A Christian missionary whose book “Shooting Back” describes his encounter with heavily armed terrorists who attacked his church in 1993 and how he repelled them by firing back with his .38 special once again fought off an attempted hijacking by returning fire.
The latest attack came while Charl van Wyk of Frontline Fellowship ministries in Cape Town, South Africa, was traveling to record a radio program with creation science lecturer Philip Stott during the Reclaiming Africa for Christ Biblical Worldview Summit.
“I shouted at the thugs as they were threatening the life of Uncle Philip,” van Wyk recounts. “For a split second they were distracted and I opened fire. They fled, and are hopefully still running. What I had not realized was that there was a third party covering them from a distance. He returned fire. I heard Sipho shouting, ‘Charl get down!’ I took cover behind the vehicle at the driver’s door, which I opened; Sipho and I jumped in and we drove off as fast as possible. By God’s grace none of us was hit by flying bullets, and the mission vehicle was undamaged.”
A Frontline Fellowship report said van Wyk and Stott were confronted by “thugs” who pointed their automatic pistols at them. They first confronted van Wyk, then while the two were “threatening and manhandling” Stott, van Wyk “drew his pistol and opened fire, sending the assailants scurrying for cover.”
The conference in Mizpah was held June 29-July 6 and featured more than a dozen lecturers and numerous films and outreaches. Van Wyk was unloading the mission pickup July 1 with the help of Sipho, a former terrorist unit commander who now is Christian. Sipho was catching a ride with van Wyk and Stott to the conference, and was just passing over bags of clothing.
Stott, in the passenger seat, takes up the story from there:
When the door opened I had hardly noticed. It was almost as if it had happened in a dream.
“Give me your cell-phone. Now!”
I’m in a daze. I notice the reasonably tidily dressed man of about 30 standing at the open door. He’s not quite as dark as most Africans – probably some racial mixture – and his English is surprisingly good. Somehow I seem to be in a trance, and I can’t focus on him or pay attention to what he is saying.
My attention is fixed on the gun in his hand.
The gun is in very sharp focus.
It’s a 9mm semi-automatic pistol with an unusually long barrel. I don’t think I have seen a pistol with as long a barrel as this before. The gun is not new. It has seen hard service, much of the bluing is worn and the silver-grey metal is showing through the black coating of the barrel. The handle is brown. It could be wood, or perhaps plastic that looks like wood. His hand is wrapped tightly around that handle and the barrel is pointing at my stomach.
“Give me the cell phone.”
“I haven’t got a cell phone with me.”
“Give me your money.”
“I didn’t bring any money with me.”
“Give me your gun.”
“I haven’t got a gun.” I make a gesture with my empty hands but he doesn’t believe me. He starts again on his cycle of demands and paws my jacket searching for whatever he can find. He feels the outline of my camera through the soft material and starts to try and force his way in.
“Why haven’t you given us your cell phone?”
It’s a different voice.
There’s a movement just inside my field of vision on the left. A more vicious looking fellow pushes another gun towards me. I hardly catch a glimpse of it before it is pressed against my side. The first thug stops groping my clothes and the second takes over demanding my money, my gun, my cell phone. I gesture helplessly and explain once again that I just don’t have what they’re asking for. Thug number two seems to be losing patience. Thug number one resumes fingering the camera through my jacket. The long barrel of his pistol swings from my stomach to my knees and back again. Thug number two angrily demands a cell phone again and jabs his gun into my ribs.
I’m in a dream. Can this be really happening? What can I do? I’m almost paralyzed. I gesture helplessly with my empty hands.
Then out of the blue there’s Charl. Moving past the driver’s-side window on the right.
He’s always such a soft-spoken, mild-mannered chap with a constant look of joy on his face. But he doesn’t look the same now. His jaw is set in a hard line. There’s a determined expression on his face. He’s crouching as he glides swiftly past the widow towards the bonnet. He has a gun clasped in both hands. He shouts. The thugs suddenly lose interest in me. They snatch their weapons away and pandemonium breaks loose.
Van Wyk’s account told how he had given the thieves his wallet, identification document and cell phone as well as a number of foreign passports belonging to conference participants.
“The thug, who pointed the firearm at me, walked over to Sipho behind me and asked for his cell phone whilst the searcher carried on body searching me, trying to find a firearm. By God’s grace, he was unsuccessful,” he said. “The attackers made their way over to my passenger, creation scientist, Philip Stott, a guest speaker at the summit. I was to interview Uncle Philip for a radio show later that morning.”
He said Stott was “cool-headed” while explaining he didn’t have anything to give them.
“This gave me time to move towards the driver’s door of the vehicle and draw and cock my 9mm Heckler and Koch pistol. Sipho heard me cock my firearm and thus took cover on my side of the vehicle. I moved to the front of the pick up, I shouted at the thugs as they were threatening the life of Uncle Philip. For a split second they were distracted and I opened fire,” van Wyk reported.
He said after the three made their escape and were down the road, a taxi van with about a dozen passengers drove past, the passengers waving and showing thumbs up.
“They are showing us that you hit one of the attackers Charl,” Sipho reported.
“Praise the Lord for His grace and protection over us,” van Wyk said.
Stott, who said he’d been concentrating on the ministry and missions needed in Africa when the attack happened, reports what it was like being in the middle of the firefight.
“Charl’s gun roars and jerks up into the air with the recoil, shots ring out behind me to the left. The thugs have disappeared. I grab the door, slam it shut and crouch down trying to get my head out of sight below the level of the windows. Somebody is shooting somewhere over to the left but I can’t tell where the shots are coming from. Charl fires again. Sipho, who had thought he was just getting a lift home as usual, shouts ‘Charl! Get down!’ Charl ducks. More shots ring out and I hold my breath expecting bullets to shatter the windows or smash through the metal-work. Charl throws the driver’s-side door open and pushes Sipho inside. Sipho fumbles as his feet get caught between the clutch and brake pedals, he fights his way past the gear lever and flattens himself down next to me. Charl slams the door closed, rams the lever into gear and races towards the cross-roads.
“As we drive towards the police station I look past Sipho – perched uncomfortably on the handbrake – towards Charl. He still has that hard line to his jaw. I’ve known him for a long time, but I’ve never seen him quite like this.”
Van Wyk said the ministry is requesting prayers now for the attackers, for the necessary reports with police, the replacement process for the paperwork, cell phones and passports.
Van Wyk’s story of how he fought off a terrorist attack on his church has been published in both book and DVD documentary form by WND. It was on July 25, 1993, the day that would become known in South Africa as the St. James Massacre.
A gang of terrorists, armed to the teeth, attacked a church filled with defenseless Christians. But van Wyk was in the congregation and was carrying a handgun. He fired back. The terrorists, who fled when they realized there was an armed opponent, later explained their plans had been to kill every single person in the sanctuary.
In his book “Shooting Back,” van Wyk not only documents the notorious and bloody attack, but offers the first in-depth exploration of the biblical case for armed self-defense.
That account now also has now been translated into a video documentary – the first ever produced by WND’s new film division.
| Shooting Back video: