Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

The Pietermaritzburg Town Crier, the only one in South Africa, passed away peacefully last Friday. David Peter Southwood (19th February 1938 – 17th February 2012) had battled ill-health and diabetes related complications passed on into eternity two days before his 74th birthday. I remember this large, well built man from my early working days in Pietermaritzburg, when he would be the appointed Town Crier – normally during the month of December – promoting the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal for 21 years.

How I came to meet Peter Southwood – he was known by his middle name – was when I received a telephone call from Peter in January 2012. He asked me if it was Gary he was speaking with and then questioned me if I knew who I was speaking to. The voice I did not know, but dear Peter informed me that I was speaking with the “Town Crier.” I remembered instantly who this man was and he then proceeded to tell me that he had a “Do You Think You Will R.I.P. (Rest In Peace)” Gospel Tract in his possession and he was looking for some more of them. I told him I had none in stock as I had not printed any of them again in about two years. He had gotten my cell number off the back of the tract and asked me where I was based. I told him in Pietermaritzburg and he was surprised in a happy way, and told me he was living in Hilton, which is possibly about ten to fifteen minutes drive out of the city. He indicated that he would love to meet with me and we could discuss the tract and the Gospel, as he said he had questions to ask me. I readily agreed and after getting directions to his and his wife Anne’s home, brother Henry Lisoma (a DRC Refugee who has SA Asylum) and I paid dear Peter a visit on Tuesday January 10th, 2012.

At his home, he showed me the same tract I had distributed, and I was recollecting that I had handed him this Gospel Tract to him about two years ago outside the Hub Retail Store in Church Street while he was on official Town Crier business – clad in his royal blue and red Colonial dress with trimmings, tricorne hat and the brass clanger hand-bell while bellowing, “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Hear Ye! Hear Ye!”  If memory serves me well I had told him it was a Gospel Tract and he had smiled at me, taken it and said he would read it, placing it in his coat pocket. It seems like it was only yesterday as tears fill my eyes as I write this – recollecting the event, and thanking our Great God for a moment in time – God’s eternal time. On the day we met we spoke at length and he told me he was hoping to get more of these tracts as he went out and would love to give them to others. We spoke at length also about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he asked questions including the assurance of salvation. It was a wonderful time together, as we ministered with Peter. We spoke about his days as the Town Crier and we looked at some photos around his sitting room, but what struck me most about this time together with brother Peter was that he was no longer the well set man he once was, he had lost much weight, but he still had the desire to, I paraphrase his words, “I want to do so much more for our Lord”.

It was also at this meeting that he light-heartedly prompted Henry to say “Congo” as only a deep-voiced, French speaking Congolese could say it. Henry did not disappoint Peter, who heartedly chuckled. He might have lost a lot physically, but jovial and spirit-seeking he remained. If only I had known this man for a longer time. What I do take away from this meeting, and a brief meeting Peter and I had a week later at his home on the following Wednesday, is that we do not labour in vain. Gospel tracts are given out and they do find its ways into homes. Peter had many that he had received over the years, which he fondly read at times, and it was wonderful to know that God spoke to Peter’s heart to get in touch with me two years later and for me to see the tract in his home was refreshing to know I am a part of God’s work. It was also at the first meeting we had that he allowed me the privilege of ‘clanging the bell.’ He complimented me on the stern clangs I gave, and jokingly asked if I had considered being the Town Crier. Sheepishly I smiled back, and said not for me. It would be big shoes to fill, but I will remain a Jesus Crier who will continue proclaiming the Gospel upon the streets of Pietermaritzburg. We also shared a time of prayer at his home with Peter and Anne, and it was half expected when we learned of him passing on and meeting his Creator.

When my wife Tammy showed me an article that had been written in The Witness newspaper, that I had not seen, I knew I had to go see his wife Anne at this time. Yesterday I paid her a visit and it was at this meeting that I also got to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with her son Martyn who is out from the United Kingdom, who at first believed that all religions have their part in this world. I showed him that these religions will lead people to eternity in hell, for the religious people have sinned against the Only True God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob – the Creator of the world who revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, they would be guilty by violating God’s Moral Commandments and trusting in other deity and idols and not the Son of God. I do pray that the seed planted will take root and Martyn will come to repentance and faith alone in Jesus Christ, God Almighty. Anne also shared with me, while their friend Jill was also present, the final moments of Peter’s passing. Anne had tried to get hold of a very dear male friend (his name escapes me) of Peter’s and was unable to find his telephone number. Anne had offered a short prayer by asking the Lord for assistance. The friend then arrived and Anne had asked him if he had his fiddle in the car, which from what I understood he never really carried with him, but this day he had it. Peter’s friend spent some time playing the fiddle as the sounds rang out on their property. The last hymn to be played for Peter was,

HOW GREAT THOU ART:

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder,

Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.

I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

CHORUS:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze:

And when I think that God His Son not sparing,

Sent Him to die – I scarce can take it in.

That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation,

And take me home – what joy shall fill my heart!

Then shall I bow in humble adoration,

And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Later Anne was then showing his friend out when the nurse, who was tending him at home, called her back. He had already fallen asleep and taken his last breath here upon earth and was in eternity meeting his God!

When I was leaving, Martyn’s mother Anne thanked me privately at my car. This is a mother praying for the salvation of her son. Please keep Martyn in prayer, Praise Jesus.

Today, Saturday 25th February, 2012, I attended the memorial service for Peter held at the Holy Trinity Church, Hilton, and I was able to hand a few tracts to some folk, including Martyn who undertook that he will read it properly. The tract is: “Your Life – God’s Solution to Your Religion.”

Know this; God’s ways are certainly not our ways. I did not know two years ago whilst handing out a Gospel Tract, that all this would come to pass in a matter of the past two months. To those who are not saved, do you know what will happen to you tomorrow? Where will you spend eternity? Please consider these things, God is Gracious and Merciful, but He is also Just. Please visit http://www.needgod.com/

PSALM 139:1-18

1To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. 2Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 3Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. 4For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. 5Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. 7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. 9If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. 12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. 13For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 15My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. 17How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! 18If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

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