The body of a 76-year-old man who died 11 days ago remains in the mortuary of a small Free State town as some of his family – members of an apocalyptic Christian sect – await the fulfillment of a prophecy that he will rise from the dead.
Paul Meintjies, a respected resident of Hertzogville, a close-knit farming community about 140km from Bloemfontein, died on July 1 in Hoopstad Hospital following a lengthy illness.
After his death “prophet” David Francis, spiritual adviser to the Meintjies family, gave them a message from God.
“I told them that God said he would rise and he would rise soon,” Francis, 59, explained yesterday. “God says he is not going to raise him immediately so that when he rises, people can’t say that he wasn’t really dead. He is dead.”
Derided by many Hertzogville residents as the “SMS prophet” because of the manner in which he sent many of his “messages from God” to the family, Francis lives in Durban, where he runs a small business doing renovations and waterproofing. He is also the driving force behind the Action for Christ Ministry, Kingdom of God on Earth, which has been active in the Hertzogville area for the past three years.
Francis sees himself as a mouthpiece for God. “God speaks to me. I don’t hear an audible voice. I hear it in my head and I know it’s from God… I’ve received many visions and they’ve all come to pass.”
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Meintjies’s widow, Anna, his son Pieter and daughter Petro Josephs are clearly under the prophet’s spell.
But the dead man’s sister, Hettie Vorster, has expressed anger at “this nonsense” and just wants her brother to be cremated or buried.
Yesterday the family were closeted in the parental home in Hertzogville’s main street.
“It’s our Sabbath,” Pieter Meintjies explained.
“We received a promise from the Lord that my father would be raised from the dead. We don’t know when that will happen. The Lord has his own time.”
He said he believed Francis was a true prophet. “We have seen many miracles,” he said “We’re talking about 500 to 600 in one day. If he was not a man of God, then the Lord would not use him as such an instrument.”
Francis said he would return to Hertzogville to oversee the resurrection when “God tells me to go”. However, a warm reception for Francis is unlikely.
There has been long-standing antipathy towards him from many of the town’s residents.
“He’s a false prophet. I wished he would come back and then I could throw stones at him,” one woman said.
“It is such a small town that we’re like family and this is hurting us,” another woman said.