Pastor Willem Albertus Siebbeles and his wife Gladys were pioneer Nazarenes in South Africa.
Willem was born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and his parents emigrated to South Africa when he was about fifteen years of age. They lived in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, and later moved to Pretoria, Gauteng, where Willem became a banker. He met Gladys while attending the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. They both sang in the choir and he was the Sunday school superintendent of the large senior Sunday school. He was also a member of the nationally famous Pretoria Male Voice Choir. Willem was greatly influenced by Dr. Macmillan who was the minister at the time.
Willem and Miss Gladys Margaret Donaldson (1905-1992) were married in 1934. She was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and her parents emigrated to South Africa in her teen years. They lived in Cape Town for many years and later moved to Pretoria. They had a son, Albert John.
While on a business trip in Cape Town selling real estate Willem had planned to attend a symphony concert in the City Hall after church one Sunday night. As he walked past the railway station he came upon an open air meeting and the singing of gospel songs attracted his attention. He stopped to listen. After the message a lady approached him and asked him directly if he was “born again.” He replied, “My dear lady, I’m an elder in the Presbyterian Church.” “Ah sir,” she replied, I didn’t ask you that. I asked you if you were born again.” He had no answer and was immediately befriended by the men conducting the meeting who were known as the Johnston brothers. The one brother, Jack, was a men’s hairdresser and he and Willem became good friends. Later, while attending a service at the Docks Mission with the Johnston brothers, Willem went forward for prayer, confessed his sins and believed on the Lord Jesus as his personal saviour.
Returning to Pretoria he became a consultant for an insurance company. Willem and Gladys started attending the Baptist Church where some of his musical friends attended. Two years later Gladys also came to faith. Another son, Philip, was born at this time but he was very sickly from birth. Often, only prayer saved his life. They moved to Vereeniging where Willem opened a branch of the insurance company and became the district manager.
He compiled and printed a gospel tract in the form of an insurance policy. Those tracts were given out as far afield as the Billy Graham Crusade in Great Britain. While in Vereeniging, he met Mr. Josias and Mrs. Marie MacLachlan and they became firm friends. Josias was a chemist by profession but had gone into business for himself, opening a Christian bookstore.
Josias MacLachlan introduced them to the Church of the Nazarene. Dr. C. H. Strickland, the District Superintendent erected a tent and conducted a week’s evangelistic crusade very close to where the Siebbeleses were staying. They attended each evening and Gladys came under deep conviction. She said, “I have never heard of this message of holiness, but I want what is being preached.” When a church was organized in the area, they joined it. Willem sold a property and gave the profits to the church, which enabled them to complete their building program debt free.
Willem had felt God’s call to the ministry for many years. He used his spare time for preparation and preached as opportunity presented itself. They moved back to the Pretoria area and started a women’s meeting in a fire station nearby. Later that became an organized church. Willem was granted a preacher’s license in 1954.
It was a very critical time for the family when Gladys and their younger son were both desperately ill in hospital. Their elder son, Albert John, was working as a commercial artist in one of the large department stores in Johannesburg. At that time Dr. Stickland approached Willem about taking a pastorate at Henneman, a small town in the Free State. How could he leave his wife and son who were just recuperating? They had hired a full time nursing sister to take care of them. Gladys encouraged him to go anyway so he did and when the family was well, they followed and their property was sold.
After pastoring at Henneman for a few years they were called in 1957 to pastor at Regents Park in Johannesburg where they enjoyed a very fruitful ministry. The district superintendent, Dr. Charles Strickland reported that they did splendid and acceptable service. While there, Willem had the vision to build a large church on the corner of the road where they were worshipping. They gave the money to pay for the stand. They were also founding members of the Three Rivers church in Vereeniging, Gauteng.
In 1959 they had to go to the south coast of Natal for health reasons. As there was no Nazarene church there at the time they pastored the Pilgrim Holiness Church at Oslo Beach, Port Shepstone, for many years. Willem died suddenly in 1991 and Gladys, who was bedridden for her final years, passed on in 1992. When they passed away they had just enough money to pay for their funerals but their legacy lives on. Their younger son Philip married a Wesleyan missionary daughter and became a pastor in the United States. Their elder son, Albert John became a Nazarene minister in South Africa.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Strickland, African adventure (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1959), 60-61.
Al and Wendy Siebbeles, report sent November 30, 2001.
Al and Wendy Siebbeles, E-mail report, March 05, 2001.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Standing Stones of Africa: Pillars of the Faith in the Church of the Nazarene, unpublished, copyright pending, 2004, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.