I am from Iran and was born a Muslim and had never heard of Jesus. I married an Iranian man but got divorce after a short while. My son was born in this marriage. Some time later I met an America man and I married with him and we went to the USA. A girl was born because of this marriage but my problems got worse and worse. I divorce again and went back to Iran with my two children.
I lived a worldly life and did what was wrong. I had many kinds of problems until I didn’t know how carry on any more. Then I met a South Africa man and I moved to Durban in South Africa. I went form bad to worse until my life was such a mess that I came to the end of my tether and couldn’t go any further.
One night I could not carry on any more and decided to kill my two children and myself. While I was contemplating this murder, I heard a voice softly and graciously asking me if I ever prayed in the Name of Jesus? I told the Voice: “No! What is the difference?” I explained that I have tried my best and has prayed (namaz) so often in the Muslim way! The Voice said that I should try again.
So I went to my room and prayed to this prophet Jesus for the first time in my life. As I closed the door and went on my knees, I was overcome with sorrow and I wept and talked for a very long time to Jesus. I told Him everything of my past, my hopelessness, my rejection and my sin but also of how good a mother I was. I do not know how or when it happened but while I was talking to Jesus, a peace come over me and I fell asleep right there. The next morning I woke up lying on my bed still in my clothes.
I had slept like a baby for the first time in a very long time and I felt like a complete different person when I woke up. I actually bend down to touch the floor for it felt to me as if I was floating on air. My heart was racing in my bosom because of excitement and I did not know why. I quickly went to the telephone and spoke to my neighbor whose name was Linda. I knew she was a Christian for she was such a respectful, kind person. When she heard my story, she offered to come over to my house immediately. She brought me a “Good News” Bible as a present and offered to pray with me. When she started asking God to wash me in the blood of Jesus, I stopped her praying and said that I do not want to be washed with blood! I thought it is real blood I have to wash myself in. She tried to explain the basics of Christianity to me, but I failed to understand it. Eventually she only prayed with me and left me to start reading the Bible.
I started reading the book of Matthew. Trying to grow spiritually, I went to many different churches. I could not get what I need to know about this Jesus so I stop to go to any church. I now tried to read the Bible by myself. This was very difficult for I had to look at the dictionary nearly word by word. I finished the New Testament and then started with the book of Genesis.
At that time, I got job as a promoter working at a big supermarket. At work, I met a colored girl called Gwen. We were working in Hyperama Shopping Center in Durban and she was also a Christian. She told me that she was at a spiritual church where sick people get healed and they had a mission station. She told me that the mission was a bit of a ride away from Durban, but I had a car at that time.
I decided that this would be the last church I would try out. Gwen told me that they didn’t charge anything for food but I took a bag of rice and some cooking oil anyway. My children went along with me to this mission called Kwa Sizabantu. At this time I was thin and had long hair. I was dressed smartly and wore a little make-up. After the sermon, a choir sang a song about how wrong make-up was. I thought they talking to me so I stopped wearing make-up for I did not want to offend them. It was quite some time before I went again to Kwa Sizabantu.
My friend Linda visited me one day and told me that her church didn’t want her to visit me because she still smoked. I said that shouldn’t be a problem because I also smoked. She then replied that smoking is sin. I asked her why then she was still smoking? She answered me that she is praying that God would help her to stop because smoking is sin. It was my first time that I heard that smoking was a sin. I went to my room and told the Lord that if it were wrong I would sacrifice it to Him.
The next morning I lit a cigarette and immediately I felt nauseous. I asked the Lord why I felt this way, and He told me that I had sacrificed it to Him. I threw away my cigarettes and quit smoking. I was tempted from time to time but by God’s grace, I stopped smoking completely.
One day my friends invited me to go out with them to a party. I felt that because I was a Christian I didn’t belong in such places. In this way, I lost many friends. First Christmas holiday after I meet Jesus I attended a Christmas party at work and everybody was drinking and smoking and I felt uncomfortable but couldn’t leave because I didn’t know the way back home. When I eventually arrived home, I promised God to never attend such parties again. I started to realize that it was as if there was “Something” guiding me the whole time. Then I realized that I was truly born-again because I could not live anymore as I use to be for.
I went to Kwa Sizabantu again with Gwen and then I met Friedel Stegen. He invited me to attend services which he held every Wednesday in Durban. I was excited to go because he preached well. I often attended because I was thirsty for the word of God. Gwen also gave me tapes to listen, with different sermons on.
One evening after church, they said that we should now go for counseling. I said that I asked God for forgiveness and he had delivered me, but they insisted that I should go. I went to see Friedel Stegen and he said that I should write all my sins down from childhood. I would do anything to please my Lord so I wrote everything down from things like; that I stole an orange from a friend, to being disobedient to my mom. I also confessed things like that I had sexual relationships and went out with boys. As I was writing, I felt the presence of Satan. He told me that it does not matter even if I confessed it I still will go to hell. Then I showed him the letter I was writing and told him that I am a bad person and that I deserved to go to hell. Nevertheless, Jesus would save me. I suddenly felt peace and couldn’t feel Satan’s presence any more. I was so happy that I could rebuke Satan like this.
I went to Kwa Sizabantu and gave Friedel Stegen my confessions. He was sitting in an office that had a fire burning in the fireplace. He took the written confession and throw it in the fire and said that my sins had been forgiven and we prayed together. I felt like I was flying.
I use to like to see people of KSB. One day Naomi Dahl met me in the Hypermarket Center whilst I was having a lunch-break. Naomi asked me what job I did and I said that I was a promoter. She then said that she wouldn’t want to do something like that. I was confused and later asked uncle Friedel if doing promoting was a sin and he just nodded. I went home and told my son, Kambiz, that I had to look for another job because promotion is a sinful job. I remember being very ashamed of my job and trying to hide it from people from Kwa Siza Bantu. Once Koos and Estelle Greeff visited me and I was so ashamed of my job.
I prayed to God to give me another job. All that time I thought I am doing some thing evil so I let every one know that I am aware of it and to make uncle Friedel understand that I need the money; I could not just stop working. One day Uncle Friedel and his wife Rita came to me and offered me another job. I was delighted. He was opening a new shop near Kwa Sizabantu and he wanted me to work for him.
I went home and told Kambiz this and he asked me if I had prayed about it and I said that it wasn’t necessary because God had answered my prayers. This was the first time I look at Friedel as a godly man – I didn’t follow the Lord’s advice but started to look to Friedel for advice. This was in the beginning of 1984.
I sold my house but the people who bought it cheated me. I told Friedel Stegen and thought that he would help me because he was a Christian. He didn’t and I realized that I wouldn’t get all my money. I took R7, 000 of the money that I received for my house and give it to KSB. They were so happy to receive it. I also had expensive furniture but didn’t know what to do with it so I decided to contact uncle Friedel see if he could store it for me. He said he could not help me for he did not have a place to store it.
Then I decided to give it to then and within 24 hours, a big truck came to pick it up. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t have any way to help me, but things happened quickly when I wanted to give something. Unluckily I didn’t take much note of it at that time.
I kept a few things like a refrigerator and sheets, dishes and blankets and these I packed in boxes.Now the time came to me to go to Sizabantu. Friedel send an old black man to fetch us.
As we arrive at Sizabantu, I herd the Voice that said that I was in the wrong place. I kept to myself and went to asked uncle Friedel where my furniture would go and he said to me that they would store it on some farm nearby. I remember hearing a clear voice saying “Zarri, this is wrong”. It alarmed me and I didn’t know what to do because I was on the wrong track and couldn’t turn back. I talked to uncle Friedel about it and he said that it was Satan who had talked to me, but I knew the Voice and knew it wasn’t Satan. I had a guilty conscience but I trusted Friedel. I stayed in a rondawel but was never happy again.
On my first day of work I put on a nice dress and waited for Friedel to pick me up. When he saw me, he told me that it wasn’t necessary for me to dress so smartly. Up to that moment I didn’t know what job I was going to do – I thought is would be in some sort of managerial position. Now I heard that I was going to be a cleaner! We worked for up to 12 hours a day and 6 days a week and I was so disappointed. We had to attend services at night and the food wasn’t good. I started putting on weight and was tired. I stood on my feet for hours each day. I never felt any love or kindness.
They only preached about sin and I started confessing the whole time. It later became a form of pain-relief. If I felt bad, I would go and confess and so it went on and on. It became like a Muslim namaaz – something I felt obliged to do. I couldn’t feel the Holy Spirit working in me any more.
At Sizabantu, I saw mind control. The mind was controlled by the councilor. I had a vision of a horse and the girdle you place in it’s mouth to make it go in the direction you want it to go. That was what I saw with the councilors. I saw that the people there were lonely and scared to share things to one another. The loneliness made me feel like I was in hell. I felt disappointed and I felt rejection. I had a low self-esteem and felt no respect towards me. I didn’t feel the Spirit of the Lord any more and I felt no love. I became a slave of Sizabantu. I had no freedom and was going through pain. I could not see my children much.
After my first month at work, I had no money left. Kambiz had changed schools and needed new uniforms and I had no savings left. Uncle Friedel asked me what I had been paid at my previous job. I replied that I received R550 per month towards the end of my previous job. He gave me R400. I wasn’t pleased at all for I worked longer hours, came back from work, attended services, went to see my councilor and often got to bed at midnight. Only to wake up early the next morning and follow the same routine. I never had time for reading the Bible or seeing my children. My children went to school early in the morning and came back late in the afternoons. The only spare time I had was on Sunday afternoons. During this time I washed our clothes and did a bit of cleaning. I was exhausted. My spiritual life was deteriorating.
I went to talk to a black co-worker about my situation. I told her that I had a grudge against uncle Friedel and the Mission. I told her that I didn’t get paid well and worked too hard. I remember Kambiz became sick at the time and I didn’t have enough money to take him to a doctor. This troubled me greatly. I felt that uncle Friedel wasn’t nice to me any more. He started finding excuses not to council me any more. I thought that perhaps it was because I had asked about the money. I decided to ignore it.
I had worked there for a year when I started having bad dreams. I dreamt of snakes and bulls chasing me. I was restless. It was at this time that I asked uncle Friedel that I wanted to take a week’s leave as I had had no vacation during the year. I wanted to get away and search my soul to find what the Lord wanted from me. I found that at Sizabantu you were kept so busy that you never had time for the Lord.
I spoke to tante Kate about going to Claridge for a week to try and find the Lord. I told this to Kambiz also. Many times at Sizabantu, I felt that there was a division between the people. Some people lived in luxury and lived happy lives while others lived in misery and poverty. I went to Claridge and told the Lord that I wouldn’t leave till I heard his voice again. I didn’t tell anyone else why I wanted to go there because I was to scare. I pleaded with the Lord to talk to me. I didn’t hear his voice for such a long time.
On the last day at Claridge, I told the Lord that if he didn’t talk to me I would commit suicide. Then the Lord spoke to me through Is. 40 were the Lord says that he will straighten our paths and level the mountains and hills for us. I decided that I was going to follow the Lord like I used to. I was filled with joy and happiness. I came back to Siza Bantu and told Kambiz all that had happened to me. Kambiz was staying with another boy; Dougal and he told me that he had made me a drawing. He had drawn me a picture of Is 40 and written Luke 6:34 on it. On another paper, he drew a picture of the tomb of my life which can be covered by the flowers of God. He had drawn this for me because he knew that I was going through a hard time and God had put this in his heart.
At this stage I prayed to the Lord and asked Him that I only wanted to work for Friedel for one more week and then I wanted to leave Siza Bantu. I had to work for the week because I needed a little money. The Lord told me not to stay even for one hour – I should stop working immediately. He also told me to give my last pay back to Friedel. I trusted the Lord that things would work out all right. I went to Friedel to talk to him about this. I told him that the Lord didn’t want me to continue working for him even one hour. He then gave me half an hour to leave Sizabantu.
I cried terribly. I couldn’t do anything. I had lost my car; I had no house, no money, and no furniture. I went back to my rondawel and started packing my belongings. Kambiz and Susan were at school, so I left them a note saying that I was leaving Sizabantu. I had nowhere to go. I phoned Aunt Kate at Claridge and asked her if I could stay there for a couple of weeks. She agreed because at that time she didn’t know of anything that had happened. I didn’t have any transportation and didn’t know how I was going to get to Claridge. I then saw a young man and his wife who also stayed at the Kwa Sizabantu. They were leaving for Pietermaritzburg. I asked them if I would be able to go along and they said that they would gladly drop me off at Claridge. In twenty minutes time, I had packed and now had a lift to Claridge. I thanked the Lord for this. At the same time, I could not stop my tears.
The people at Claridge didn’t ask any questions about my staying there. At Sizabantu people didn’t get involved in each other’s lives and were scared to get close to other people and to trust them. In this time, I was very miserable. My children were at Sizabantu and I had nothing. I trusted the Lord to make something good out of this whole situation. Job 36.15 was a great comfort to me.
When I arrived at Claridge I spoke to Aunt Kate and told her that I couldn’t work for Friedel any longer and had to find another job. She gave me a room there. I became friends with another woman, Mariaan Kaestli, who also worked there as coworker. She was also under a lot of strain but was too scared to talk about it. I helped out and was obedient. Tante Guthrun was another lady who also stayed at Claridge. She was a blessing to me and tried to help me find a job. I tried but couldn’t find any job.
With the little money I had left, I bought an old knitting machine and started doing odd jobs for friends, family, and other people. Then one day The Voice said that I should go to the Department of Labor for Unemployment Insurance. I paid tax before and therefor could receive funds during the time that I was unemployed. They paid me R280 per month and with this money, I could buy wool to knit.
Initially I stayed in the big house at Claridge and I had to pay for my lodging. After some months, my children could join me and we hired a little place on the premises for R80 per month. This flat had no electricity and was in a very bad condition and dirty. We had to fix it up ourselves and even painted it out. I spoke to Friedel about my furniture that they stored for me but he just ignored it. We had to sleep on the floor in this flat with very little furniture whilst I had a house full of furniture before I came to KSB. Very often we had nothing to eat and we went hungry many times. Later somebody offered to get my little furniture which was still in boxes stored at KSB.
By the way – the bed that Friedel and Rita slept on whilst they stayed in the flat next to the Reception, that was my bed. My lounge furniture was used in the Upper Room at KSB. What happened to the rest, I do not know.
Mariaan and I started to pray together in the evenings and asked the Lord to lead us in the right direction. Somebody told Friedel about this. Friedel then blamed Mariaan for me leaving Sizabantu. Mariaan and I had never even talked about Sizabantu and neither one of us even knew that the other one had a problem with the Mission. We only found out that we both had doubts about Sizabantu when we met each other years later and we both had left the Mission.
One of the co-workers of KSB, Erwin Schreuder, use to take the services on Sundays at Claridge. I often spoke to him as my councilor. Once I spoke to him about the way KSB was treating me, as the Bible told us if you have anything against your brother you must go and tell him. I was trying to obey the Bible. Then Erwin asked me to write it down. I did so. Some time later, we were all at KSB and he told me that he has arranged for me to see Erlo and Friedel about my complaints. When we came to this meeting, Friedel excused himself. Erlo listened to my complaints and then advised me to cover it all in love! He basically ignored my complaints.
By 1987, the little money of my house was released. Sister need it money from me I had to send some money to her so I asked Friedel to help me as he so often was overseas. I had an account in England and I asked him if he would pay a certain amount into this account. The South African banks would not send out any money unless I fly out of the country. I gave him the correct amount in Rands. Later on I wanted to send the money to my sister but I found R1500 was short. When I took this up with Friedel, he just downplayed it as nothing.
I stayed in Claridge for over a year. I found a job at a hospital and after 6 months, I could apply for a house for only R10 per month. I was so happy and applied for it. Shortly after this, I left Claridge and have had nothing to do with KSB since. My life has taken many twists and turns. I felt that I would like to serve my Lord so I went to a training mission in Pretoria where I had many good teachings.
One day I was praying and I heard my Lord’s voice saying that now is time for me to go and show myself to my family and friends and to testify of how had He changed me. So I obeyed the Lord and went to Iran in 1987. I stayed in Iran until the Lord called me back. I now live again in the USA where both of my children also works. I am happy and content and by the grace of God is keeping very well. I am member of a small congregation I am with church for deaf people and I am quite involved with outreaches and missionary activities. My heart cries for the Muslim community and I often pray for them.
When I think back of my time at Kwa Sizabantu, it still hurts. Especially when I think of all the wonderful people I met there but how confused and deceived they are – I pray for them.
At Sizabantu, I had the feeling that every one worshipped God in a Muslim way. There were so many rules and regulations and everybody had to abide by them to please God. They forced people to dress a certain way otherwise; you were seen as someone who had gone off the track. The way you dress, the display of jewelry, the using of make-up immediately; all immediately categorize you as “good” Christian or a “worldly” Christian – sounds so much like Iran under theAyatollah Khomeini regime. The whole daily life was controlled in this way. I also had the feeling that the leadership of Sizabantu were seen as God and could do no wrong. The common people were treated like dirt.
May God have mercy on them.
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