Angus Buchan doesn’t serve a small, timid god. He serves the omnipresent, omnipotent Lord of Lords. No, he didn’t tell me this. For this article I didn’t even meet with him. But it’s abundantly clear from every facet of Uncle Angus’ life – from his book (and later film) “Faith Like Potatoes” to his Mighty Men conferences, to merely skim the surface of this remarkable man’s God-breathed ministry.
And that takes us to the “It’s Time” prayer meeting. A prayer meeting held on a Bloemfontein farm in April that drew over one million – yes, one million – individuals. Among them DA leader Mmusi Maimane and ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe, as well as countless men and women of all stripes. Men and women quietly fired, no doubt, by 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Now naturally an undertaking like “It’s Time” took organisation. But more than that, it took faith. A radical get-out-of-the-boat sort of faith. Something that Uncle Angus has in bucketloads – as does Eric Tocknell, the founder of CityHill, and a man who was not only involved in “It’s Time,” but a man without whom you probably wouldn’t be reading this magazine or sitting in this Church. And a man without whom I wouldn’t have written this piece either.
It was Eric, after all, who baptised me in his own swimming pool over 29 years ago on a searing summer’s afternoon – and if only I’d stayed at the Bible college that Eric recommended I attend. But that’s another story.
“It all started off with a farmer from the Free State sending us a DVD listing his concerns as he drove around in his bakkie, concerns about farm murders, disunity in the country, and so forth, and he called on Angus to pray for South Africa,” Eric tells me.
After a board meeting, adds Eric, who after all the decades I’ve been honoured to know him still exudes the same quiet calm, a date just a little over six weeks hence was chosen – and Bloemfontein was selected for the prayer meeting as it’s at the centre of the country.
“The rough budget for a four-hour programme was about R19-million,” says Eric, “and we presented it to our fellow players – and to God!” You can probably guess what happened next.
“The money came in from every conceivable place and source, from the US, from New Zealand, from England, from South Africa,” says Eric. “We didn’t have to appeal for one rand. The money was pouring in! Four days before the event it was all paid for.” These donations, of course, were prompted by social media awareness, and were matched by donations of everything from diesel to poles for fencing, while the actual meeting was held on rugby legend Ollie le Roux’s farm.
The primary cost was the stage, and the sound, followed, funnily enough, by toilets.
Eric adds that when he flew into the Tempe military airport on the Saturday morning of the event, “there were planes everywhere.”
“And then when we took a helicopter to the farm, well, the vastness of the crowd! I haven’t seen anything like that before and I won’t again,” smiles Eric. “At the end of it all, not a single piece of paper was lying around.”
A little earlier in the same week I spoke with Eric, I took a drive up to Shalom Ministries outside Greytown on one of those winter days where the sky is a deep indigo and the air brisk. Here, over coffee, part of Uncle Angus’s formidable, affable team gave more background into “It’s Time.”
‘You know, it was almost like he (Angus) was waiting for something,” says Robyn Maclean, Shalom Ministries’ finance administrator and Uncle Angus’s daughter. She adds that the donations received were phenomenal, ranging from the analogous “widow’s mite” to others that were “substantial.”
“It had been my dad’s prayer that by the time he stepped up to stage all would be settled, and it was,” says Robyn.
Clive Tedder, Uncle Angus’s “right-hand man” in so many ways, adds that with previous events such as the Mighty Men conferences, they had a year or two for planning. But with “It’s Time” the planning period was less than seven weeks.
“We’d sit in meetings until 9pm or 10pm, and it was all just at a different level in terms of the speed at which things were organised. It was miraculous,” says Clive, giving the clear impression that he’s not using the “M” word lightly. He gives just one of many examples.
“We spoke about needing generators. By the time the chap concerned (a committee member) got back to his office there was an email offering as many generators as we needed,” says Clive. “On the day itself seeing a million people kneeling and saying the sinner’s prayer just left me in awe.”
George Carpenter, executive producer for Shalom Ministries, adds that the massive pre-publicity the event enjoyed on social media was all organic – in other words it wasn’t paid for. And a simple video of Uncle Angus sitting at his desk, saying he was taking the weekend to pray about what God wanted him to do in terms of “It’s Time,” went viral within hours. Indeed, the video was released on a Friday. By the end of the weekend just under five million people had it pop up on their screens – without a single cent being paid. Shalom’s social media team is quoted as saying, “The response was beyond anything we had experienced before on our digital platforms.”
But then Uncle Angus serves a mighty God. And, we sometimes need to remember, so do we all.