A highlight of the 2023 Annual International Summer Conference hosted in December by the Brunstad Christian Church in South Africa (BCCSA), was the 70th birthday celebration held in honour of Tielman Slabbert, the spiritual leader of BCCSA.  The 305 guests who attended the celebration were members of BCC fellowships throughout Africa, as well as BCC members from as far afield as Europe and Canada.

The proceedings were opened in prayer by Harold Kronstad (Norway) and Claude Kue Kamdem (Cameroon) respectively, followed by a short audio recording of Tielman Slabbert talking about his search for happiness.  He spoke of the emptiness he experienced in his life from a young age, until in all humility he turned to Jesus Christ who started speaking to him through people and God’s Word and he was led to BCC where he finally found “life” and happiness.  A moving rendition of one of Slabbert’s favourite songs, Amazing Grace, followed, sung by a choir of young people.

Kåre J Smith, the spiritual leader of the Brunstad Christian Church (BCC), who was present at the celebration, then addressed the audience.  He warmly congratulated Slabbert for his 70th birthday and went on to say that all the work that has been done in Africa by BCC over many years, would have been impossible to achieve without a man of God like Tielman Slabbert – a prophet in Africa. Smith said how highly he esteemed him and his wife, Gertrude, and their family.  He continued by explaining what it means to be a true and faithful co-worker of God in building the church, siting the apostle Paul in the New Testament, as an example. He said Paul loved the Corinthians and worked with them tirelessly despite the division, carnality, and strife in the Corinthian church.  Smith went on to say that to become co-workers of God in building the church, complete dedication to God is needed; abiding in love for all; always judging oneself and having victory over sin – then wisdom comes and only goodness comes forth and all things become possible!

Several older guests paid tribute to Slabbert and the constant common thread which ran through all the tributes was his sincere care, love and respect for all people.  His steadfast and resolute faith in preaching the whole gospel; a man with backbone and an immoveable servant of God were some of the other sentiments expressed.

Due to the large number of people who wanted to pay tribute to him from BCC fellowships throughout Africa, a video was screened with messages from many members – young and old whose lives have been transformed, not only through his preaching of God’s Word, but the living example he is of a disciple of Christ.  His fatherly care and ability to exhort and speak the truth in love when necessary, is clearly appreciated and respected. His impact on the youth also came through from the many testimonies of young people saying how he helped them practically and spiritually. He was thanked for the life changing work he has done in transforming lives through the Christian Youth Development Program (CYDP).

His wife and children also paid tribute to him. Gertrude said that the person he is at home, is the same as the person he is in public. She also said that he has always esteemed the leaders and members of Brunstad Christian Church highly. His children and their spouses spoke of him not only as a father in the home, but as an example of someone who reflected the life of Christ, putting God and the church first and helping them to grow up to the head – Jesus Christ. They spoke of his sense of humour and that he is always fun to be with and how Gertrude, as a wife and mother, truly has empowered his ministry in the home and the church.

Finally, Tielman Slabbert addressed the guests. He expressed his sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone for their love and support over the years. Quoting what Jesus Christ said in the Book of John (John 5:30), Slabbert confessed that he too can do nothing of himself unless he has heard from God, the Father.  He said he never wants to move away from that, as a foundation in his life.  

The speeches and tributes were interspersed with edifying songs. The evening ended on a light and humorous note with the screening of a video of several of Tielman’s grandchildren and other children answering questions about him.  When asked who Tielman Slabbert’s friends are – one child spontaneously shouted out “Jesus!” No need to say anything further, that says it all!