerals. Celeste found him crying. She brought him home, the two nieces followed- 6 and 8 they were at the time. We named them Joy and Hope. And they all lived with us for years. Back to Wits he went and years later he was the first black PHD in Geo Physics, winning top place in the world for his thesis. Ground breaking work! He has become a great influencer in multitudes of people’s lives all over the world. He sang a beautiful solo at Eds memorial service.
Then there was Alick Banda an unknown Black pastor from Malawi who arrived at this youth church with Curtis Love. God had called Alick to study at Bible college in Jhb. No money, no books , no nothing. But God had called him. We developed an instant love and respect for each other. I took him home to Ed and Ed did the mentoring for years. The three of us became members at RUC on the same day Leigh and Irene arrived to pastor at RUC in 2005, and they have mentored us ! The rest is history.
During this time, Ed had this old Citi Golf and he could fit in about 12 children, mainly, for church. He had to get extra suspension! After church every Sunday for years, he would take them to the garage on William Nicol near RUC and treat them all to hamburgers and cold drinks.
Then it was Thailand, the richest experience of our lives. We found ourselves in the South for two years, me networking everywhere and Ed adding the depth. Ed spent hours and hours in Raj ‘s tailor shop in Aonang, Krabi , showing the Hindu leader in the area from his own Bagawadghita the flaws of his religion. I was poisoned later by Muslims and we came home. I was with my mom for the last eight months of her life. A rich experience.
After that a Singaporean man unknown to us, Michael Lim, invited us to serve God in the North East of Thailand, mainly among prisoners. Immediately we both said yes. We were walking around Emmarentia dam at the time. We both knew instinctively that this was it: teaching English and the gospel!
I simply can’t explain to you adequately, the thrill on our second visit to that particular men’s prison. We were studying light and darkness. They each had a page of pictures depicting light and darkness and I asked if anybody wanted to say anything. 52 year old Manop jumped to his feet instantly and literally fell over the tables and chairs to get to us first. There in the middle of his page was a Buddha. Mama, he said, “me don’t want Buddha, me want Jesus .” We led him and 6 or 7 others to Christ that day, then more and more. Celeste and Shaun had brought 14 NLT Bibles from South Africa and, equipped with dictionaries for each one, we got stuck into the Word.
Not long afterwards the prison was closed to us, but God’s work had begun to take root.
It is GOD’S work beginning and end, and He does the rest. Ed got very sick shortly afterwards and never recovered, dying two and a half years later. His work on earth was done. God had called him home; His work in me goes on.