Appreciation for the dedication and Christian contribution of Oliver Campbell by:Ivan Blake-Sedaven alumnus: 1963-1966 (Please note Oliver is alive and well, living in Somerset West – Editor’s Note)
Ivan and Elvera together with their two sons, Brendon and Donnevan, relocated to the USA in March, 1987. For the past 30 years Ivan has served congregations in six different states. Currently he and Elvera serve the Fletcher Seventh-day Adventist Church in Western North Carolina.
Every youth needs role models — role models who demonstrate the reality of God. Oliver Campbell was that role model for me in my youth.
On a Sunday afternoon, in January, 1963, my loving Seventh-day Adventist parents drove my sister, Elaine, and me to Sedaven in their 1950-something Austin Cambridge (1.2 liter, 42 h.p.). They had done their best teaching us to make Bible-based choices. Now they handed the next phase of my development over to Sedaven.
I was “ready” for Sedaven, but unprepared.
I was ready to be away from the unsuited environment of a government school, where I spent my first year of high school. And I was ready to be at the same school with my hero, Martin Marais (sadly, deceased), who also came from Pretoria, where his father was our pastor. I was unprepared for life in a dormitory room with some 20 other fellows where my homebred values would be tested and tried.
Oliver was my History and Accounting teacher. Altogether my own fault, I did not learn much History or Accounting. But from Oliver Campbell I learned that there is a God who stands by me when I am arrogantly self-assured, when I risk losing everything of value because of foolish choices, and when I fall so low that I can look up and see the bottom of my feet.
In my third year at Sedaven I accepted the invitation to pray with a group of students, led by Mr. Oliver Campbell, early in the morning. Around 6:00 AM the tall figure of Oliver could be seen moving in the dark dormitory room, gently waking the prayer band members. When we gathered in the “koppie” (hill) behind the church, Oliver would hand us each a small handmade card containing a touching quotation to encourage us in our spiritual growth. I still have some of these some 53 years later.
Most of our youthful prayers reflected immaturity. We prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, not knowing what that meant, but it was a good beginning to what would later prove to be a more vital request to steer our lives Godward.
At one stage I stopped attending these early morning prayer groups. Oliver Campbell simply repeated invitations from time to time, showing his concern and interest in my spiritual wellbeing. I quit because I could not stand the sincerity surrounding those prayer times when I had deliberately chosen to walk in a path that directly contradicted any semblance of interest in God. This wayward path led to an inch short of disaster for me. God snatched me away from the precipice of self-destruction. I fled back to God. And I rejoined the prayer groups.
Months later my sins were exposed publicly. I was ordered to appear on stage during a student assembly meeting and hand my prefect badge back to the principal while the whole student body watched to see what happens to someone who grossly violated the trust put in them by the school staff. It was humiliating. It was crushing to my ego. It was challenging to my recent choice to return to being a follower of Jesus. I fled from the assembly hall. I charged down the steps of the classroom building. Halfway down I was stopped by one of the teachers (not Oliver) who witnessed my public humiliation. He took my arm and said, “Ivan, I believe in you.” Tears of surprise and relief flowed freely as I ran to a place of solitude to meet with my God at His throne of grace.
Oliver stood by me throughout this trying time. He prayed for me all along. He supported me when things seemed hopeless. That pulled me through. It was like the presence of God was reaching into my being through a man who never gave up on me.
Branch Sabbath School
Oliver Campbell often took a group of us to a mud building where a group of poverty-stricken farm laborers and their children met on Sabbath afternoons for “Branch Sabbath School.” I stumbled through telling Bible stories to the group. I sang and prayed with them for hours. Something stuck in my mind: “Blessed are the feet of those who bring good tidings.”
On one of those days, Oliver tactfully encouraged me to consider becoming a pastor. Though I resisted the idea inwardly, the seed was planted. I have now been a pastor for 44 years!
I believe my eternal salvation is altogether due to the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross of Calvary. And though not contributing any merit toward my standing before God, the prayers and example and tugging done by my parents and people like Oliver Campbell played a crucial role in leading me to the cross where I met Jesus. I will be eternally grateful to the role model of my youth at Sedaven High School.
Thank you, dear teacher, Christ-reflector and friend — Oliver Campbell!
Did Mr. Oliver Cambell have a significant influence on your life? Please share your views below or on the Facebook Page.