Memories of an admired man of faith

Apostle Cecil van der Merwe

Cecil van der Merwe, who died on November 11 at the age of 69 in Cape Town, served in the vanguard of the New Apostolic Church as a leading minister at its epicenter for nearly 40 years.

After school, he went to the University of the Western Cape and entered the teaching profession after his graduation.

He was greatly admired for his incommensurable vocabulary in English and Afrikaans.

After teaching in Bridgetown and Manenberg, he hearkened to the calling in the ministry, and worked for 35 years among the flock of Christ.

Moving swiftly through the lower ministerial ranks, he was one of the youngest bishops ordained, and served the greater part as an apostle in the New Apostolic Church, travelling extensively, locally and abroad, to edify the men of the ministry, who under his jurisdiction, were responsible for the soul care of thousands of believers; he himself having personally done visits to the homes of the sick, elderly and those hospitalised.

Cecil also presided over weddings, funerals, baptisms, holy sealing and the confirmation of young adults in the church.

He served the Lord God pertinaciously, without any restriction, and went about his Father’s business without any reservation; having finished his course with distinction, he completed his calling and election “suma cum laude”, resultantly achieving the much sought after heavenly exemption.

In a recent conversation with Cecil I suggested that he write his memoirs of an illustrious time spent as a man of God, and his immediate response was: “Oh no. I have touched the lives of too many people, and will rather go to my grave with what I have experienced; my memoir will in any case be a sanitised version.”

He then offered to edit my anthologies, but there was a proviso: “I do so at no charge and do not want any credits or acknowledgements.”

He did, however, share an experience with me he had a few years ago. He was preparing his office for the new year, and came across an old diary. On paging through it, he happened on an entry that caught his attention, and decided to call the family to wish them well for the new year.

Little did he know that somewhere in that part of the country, a lonely and destitute soul was waiting on a miracle. Her prayer was that God allowed her to hear the comforting voice of her apostle, although her phone had already been cut months ago. And so her phone rings; the impossible happens; she answers and hears his voice and weeps uncontrollably.

The connection holds for the full duration of their conversation of an hour and shuts down after they say goodbye. Such was the nature of Cecil van der Merwe. He was certainly not one that would engage in perfunctory and histrionic conversation.

I have composed the following poem to my departed friend and apostle, titled Death Shroud.

Death Shroud

The shrouds of death so long conceal, but in my mind’s eye a peek I steal;

The face of relative, brother and friend, who his life on earth with me did spend!

Faces of loved ones the grave can change, their bodies and souls forever rearrange;

yet my mind is superior to the sting of death’s power!

Remembering! I shall always above it tower!

Into yonder world he had quietly gone, to be sure for him we will deeply mourn;

dressed in his old freshness and beauty, recalling the lustre in his eyes our duty!

The brightness of an infectious smile, we’ve become accustomed to for a while;

his immortal soul beaming through a mask of clay, still enthralls us to this very day!

There’s a confident whispering of beauty beyond his tomb: “we’ll be transformed before the day of doom;”

shedding a soft and gentle glow on the road to Heaven, in God’s kingdom we’ll dine with bread unleavened!

Fortunately death is not a permanent condition! Clearly, it is an adventure all believers should look forward to!

Cecil van der Merwe is survived by his wife Alyson, sons Morne’ and Charl and two grandchildren.

Mr Jooste is a former press photographer and a friend of Mr Van Der Merwe.