Thinus van der Merwe’s journey with Jesus began as a teen in South Africa
Whenever Thinus van der Merwe takes the stage for the Sunday services announcement, one thing is certain: the audience will hear a joke that can be appreciated by youngsters and the young at heart.
There are some groans, but mostly laughs for the man who serves as Life Spring’s Youth Director.
“I think of it as an ice-breaker between me and the audience,” said Thinus, “I think it relaxes us.”
Thinus leads the middle school and high school aged youngsters through a variety of activities that includes games, Bible study, worship and a variety of topics that affect young people.
“The Gospel runs through our discussions which center on God’s purpose for them,” he said. “It’s a smart group. It’s a real privilege to be a role model for them.”
Thinus grew up in the church culture of Capetown, but as a teenager he was unsure of what the future held for him.
At the end of his 11th grade while attending church camp, Thinus had his first real
encounter with God.
“There was a build up - I could sense that something was happening on the first night there.”
On the second night, in a massive prayer room, Thinus felt for the first time the “clear experience of God’s presence”. Excitement and joy were some of the emotions he recalls. There was also trepidation.
“From that moment on I knew I was no longer the same,” he said. “It was a good and positive feeling but also a determination to not fall back into my old life.”
His new life eventually led Thinus to Jabulani Africa Ministries (JAM)impact Africa for Christ.
By the time he was 20, Thinus was already one of JAM’s directors. It was at this time that he met his future wife, Lisa Monreal, longtime member of Life Spring who was interning with JAM.
“We didn’t actually start dating until she went home,”
Thinus said. “There was a lot of emails and phone calls.”
And there were visits. Thinus remembers the first time he visited Life Spring with Lisa.
"Everyone was so welcoming... I felt this collective embrace"
Lisa and Thinus were married in 2011 and moved back to South Africa. In prayer Thinus asked God, "Do you want us to go to the States? And if so when?" They returned to the States in 2016. Thank God.