Mario has been serving as an elder at Reformed Faith Mission Community Church in Cape Town, South Africa, since 2013. RFMCC was initially planted by Mario’s brother Quinton in 2010. Mario quit his job and moved his family closer to the church in 2015 in order to be more devoted to the ministry.
Testimony of Conversion
My brother and sisters used to say that I was born converted, because I was always the “preacher” in the house. I grew up in a home with parents that did not serve the Lord, but they believed that their children must go to church and Sunday school. I remember raising my hand in Sunday school at the age of six or seven when the teacher asked the famous question: “Who wants to receive Jesus into their hearts?”
My father made a profession of faith at a tent meeting when some evangelists had a month-long tent campaign. When that month was over, my dad, a drunkard, became even worse than he used to be. I was very confused about this, but I continued to go with him to all sorts of evangelistic crusades.
At the age of nine, I went with my dad again to another tent campaign. The preacher was preaching on the horrors of hell and the cross of Christ. I remember feeling very afraid of hell and having an overwhelming assurance that I was on my way there. I ran to the front when the preacher made the invitation and can still remember the sense of relief I felt after repeating a “sinner’s prayer.” Since that time, I’ve probably “rededicated” my life to the Lord more than ten times when going to tent crusades and evangelistic campaigns.
At the age of thirteen, I was very concerned about hell and had constant nightmares about it. A friend of mine at the time invited me to his charismatic church, and I decided that I would go and give my life to the Lord there. This was my first experience with the charismatic movement. With my background, I believed that the charismatic movement was a modern-day worldly church, because the women wore makeup and did not cover their heads.
This was the first time I heard people speak in “tongues” and scream and roll and jump – very strange things! This all happened during what they called “praise and worship.” I remember thinking that this must be some cult, but I still decided to stay to the end. The preacher was a young guy and seemed to be filled with power and authority. He spoke about the love of God and how God is a Father that will never disappoint. That won me over, and I rededicated my life to the Lord again. This time the experience seemed real.
I joined the church and soon had a huge new family of friends. I devoted myself to Bible study and leadership courses. I went on every evangelistic outreach that the church had and joined the evangelistic team. I soon moved up the ranks and became a prayer group leader, then a home-cell leader, and finally one of the youth leaders. I consumed books like candy: T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Rick Joyner, etc. These were my mentors and heroes.
I was quickly noticed by my peers as someone with much “wisdom and anointing.” I started my public preaching ministry at the age of nineteen, after several people “prophesied” over me, saying that the Lord would use me mightily with “signs and wonders.” I even had my own cassette series.
My first preaching opportunity was at a high school. I first spoke to the faculty and saw the principal and a few teachers “make a profession of faith,” i.e., parrot the “sinner’s prayer.” Then I preached at the school assembly, after which a child came to me wanting to “give his heart to the Lord.”
Church leaders started inviting me to preach at their campaigns, and news of this young “man of God” soon spread. I saw people “slain in the spirit” as I laid my hands on them. Some claimed to be healed from some illness. I felt extremely proud and was excited that the Lord would use me like this.
At the age of twenty-five, I remember sitting in my room wondering if all this is real and whether there really was a God. The only time I felt alive and excited was when I was on a stage performing. The stage experience felt very real, and there were times when I felt a real charge of power. What was troubling is that there were times that I fell into gross sin and was able just the next day to preach with “power.” By this time I was very arrogant and had set myself above others, even above God at times.
I remember walking to one of the services where I was supposed to preach, telling God that this would be my last service, after which I would be done with Him and the church. This was once again a very “powerful” service. I was angry at God for not usually speaking to me, that “He used” me only when I had to lead a service or preach. I told God that I would now show Him how much I could sin. And sin I did! What a fool I was! Thank God for His grace that drew me to the real Jesus of the Bible!
After about a year and a half of living an utterly sinful life and on the verge of committing suicide, the Lord rescued me!
I dropped my brother at a Gospel concert. I still had a case of beers in my car and drugs at my house. I went in by the concert doors to listen to one song that the group (who I used to mentor years before) was singing. There was no invitation; I don’t even remember the song they sung; but right there the Lord broke me. I realized that I never knew Jesus and that I had to have Him. I begged Him to take me and to forgive me. And He did!
This put me on a journey to search out two truths that I wanted to understand. I wanted to know what the Gospel really is – because the gospel I used to preached had many decisions, but not many disciples – and what genuine conversion really is – because even though I literally grew up in church and preached and studied the Bible, I now knew that I was never truly regenerated.
As I looked up these topics online, I was introduced to men such as George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Flavel, John Calvin, John Piper, John MacArthur, Paul Washer, Conrad Mbewe, etc. The rest is history; or shall I say it is His story, His grace, His glory alone!
Call to Ministry
At the age of nine, I went with my dad to a tent meeting. The speaker was a very fiery preacher and was preaching on the cross and hell. This was the first time felt really overwhelmed by my sin and deeply fearful of going to hell. Although I do not believe that this was my true conversion experience, I do remember a deep desire even then to become a preacher, so much so that I copied the preacher’s words and preached to my friends at school and warned them that they would go to hell if they did not repent. I have never since lost this desire to preach. The charismatic movement gave me the tools I needed to pursue this ambition; unfortunately, I used these tools only to serve my own ego, far from exalting Christ.
When the Lord truly came to my rescue and regenerated me, I almost immediately knew that I was called to proclaim Him, even simply in the streets. This, of course, was the opposite of that to which my sinful flesh was accustomed, because it did not center around me. Charismatic preachers do not do street preaching! I left my job and moved to Kimberley (with no money) in order to preach the Gospel there. The Lord has been gracious to allow me to experience what it feels like to sleep on the street on cardboard boxes for three months during the winter and to get up each day and preach His Gospel. I am not mentioning this as a boast of piety or humility, but to show that God was teaching me that the call to ministry is not about me. Through the years the Lord has constantly confirmed His call to ministry through faithful brothers. I cannot see myself doing anything else, for necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!