Dr. James Kennedy continues to be a tremendous example and inspiration to us in Africa. He was one of our best, most faithful and dependable friends. It constantly amazed us to see how such a busy and productive leader as Dr. Kennedy could still find time to be so thoughtful and helpful to small ministries and missions in Africa.
I first learnt about the ministry of Dr. James Kennedy as a brand new Christian. Having been brought up amidst the war in Rhodesia, I was converted to Christ in Cape Town, South Africa, Easter 1977. Almost immediately I was introduced to the ministry of Evangelism Explosion as Baptist evangelist Rev. Roger Voke took those of us who had volunteered to be counsellors for an upcoming evangelistic crusade through the EE programme. I was inspired by the 16mm film shown to us: Like a Mighty Army. We learned the diagnostic questions which I have used countless hundreds of times throughout my ministry since.
I have lost count of how many EE Manuals I have gone through and passed on to others, and how many productive evangelistic conversations and counselling sessions I have had the privilege of conducting since. I praise God that I was introduced to the ministry of Dr. James Kennedy and Evangelism Explosion at the beginning of my adventure of discipleship.
Although I had been brought up in a secular family, with no church attendance, before my conversion, I learned to be an evangelist from the beginning of my Christian walk. I ordered vast quantities of Gospel tracts and distributed them widely at railway stations, bus stops, taxi ranks, in the main streets, door to door, in Muslim areas, in hospitals, in schools, in military basis, at police stations, in prisons, at harbors and at airports.
As soon as I began my military service, I started a Bible Study and Prayer Fellowship which met every night during my two years in the army. In order to reach the entire unit of almost 2000 men, I organised for Evangelist Roger Voke to come and train our Bible Study group in Evangelism Explosion and to conduct an evangelistic mission to our military base and nearby schools and town. Over 350 people were led to Christ during that 10 day Evangelistic Mission. And even more during the rest of my military service.
Upon completion of my national service I was led to launch Frontline Fellowship as a mission of Christians from a military background to serve persecuted churches in communist countries across our border. In the years since then, we have had the privilege of smuggling hundreds of thousands of Bibles and Christian books into Marxist and Muslim countries. During the last 30 years I have had the opportunity to present over 12,000 sermons, lectures and Bible studies, including to soldiers and guerillas throughout Africa. Evangelism Explosion has always been at the heart of our mission. I have had the privilege of conducting Evangelism Workshops in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Angola, Malawi, the Congo, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria and throughout Eastern Europe.
After being imprisoned in communist Mozambique, I came to the attention of Dr. James Kennedy and I was interviewed by him for numerous Truths That Transform radio programmes.
During one of those Truths That Transform interviews Dr. Kennedy learned of the intention of F.W. De Klerk’s National Party government “to revise the abortion legislation”, and our desire to launch a Protestant Pro-Life movement in South Africa. Dr. Kennedy immediately announced his intention to donate Pro-Life books to help us in this endeavor. Through the thoughtfulness, generosity and vision of Dr. Kennedy, we received 1,000 copies of When Does Life Begin? This played a large role in the launch of Africa Christian Action, Christians for Truth and Doctors for Life.
We have been informed that South Africa may be the first country in the world that had a strong Pro-Life movement mobilized countrywide before legalisation of abortion. From February 1991 African Christian Action has organised, Life Chains, Sanctity of Life Sundays, National Days of Repentance, Pro-Life Prayer Vigils and demonstrations outside abortion clinics, submissions to parliament, weekly radio programmes, and thousands of Pro-Life meetings. We published the first Pro-Life Handbook in Southern Africa, the first Christian Action Handbook, the first books against pornography in South Africa, and the first book to expose the homosexual agenda in our country. The Pink Agenda – Sexual Revolution and the Ruin of the Family in South Africa was also the first Christian book to be censored in the New South Africa.
I have led many marches to parliament including one in which the police estimated the crowd to be in excess of 30,000. My protests against Nelson Mandela’s plans to legalise abortion-on-demand in South Africa led me to be summoned to meet the president.
It was May 1996 and we had marched tens of thousands of people to parliament to protest the paganisation of South Africa through the policies of the African National Congress. We had marched on Tuesday and on Thursday I was summoned to meet the president in his official residence. During the hour with Nelson Mandela I handed him a copy of Dr. James Kennedy’s book Foundations for Your Faith.
The first question from President Mandela was: “So, Mr. Hammond what were you doing in the years of struggle?”
“I was fighting people like you, sir.” I answered.
Nelson Mandela laughed and reached out his hand saying: “I’m so pleased to meet an honest white man! Every other white has told me how they always supported me and opposed apartheid. I wondered how the National Party stayed in power for over 40 years!”
“Well, Mr. President, make no mistake, I was not fighting for apartheid. I was fighting against communism and against terrorism.”
At this the president declared that “apartheid was the greatest evil in history of the world.”
“I cannot agree Mr. President, that prize has to go to your friends and supporters, the communists. Secular humanist, communist regimes have killed well over 160 Million people during the 20th Century. That’s not 160 Million people killed in war by invading armies. That’s 160 Million people killed by their own governments: secular, socialist states.”
As the president was still staring at me without response, I continued and detailed out the 36 Million killed under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, the over 68 Million murdered under Mao Tse Tung oppression in Communist China. The over 2 Million killed under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The millions more killed under Mengistu in Ethiopia, under Samora Machel in Mozambique, and Agistino Neto in Angola, and under Fidel Castro in Cuba.
Nelson Mandela stared at me impassively and then, leaning back, he stared at the ceiling and started to drift off down memory lane talking about how when he was a prisoner on Robben Island, the Boers had refused to allow him sunglasses. As his eyes were very sensitive, it was most painful being outside without shade for his sensitive eyes.
I responded: “Mr. President I also have very sensitive eyes and I can fully understand how uncomfortable and painful that must have been, but it hardly compares with the atrocities documented by Aleksandra Solzenitzen and in The Black Book of Communism.”
And so the conversation went. At one point Nelson Mandela expressed his surprise that we wanted to “restrict the rights of women” by opposing abortion. I responded: “Mr. President you are questioning the Christianity of people who 40 years ago justified apartheid. I tell you, sir, it will not be 40 years from now and people will question your humanity for legalising abortion. You are seeking to replace apartheid with abortion. And abortion is even worse than apartheid. Abortion does not just place the baby on a separate voter’s role and restrict where they can live or swim. Abortion takes the baby’s life. Life begins at conception and abortion is the violent taking of that life.
Abortion is the worst type of apartheid, for it separates a baby from its own mother and from its life support, at its most crucial state of development. You are seeking to replace discrimination on the basis of race with discrimination on the basis of age.”
At the end of the hour, Nelson Mandela stood up and told us that we could now take our pictures. I did not mean to be rude, but we honestly hadn’t even thought about that: “No thank you,” I said. He turned mouth agape in apparent shock. Perhaps we were the first delegation to meet with him who didn’t want to have pictures taken with him. I then hastened to add: “But, we would like to pray for you.”
“No! No! That’s very private and personal.” I pretended not to hear and put a hand on one shoulder while Rev. Soon Zevenster placed his hand on the other shoulder. We prayed that the Lord would not grant Mr. Mandela any peace until he did what he knew what was right, until he introduced legislation for the protection of babies from the violence and injustice of abortion. I prayed that Mr. Mandela would find peace in Christ by bowing the knee and surrendering to Almighty God to do His will.
At the end of our impassioned prayer, we handed over the book from Dr. Kennedy and Mr. Mandela thanked us and assured us that he was always responsive to the concerns of our constituency and that his door was always open should we have any other concerns. However the next week senior investigators of his Revenue Service began a 7 year Audit of our mission and family!
Over the years, Dr. Kennedy was most generous to donate many copies of key books such as Why I Believe,Truths that Transform,Skeptics Answered,Foundations for Your Faith,How do I Live for God,The Secret to a Happy Home,What if the Bible had Never Been Written?The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail and Beginning Again. These we carefully, prayerfully and strategically donated to pastors, teachers, chaplains and evangelists throughout English speaking Africa, as far North as Sudan. We have ordered many hundreds more copies of Dr. Kennedy’s key books and they continue to be a vital part of our Libraries for Pastors, donations to Christian schools and Christian college libraries.
After being interviewed by phone regularly over ten years I was invited for a TV interview with Coral Ridge Ministries and had the opportunity to meet Dr. Kennedy for the first time.
One of the questions I wanted to ask him, to see his reaction was: “Dr. Kennedy, I hear that you are still involved, every week, in door-to-door evangelism. I am surprised that you have the time, considering your radio, TV, writing and preaching ministry.”
Dr. Kennedy responded to me with intensity: “Peter, that’s the most important thing I do! All these ministries around me, I doubt that many of them will endure long after I am gone, but Evangelism Explosion, this ministry of multiplication, reaching the lost, bringing them to Christ and training them to reach others also, this is far more important than all my radio, TV and writing ministries.”
Everything about Dr. Kennedy impressed and inspired me. I was impressed how Dr. Kennedy had the name and emblem of German Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, the Cross in the heart, and the name and emblem of Swiss Reformer, Dr. John Calvin, a heart aflame in the hand of God, carved into the woodwork of his pulpit. And how the great battle-cry of the Reformation from Romans 1:16 was etched across the pulpit: “The Just Shall Live by Faith.”
He taught me to never neglect personal, one-on-one evangelism on the street, in shopping malls, in prisons, hospitals, townships and door-to-door evangelism. And so I’ve made it a principle that each of our courses and camps will include Evangelism Workshop and opportunities for participants to go onto the streets and engage in Gospel literature distribution and personal one-on-one evangelism. I’ve taught Evangelism Explosion to our missionaries, staff and to my children. Each of my children, from 5 years old, have been capable of presenting the EE Gospel presentation word perfect. And they have frequently done so.
Dr. James Kennedy taught me to be passionately committed to the Reformation doctrines of the Soverienty of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all areas of life. He encouraged me to proclaim a bold and dynamic eschatology of victory and to be convinced that Evangelical Christianity will transform the world. I continue to be challenged by the example and teachings of Dr. Kennedy to confront social evils by fulfilling the cultural mandate and the Great Commission.
On one of the occasions I met with Dr. Kennedy for lunch, he related to me that, as a young Christian, he had eagerly desired serving God as a missionary in the Congo. However, a back injury prevented him from doing this and he was then called to Coral Ridge. I pointed out to him that through his Evangelism Explosion ministry, his missionary vision for the Congo was being fulfilled in this day, and in fact throughout Africa and the world. The very next year I had the opportunity of running an Evangelism Explosion Workshop in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province of the Congo. Over a thousand Congolese participated in that workshop.
On one occasion as I was admiring the magnificent architecture of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Dr. Kennedy chided me: “Don’t be too impressed by externals, Peter,” he said. “I wish I could tell you that all the members of my congregation were saved, but I cannot. I cannot even tell you that all of my staff are saved. I cannot even tell you that all of my pastors and elders are saved. In fact just recently one of our ministers was converted! I will not tell you how many Presbyterian, congregations he had already served before being brought to Christ.”
Dr. James Kennedy was a great Christian leader and a great friend. I was continually amazed that such an important man, with such a multitude of ministry responsibilities, could take the time and interest in such a small mission as ours. Yet Dr. Kennedy was most gracious, and gave of his time when I was able to visit Fort Lauderdale.
Despite receiving many negative phone calls and complaints over having this controversial South African on his radio programmes, Dr. Kennedy told me that he frequently overruled the recommendations of his more cautious staff members to have me back on his programmes.
Dr. Kennedy was concerned not only for his ministries, but for the Kingdom of God worldwide. Dr. Kennedy was gracious to write endorsements for numerous of my books, including: Faith under Fire in Sudan,Biblical Principles for Africa,The Greatest Century of Missions, The Discipleship Handbook,Slavery, Terrorism and Islam – the Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat,Character Assassins - Dealing with Ecclesiastical Tyrants and Terrorists and The Greatest Century of Reformation.
Dr. Kennedy invited me to preach from his pulpit in Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church on several occasions and sent an Evangelism Explosion team to assist me in training pastors, teachers and chaplains in Sudan. When we were bombed by the National Islamic Front government Air Force on Sunday morning he commented that: “Never was an Evangelism Explosion Clinic more appropriately named!”
He frequently sent shipments of books to Frontline Fellowship for us to deliver and distribute to Bible colleges and schools throughout Africa. And he generously supplied boxes of his books as textbooks for our William Carey Bible Institute. He was quick to grant us permission to reprint any of his articles in JOY! Magazine. Dr. James Kennedy remained an Advisory Board Member of Frontline Fellowship to the end, standing by us through numerous storms of opposition. He remained steadfast in support and encouragement.
In the 33 years that I have been a Christian, and in my ministry in 30 countries on 4 continents, the example, the inspiration and teachings of Dr. James Kennedy have been some of the most decisive influences that have shaped and directed my attempts to fulfill the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. His teachings, textbooks and EE form an essential part of our Great Commission Courses, Biblical Worldview Seminars and William Carey Bible Institute.
I praise God for the outstanding life and steadfast witness of this great Christian leader, Reformer and Evangelist. We can praise God that the impact of Dr. Kennedy’s many ministries will go on transforming millions of lives and changing this world for Christ.
It remains for us to follow his tremendous, steadfast example of unwavering and unstoppable dedication to Evangelism and Reformation.
May God find us faithful to the Bible and effective in His service.
Dr. Peter Hammond