Sipho Mncube was born and grew up in the Orange Free State. His mother was a Methodist. As a boy Sipho was able to complete primary school. At the age of seventeen, he started drinking and could not keep a job for long. He eventually became involved in crime, and by the time he was twenty-four he had often been in jail for theft and housebreaking. At twenty-six, he had reached the bottom as a hobo alcoholic. When he was out of jail he lived in the bush on the edges of Johannesburg and found his food in dustbins and hotel garbage cans. He used drugs and his clothing and hair were filled with lice. His family expelled him from their homes because he stole their things. No one would take him in as he was just too much trouble. As a result of such a lifestyle he contracted tuberculosis and was in and out of hospital where he had at least had a bed and good food.
Finally, in 1979, some Christians from the Rhema Church in Johannesburg found him, prayed with him, gave him food, and took him to church. He earnestly sought the Lord. They helped him get cleaned up and gave him five changes of clothing. The Christians kept him for three weeks at their church. Then they gave him work at the church and a room at the home of one of the members. God helped him to break his craving for alcohol. He wore a tie for the first time in his life. He began to read the Bible and the Christian literature that they gave him.
At Christmas time they bought him a ticket and gave him money to go home for a visit. While there his sister took him with her to worship the ancestors and he began drinking again. After that he felt so ashamed that he could not return to the church in Johannesburg so he went to Sasolburg, about a hundred kilometres away, to try to find work but he said: “Jesus followed me. Wherever I went I heard him speaking to my soul, calling me come back to him. Friends had told me that brandy was good for these kinds of ailments, but I became worse.” His sister-in-law who lived there sent him away. He found a place to sleep in a labour hostel and lived by stealing and dodging the police.
Emerging from a bar one day in 1981, he found that an evangelism tent had been pitched nearby. He entered the tent to get out of the cold but then began attending the services. One night he poured out his whole story at the altar. Mncube truly found forgiveness and new life in Christ that night. He began praying every day and attended an Apostolic Faith Church. It was an answer to his prayers when a social worker paid his rent bill at the hostel. He quit smoking tobacco but was not able to stop his drinking and he could not find work. One day his pastor visited and found him drinking beer with his friends at the hostel. The pastor then began giving him tomatoes and onions to sell for an income. Mncube left his old friends and was able by the Lord’s help to break his alcohol habit. He became a faithful member of the church.
Two years later his employers transferred Mncube to Johannesburg. He attended a Methodist Church but found that only the pastor had a Bible. One day he testified to a man who was a Nazarene and who invited him to the Jabulani Church of the Nazarene. Mncube went early along with his sister’s children. The pastor, Rev. Nkosi, was there and gave him a hearty welcome. Mncube was pleased to be able to begin taking Bible studies, was sanctified, and became a member in 1985.
Mcube began helping in evangelistic tent meetings and felt that God was calling him to be a preacher. Once, while preaching in the open air at Joubert Park in the centre of Johannesburg, he met a white hobo who had been without food for three days. Mncube brought him some food and warm milk. He called an ambulance and offered to pay for the man but the ambulance driver arranged payment. After that ten people were saved in those services at the park.
He was finally able to enroll at Nazarene Theological College (NTC), South Africa, in 1990, the year that the new college opened. He had saved sufficient money for his first year’s fees and after that he worked long hours each week to pay his way. Mncube graduated in 1994 and planned to start a new church at Vosloorus in the Orange Free State. As a result of his earlier deprivation and unhealthy lifestyle he suffered from chronic bronchitis.
While at NTC, Mncube had a wonderful ministry among the needy people living in the compounds on the small holdings around the college. He ran a large Sunday School for the children of the neighbourhood and faithfully visited the people on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. He found many extremely needy people, and Nazarene churches in the area sent in clothing and some basic food staples, such as powdered milk, which he used to help those in desperate situations. He helped orphans and abandoned children, finding them homes and placing them in schools. Through this work of love, Mncube was able to win the neighbourhood people to the Lord, and they came to the Sunday services held at the college.
In 1997 Sipho Mncube married Sarah. Mrs. Sarah Mncube (1958-) started attending Sunday School at Jabulani Church of the Nazarene when she was thirteen years old. From that time on she never left the way of the Lord, living a holy life before the Lord and before the Jabulani congregation. The Mncubes prayed for a baby and God in his abundant grace gave them twin girls, S’bongile and Thembi. Sarah was a blessing in her husband’s work and a role model to the congregation.
In six years time Mncube planted three churches and in 1998 he pastored in Soweto. To supplement the inadequate support from the congregation he worked as a security guard at the Nazarene Regional Offices. Pastor Derek Liebenberg characterized Mncube as a humble, dedicated servant of God. Sipho Mncube passed away on January 14, 2003.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Testimony of Sipho Mncube as given to Dr. Wally Marais, “The Christian Literature for Africa Newsletter,” December 2002, p. 2.
Sipho Mncube, interview with Paul S. Dayhoff at NTC in 1992.
Pastor Sipho Mncube, report in letter, Feb. 14, 2000.
E-mail from Anna-Marie Lockard, January 6, 1999, reported by Pastor Derek Liebenberg, visiting from Canada.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Africa Nazarene Mosaic: Inspiring Accounts of Living Faith, first edition, copyright © 2001, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.