Peter F (11 December 1947 – 13 June 2020)
My friendship with Peter has spanned over the past 20 turbulent, yet immensely rewarding years. Very early on in our friendship, Peter shared a confidence with me relating to his identity, that I feel now is the right time to share more widely with others. Peter was born on 11th December 1947 in Barberton, South Africa to a Jewish mother and Gentile father. He told me that his family had fled to South Africa from Nazi wartime persecution of Jews when they had previously lived in Austria. From an orthodox perspective, Jewish law stipulates that the child of a Jewish mother is Jewish ‘for all time.’ Peter – for whatever reason, never wanted it to be widely known that he was born as a Jew with joint Austrian and South African nationality.
Peter’s family soon moved from Barberton to Cape Town, and in his early teens Peter attended a Christian youth camp and there had a life changing encounter with Jesus. Peter immediately became a born-again follower of Jesus, however, this momentous decision didn’t make Peter immune from life’s trials and tribulations – far from it! Along with many others of Jewish origins, Peter has suffered a great deal of pain and suffering throughout his life. This was made much worse by his chronic bipolar affective disorder that he’s somehow lived with for almost 50 years.
Over the past 20 years our friendship has been severely tested, and I have to say that at times Peter could be extremely rude, infuriating and exasperating; and yet on other occasions he could be gracious, charming and delightful, especially whenever his face broke into a great beaming smile!
I want to briefly share with you three outstanding qualities of Peter:
his faith and witness to his Saviour seen through adversity;
his resilience observed through suffering;
and his transparency perceived through accountability.
Some years ago, Peter told me of a shocking incident that happened to him whilst he was held under Section in Antelope House and his extraordinary response. This is what he said to me: ‘I had been asleep when *** hit me over the head with a table! Later I stood up in front of everyone on the ward and addressed the person who had attacked me and said; “Jesus in me forgives you!”’ It became clear that the whole ward was completely stunned by Peter’s extraordinary testimony to God’s grace, and he suffered no further attacks at that time from anyone on the ward!
Over many years God has faithfully sustained Peter through severe trials and tribulation. Peter in turn, has exhibited great resilience through adversity.
There have been numerous occasions when Peter has been chronically unwell with bipolar, to the extent that it has left him bereft and ‘at rock bottom’ with unimaginable despair.
Peter has cried out to God from the depths of his heart in sheer desperation and has testified to God’s grace and mercy in saving him many times. Along with David the psalmist, Peter has been living proof that ‘God has lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, and set my feet on a rock and put a new song in my mouth.’
Through very tough times, Chris and I have developed a deep and enduring friendship with Peter. Indeed, we have discovered that our friendship has been a great antidote to the common brokenness of our humanity. Earlier this year before lockdown, we committed ourselves to sharing our deepest thoughts and failings with one another through mutual accountability. Peter’s open hearted revelations of his struggles and fears gave us plenty of opportunities to pray through issues with him, and likewise him with us. Chris and I were equally truly blessed and truly challenged through our long-lasting friendship with Peter, and we’re rejoicing that he’s now been freed by God from all those life struggles and fears.
I said earlier that Peter was born as a Jew and would forever remain a Jew. At that youth camp, through the revelation of The Holy Spirit, Peter came to realise that he had rebelled against God. There and then he repented of his sins and turned to Christ for his salvation. Although Peter’s body is about to be buried, Peter is more spiritually alive now than he’s ever been! Indeed, Peter is a born again child of God. As a messianic Jewish believer, trusting in the atoning blood of Yeshua, he will forever remain a part of God’s new covenant family!