6 July 1995 was the 2nd most important date in my life as this was the day that I met Jesus Christ, became reborn and came to know the Person who loved me regardless of who I was. It was the start of my new life with God my loving Father . .
Late 1995 at Petroport Filling Station north of Pretoria , South Africa while many of us were on our way to a marriage seminar in Mabula:
“Coeza, what are you doing my friend?” .,we don’t have time now, we have to go!” . . .me saying to my friend while he is busy unpacking this metal contraption, rolling some newspaper balls and putting it into the thing.
“Willem, this is a Swanniebraai my friend and in 5 minutes you are going to eat some succulent boerewors (sausage)”
And that day I first saw the Swanniebraai and from that day I tried to find it at numerous shops but with no luck . . . many people knew it but said it just disappeared from the scene.
Life went on and sometimes I thought about it but got so busy with life and making a living that most of the time it was gone from my mind . . . until . . .every time my farm and business went through tough times, then my mind would wander in that direction every now and again . .
In 1997 I sold the farm to get out of debt but still was declared insolvent in 1998 , the debt was just too heavy to service.
For 3 years a very good friend and mentor of mine, Albert Ferreira took me under his wing and we started a used implement business together. He taught me all I knew today, mentored me spiritually and looked after me and my family as well.
In 2001 I met my next mentor and awesome friend, Johan Nel and we started VOORSPOED IMPLEMENTE, a company that also buy and sell agricultural equipment.
I told Johan about the Swanniebraai whereupon he told me to pursue it. At that time it looked so far, so impossible, so unbelievable as I had no money, no idea of where to start. All I had was a “picture” in my mind and the dream or vision of getting that thing somewhere someday . . .and also a “word” that I spoke sometime that; “I want to make and market the Swannie!”
One time when the business was “slow” again I gave the Swannie thought again and visited a few companies to pursue the manufacturing of the Swannie by every time I came before a shut door as this one has that excuse and that one don’t want to and so on.
It demotivated me and many a time I just forgot about it as it looked so difficult and with so many obstacles to overcome it looked really impossible . .
10 October 2006 . . what a dreadful and black day for me and many others . . . my dear friend, Johan died in a plane crash . .
I was left with his share to buy out and I was in huge debt suddenly.because we failed to put insurance in place.
Life went on and beginning 2009 , the business went through tough times again, my accounts went unpaid, debt accumulated due to the recession and the subsequent low maize price and other factors.
It was then that God, who I came to know better and better for the past 14 years was directing my mind to the Swanniebraai again and I knew that I had to do something else in order to try save my business and support our lives.
At that time my father in law, who is a skilled metal worker came to live in my town, Ventersburg. I asked him, Pa, can you make the Swanniebraai? “Yes, I can!” and we got some tools together to start this thing. I got a price for the metal locally and upon receiving the price I was once more struck with another obstacle as the price of local metal was so high thus making the end product too expensive and therefore minimizing the potential profit . . but . . . my God was still in control as He has always been!
That same night I woke up around 2h00 in the morning, strolled off to my laptop and like so many times started to browse the internet for something about the Swanniebraai.
I typed the word “bbq” and then it all began, I was shown a lot of sites of mainly Chinese companies manufacturing bbq’s of all shapes and sizes and there was also someone online, an agent of the specific company. I introduced myself and we began to talk on the internet, she was speaking and typing a good English. I asked her about the Swanniebraai, mailed her some pics and in about an hour’s time she mailed me back a potential price.
I was astonished as the whole package; grill, bag, griddle and box are going to cost me the same as only the metal locally!! I was excited, God opened a door and things was beginning to take shape, slowly but surely. Eventually I decided that come what may, it will be good for me to go to China and explore everything, although the company looked very solid and trustworthy as far as the internet is concerned. I did not have the money for a plane ticket and asked God to provide for me, as He usually does! Within a few weeks I sold a lot of parts and small stuff that was anyway lying around in my warehouse , enough to pay for a ticket.
As I was planning the trip, a good friend of mine, Koos Slabbert came into the shop one day and asked me what I was doing. What??? He said, I want to go with you and from there our trip together to China was birthed. Within a few weeks all was planned, visas , tickets etc.
A week before the trip, I met a very special man, Wynand Kruger, he came to my business to buy some implements and as we started talking I told him about us leaving for China in a few days’s time whereupon he said he wanted to meet with me before we leave. The Friday before the Sunday that we would depart, he came to my house and then told me that we will get to China and find that God was already there, organising stuff in our favor.
Once we came to the company in China, we met up with the people and although it was only the agent that were able to speak a broken English, we understood each other using much sign language and sketches. When I was still in SA, she told me that the mould for the braai will cost me $7600, roughly R58000 at the time, which I did not have in any way.
The CEO of the company the spoke something in Chinese and disappeared, returning a few minutes later with the bottom part of the Swanniebraai. The agent’s face lit up and she told me that I was lucky because they already had a mould for that bottom part and the price will be better for the mould. She emailed me later and told me the good news that it will only cost me $1100 now for the whole mould, a massive saving of nearly R50 000. Then the word of uncle Wynand hit me : “ We will see that God was already there and that His favor was upon us!” So it happened, exactly as he said and this even more confirmed my faith in my loving Father as He always have a plan ready for us, His children!
In that first day, all negotiations was settled, the price was exactly the same as I was quoted online by the agent a few weeks before and we were finished with our business for then.
Just something to throw in also, my friend Koos had a massive back pain when we left SA, so bad that he could hardly walk. We decided that as we had much time left before our return flight, that we would go to Beijing to explore things there. We went to the Great Wall and Koos battled with his back to reach the high places. Once on top of the wall, he missed his step and he fell to the ground, flattening about 5 or more Chinese people. What a site! Once Koos got up, he was ecstatic, saying: “My back pain is totally gone!!”
Can you believe it, what looked like an embarrassment turned out to be a blessing in disguise!
Back home it was time to get the ball rolling. I had the $1100 for the mould but when payment of the deposit was due, I did not have the R30 000 needed for that. I tried knocking on all doors, the bank could not help, friends was stuck, I was looking for investors who could go 50/50 with me but to no avail.
Another friend of mine gave me the advice to stick it out and keep this a “family business”.
Meanwhile the suppliers was on my case for the deposit before they would begin manufacturing. One day out of desperation, I felt God urging me to place an ad on the adventure biking forum, I belonged to, namely www.wilddog.za.net , I did so but still nothing happened. I asked the forum members what do they think was the chances for a member to help me to which most replied that the chances were very slim. One evening I was sitting underneath “Hometree”, a very big old tree outside my house, just praying and talking to God about this whole matter. I stood up, went to my laptop and what did I see??? Yes, one of the forum members that I did not even know, replied and said that he will lend me the money and even without security!!!!
This took my breath away and I knew that it was only possible by God, who laid it in the heart of the person to do that. So now I had the money needed for the deposit and the suppliers got onto the job.
When it was time to pay the rest of the money, I once more did not have it but again my Father God made a way and supplied the money needed. Sometimes His ways seems so funny and “out of the ordinary” but anyway He did it once more, like I would find out later, He every time supplied all my needs in this whole Swanniebraai process!
I also had a fair amount of worries and troubles. There was a delay in the manufacturing process and then the suppliers and myself had some arguments and to and fro harsh communications but in the end all got sorted out and we were bigger friends and business partners than before.
So the 1st shipment was on its way and in June 2010 the shipment landed on my doorstep. I was ecstatic in seeing a 15 year dream come true!
One day in that time I was just sitting and having conversation with God and I asked Him this: “Dad, tell me please, how is it possible that in 15 year’s time since I 1st saw the Swanniebraai, that someone else, some rich entrepreneur did not pursue it? Why? . . . there was silence . . . . and then I heard the soft but present voice of my Father, speaking inside of me, in my consciousness, saying the following sweet words: “…because I reserved the Swanniebraai for YOU, My son, just for you!!”
That brought tears to my eyes, knowing that God so loved me that for 15 years, He preserved and kept this great dream for me, yes, just me! Afterwards there were many people who I talked with that told me that they also wanted to manufacture the Swanniebraai. I even too a sample to a man in Mpumulanga way back when I was still trying to have it made locally. He then let me know after a few weeks that he cannot make it and sent my sample back to me . . . only to find out in May 2010 that he actually copied the Swanniebraai and are selling it under a different name. I was so furious at the time but again God told me to keep calm and let myself not be distracted by that as God himself was the one keeping the Swanniebraai concept for me all these years and that he is the One Who provides in everyone of His’ children’s needs. Then I relaxed and blessed that person to be also succesfull in his own business.
Just to rewind a few years: In 1997 I visted the Western Cape for the 1st time in my life, also with Albert , his wife Dalena and some fellow Christians, we were on a outreach then to many places in the Cape. The Cape got under my skin I believe. In 2008 I had this longing to visit the Cape again and we find a great place to stay in a friend of mine’s house, on the beach in Melkbosstrand. That Dec holiday, while I was walking on the beach, I said to myself that this is the place where one day I would like to come and stay but it looked so impossible, so distant, so unachievable . . . but what I didn’t know was that the “seed” I sowed with my mouth, was again germinating and growing just like the Swannie seed was growing from 1995 . . .
So January 2010, even before the Swanniebraai arrived, we got this word from uncle Wynand that he believe God is giving us the opportunity to go anywhere we choose . . . my lovely wife, Riana and I were stunned but at the same time heavy excited because it was a confirmation of what was already put in our hearts many years before, I think the 1997 visit planted the 1st seeds and then in 2008 that seed was watered again and now we were standing overlooking the fruition of that harvest!
We made plans, came to explore a few times and went through many obstacles like negative friends and family, lack of faith, lack of vision, lack of money. We wanted to just let go of this “crazy idea” many a time but as God is always faithful, He led and guided us all the way, supplying in every need, not long before the need arises but as it arises, He provided in everything and so Jan 2011 we moved to the most beautiful place on the Westcoast of the Cape, Grotto Bay from where we are currently operating in distributing the Swanniebraai worldwide.
One day God also told me this words, just before we moved here, He said: “ My son, the Swanniebraai will take you places!” And we have seen it many time and are seeing the more everyday that the Swanniebraai is not only providing for our income but is also responsible for opening doors to many people and places, just like god told us.
So in looking back, 15 years and then seeing every little step developing and how He lead us through the good and also through the tough times, I can only bring honor and glory to God, our Father for giving us the Swanniebraai he“resurrected” after almost 20 years of “death” and disappearance from the market. That still amazes me and always will but not only that, more so the fact that He is using the Swanniebraai to open doors to peoples’ hearts and lives , where through He can touch, heal, restore and bless them . . . and all of that through a little thing like . . the Incredible Swanniebraai!
“Lord Jesus Christ, our God, we thank you for all You did for us, for all you are doing for us and for all that still needs to happen in and through our lives! If You did not sacrifice Yourself for us and for the world, we would not have experienced Your love, Your provision, Your goodness and so many more like we are doing today! Thank You Father for the Swanniebraai, may many nations and people be blessed through it and so also discover Your unconditional LOVE and GRACE! “Amen