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Farm murders hit a fresh peak in February, sparking a simple video plea that evolved into South Africa’s biggest ever prayer meeting with more than a million people gathering near Bloemfontein over the weekend. Businessman Graham Power, who has supported evangelist Angus Buchan, takes us inside the extraordinary gathering which helicopter pilots estimate attracted 1.3m people – explaining how it was conceived in just six weeks and ended with an inexplicable natural event that the faithful believe provided physical evidence of God’s presence at the unprecedented event. Power believes this will be the watershed moment for a South Africa that has been drifting ever deeper into corruption and misrule. – Alec Hogg
Graham, quite often watching the video clips, or listening to interviews with you, you’re described as a businessman, what businesses do you have?
My main line of business is construction, so we build roads, bridges, and dams and also build many thousands of houses for the less privileged, which is part of the government housing schemes. I think we’ve built about 45 000 houses over the last 12 or 13 years.
That’s a wonderful endeavour, you’re also very focused on your faith and you were supportive of Angus Buchan’s efforts over many years, how did you meet him?
We had our first day of prayer in Newlands in 2001 with the 45 000 people and it was soon after that that he came to visit me at my office and then we were asked to do a number of events together out in the Boland in the countryside visiting some of the smaller towns and he is an amazing evangelist and just such a positive character. From that time onwards, there have been many occasions that we have been together. I think of a time where we had one of the worst droughts in the Southern Cape in a place called George. We went down there on the invitation of the local community and prayed for rain and thank God soon after that they had some very heavy rain, so it’s been amazing to just be alongside him. I see him as one of my spiritual fathers and a great mentor.
Before 2001, how did the two of you actually meet?
I knew a lot about Angus through “Faith Like Potatoes” and friends, of course, the movie, “Faith Like Potatoes” was only made after 2001, but one was aware of this farmer that was a strong evangelist and that’s about as much as it was. In my office in 2002 when he came along through a mutual friend and we met and from that time onwards we’ve operated as dear friends. It has just been wonderful to see how he and his family and our family have had some close links over these years.
Now, the whole Mighty Men project has been itself extraordinary. We’re going to talk about the past weekend in a moment, but that is where it all started, did it require financial support to get it going?
The interesting thing about Angus is that I’ve never ever heard him ask people for any form of support. Things happen by people feeling that they would like to make some form of contribution. At the Mighty Men conferences which ran over 10 years, the first one had a few hundred people, I was not there, and then it grew from 600 to a few thousand, 75 000, about 150 000. The last one was somewhere in the region of 400 000 in 2009. Now, 2009 was also the year where he collapsed on the stage and had a mighty heart attack. It was amazing to see how the prayers that went, the helicopter took him to the hospital and lo and behold the next day, that was on the Saturday, on the Sunday morning, he was back onstage and did a message. From that time it appears to me that there is a new anointing that came on Angus.
He knows that he was in the presence of the Lord, that he had this mighty heart attack and it was almost as if he has handed his total life over to the Lord and so that to me has almost been quite an instrumental shift when one knows that I am actually here and it was not meant to be, but God has a purpose and a plan for me to fulfil and 2010 was just a most amazing experience with 400 000 men camping for a weekend. The traffic in and out of that place was a nightmare. People were coming in 3 days ahead of time, it’s a small town in Natal, and you can just imagine what it did to that town, where you had kilometres of traffic backing up entering through one entrance road and so forth.
So, to say that at that point, Angus said, okay, that’s it, that’s the end of having the Mighty Men on his and his neighbour’s farms. You can imagine it really took them out of the farming cycle for income generation for months of the year because they had to prepare their farms for this mass invasion of people coming to camp. Then he said, “Okay, guys” throughout the country or wherever, “If you want to hold one, I’m available to come and speak” and so forth and guys have done that, so it happens across the country all the time. This coming weekend there’s one in the Karoo and it’s been going, I’m guessing now, about 6 years and it’s a well represented one, always on this long weekend at the end of April and it’s just great to see how people take their vehicle, take their tent or their caravan and they go and camp there and the testimonies that has flown out of these various gatherings.
The amount of people that were into alcoholism, drugs, about to get divorced, in affairs, all kinds of things that people have been into and he just speaks so straight and down the line, “Guys, you go and make that phone call and that’s the last time you ever speak to that woman again. Cut it and cut it now” and people are convicted and they go along and set their things right within their family. It’s been quite amazing to see. I think in years to come there will be many books written and many testimonies shared of men that have had their lives and their families turned around through Angus and through the Mighty Men network if I can call it that.
It’s been an enormous force for good and has impacted many lives as you say, but this past weekend took it to a whole new level, where did the whole idea come from?
As you may know, there were quite a number of farm murders in the month of February this year. In fact, it was the worst month since the breaking up of Apartheid 25 years ago and so there was a very big concern and an Afrikaans gentleman sent a video clip and in the video clip he was speaking in Afrikaans and he said, “You know friends, we can all be very upset about all these farm murders and we can kind of turn to violence and it can agitate the racial divide in our country even further”, he said, “We had our greatest drought in the Northern part of our country, in the Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein area, the Free State and Gauteng”, and he said, “We prayed, that was a year ago, we prayed for rain and now our dams are the fullest it’s been in many years, we had a massive answer to our prayers”.
Then he switched to English and he says, “Uncle Angus, call us and we will come and pray for our nation because we need prayer now, not a massive stirring of emotion and hatred developing between various groupings”. That little clip went out around the country, I must have got it a dozen times and Angus sent it to me as well and I’d seen it already. I sent a note back to him and I said, “I really sense that this is going to be the biggest gathering and that something needs to be done and I suggest that it be in the middle of the country in or near Bloemfontein”. We were liaising and he sent a note back three days later and he said, “Yes, let’s do it in Bloemfontein”. He then invited people to tell us what farms are available.
That was on the Monday, on the Tuesday I drove up there, I happened to be up at one of my places where I have a small farm in Johannesburg and drove to Bloemfontein and Joe Niemand, who is one of the gospel singers and myself went there and we went to these five farms that were seen as the most suitable and Wilde Els, which was a kind of a wild aloe, the translation, which, I understand comes from an aloe that used to grow there many years ago, which has medicinal medical benefits for people that use it, so it was a farm that had this particular name about this plant that would be used for healing and out of all the five farms that we visited, this was the one that was the most suitable from an access point of view. There’s a little hill and from there you look out over the plains of this farm and it was big enough.
You can imagine, if you try and put a million people seated and each one’s bringing along their own fold up chair, you need about 1.2 m2 per person to sit, so just seating alone is 120 hectares. If you have three or four people average per car coming in, that means you need 300 000 plus vehicles. Now you have parking issues, you have the seating, then you have all the pathways and security and safety needs to be able to get in and out, so the logistics start and all of this happened in a period of just over 6 weeks. At the beginning of March, was this call that something needs to happen and it was really from early March that we looked at the farms, identified them.
Then to get all the approvals from the authorities because you can imagine the traffic that this brought upon a town which has a total of 800 000 people and here you’re going to have in excess of a million people arriving at this town over a two-day period. The logistics were amazing and I met with the owner of the farm who was an ex-Springbok front-ranker, Ollie le Roux and just the day as we stood up there on this little hill and we looked out over the land and we identified, okay, this place can handle this volume, Ollie just kept on saying, “Man, a million people, I can’t even imagine seeing that amount of people on this land” and he just shook his head, “Ja, I’m just making this farm available”. He has some game on it and he said, “Well, we’ll get the buck shifted into one corner, we’ll put a temporary fence there”.
The farmers came along and just helped with cutting all the grass and he said, “You know, a year ago, this place was just barren. Here today we have all this grass” and so the farmers came in and they assisted him and they cut all this grass to use it as feed over the next few months and lo and behold, on Saturday my friend who was one of the helicopter pilots that were flying people in and out and also took the media around, they estimated that it was, his comment to me was, “Graham, I believe there was in excess of 1.3 million”.
You know, it’s too difficult to tell the numbers, but it was certainly way in excess of a million, so it was an amazing day. We actually had a team that cycled from Cape Point, the southern tip to Bloemfontein, it’s 1080 km and we left on Easter Sunday. We started to then cycle each day an average of just over 200 km a day and we had a team of intercessors that were with us and also a youth group called Eagles Rising. We were 75 people and we visited every one of the small towns along the way to Bloemfontein and had a small prayer gathering with each of these towns and bringing hope and just the testimonies that came out of that was mind blowing.
It’s an extraordinary story, as you say six weeks in the making, but all sparked by farm murders and a social media campaign. The one thing and I know that when I spoke to Angus on Friday, he said there had been a lot of media coverage, but the national media not so much. Do you have any understanding or feeling for why this is the case?
Look, I think there’s a lot of politics right now with our president who is in the news for all the wrong reasons and there are many marches taking place, “Zuma Must Fall”, so I think the government is in the most vulnerable place that it’s been since coming into power in 1994 and they’ve lost a lot of ground in the last local elections which was last year and I have never yet seen a country so united, even in the Apartheid days, about a concern about where the leaders in government are at the moment, so that has a lot of front page news. Personally, I think that there’s been quite a reasonable amount of exposure to what happened on Saturday.
Just yesterday as we were driving back with our bicycles on the trailer heading back to Cape Town, we were talking about the media and just saying, When I think about our first gathering at Newlands with 45 000 people and the amount of coverage that that got across, that got across the country, it was way in excess of what this weekend has got and why? It’s almost as if it’s become – there have been quite a few gatherings, not of this size, this is the biggest by far ever yet, but I think that we will wake up to the enormity of this in the next few days and I’m hoping that the media will be sharing some of the testimonies and the stories that have come out of it.
It does take a while for something of this import to in fact, be absorbed by the general population, but what was interesting yesterday was many people have been asking the Deputy President to come up and say something and he took a stand, so perhaps your prayers have already had a slight impact.
Yes, well we trust so. I really hope and believe that we’re going to see some significant shifts. Angus was very careful, part of the prayer was that we want to see change, we want to see change, change in government and the prayer was , “Let us see this soon, Lord” and that I think is the general prayer across the world, across our country about change and there’s been a lot of corruption and many things happening. I want to say to you that I’m hugely excited about South Africa. We’ve had this reshuffle in our cabinet; it’s just brought about the downgrade of our economic system, which we were all really dreading. Now it’s done and I believe that government are going to bear the brunt of some of the poor decisions that were made come the next election, but you know that’s 2019, so that’s a year and a half away or probably two years away.
It’s going to be interesting to see, come the end of the year that within the ANC there is a new leader chosen in December this year and the jocking for position is on, so like in Europe and the UK and in America the political shifts have been quite dramatic. We just see what’s happening in France right now and even in Turkey and places like that. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens, but to say that I’m excited and to say that I’m an African, I may be white but I’m an African and I’m proud to be an African. I believe that I’m born here for a reason and that God is using the Angus’s of the world and you and I in order to bring hope and to really know that we should not fear. We can walk in the knowledge that God is in control even when we have these fears and concerns.
Graham, what’s next?
Well, I think that out of the gathering, there are many people. I can tell you, there were a number of our team, of our 75 that went up, that were so impacted. I don’t believe anybody that was there on Saturday has not left with an amazing revelation on the impact. Did you hear about the wind that came up while Angus was busy talking? We were praying, he said, “Now I’d like you to take five minutes and I want you to pray out loud if you wish, or quietly, but just let’s pray for five minutes, starting with yourself, your family, your immediate needs and expand from there”.
He also told us about when he had been in Israel at the Dead Sea and how this wind had come up and he’d been talking about Acts II and the mighty wind that came and how this wind had come across and the next thing from the back, you just heard this little rumble that started and the next thing there was this whirlwind that came through. Now I was pretty near to the stage, we had two of the political leaders from two of the parties, two Christian leaders were there and this wind came through and it almost turned in front of that stage and it took people’s hats, it took umbrellas and it took it into a whirlwind up in front of that stage and you just saw the things going, what looked to be a kilometre into the air.
It was just a wild moment for about, I’m guessing it was a minute and a half that this thing just swirled and it just like pulled things right into the sky and you just saw these things, you know for example, I saw woman’s hat, I think it was blue in colour, so it was quite easy to follow and just saw this thing disappearing, kind of into the sky and that was such a wow moment. I think for people that were it was kind of just, “Lord thank you for sending us this amazing sign”, so I’m looking forward to see what God does in our country. I believe we’re going to see a shift in the politics, a shift in the spiritual atmosphere, and one cannot even try to identify or put into words what has happened on Saturday and what the outflow will be.
You’re not planning anything, there’s nothing planned, you’re just leaving it to providence.
No, I think that a number of things will roll out from here. Let me say that, when I was last with Angus, he came down to Cape Town as he went to the different centres and he spoke to the leaders and encouraged them about getting involved with this day. On that day, which was two weeks ago, that morning God gave me Isaiah 66 Verse 8, where it says can a nation be born in a day and I went to him that day and I said to him, Agues, this is the word that I believe God has dropped in my spirit this morning for you, is can a nation be born in a day and will we see the 22nd of April as being a day in which our country is turned and I honestly believe that God is giving him what I said to him was, a 1 million mandate.
In other words, that I believe out of this, there will be so much positive that will flow, that nations around the world will invite him and they will get a million plus people together and ask him to come and to pray as we did this Saturday in the different nations around the world. I have had this vision and dream back in the year 2000 and again in 2006, that there would be three waves that would cross over Africa and the globe and the first wave is a wave of prayer, the second wave is a wave of ethics, values and clean living, what we call “unashamedly ethical” and then would come what I could only describe as a positive tsunami, a kind of a revival transformation like the world has never yet seen.
So, I’m of the view that we are now somewhere between wave one and wave two and that I believe that God is going to, as in 2 Chronicles 7:14, you know, “If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my faith and turn from their wicked ways, phase two, then the promise that God gives you and I, then I’ll hear from heaven, forgive your sin and heal your land”. It’s that healing of the land that we are praying for and that is a promise that God gives you and I, that if we will humble ourselves and pray, we will seek his faith, we will turn from our wicked ways, turn from our sins, then you will hear from heaven, “Forgive our sin and heal our land”.
That starts with me, my family, my workplace, my church, my sports club etc. and from there it ripples out and I believe if each of us will each day spend time in prayer, we will be ethical in all our dealings and I believe that God is going to put that hedge of protection around us and that we will see things go well and we know that by being a Christian, we mustn’t expect it to be sunshine and roses. We’re going to go through our difficulties, we’re going to be tested etc., but I’m excited believing that this is the start of a mighty shift in South Africa in Africa and for the world.
Graham, it is very early days, in fact, the event was only held over the last weekend, but have you had any feedback from other parts of the world, from Christians perhaps in the United States or other countries that are going through their own challenges?
Let me say that all of this happened on Saturday, we’ve had a long week with cycling from 06:30 in the morning till 18:30 at night, 12 hours a day and so I’ve been fairly out of the loop, I’m just switching on my computer this morning and seeing all kinds of testimonies and little remarks and messages that are coming through, so it was really great to hear that there were a few thousand people praying together in Perth for South Africa, in the UK, various parts of the world, knowing that this prayer’s happening on Saturday and people were in there countries standing in prayer with us at the same time.
So, that to me has been awesome. I think that over the next few days we will be hearing some of the testimonies and Alec, it may be a good thing for us to chat again towards the end of the week, but I have little doubt that there are going to be amazing stories that are going to come out of Saturday and testimonies of people and even healings that have taken place from people that went there with different ailments and illnesses etc.
Just on a lighter note, you said that as far as the helicopter pilots are concerned, they counted about 1.3 million people, how did you feed them all, what happened if they needed to go to the toilet with that kind of logistic?
You can imagine, in six weeks all of this had to be put together. Everybody was encouraged to bring your own snacks, so people were coming along there with their rucksacks with water, liquids, and snacks for the day. People were coming in. They tried to get people to park in different areas. All of this was for free, you applied for your parking ticket, you knew you were in block X, Y, or Z and it was encouraged that you should arrive at 04:00 on Saturday morning in a particular block and other people at 05:00 and others at 06:00 etc. to try and prevent the congestion. Then people were carrying these things for two or three kilometres that they were walking with their chair, with their rucksack. I saw some people with wheels, dragging a little trolley and the whole mother and four kids walking behind and dad pulling this trolley.
It was just amazing to see and the different racial groupings that were there, it was a good mix of people and historically, when we speak Mighty Men, it was probably 90% white Afrikaner males. This was for the family and it really was a good family mix and there was a good spread of colour, black, coloured, Indian, that were present on the day, it was just amazing to see and the unity, people were not getting upset waiting in the lines to get to the venue. The toilets were such that for the men there were trenches dug with a screen around them that they could go and relieve themselves and so forth and for the ladies it was a little more sophisticated with some of these porta toilets that were brought in.
The logistics was just amazing and you can imagine, two kilometres long, one kilometre wide, that is where the people sat and these screens and the sound was stacked out in those areas so that people sitting right at the back could see as if they were sitting in the front because the stage was so huge, if you were 50 to 100 metres away you couldn’t see the people on the stage anyway, so you were looking at the screen. Somebody sitting right at the back would have as good a view of the screen as somebody sitting 50 metres from the front.