A preacher from the West Rand killed himself in his own church because the impact of the coronavirus on his congregation and the accompanying poverty became just too much.
The body of Henk Calitz, 40, a beloved pastor of the Reformed congregation in Carletonville near Potchefstroom and father of five children, was found last Friday morning.
He hung himself in the church hall.
“People’s hardship during the restriction was too much for him. He couldn’t handle it because he couldn’t help people financially anymore and help them with all their mood problems, “his sister Maritza van der Berg said last week.
“It was also very difficult for him to deliver his sermons in front of an empty church that was recorded for broadcasts,” she says.
“I think it was all part of a confluence of circumstances that drove him to take his own life.”
According to Van der Berg, no one realized how discouraged her brother felt about people’s problems and that this was made worse by the restriction.
She says her brother did not suffer from depression.
“He always smiled and laughed, and he hurt himself to help other people. He was 100% a family and community person and a mentor to many people. He especially had a soft spot for the elderly. “
Calitz was previously a teacher and has served as chair of the Dagbreek Primary School governing body for the past seven years.
He was also involved with the South African Women’s Federation (SAVF) in the town and coached Carletonville High School and Dagbreek Primary School’s girls’ first hockey teams.
Van der Berg says it was difficult for her to go to him with her own personal problems because she knew he had to spend so much time on other people’s problems.
She says her brother set himself apart in the church hall when he took his own life because he didn’t want his children to come down on him.
He and his wife, Martie, and his five children remained in the rectory right next to the church.
Elmarie Myburgh, the church’s administrative officer, found his body.
Van der Berg says her brother left a suicide note, but did not give reasons why he took his own life.
She says no one can say if he planned it.
Calitz was in the news two months ago when he wrote a heart-wrenching letter to the media about how police officers pulled him over at a Covid 19 blockade and then asked him to pray for them when they found out he was a minister.
“And there I stand between them. Do a prayer in my best English. I say amen. Each one of them comes to me. Shake my hand. Say thank you and ‘May the Lord bless you and your family’.
“I drove up to Carletonville with a lump in my throat. Tears that are shallow. May we also realize at this time what they mean to us and need our prayers, ”he wrote in his letter.
Myburgh says it was a great shock to her when she arrived at church last Friday morning and found Calitz.
“People looked up to him and he was always willing to listen to their problems.
“He went out of his way to help people. The other day he gave a brand new fridge to someone in need, ”she says.
David Nel, an elder at the church, says many members and the town in general have been struggling in recent years.
It is mainly the strikes at the surrounding mines and the fact that people’s income has dried up due to the Covid 19 pandemic, which contributes to the hardship.
He says it put additional pressure on Calitz to support these people.
He says Calitz accepted the position as minister in 2011.
“You could always experience the passion and positive energy that was in him. His sermons were delivered to us every Sunday with love and emotion.
“In the latch time, he went out of his way to record something every day to keep us positive and make us realize God is with us. In times of sadness he was always there, crying together and in times of joy he laughed together. “
Bertus van Niekerk, a pastor of the congregation, says Carletonville is a “difficult environment to work in”.
“You are exposed to various social problems that you may not necessarily meet. Preachers are trained to read the Bible, but in the end they must deal well with family violence. It can easily make you feel discouraged. ”
Van Niekerk says many ministers suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress because of the work they do. Few people understand how deeply pastors are affected to be faced with people’s pain, he says.
According to Van Niekerk, it is difficult to fulfill your role as a minister in an environment that is deteriorating and where the whole community is getting heavier as mining operations are waning.
Dr. Wouter van Wyk, secretary of the Dutch Reformed Church of Africa’s (NHKA) communications commission, says Calitz served the church for nine years.
“He was a stable person full of sympathy and compassion for his fellow man and there was never any tension between him and his congregation. So we were totally knocked out of the field over his death. “
He said the congregation was extremely traumatized by the events and that counseling was arranged for parishioners.
Calitz’s funeral will take place Tuesday at the church.