A QUARTER CENTURY OF Miracles
Stories of miracles are woven in abundance through the quarter century of the history of Every Nation Faith City (ENFC) in Potchefstroom. In 1998 a small student church joined the His People group of churches and this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. The church was founded in 1993 by Pastor Willem Nel and his wife, Celesté. They came to Potchefstroom the previous year when he was still in the army and chaplain to eleven units in Potchefstroom. There were no plans to stay permanently.
Pastors Willem and Celesté Nel came to Potchefstroom in 1992 with no plans to stay when he was an army chaplain. They soon received a calling to found a multi-racial church and are still serving the Potchefstroom community as lead pastors of Every Nation Faith City.
Pastor Willem adds: “We were called to build bridges between generations, nations and groups of people. It has always been important to us. Ours was the first multi-racial church in Potchefstroom and it wasn’t a time when that was easily accepted in Potchefstroom.”
It was initially called the Potch Student Church (Potch Studentekerk). Finding a venue on or near the university proved to be quite difficult. “Over the years we had 19 different venues,” Pastor Willem remembers.
When they joined His People in 1998, they felt strong ties with this church group due to the strong focus on campus ministry. The His People group of churches joined the international church group, Every Nation, whose focus is also on campus ministry. In 2016 the name of the local church was changed from His People Christian Church to Every Nation Faith City, one of the 466 churches in this group.
The church grew rapidly since the early 2000s. From 1999 to 2004 services were held in the Conservatory of the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. In 2005 they moved to the hall of Mooirivier Primary School. In 2003 the first services were additionally held in the Auditorium of the university. Attendance there grew to 900 students attending before Covid, almost to the capacity of the venue.
HALF A MILLION Views
Covid also prompted the start of the online church. Since then an Afrikaans and an English message are broadcast every Sunday. In 2022 they had 500 000 “watch through” videos with people watching from all over the world. Since very early on the church had a strong urge to serve the community.
This was confirmed by the scripture being from Isaiah 58:9-12 in the Message, which, after more than two decades is still a guiding light: If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness; your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places - firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community liveable again.
A logo of the church from 2000.
The Bennie Pienaar Hall on the campus of the university, formerly part of the Potchefstroom College of Education, was one of the early venues of the Potch Studentekerk.
His People Potchefstroom held services in the Conservatory of the university from 1999 to 2004
In the early 2000s Pastor Willem was part of a group of local spiritual leaders who often met with the then mayor, Mr Satish Roopa.
The mayor was at his wit’s end with the deplorable state of the municipal dumping grounds where people often scrounged for food. One time raw chicken was dumped there and subsequently caused many people to become ill. After continuous prayer, within six months the old Sonderwater municipal dumping grounds were closed and a new one opened.
This prompted the then His People Church to start a feeding scheme at Sonderwater and for many years food was delivered to the community right below the reservoirs. Out of this effort flowed many projects.
SERVING THE Community
In accordance with the His People group of churches, whose community service division was called Thembalitsha, a Xhosa word for hope, community service projects were initially done under this name. Later it was changed to “Hope Again” and this is still the community service arm of the church. Some of the projects have been in existence for years. Character Kids aim to equip kids in Ikageng with basic and development skills.
A project for babies at risk, Talitha Terri, was also launched. During 2016 the church was the co-founder of the Hope Again Recovery Centre for people needing treatment for substance abuse. The Dignity Project aim to supply sanitary products to young girls who cannot afford it. During Covid a hospital outreach was started. Members of the church went once a week – and still go – to the ICU at Mediclinic and to Mooimed, to sing and pray there.
Testimonies of miraculous healings followed. Even after Covid the group was urged to still come. ENFC also participates in the Second Life project. A group of churches in the city came together to create a second-hand shop in the hall of the Dutch Reformed Church in Beyers Naudé Street.
A Sunday morning before church when services were held in the hall of Mooirivier Primary School, that housed the church from 2005 to 2013.
Under the “Hope Again” banner many community projects were launched over the years. This was also the theme of a conference which took place while the church held their services in the Conservatory
Over the years many churches in the surrounding areas grew out of this church. “Directly and indirectly we were involved in the founding of a hundred new churches,” says Pastor Willem.
The first was in Gaborone in Botswana in the early 2000s. Churches in Mahikeng, Klerksdorp, Parys and Vanderbijlpark followed. Alumni from the PU for CHE and NWU who attended church here started similar groups over the world. This include Taiwan, Wagga-Wagga in Australia, Europe and the USA. Apart from this the church currently supports 154 missionaries who work all over the globe. This include France, Belgium and Croatia.
THE DREAM TO Build
In 2003 the city council, when Mr Satish Roopa was mayor, gifted land to various church groups, His People being one of them and they acquired the property at 1 Tarentaal Street, Mooivallei Park. The dream to build a church was immediately there. Building commenced in 2008. The next year Pastor Willem became seriously ill.
He was diagnosed with Guillian Barre syndrome, a virus which attacks the nerve system and he became paralysed within hours. He spent 26 days in Intensive Care, a time during which Celesté, his family, church members and the community prayed continuously. His recovery was nothing short of miraculous, since the diagnosis was that he would never again be able to preach.
About five months later he was preaching again! In this time the building project came to a standstill. The bricks were laid of the offices of the church but it stood for four years. During this time the metal structure of a defunct barn was bought. This was sold and the purpose built metal frame for the church part of the building was bought.
In 2013 the plan was revised to complete the offices, venues for the children’s church and a temporary hall. This has served the church for ten years.
The architect’s drawing of the building of Every Nation Faith City. After ten years the second phase of the building project, building the large structure at the top of this picture, has commenced. The design is by Louis Boshoff.
The architect’s drawing of the complete complex is displayed in the church. A churchgoer, who is a contractor, saw this and was prompted by the Holy Spirit to complete the ground works for the second phase. Church officials were completely caught by surprise one morning during a meeting when a convoy of trucks and bulldozers arrived to come and do the ground work for this 1 000 square metres building.
When the first phase of the building was built, a very specific type of brick was used. During the lockdown a new boundary wall was built and they tried to acquire the same type of brick, only to be told that the factory who made those bricks was bankrupt and had closed down However, after further enquiries, it was found that some of the bricks were still available. For the first phase the price was R6.50 per brick, but from the defunct brickyard they were able to buy enough bricks for the second phase at only R3.50 per brick! Another sign of God’s grace and favour was when the contractor who erected the metal structure that was bought more than 10 years ago told them that if they had to buy that today, it would have cost R2,5 million. It was initially bought for R400 000.
In spite of many setbacks, such as venues suddenly barred when they arrived for church on Sundays, or Pastor Willem’s devastating illness and the incomplete building standing idle for four years, Every Nation Faith City’s vision is still clear: to bring supernatural transformation to our world, one person at a time.