by Wicks Granville

Apart from the obvious signs of God all around us, many people I have spoken to say that, although they get guidance from priests or books that they have read, they do not have a personal sense of God talking to them.

I recall as a young boy in a Roman Catholic boarding college in Grahamstown, that we were told that we are created to “know and serve our God with all our heart and with all our soul and our mind in this world, and to live happily with Him in the next”. It was difficult enough for me at school, where I spent three months at a time in a boarding school, over a thousand kilometers from home, to know who I was, let alone who God was. Having come from a family that prayed together, I saw God as an ally, but I didn’t think that he was all that helpful in this alien predicament. I learnt to survive rather than serve.

When I left school, I went to work on the family farm, which was struggling financially. I went there because I had no idea about which career to follow and I thought that it would at least be safe being at home. I had no idea how wrong I was. Home had always been the place to where I could escape, at each holiday, but now it was the place where I would be found out for how useless I was. At first it was quite fun because I had to learn to speak siSwati (Swazi), while working with a gang of guys who were part of the de-bushing squad that we employed to prepare fields for agriculture. Within a few months I was fairly fluent and the workers were very helpful and encouraging.

However, my Father was not very impressed with my grasp of farming. He compared me to my brother who, at seven years older than me, was really the backbone of the business operations. He had a bent for mechanics and laying out irrigation systems, as well as farm planning in general. Dad saw my success at learning a local language as nothing too extraordinary and put it down to an obvious ability for languages. This wasn’t really true, because I had failed both Afrikaans and Latin at school. I just had a great desire to communicate and I found the local people interesting. I had a desire to learn more than just their language. It is strange how stereotyped we can be about what is important and what is not. Just as in school, dyslexic kids can be seen as stupid where in fact it is the school system that doesn’t incorporate the skills that are required to get the best out of them. And so many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs had starts like this in school. In my case, I tended to think I was a bit stupid, so not getting my Fathers encouragement left me feeling rather hopeless. Some years later I was to discover that my ability to communicate and my brother’s ability to do basic farming, allowed us to become quite an effective team, as I ran the pack house and developed markets with chain stores and export. It took a bit of time to discover this, and a lot of heart ache before God intervened and something wonderful happened in our lives. This is my story.

Our parents went to live with our elder sister, while my brother and I were left to farm together. After a while it got very tense between us. I saw him as a bulldozer, as everything had to go his way. And he called me a ball and chain, as I liked to consider whether his plan was a good one before I gave the thumbs up. It got to the point that we decided to sell the farm, even though we would’ve got very little out of it, if anything, because of the amount of money we owed. The evening before an estate agent was going to come and look at the farm I sat contemplating our lives. I became distinctly aware that although I was blaming my brother for how miserable I felt, he was in fact probably the one person in the world that I could trust. I just felt so inadequate! The morning of the arranged meeting with the estate agent I took some quiet time to read the daily Readings. I am not sure where I got these words, because they were not part of the Readings, but this was the message I got, “Do not look for the devil in your brother, but rather look for the Christ in him.” This is not the sort of language I would normally use. I’d be more likely to think, “Don’t Look for the ‘crap’ in my brother, but rather look for something good.” Anyway, I went down to work, to where we marked the time books for our employees, which were about 600 at the time. When I saw my brother I said, “When you have finished clocking your people in, could you come to me before you drive on to your next job, there is something that I want to tell you.” He answered me immediately with, “No, I want to tell you something.” I thought to myself, “Oh hell, here we go again!” When my brother was finished his clocking in he came across to me and I asked, “OK, what did you want to tell me?” He said, “I was praying this morning and I was given a message to look for the Christ in you and stop to looking for the devil in you.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I told him that that was exactly the message I was given that morning. We looked at each other with tears welling up in our eyes. “If God didn’t want us to part company we’d better reassess our strategy,” was all we could say to each other.

We decided that we would focus on each other’s good points, and even though our irritating aspects were still going to be there; we would not focus on them. From that day on we drove in the same ‘bakkie’ (van) for an hour or so every morning, in order to discover one another on a different level, before we got on with our specific jobs.

We are both in our seventies and retired now, and living on the same farm after being farming partners for 52 years. We can still irritate each other if we focus on those aspects, but we prefer to focus on the Christ in each other. We are the best friends that we have, after our wives. God is with us!

About the author:Wicks Granville

Richard Granville, better known by Wicks, is a retired farmer from the Lowveld of Mpumalanga. The name Wicks came about because his eldest sister could not pronounce her ‘R’s when she was younger.  Ricky became Wicky and then became Wicks.  He and his beloved Jill have six children.