Doug Kriedemann

 

Douglas Edward Kriedemann, was born on the 15th of April 1921 at Komgha, near East London, in the home of his mother’s parents. His parent’s home was 12 kilometres from Komgha and his father had to borrow a horse in order to be present at his birth. He was the 3rd of 4 children: Winifred, Eric, Douglas and Laureen. His father worked on the railways and the family were not well off, but thanks to his parents’ thrifty habits they always had enough for their daily needs as well as presents and outings on special occasions. Pocket money had to be earned and they were encouraged to save up when they wanted to buy something special for themselves.

Doug and his elder brother Eric enjoyed exploring the veldt with their catapults. They went swimming daily and fished in the local rivers and reservoirs. They loved climbing and often made their own toys. Under the influence of Eric, who later became an engineer, Doug learned the excitement of making things that worked. When he was small he wanted to be an engine driver. Later he began to read boys’ adventure magazines, then Westerns and detective mysteries, as well as “Tarzan” books and “Sapper’s War Stories”. For a while he thought he might become a policeman or detective when he grew up, but these ambitions didn’t survive adolescence.

Although both of his parents came from German families, they chose English as their home language in order to make things easier for their children. The children were given a Baptist upbringing and attended Sunday school regularly. They rode bicycles or walked, as there were no buses. When the family went on holiday they travelled by train. Doug vividly remembered a family holiday trip by train to the Transkei and Wild Coast – cooking over an open fire, baking bread in an oven dug into the hillside and lots of fishing and swimming. When he was 11 years old his father bought the family’s first car - a second hand Chrysler. Doug never travelled by ship and experienced his first air trip after the age of 40.

As children, Doug and his siblings occasionally watched silent black and white movies – known to them as the bioscope – mostly Westerns and adventure stories like King Kong. They knew their grandparents on both sides of the family and looked forward to visiting them, especially Grandma Kriedemann, whom Doug described as “gentle and gracious”. She died when he was 10, and was the first dead person he saw. At the age of 12 Doug was incorrectly diagnosed as having a leaky valve in his heart. For the next 2 years he was required to do a lot of walking for health reasons. He took his airgun and his dog and set off cheerfully to “explore the veldt and feed the cat”!

The family moved to Queenstown, where Doug attended Queens College from standard 7 onwards. He was expected to take part in sport. Doug didn’t like cricket, as the ball was too hard, and he felt that he was a bit small for rugby. So he joined the boxing club, where at least he’d be assured of facing an opponent his own size! After taking a beating or two he began to get the hang of it and eventually worked his way up to the position of school welterweight champion in his Standard 9 year. Recruiting by the public service was common at that time in high schools. Doug applied for a position before leaving school and had a long wait before receiving an appointment. In the mean time he graduated from high school with good results in all subjects and also passed the Afrikaans Taalbond exam.

When he was 18 and 19 years old, Doug often played the accordion at dances. After a while he began to feel that his life was out of control and one night attended an evangelical rally with a group of his cousins. The sermon that night had a profound effect on him and led to his conversion. Doug began to read the Bible and attend church services and Young People’s meetings. As a result he underwent a complete transformation. Around this time he received word from the public service, and in time was duly appointed to a position. And so, at the age of 20, Doug moved to Pretoria and had his first taste of city life. He quickly found a Baptist church with a nice group of young folk, and became involved in the Young People’s meetings and Sunday school.

One of the girls who attended the church was Louisa Bailey. She and Doug began to work together in the Sunday school and became close friends. Before long they realised that they were falling in love. Eventually Doug plucked up the courage to propose to her. They became engaged in March and were married on the 6th of June, 1943. After a honeymoon of just a week, Doug received notice of his transfer to the Department of Defence, where he was to be employed in the accounts department. The newlyweds were obliged to pack their bags and move to Johannesburg, where Lou found work in a bank. Their first child, Celeste, was born there in 1946. When she was two years old Doug entered his first pastorate in Uitenhage.

Three years after Celeste, Lou gave birth to twin boys, who were named Ian and Brian. Their fourth and last child Lambert was also born in Uitenhage. Two years later Doug received and accepted a call from the church in Alice. The children enjoyed improved health in the drier climate and had an exceptional degree of freedom in the small, safe community. Doug was able to take the whole family with him on some of his farm visits – notably the monthly visits to the small interdenominational chapel in the Winterberg- providing them with new friends and many memorable experiences. They also began to spend their annual holidays in Glen Muir, near East London, where the family became well known among the local fishing community. These holidays became a family tradition which was to last for more than 50 years.

Celeste, having completed her standard 8 year at Alice Secondary School, became a boarder at Kaffrarian High School in King William’s Town. Doug and Lou were beginning to feel concerned about their children’s future, as educational opportunities in the area were limited. One Sunday four men from Cape Town turned up at the evening service. They explained that their church in Wynberg had been without a pastor for some time. Doug’s name had come up for consideration as a possible candidate for the pastorate, but since nobody knew much about him, they had been asked to visit Alice, meet him and report back to their congregation. He might receive a call as a result of their visit, but this was not yet certain. Eventually the formal call from the Wynberg church did arrive, and after due consideration Doug decided to accept.

The family moved to Cape Town in January 1963. This was the start of a very busy period in Doug’s life.  The increased responsibility of a larger congregation together with the chairmanship of various committees for the Baptist Union, as well as studying Hebrew and Greek in his spare time, left Doug very little time to relax. He was instrumental in opening new churches in Wittebome and Meadowridge, as well as sharing responsibility for the church in Grassy Park. Whenever possible he would take Mondays off, sometimes managing to find time for a little fishing – always his favourite leisure activity.

In 1974 Doug received a call to the Walmer Baptist church in Port Elizabeth. By then the children had all become independent and the move to a smaller, less demanding congregation allowed Doug to return to a more relaxed pace of life. Doug described his years there as a “calm but profitable pastorate, with time off to fish”. Lou became president of the BWA and had to travel quite a bit. One of the interesting features of the area was the way the various churches worked together to evangelise the local population. This collaboration included Baptists, Anglicans, Catholics and Dutch Reformed churches, among others.

From Walmer they moved to Amanzimtoti. Doug received the call in 1981 and felt that the time had come for them to move again.  They remained in Amanzimtoti for 8 years. During this time the church hosted a party to celebrate Doug’s completion of 40 years in the ministry. For this and other acts of generosity Doug remained grateful to the congregation at Amanzimtoti for the rest of his life. He continued his pastorate there until, at the age of 68, he felt it was time to change to a quieter lifestyle, and retired from full-time ministry.

Doug and Lou moved to East London, where they received a warm welcome at First City Baptist Church. Initially they lived in a flat in Southernwood and Doug preached in most of the Baptist churches in the Eastern Province as a visiting pastor. Later, thanks largely to the generosity of their son-in-law, Mike Steel and his family, they were able to move to Fairlands Village. At the age of 82 he retired from preaching and devoted himself to the care of his beloved Lou, whose health had begun to decline.

Doug and Lou continued to attract new friends during their time at Fairlands. Having formed the habit of providing emotional and spiritual support to others, they continued in their caring role until failing health made it impossible, and they found themselves receiving in their turn the care that they had so freely given. Relatives and old family friends joined forces and went out of their way to do whatever they could to ensure that Doug and Lou’s remaining years were as happy and comfortable as possible. The staff and nurses of Fairlands in their own right played a significant part in making Dougs last days as comfortable as possible.

After Lou’s death at the end of 2007, Doug began to write regular short articles for the First City Baptist Church newsletter. He went to a great deal of trouble to distill the fruits of his experience and to share this with his readers. This proved to be a very fulfilling final ministry. A few weeks ago his health began to decline rapidly. Family members and close friends were privileged to be able to pay him a final visit before he slipped into a coma and died peacefully in his sleep on the evening of the 20th of August this year.