The Brakpan Assemblies
Together with the Fairview elders, Fred Mullan campaigned from one end of the Rand to the other, from Brakpan to Krugersdorp, and around the city of Johannesburg in many of its suburbs.
In 1945-1946 Fred Mullan and Leslie Nelson (a Fairview elder) conducted a Pentecostal campaign in the Brakpan Town Hall. Many got saved and experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. A few families subsequently decided to leave the Baptist Church and start cottage meetings where they could fellowship in a Pentecostal environment. Prayer and fasting were the order of the day as they waited on the Lord for leading and guidance for a leader.
Vernon and Martha Pettenger (together with Vernon's parents, Edgar and Mabel Pettenger) were American missionaries from the A/G in Springfield, Missouri. At that time they were living in Brakpan whilst working among the men in the mine compounds. This was a very viable way of spreading the Gospel into remotest Africa. The mines recruited labour from Mozambique, Nyasaland (now Malawi) and elsewhere. The missionaries preached to the labourers, who would of course carry the message back to their homes when their contracted term of labour ended. The impact of this work is beyond measurement. Vernon and Martha were invited to join and help out with ministry at the newly formed Pentecostal meetings in Brakpan.
Brother Stephen van der Merwe was originally from South Africa but had taken up residence in America. He was given a vision of Africa and realized that the Holy Spirit was leading him back to South Africa. He and his wife Bernice were led by God to Brakpan where they were welcomed as an answer to the prayer for leadership by the Brakpan Pentecostal congregation. Meetings and Sunday School were started in the President Brand Primary School hall. Later a tent was erected on the corner of Bedford and Kingsway Avenues where they held meetings until a property with a small 3-roomed house was purchased on the corner of Park and Germains Avenues. Having no funds for builders, the men in the congregation got together every Saturday, broke the old house down, and built the church hall as it stands today. God blessed and more and more folks were added to the church.
The South African Bible Institute (SABI)
John and Earlene Garlock, an American A/G missionary couple who came to South Africa in 1949, established a Bible school at Brakpan called the South African Bible Institute.
This Bible school worked in conjunction with the Brakpan assembly.
Together with David Newington, John Garlock trained many young people for the ministry. The students of SABI assisted the missionaries with the evangelistic work at the mine compounds.
106 Germains avenue became the home of the SABI between 1951-52 until a new SABI building was completed at Rand Colleries early in 1953.
In 1949 Brother Fred Burke established the "All Africa school of Theology" in Spring Valley, Witbank. The first students were Jan Viljoen, Beryl Keevy and P. Malan from Brakpan until a place was sought nearer home.
Both Stephen and Bernice van der Merwe served as staff at the SABI as did Leslie Nelson and Vernon Pettenger. Brother and Sister Van left Brakpan to go back to the States in the early part of 1954 and the Brakpan church became known as the South African Assemblies of God. Among those associated with the early Brakpan church was the legendary A/G pioneer, Nicholas Bhengu and his wife, Mylet.
The church then enjoyed the ministry of Brother David Newington (former missionary from the British A/G to Central Africa) for a few years. Once when asked what his ambition was, Newington said, "I want to be a millionaire!" When asked to elaborate he added, "When I stand before the Blessed Master, I want to give Him a million people!" David Newington later began a ministry of literature distribution called Emmanuel Tract Fellowship (ETF). Emmanuel Press became the home of this ministry, which still functions in White River.
Subsequently the church was pastored by the Cunninghams, the Stewarts, the Nortons, and Harold and Alice Berry. Harold Berry originally came from Lytham St Anne's in England. He married Alice Wigglesworth in 1940, the granddaughter of Smith Wigglesworth the world renowned evangelist. The Berries were missionaries in the Congo for over 20 years until they left because of the troubles of 1960, when the Simba rebels started butchering missionaries.
Elvyn and Phyllis Lee were both born in Aberman, Wales and were called to the Congo Mission Field while still single. After marrying, they served in Sierra Leone for 3 years (1933-6), returning to Wales in 1937. But their burden for the Congo was still heavy so they returned there in 1937. They buried their firstborn son Vernon in the Congo forest that same year as a result of malaria. The doctor advised them to leave the Congo for the birth of their second child, and so Graham Lee was born in Cape Town. Elvyn Lee ministered faithfully in the Brakpan Assembly for 12 years. He was a little man with a big heart who served the Lord well as missionary, pastor and musician until the Lord took him home in 1981. His ministry was succeeded in Brakpan by his son and daughter-in-law, Graham and Jeanine Lee who pastored there until 1988.
With the formation of the new organization called the Assemblies of God Fellowship (AGF) in 1981, the Brakpan assembly became affiliated to the AGF.
The Current Era
One of the converts in the early PE assembly planted by James Mullan was a young man named Warren Paynter. Warren subsequently attended the Brakpan SABI in 1953. Involved in the mine compound meetings and open air meetings he was married in the same year to Maureen Warren. They later (1960) became the parents of the current Brakpan assemblies pastor, Ken Paynter. Warren went into the full time ministry in 1959, gaining a reputation as a knowledgeable Bible teacher, specifically in the area of Biblical Eschatology (i.e. prophecy). He served in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and all over South Africa, ministering in the Group, Independent and Coastal assemblies.
After training at YWAM, Ken Paynter came to the assembly as pastor in late 1988. The adjacent property to the church was purchased and the house demolished to allow for additional parking space.
Under Ken's ministry and leadership at Brakpan AGF the church has developed into a vibrant multiracial work with a thriving Youth Group and Sunday School. The church has also become extremely missions focused. Not only are missions supported on a monthly basis, but missionaries have been sent out from the church into Africa and Europe. In 2009 the website ministry was started by Gavin Paynter. In 2010 Gavin was appointed co-pastor of the church.
Compiled and edited by Gavin Paynter
- Joyce Berry
- SABI Call (1951-1953)
- Various "Fellowship" magazines (Editor: Charles Enerson)
- "From Africa's Soil - The story of the Assemblies of God in Southern Africa": Peter Watt
- "For the record - Reflections on the Assemblies of God": John Bond