The late Pastor Sam van Niekerk (66). Photo supplied.
Tributes from all over the world streamed in the past week, following the death of the well-known Pastor Sam van Niekerk of Louis Trichardt.
“It was early Monday morning, 26 July 2021, that we as fellow colleagues, staff, and members of Agapé Christian Centre learned of the passing of our dearly beloved Pastor Sam van Niekerk. He had a battle against the Covid-19 virus and fought bravely right to the end,” said fellow pastor Wynie van Tonder.
Sam was hospitalised in the Zoutpansberg Private Hospital from 29 June until 5 July, after which he was transported to the ICU unit in Krugersdorp Netcare Hospital, where he passed away.
Pastor Sam (also known as Sampie) was born in Middelburg on 3 October 1954. At the age of three years, his parents moved to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to farm in the Hartley district. “Sam grew up and worked in Zimbabwe until we immigrated to South Africa in 1980,” says his wife Dalene (née Martin).
Sam first attended school in Zimbabwe but at the age of 10 his parents enrolled him at Triegies (Louis Trichardt Primary). He then attended Louis Trichardt High School. Sam and his two older brothers were able to go home to Zimbabwe by bus most holidays, and Sam often shared fond memories of school and hostel life with his family.
“Sam returned to Zimbabwe after completing school and became sub-accountant in the Standard Bank. Sam and I met at a Church Camp at Fort Victoria, fell in love and married in 1978. We lived in Salisbury and had glorious fun and adventure years together, despite the then ‘Bush War’. When we immigrated to South Africa, we lived in Lothiar (Ermelo), where Sam worked for HL&H as a financial manager,” remembers Dalene.
They made a life-changing decision by moving to Bloemfontein in 1983. Here they enrolled in the Agapé Christian Bible School to prepare for full-time ministry – a passion they shared.
Their first church, Patmos, was in Port Shepstone. “In 1990, we moved to Louis Trichardt, to pastor Agapé Christian Centre. Here in Louis Trichardt, our children had the privilege to grow up in the same beautiful environment that Sam had treasured in his heart,” says Dalene.
Sam's fatherly pastoral heart, his unique passion to see people develop their talents and his gift of teaching the Word of God soon opened many doors for him to connect to many rural pastors and churches. “We gave opportunity for many of our church family and K.I.T. (Kingdom Impact Team) pastors to travel with us to minister in Africa and overseas. These pastors and their churches are family to us,” continues Dalene.
Pastor Petrus Mamuhohi confirms that this revival impacted churches of both black and white people. Pastor Sam trained pastors in their walk with God and exposed them to strategic Kingdom leaders such as Dr Jonathan David and Dr William Vun from Malaysia. The impact of his legacy began to touch many other nations in Africa and Asia. “His life taught us the principles of Righteousness, Agape love, Giving, Selflessness, Patience and of Commitment,” says Mamuhohi.
Dalene continues: “My heart is broken with the loss of my beloved husband, my most trusted and dependable friend who protected me with his life and the man of God I so highly regarded for his wisdom and integrity. Our children grieve the loss of their loving, caring and godly ‘dad’ whom they adored. He was so dearly loved by his grandchildren. Sam was a pillar of strength to our families and church family.”
Son Martin van Niekerk says: “My father loved his family, his friends and his community. He was a man of profound faith who always strived to serve in humility. He was a pillar of strength to so many around him. He was adored by his grandkids, who referred to him as ‘Oupa Lovey’. We miss him dearly but also take comfort knowing that where the tallest trees fall, new life always springs forth.”
His daughter, Michelle, confirms that her dad had lived his life honouring God in everything he did. “He loved my mom with all his heart, every day of his life. He was nothing but the perfect father to us children and a well-loved friend to so many people. He would have wanted me to add this very important fact: he was an astounding fisherman! A giant has fallen, and when a giant falls, the earth shakes. But God promises us that we will be unshakeable. So, we will continue as a family to honour him, to build our Heavenly Father's Kingdom and to love people just like my dad did. We promise to fill the empty space with our greatest memories. We want to thank Agapé and the community for taking such good care of our mother. Dad, you are my hero, and you will always be my hero. I love you, Daddy,” says Michelle.
Son Marcel (living in America), says: “Uncle Sam, my dad, is a Jesus follower because his journey still continues and could not be pulled to the grave by a hospital bed. Alive and well in the lives and streets of Louis Trichardt, the Limpopo Valley, and beyond the South African shores. He is with us because we're still loving unconditionally beyond skin colour, beliefs, and religion, just like he modelled for us. When we fellowship, braai, fish, golf, garden, we do so filled with joy and a love of life, just like he embraced life. He left a trail of testimonies, and treasures of hope. Life is fulfilled in the way we serve others, and purpose is discovered in the depths of laying our life down for our neighbour. Oom Sampie was never a perfect man, and if ever he obtained such status, it would be an insult, because he made every effort to be a man that allows God to work through his imperfections. Hamba lapa side, Moruti ... it's now your children's turn to run.”
Deon Svoboda was Sam’s best friend – for about 30 years – when they met at Agapé. “I am missing him dearly. We had so much fun on the golf course and going fishing. He never judged anybody. As best friends we shared our deepest thoughts, we were always there for each other. Our hearts are broken, and this world will never be the same without him. I love you, my friend, and will miss you,” a sad Deon says.
Fellow pastor Wynie van Tonder describes Pastor Sam as no “ordinary” pastor. “Apart from the ministry and friendship relationships that he established all over, he was a real down-to-earth person, a true and loyal friend, a man who believed in living a righteous and honest life before God, and one who always made others to feel accepted in his presence,” Van Tonder says on behalf of the Agapé family.
Pastor Van Tonder shares that he was instrumental in paving the way for others around him to excel even further than what he himself would be able to go. “Under the senior pastors couple’s loving and caring leadership, Agapé Christian Centre grew strong in number and influence, locally and internationally. We greet you, Pastor Sam, and will see you again one day when we gather around the throne of God and worship Him together,” Van Tonder says.
Dalene says “Our Sam ‘fought the good, noble fight, he finished the race’ and we will continue his legacy! Sam's deepest conviction was - "For to me, to live is Christ, He is my source of joy, my reason to live, and to die is gain for I will be with Him in eternity." (Philippians 1:21).
The family has high appreciation and is grateful to Dr Anton Stroebel, both hospitals’ staff, Pastor Crumpton from Foundation Ministers International (who visited and prayed for Sam), Dr Khan and his assistant, Michelle Mulder. The family extend their thanks to the community in sharing their loss and for everybody’s support in their time of need and grief.
Pastor Sam leaves behind his wife, Dalene; son Martin and wife Antoinette and their children Lyla en Elle; daughter Michelle; son Marcel and wife Stasha and their children Noah and Anthym (the latter to be born in August).
Date:30 July 2021 - By: Pétria de Vaal