Written by: Gillian Fraser
Article source: JOY! Magazine
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14
You may have heard of the world renowned Christian band Khanyisa, the multi-cultural South African music group who have been touring across the world since the apartheid era, shining God’s light. This is the story of the visionary behind the band, their humble beginnings, and the life changing ministry that has grown out of this.
Always striving to do more for Jesus
Rolf Weichardt is a man full of passion: passion for Christ, people, and music. This is evident when you sit down with him and listen to his story. His life is one of complete devotion to the Lord’s work and serves as a testimony of what God can do when you are obedient and trust in Him.
Rolf and Lizzie Weichardt
Q Let’s start at the very beginning, who is Rolf?
I grew up during the apartheid era and was taught that white supremacy was correct. It was the norm in those days. As a teenager, I had a conversion experience during the Soweto uprisings that paved the path of my future. I immediately had a desire to be a bridge-builder between different races. I purposefully went into townships with a deep desire to serve oppressed young people – motivated by the love of Christ.
In 1981 I started my studies at UCT and was introduced to Youth for Christ (YFC). My first meeting with YFC was a defining moment that changed my life. The leadership took me under their wings, discipled, and invested in me. Those formative years were crucial in the nurturing of my passion for evangelism, justice, and reconciliation. After completing my degree, I married Lizzie, my high school sweetheart, and together we joined ‘New Song’, a full-time YFC multi-cultural music team that ministered in high schools and churches throughout Southern Africa. This was a wonderful season, amongst all the challenges we faced. During the 80’s, as a multi-cultural team, we did not have the freedom to even go for a meal or have coffee together at a restaurant. Apartheid and segregation were alive and well and our black teammates were not welcome in many public venues. Not everyone welcomed the YFC message of racial reconciliation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through all of this, YFC persevered in their conviction and passion for justice and reconciliation. I truly believe that Youth for Christ was mightily used by the Lord to bring healing to people who were deeply wounded by racism.
What we do matters, but who we are matters more.
Q Khanyisa started out as a multi-racial Christian band in South Africa in 1991. This must have been interesting?
Khanyisa (the band) was birthed out of my deep desire for reconciliation between black and white people. Our passion and energy for ‘bridge building’ was high on our agenda. We encountered significant challenges, but the band just went from strength to strength. The team carried an anointing of Joy. Doors started opening for us and soon we were touring internationally. We toured the Indian Ocean islands and various parts of Europe. In 1995 we moved to the USA where we continued sharing our testimonies of reconciliation. Nashville became our home base from where we operated. It was here that we were privileged to work with well-known artists such as Toby Mac, DC Talk, Michael W Smith, Amy Grant, and many other gifted musicians. This season was definitely a highlight in our music career and we treasure those wonderful memories. After 10 years of active ministry in the States we moved back to South Africa.
Q You have spent most of your life working for YFC?
Upon returning, I served as the National Team Training Director and then headed up the Western Cape Division for several years. My last 5 years with YFC were as the National Director and, after 37 years of active service, I retired as a full-time staff member.
In 2013, Lizzie and I were offered an opportunity to manage a game lodge in the Robertson area. At this stage we were ready for a ‘lifestyle change,’ not knowing the plans that God had in store for us. Daily we saw broken children right on our doorstep. This challenged us to do something. We then pioneered a small, rural, grassroots YFC ministry and formed a partnership with YFC Germany. Through this partnership, young German volunteers started serving in our community as short-term missionaries.
My life has been deeply impacted by the ministry of YFC and I will be forever grateful for the privilege of having served alongside great men and women of God who truly modelled “unity in diversity”.
Q Tell us more about Khanyisa International Ministries and your beautiful guest lodge?
This really is an incredible story. God connected us with amazing people in Robertson. One special connection was our neighbours, the Roux family. Oom Johan, a local farmer, contacted me one day and told me that the Lord spoke to him and his wife about helping us. He then opened his farm and renovated and built beautiful accommodation that could host a total of 24 people. All of this was given to us at no cost! Oom Johan and the Roux family have been an enormous blessing to this young, fledgling ministry. During this time, a German donor also felt prompted by the Lord to buy land right next door to Oom Johan’s farm. In support of the Lord’s work, the dream then was to develop a guest lodge and ministry base that would serve the community.
God has a plan, we just need to be available for Him to use us.
All of this is now a reality. The Khanyisa Mountain Lodge officially opens in February 2020. This 5-star facility is a great retreat for the discerning traveller. It is also a venue that welcomes church groups, pastors’ retreats, conferences, weddings, family getaways, and rest for weary travellers. The focus of the lodge is far greater than just being a magnificent facility. It also serves as an active ministry base.
Q What does Khanyisa offer now?
Our vision is to reconcile and develop, through evangelism. We work with broken people, shining God’s light. We see ourselves as servants, here to do the Lord’s work. Khanyisa Ministries has three sectors now: our music and creative arts programme, our volunteer and gap year programme, and our hospitality sector through the lodge. The greatest thing that we offer, however, is not a programme, but it is love. What we do matters, but who we are matters more.
Date published: 09/01/2020
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