The Deetlefs Family have been resident in the Hillary area of Durban, since the 1920’s. Pastor Gary Deetlefs grew up and served at the Frere Road Presbyterian Church for 28 years. It is here that he responded to the call of God and began preparations for the ministry. Gary gave his life to the Lord at the age of 12 years. When he was in Grade 7, the Congregational Church under the leadership of Rev. Anderson held a “Fun in the Son” outreach and shared the gospel with the children from Bellair School. Gary responded to the call to accept Jesus Christ into his life as Lord and Saviour in the year 1968. During his high school years he was involved in SCA and a Bible Study held in the home of his Geography teacher Moira Good and her husband Colin.
After school Gary gave a number of years to leading a very powerful youth group and coffee bar with the assistance of his parents Bill and Thelma Deetlefs. There was a powerful revival with over 50 of the 68 Glenwood boarding establishment learners who gave their hearts to Christ and were filled with the Spirit. Over 100 young people came to Friday night youth each week to worship and serve the Lord. Saturday saw a coffee bar reaching out to some 150 youth each week. After the Sunday service it was time for worship and ministry for the 80 older youth called “Madalas” which means ‘old’ in Zulu. The inter-youth camps at Camp Jonathan in Eston were highlights and are still spoken about today, some 30 years later.
During his university years Gary came into contact with the Charismatic Movement led by Don Northrup and Bob Trench who led Bible Studies at the Catholic, Maris Stella Convent. This was the start of a year long search for Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Baptism by full immersion was later the next logical step to complete his salvation. This was done at North Beach one Saturday afternoon by some of the Presbyterian Youth Leaders due to opposition by the local Church doctrine.
Ps Gary studied at the University of Natal for a B.Sc. degree in Geology and then studied 5 years at the University of Durban Westville for a post graduate B. Div. Degree in Theology. He completed three years majors in Old Testament, New Testament, Systematic Theology, Church History, Missiology and Practical Theology, as well as Greek II Hebrew II and German I. These were to fulfill the requirements for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church. During his final years of study his father, Bill Deetlefs encouraged him to hold an inter-denominational Bible Study in their family home. Little did they realise that this would grow into a local church.
The local Church began with 18 members in 1984. When looking for larger premises for the Bible Study the Mt. Vernon Methodist Church (which began as a Sunday School in the garage of Mrs. Joyce MacIntosh) was offered to them for R 45 000. Miraculously the Lord provided the finances to purchase the property and the Fremantle Road Christian Fellowship was birthed.
In 1989 there was a time of restructuring and an affiliation was established with the Church of the Nations – an international family of Churches. As a local Church we have always tried to maintain a balance between the local Church and missions. In 1992 with the help of a missionary, Sue Chapman, we planted a Mission Church in Cato Crest, an urban squatter camp / informal settlement in the City of Durban. Later we called Ps. Simon and Sabeta Mtonga from Zambia to oversee this congregation.
In December 1995, while wanting to buy a goose Ps Gary Deetlefs, who had kindled a vision of a “Prayer” Mountain for 20 years, stumbled upon the old Zig Zag Hotel in Shongweni. It was built in 1922 by an Italian Engineer, and later owned by the van Zyl family. The property was subsequently bought for R 150 000, for the purpose of mission work amongst the Zulu communities, who live along the Durban / Johannesburg main railway line. Today it has been renovated and serves as a Prayer Mountain, Mission Station and Retreat Guest House. January 1997 saw the beginning of a new congregation at Bux Farm, a rural community 5kms north of Shongweni.
In October 1994 Ps Gary married Judith Nicholson, a Graphic Designer. Judi grew up in Kokstad in an Anglican family which later joined a Charismatic House Church linked to Derek Crumpton and the Foundation Ministries. At the age of 16 years Judi was miraculously healed of poor eyesight and today does not wear glasses let alone the thick spectacles she needed in her childhood years. The family moved to Johannesburg for employment reasons and it was through the conferences of Church of the Nations that Gary and Judi met and were married.
In 2000 the old Church in Fremantle Road was sold as it only seated 120 people and was cramping the growth of the Church. For over a year the Malvern Children’s Home was home to the House of Prayer. During this time the Church tendered for the 4000 square metre railway property and were the only bidders so we bought the new Church site for R220 000.
This was followed by the re-zoning of the property and then the drawing of the new plans. Building began in November 2001 when the 30m x15m steel structure was erected. The whole Church was built on cash donations and was completed two years later.