Pilgrimage of Grace reflection: Anneke Rabe
“To be reconciled to one another through Jesus Christ brings healing, hope and freedom,” says Anneke Rabe, as she reflects on her participation in the Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace, a three-day journey towards repentance, reconciliation, restoration and prayer in the Genadendal community, the Moravian Church and South Africa as a whole.
“The Pilgrimage was one of the spiritual highlights of my life, because I’ve been praying for this since 1999 – even though I didn’t know at the time that the Pilgrimage was part of what I was praying for. When we started praying John 17 as a group of housewives in Mkhondo (Piet Retief) in 1999, we prayed for unity between black and white people in South Africa, without realising the depth and extent of what we were praying for.”
Anneke believes that prayers and actions from various individuals and groups laid the groundwork over the past two decades. “Reconciliation doesn’t just happen and it’s not just about saying you’re sorry – it’s about building relationships. We need to build longer tables, not higher walls, and the Lord has given us opportunities to do this over the past few years.”
In 2003, Anneke and the prayer group in Mkhondo walked with the white church leaders of their town to the stadium in the township to publicly kneel before the black church leaders and repent for the sins of apartheid. They were received warmly and that action of repentance started a journey of deeper reconciliation in their town.
In 2008 the Lord opened up doors for the group to repent at the Parliament of Mpumalanga for apartheid. And then, in 2016, after visiting many townships, hearing people’s stories, repenting, washing feet and showing compassion, the Lord created the opportunity for the white Afrikaans speaking churches of South Africa to repent for forcing black schoolchildren during apartheid to be educated in Afrikaans . This watershed event took place at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on 11 June 2016, 40 years after the Soweto riots.
After that, SACLI established its Reconciliation arm, Reconcile SA and in 2017 the group prayed, repented and performed prophetic actions at various sites and communities across South Africa, including Durban, the Union Buildings, Table Mountain, the Dikgale township near Polokwane. In 2017 they were invited to the Parliament of South Africa to pray and repent for various injustices, including the Natives Land Act of 1913. “The Land Act caused so much pain over our nation. Overnight people who owned land were landless and couldn’t own property.”
Anneke and her friend, Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg were moved by the book, Lord of the Ring, by UK author Phil Anderson. In 2010 they visited Herrnhut in Germany and God guided them to repent to a Moravian woman they met there ,on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC).They both have their roots in the Dutch Reformed Church. Anneke said “We knew that there were many injustices against the Moravian Church that needed to be set right. I got to know Rev Nelis Janse van Rensburg (moderator of the DRC) during the Soweto event and when I asked him if the DRC leaders would be willing to repent to the Genadendal community and Moravian Church, the answer was a definite yes.” Anneke leads SACLI Reconcile and the wheels were set in motion to bring together both the Dutch Reformed and Moravian Churches for a day of Reconciliation, which became a Pilgrimage of Grace.
One of Anneke’s highlights during the three-day Pilgrimage was on the second day at Genadendal when Rev Nelis repented. “The way he did it, being so specific, was above and beyond what I could have expected. Hanneli and I sat next to each other, crying as we realised that God did exceedingly and abundantly more than what we ever could have asked or prayed for.”
On the last day at Cape Agulhas, after all the prayers of repentance to Africa, Steven Owino from Uganda did a prayer extending forgiveness towards the white people from Europe, the United States and across the world for colonialism, exploitation and racism. “That prayer brought a lot of freedom. It was also significant that we prayed at the Southernmost point of Africa, where it felt as though heaven and earth were called to witness what we were doing.”
What stood out the most for Anneke during the Pilgrimage was the extravagant grace the Moravian Church extended towards the group. “Their unconditional forgiveness and the way they opened their arms and embraced us. It was an experience of love you can’t explain. I believe that, through the prayers over all of these years, the Lord softened hearts. It was Jesus working through all of us, because we are not able to forgive in our own power.”
Part of the puzzle
Anneke believes that the Pilgrimage is one piece of a larger puzzle that will bring about lasting change in the individuals and communities involved. “Just by looking at the relationships that were forged and are now being strengthened between the 60 people who attended the Pilgrimage, you can see that many have received healing and are now intentionally getting to know one another. They have become carriers of hope, and I’m excited to see what will flow from this, as well as the prayer actions that are continuing.”
“What was great about the Pilgrimage was that we never focused on the titles or backgrounds of people. There were leaders of big organisations, housewives that lead prayer groups, young people, old people, wealthy people, poor people and those who are in-between. But when we came together all of our differences fell away and we were one; brothers and sisters in Christ. This was in answer to Jesus’ last prayer in John 17 for us to be one, but also the great commission that we should go into the world and make disciples, and fulfilling the great command to love God and each other.”
There is hope
“To be reconciled to one another through Jesus Christ brings healing, hope and freedom. And there is so much hope in South Africa. When we are together in Him as one, the world will know that we are His disciples and I know that South Africa and the African continent will be changed.” The group of pilgrims will meet again next year to create the opportunity for them to deepen their relationships even further. There will also be meetings to discuss restitution and restoration projects. They will also create times of prayer to always hear what is on God’s heart to be led by His Spirit.
Anneke encourages fellow believers to know that God hears the prayers of ordinary people. “You must be intentional with reconciliation. And then you need to remember the three P’s. Firstly, drench whatever you want to do in PRAYER. Secondly, PERSEVERE. You have to carry on, even if it’s very difficult and you face opposition as we have. Third and most importantly, remember the POWER OF LOVE. You can’t be reconciled to millions of people, but you can be reconciled to and build relationships with those with which the Lord have surrounded you. Out of that, people will look at you, see that there’s an authentic relationship and start following your example.”
BACKGROUND TO THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE
From 23 to 25 September 2022 a group of diverse individuals from South Africa and abroad participated in the Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace – a three-day journey towards repentance for past injustices in the Genadendal community, against the Moravian Church and in South Africa as a whole, along with reconciliation, restoration and prayer. The Pilgrimage formed part of prayer initiatives and actions from various groups across South Africa over the past few decades that centred on Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 20b – 22 (NIV): “I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.”
The Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace was organised by the South African Christian Leadership Initiative (SACLI Reconcile) and supported by Global Voice of Prayer, in Harmonie, the Moravian Church of South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa and various other ministries, denominations and individuals. The three-day Pilgrimage included:
23 September: A service at the Dutch Reformed Church Groote Kerk in Cape Town
24 September: A public event at the Moravian Church in Genadendal with a focus on repentance
25 September: A prayer gathering at the Southernmost Tip of Africa (l’Agulhas) for healing of the African continent. This also kicked off a 54 days of Prayer for Africa movement.