Just how are doors opening wide for Herbert Armstrong to have private meetings with presidents, kings, emperors, prime ministers all over the world? Here is an interesting inside story of the South African campaigns.
Johannesburg: Having just spent one full month with Herbert W. Armstrong and Stanley R. Rader on their trip to Southern Africa, I want to share with you a few highlights of a very exciting and successful visit. I have seen firsthand that God has put before Mr. Armstrong an open door to speak and write openly and forcefully the good news of the coming Kingdom of God! After giving an overview of world conditions that would be extant at the end of the age, Jesus Christ said in Matthew 24 that "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come"! (Verse 14.) There is a lot in that little verse. Among other things, it shows that the gospel would not be preached to convert the world at this time — but only as a witness to them! In the book of Revelation, Christ said that one of His churches, the Philadelphia church, would have before it a door opened by Christ Himself — no man would be able to take credit for it! Christ said He would have to miraculously intervene and provide an open door because that church has a " little strength" (Rev. 3:8). That is exactly what has happened in South Africa recently. I have been privileged to see the whole scenario from beginning to the present. Here is the story! The South Africa Foundation. The South Africa Foundation is a group of leading South African men and women of all races and backgrounds who have grouped themselves together to improve the image of their country abroad and seek the betterment and progress of its customs and laws at home. It is a very prestigious organization and has the government's ear. Its President is Dr. Jan S. Marais. As chairman of the Trust Bank of Africa, he is also one of the leaders in South African banking. He first saw The Plain Truth magazine in Europe. What caught his eye first was the title — Plain Truth. When he returned to South Africa he became a subscriber through the Johannesburg office. On November 22; 1974, Dr. Marais wrote to me, saying that he felt The Plain Truth would be interested in an article on the Foundation. He wrote: "The S.A. Foundation has as its aims and objects to make the plain blunt truth about South Africa better known among the world. And as a further dimension to also inform South Africans of the facts of life internationally, and how our manners, deeds and actions, here affect our image, our international relations and our future." A luncheon was arranged to discuss the possibility for an article. After discussing the article, we talked about Mr. Armstrong's travels and his awards for efforts toward world peace. This intrigued Dr. Marais and he began reading about Mr. Armstrong's activities more closely. There followed an unexpected invitation from Dr. Marais, as president of the South Africa Foundation, for Mr. Armstrong to visit South Africa. To emphasize the point, a few weeks later Dr. Marais invited me to another luncheon to urge me to impress upon Mr. Armstrong the need for his visit to this part of the world. He felt strongly that Mr. Armstrong could make a great contribution in all of Africa. He said: "The concepts Mr. Armstrong expounds are of inestimable value to this continent." He hoped that Mr. Armstrong would visit every country and every leader in Africa, and offered the offices of the South Africa Foundation to help do that. In other words, the door was wide open! Meets State President. Last February we learned that Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Rader would be visiting South Africa in June. Originally they planned to stay only two weeks. But so many meetings and speaking invitations opened up that the trip was extended to four full weeks. Through Dr. Marais' office, a meeting with the State President, Dr. N. Diederichs, was arranged for the 2nd of June. This was the first major meeting of Mr. Armstrong's trip. The office of State President is in many ways a ceremonial one. Yet it embodies all the prestige, dignity and respect of the nation itself. Even the Prime Minister, the main political leader of the country, is considered second to the State President. Dr. Diederichs listened intently as Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Rader explained something of the Worldwide Church of God, the Ambassador Colleges, and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (AICF). Then followed a discussion during which comparisons and contrasts were drawn between the racial situation in South Africa and the United States. Dr. Diederichs stated his belief that it was difficult for South Africa to get a fair presentation in the world press. The State President then said that when we look around the world today, filled with poverty, illiteracy and its mountain of human suffering, one must wonder what progress mankind has really made. Mankind now has advanced technology, unbelievable conveniences such as the automobile and all the electrical gadgets to make his life happier. But it seems that mankind on the whole is less happy and further from real contentment. Mr. Rader said that Mr. Armstrong would agree totally with what he had just said. That was the reason Mr. Armstrong brought his message of hope for the future of mankind. Next, Dr. Marais organized a luncheon in his office in Cape Town with Mr. Armstrong as guest of honor. Present were the minister of Information and the Interior, Dr. Connie Mulder; the chief of the Defense Force, Admiral Bierman; and the Cape Town representative of the South Africa Foundation, Mr. Freddy Hirsch. It was a most convivial luncheon. The two South African leaders, Dr. Marais and Dr. Mulder, were of course interested in the United States' Presidential race. They asked several questions of Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Rader that led to a very lively and pleasant discussion about the election and the many individuals involved. The Prime Minister. It was shortly after this luncheon meeting that the visit with Prime Minister J.B. Vorster was confirmed for June 14. In the British parliamentary system, which South Africa uses, the prime minister is the real seat of political power. Mr. Vorster was particularly busy at this time. Ian Smith of Rhodesia had just called on him in Pretoria, and in the next day or two Mr. Vorster was due to take off for Germany to meet with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Nevertheless we had an open door — but it was only open a mite! We were given only ten minutes for the meeting. Our conversation revolved around the present conditions in South Africa and the military position she faces with the Cubans just across the border in Angola. The Prime Minister gave his analysis of the Angola situation and went on to discuss South Africa's image problem with the rest of the world. He noted that in the early 1950s South Africa had taken a very strong stand against international communism. In 1963 the government discovered a communist conspiracy for revolution in South Africa and took steps to stop it before it started. The Prime Minister was of the opinion that "the communists have never forgiven us for that." He cited South Africa's anticommunist stand as a reason for the continually biased reporting by outsiders of events in the country. He stated that South Africa is never given any credit whatsoever for the fact that her blacks are the best paid in the whole of Africa. He also stated that they are the best educated and enjoy the highest standard of living of any blacks on the whole continent. He acknowledged there is still much room for improvement, of course, but no credit is given for improvements already made. By the time the visit was over, we had used up our ten minutes and another 20 besides. Mr. Armstrong was also able to meet with the minister of Education and Sport, Dr. Piet Koornhof. This was in connection with the proposed AICF activity in Southern Africa. The minister suggested that we consider helping with athletic and sporting opportunities for the blacks of the country. Dr. Koornhof said that he considered the project important and wanted to be involved personally. Talks With Namibia Leaders. The South Africa Foundation also invited Mr. Armstrong to Windhoek, the capital of South West Africa (Namibia), to talk with the leaders of the constitutional committee. These individuals of many racial and ethnic backgrounds are trying to hammer out a constitution that will enable all of them to maintain their separate cultures and languages and still permit the country to operate successfully. It was a very pleasant luncheon where Mr. Armstrong became acquainted with the local leadership and they became acquainted with him and the organization he represents. More Opportunities. So many opportunities opened up that we really had to struggle to fit them all in. Believe me, we tried our best. Having lunch one day on the G-II flying from Durban to Cape Town, Mr. Armstrong said: "You took me at my word that I am 37 years old going on 36 when you set up the schedule!" I said I hoped it wasn't too strenuous. He said: "Oh, no! I thrive on it!" Mr. Armstrong met with Paramount Chief Kaizer Matanzima of the Transkei on June 9. The Transkei is soon to become an independent country on October 26 when South Africa grants the area total autonomy. Chief Matanzima will then become prime minister. During the hour-long interview in his hotel room, Chief Matanzima said that his country looked forward to the independence they once had centuries earlier and invited Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Rader to visit them after the country is independent. They accepted the invitation and are planning to fulfill it in November. The South African Zionist Federation, aware of Mr. Armstrong's esteem in Israel, arranged for meetings in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Mr. Armstrong addressed both groups in what were some of the most warm and friendly meetings we had. In Johannesburg Mr. Armstrong ended his speech to the Jewish leaders by telling them that he knew every Jew had at least some concept of the Messiah, and that he could tell them that the Messiah was coming in our generation to bring world peace. No one seemed upset by this; in fact, it seemed they were hoping he is right. Other opportunities opened up when knowledge of Mr. Armstrong's trip became available: In Edenvale, the mayor, a staunch Plain Truth reader, invited all the leading citizens to a reception in Mr. Armstrong's honor. Mr. Armstrong was invited to speak to the group. (I don't know what they were expecting — but what they ended up getting was a very strong dose of the gospel!) In Port Elizabeth, the former mayor, who is also district governor of the Lions Club, contacted the Johannesburg office and virtually insisted that Mr. Armstrong visit his city. Then he spared no effort in encouraging every local leader to attend Mr. Armstrong's lecture. Five hundred people showed up, including the presidents of the universities, the leading industrialists, the leaders of the service clubs and the mayor. Again we did nothing. The door just stood open! All we could do was walk right through it! Mr. Armstrong also met with many community leaders throughout the country by speaking to service clubs. These included combined Rotary Club luncheons, combined Lions Clubs and the same for Round Tablers. Standing-Room-Only Campaigns. The first campaign held by Mr. Armstrong in South Africa was in Durban, Natal, on June 12. We had an overflow crowd of 944 people in a hall that only held 700! Another hall was booked and the sound piped in, but many preferred to stand around the edges and see Mr. Armstrong in person. Since he only had one lecture, he had to condense a great deal. But he was able to deliver a very strong, clear message about the government of God. One listener wrote afterwards: "I have never seen Mr. Armstrong more dynamic or more forthright... especially when he said, 'I make no apology for anything I have said today.' He has not lost any. of the fire and zeal for God's Work," The next day we flew from Durban to Cape Town, where a similar one-day campaign was arranged. This time 1244 people crammed into a hall that holds 800! Again a small side hall was booked, but again many preferred to stand around the edges inside the main hall. A two-day campaign was also arranged in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, just before the campaign began the riots broke out in Soweto — the first racial conflicts in South Africa in 15 years. A television announcement was made that all public meetings were cancelled. Later this was clarified to mean all outdoor public meetings — but apparently the damage had been done. In addition to this, we had the coldest night in Johannesburg since 1923. (June is our winter, you know.) These factors combined to bring an estimated 2000 attendance down to 1000. The audience was very attentive and responsive, however. Having two nights enabled Mr. Armstrong to go at a little slower pace. He covered much the same material, but in greater detail. Speaks to Church. Of course, we had regular church meetings too. Mr. Armstrong spoke for the first time to the Worldwide Church of God in South Africa at a combined meeting for all races on Sabbath, May 29. Since the South Africa office opened in March 1963, Mr. Armstrong had never visited the country. Of course, many have been members much longer than that. One elderly man, who first heard the broadcast in what is now known as Zambia, told me " I have waited 20 years for this day!" The applause when Mr. Armstrong arrived was astounding! In all, Mr. Armstrong had 34 functions in 28 days! Plus nine local flights totaling 9000 kilometers. News of his next trip in November is getting around and invitations are starting to come in. We already have a firm date for him to meet King Sobhuza of Swaziland. Chief Jonathan of Lesotho has extended an invitation, and a specific date is being worked out. Rhodesia had to be cancelled this trip, but hopefully he will be visiting there in November. It is interesting that they want to see him: the door seems to be opening wide. On June 22, Mr. Armstrong returned to Pasadena before continuing with his unique work in other parts of the world. As a result of his visit, we have before us in South Africa a whole string of opportunities to pursue. The Plain Truth magazine has now been advertised strongly and widely throughout the leadership of the entire country firsthand by the editor-in-chief! The World wide Church of God, though very small, is recognized as a dedicated group with the very highest standards and goals. And the job of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God to this area of the world has been made very much easier. That job is not done yet. It's not half done yet. But we have wide-open doors before us to do it!