THE audience at the most recent Christian Men’s Association breakfast were inspired by the testimony of a woman who used her own loss and heartache to minister to others in the name of Jesus.
Jenny Basson, a qualified Christian counsellor and experienced small group leader, is a fairly recent arrival in Port Alfred.
Starting her testimony with a reading of Jeremiah 18:1-6, she said, “Whatever I had planned long term for my life had not necessarily been what God had planned for my life.”
Basson was born in England, to a Dutch mother and British father. Her grandfather was a minister in the Congregational church in Yorkshire but she said her own parents never gave her or her siblings any formal Christian training. Basson has a twin brother and two younger sisters.
They grew up on apple farms managed by their father, with the last one being in Hampshire.
“I have memories of running wild through the woods and loving the bluebells, daffodils and primroses. From a young girl I loved the colours of nature and would spend many hours painting the brightness of nature,” Basson said.
“My life changed drastically when my parents decided to pack everything up and leave for South Africa.”
Her father went head of the family while mom and children stayed in Portsmouth for a year. It was there that Basson attended Sunday school at an Anglican Church and saved all her pennies to buy her first Bible from the corner shop.
“Without realising it, I would say that my journey with God started to take form at that point.”
In February 1964 the family sailed on the Athlone Castle and landed in Cape Town two weeks later. They took the train to Johannesburg where they lived and Basson attended a girls’ school.
She was 13 and felt like an outsider.
At 16, life turned around. She was invited by her brother to join him at a youth group he had been invited to. It was called Club 7 at Rouxville Baptist Church.
“What I observed were God-fearing young people on fire for the Lord. I had never experienced the friendship and love that these people had for each other and for others. Through their witnessing and example I gave my life to the Lord in 1967 and was baptised in April 1968,” Basson said.
She said the friendships made then continue to this day.
“My family were non-committal about my conversion and I was assured by my mother that it was just a phase I was going through.”
At the end of Standard 8 she left the girls’ school and started at the Johannesburg School of Art for her last two years of high school. She loved it, made friends with like-minded people and after matric went into the art and printing world for the next 11 years.
In 1975 she married Brian Harbinson and six months later they moved to Toronto, Canada, where they lived for four years. It was during this time that Basson’s parents divorced.
At the end of 1979 Jenny and Brian returned to “give South Africa another chance” and their daughter Jacqui was born the following year, and son Jonty in 1984.
They settled into the routine of a happy, busy family and Basson said she had a picture in her mind of Brian and her growing old together. Then the unthinkable happened – in May 1985 Brian was brought home from work after having collapsed. An MRI revealed a brain tumour.
He had an operation and seemed to be recovering well. Many people were praying. He left the hospital after 10 days and began radiotherapy. But in the middle of July he developed a severe headache, lost consciousness and died from a brain haemorrhage.
Basson said her world was shattered, now a single parent with an 18-month-old and a four-year-old.
“It was in those lonely and tiring years that I discovered an aspect of love and care from a precious God and Saviour,” she said.
When both children were at school she was able to be involved in the care ministry their church. She felt she needed to give back to God through reaching out to others going through difficult times.
She was asked to start a ladies’ Bible study and though she felt inadequate, was used by God to draw people and minister to them. She led that home church for 22 years.
She met and dated Ray Basson, who had two of his own children, and when they married they had a blended family. They experienced all the challenges that came with that, experience which became invaluable when she studied first for her honours and then masters in the faculty of theology at North West University.
Her ministry continued in counselling at Rosebank Union, and creating a manual for couples entering second marriages.