A conversation with Mergon founder, Francois van Niekerk

Recently we had the privilege of hearing from Mergon founder Francois van Niekerk, whose life and leadership have profoundly shaped our story and who we are today as Mergon. Francois shares some of the core principles that have guided him throughout his career and how he is now applying them to his latest ventures. Here is a summary of the interview.

Core to your leadership philosophy is ‘feeding the stream of life, not your own dam’. Would you elaborate on this idea?

Initially I too followed the belief that self-sufficiency was the key to success, and that I should focus on filling my ’own dam’ before looking to the needs of others (if at all). I had no ambition beyond a respectable corporate career and was making good progress when circumstances caused my life to change radically in a way I could never have anticipated.

Following the appointment of a new CEO at my workplace, it became evident that his own personal ambitions were prioritised in total disregard of what best served our employer or the rest of us. I just knew I faced an ultimate career decision – either I too would prioritise my own well-being or choose to always rather serve the best interest of my employer and colleagues. I chose to always serve ‘principle over personal gain’, which has gone on to become a core value that has shaped my life.

It was a gut-wrenching decision to leave a very comfortable and promising corporate career at age 39 to start my own business with virtually no capital. It soon became clear that failure was imminent. God graciously answered my desperate plea, rescued the business, and set me on a wonderful journey of discovering the power of surrender. To this day I remain amazed at what is possible when we let go of our own will and surrender to God’s plan.

After God blessed me with this undeserved and incredible rescue, I established the Mergon Foundation, into which an initial 30% of the business shareholding was dedicated to Kingdom work. The Kingdom ownership was progressively increased to 70%, where God effectively now serves as our controlling shareholder. Today Mergon’s operations span across five continents, creating an ever-expanding Kingdom impact. It’s a humbling privilege to walk alongside God on this journey, as we recognise that it is solely His work, and we are mere ‘stewards in amazement’.

How has your definition of success changed, or been enriched, over the years?

My definition of success turned 180-degrees. At first, I fell in line with the contemporary cultural belief that success meant accumulating wealth, status, and security. However, my perspective has since shifted as I’ve come to understand that true success is measured by how well we honour our principles and serve one another. We are successful, the extent to which we steward what God has given us.

Having a servant’s heart implies a releasing – not just of your finances, but also of the power that comes with it. My personal perspective is that the only way to have power over money is to give it away responsibly. I’ve realised it can be abused for selfish and destructive purposes. However, we can learn to wield the power of money as stewards and use it to make a meaningful impact around us.

Through the Atterbury Trust, you are involved in several charitable initiatives – perhaps most notable is your involvement in MOI (Moedertaal Ontwikkelings Inisiatief). Tell us more about MOI and how it came to be.

I’ve always had a passion for supporting mother tongue education, especially amongst South Africa’s so-called brown population. Since its establishment in 1994, Atterbury Property has allocated one-third of its shares to the Atterbury Foundation to support charitable programs, including mother tongue education. This approach aims to overcome the challenges faced by the poor due to the English-only tutoring policy, which disregards the diverse population’s need for differentiated mother tongue education up to high school and beyond.

To date, the Atterbury Trust assisted 664 severely disadvantaged matriculants in the northern provinces (with interest free repayable loans) to become university graduates in accounting, science, lawyers, medical doctors, engineers, etc. Over the 29 years an average pass rate of 95% was achieved.

When Mergon moved to the Cape in 2015 – and with me well into the retirement years – I wanted to do the same for brown students of whom at least 90% are Afrikaans mother tongue speakers. But I soon discovered the pass rate at the University of Stellenbosch for such students to be as low as 5%. Apart from being disadvantaged by a substandard school system and a growing socio-economic divide, most of the students find English-only tutoring to be ‘one bridge too far’. So we decided to assist high school learners toward a sound matric  education, while also equipping them with the necessary life skills to thrive beyond the classroom.

MOI sponsors carefully selected, promising but underprivileged learners and places them in A-level high schools. The programme offers a holistic and customised model of support – one that takes into account the social, emotional and physical well-being of the individual as well as their academic needs. To bridge the socio-economic and cultural gap, most are placed in school hostels and outfitted with school uniforms, electronic devices, books, pocket money, and a holistic wellness programme.

In MOI’s fourth year, all 77 learners in 14 A-level Western Cape schools have posted a 100% pass rate. The programme has progressed beyond its initial phase, and it’s evident that the MOI example could realistically benefit many thousands of disadvantaged youth across all South African language groups. Beyond just simply ‘passing’ matric, the programme prepares young people for solid careers. Our hope is that the achieved and ongoing results will encourage local and international benefactors to come aboard.

Any worthwhile vocation requires an honest, relevant, and innovative educational approach, at all levels and in a befitting language, to keep pace with a rapidly evolving job market.

The Mandarin edition of our Mergon testimony is on the shelves! Tell us how this came to be, and what are your hopes/expectations for the book?

At a testimony talk in Macau near Hong Kong, I met Chinese Christians who urged me to share the Mergon story and publish the book in Mandarin. With 150 million Christians in China and a remaining 1,2 billion unreached people, the prospect really excited me. But the task wasn’t easy. We had to find a translator who could capture the essence of Christianity behind the principles of the Mergon testimony and convey it intuitively – all in a country where Christian publications are banned. Additionally, every prospective publication is stringently approved by the government. But we succeeded in preserving the essence of the Mergon testimony – the book was approved late last year and will be launched this year. We’re very excited to see what God does there.

The reworked 4th English edition is currently available and I’m deeply grateful for the  feedback I frequently receive on how the Mergon story is impacting people locally and beyond our borders.

Your life has been full of ups and downs, but witnessing God’s work in rare ways has given you a unique perspective. Knowing what you know today, what would the Francois of today say to the Francois of 40 years ago?

Looking back on my life, I would tell him first get to know yourself. I’m impulsive by nature. But placing your trust in God requires you to resist your natural instincts and stop to wait on Him. I found this very hard until I got to realise that His timing and the outcomes are always better, and every step contributes to His greater plan. I didn’t have the ability or vision to build Mergon – but in spite of my inability and unbelief at times, God has been – and still is – unfolding His plan for Mergon.

Working with the people at Mergon has been a privilege beyond measure. Looking back on my experiences, both personal and professional, I am reminded that God’s faithfulness has been the constant thread throughout it all.

Order your copy of ‘Doing Business Differently’ here to read more of Francois’s testimony and learn how to partner with God in using your business to ‘feed the streams of life’. 

Sharing our vision of Kingdom impact

Every company has an elevator pitch. With so many moving parts, you might say that Mergon needs a particularly tall building to do its pitch justice. We often hear the question asked, ‘what exactly do you do at Mergon?’ –  an understandable question, considering that Mergon is not your ‘typical fit’ in business nor ministry. We are an investment company – but not purely one; a foundation – but not only that. We partner with the business community to lead in social investment and shape the marketplace – but not solely for the sake of social development.

Mergon is rather a combination of all these elements, with a unique fit that has been shaped, we believe, over four decades by the leading of God. The path has been anything but straight and foreseeable, as God has widened our vision and taken us in often counter-intuitive directions.

In the early days Mergon saw its mission of Kingdom expansion as primarily being a funding conduit to a handful of selected ministries. This perspective has broadened, especially over the past decade, to reflect a more holistic understanding of our calling. Today we see ourselves as resource partners on the journey toward Kingdom impact. As Mergon CEO Pieter Faure puts it, ‘Everything about us – our activities, behaviours and approach to relational partnerships – pivots on this central purpose.’

So what does it mean to be a resource partner?

It means that we regard money as a critical resource, but not the only one. There are a host of complementary attributes we can bring to the relationship beyond finances, which include our networks, skills, knowledge and experience. Often these different types of ‘social capital’ cost little but have a disproportionate value for the leaders and organisations they serve.

In the investment team, we have brought mentors alongside business leaders to support them on their entrepreneurial journey. Through Ziwani, we provide practical hands-on resources as well as opportunities for Christian business leaders to connect and encourage one another to live out their marketplace calling in Africa. On the Foundation side, we create tools and opportunities for ministry leaders to grow in their leadership and organisational health and offer programmes like the ‘Healthy Leaders Journey’ for new partners to invest in their personal development.

Says Neil Hart, Mergon Foundation head: ‘Each of these leaders have their own unique story, hopes, and dreams. We want to know about them – as well as grow in our understanding of their culture, the context they operate in and the unique challenges they face. The more we can understand these realities, and sometimes relate to them, the better we will be in effectively serving our partners and strengthening their impact.’

What does it mean to be partners on a journey?

At Mergon we often refer to ourselves as ‘redemptive stewards of God’s entrusted resources’. Whether it be through our work at Ziwani, supporting and equipping the business community to shape Africa’s marketplace, or walking alongside entrepreneurs to build strong, scalable businesses – our purpose is to show something of God’s redemptive heart through partnership

We have seen how partnerships can unlock immense possibilities when people are willing to join forces and lay down their own interests in pursuit of a common goal. We’ve also seen how it requires of us humility, intentionality and perseverance. In a world where funding models and business relationships are often flawed, we have the chance to model something different – showing up in ways that reflect God’s heart.

True partnership, we believe, is not in giving a hand-out, or a hand-up — but rather in taking hands as we each bring something of value in order to bring about real change. ‘This requires us to extend respect, dignity and authenticity and to invite our partners to bring all of who they are to the relationship – their successes, their failures and their vulnerabilities,’ says Pieter. ‘This is a big ask, to expect of them to be real and to also step out on that bridge of relationship. And conversely, for us, to be trustworthy with their realness. Yet, as we better relate to their challenges, we can truly serve them.’

The reality is, none of us have all the answers to society’s problems. But the more that we can work together, and lock arms across industries and societal sectors, the more effectively we can carry the load and be amazed at the change we can bring. We can start to unlock our calling, which is to become catalytic in our partnership for Kingdom impact.

What does it mean to be catalysts for Kingdom impact?

A catalyst is a small dose of substance that, when released into the right environment, has the potential for a disproportionate effect. A small seed can sow a great harvest. Written into its design is the blueprint for an extraordinary acceleration of transformation and impact, fruitfulness and abundance.

‘In the same way, we aim to sow our ‘small seeds’ in order to be a catalytic partner that contributes to the multiplication and increase of the impactful work of our partner organisations across Africa and the Middle East,’ says Neil, ‘whether that be that in discipleship, education, skills development, training or caring for the poor, marginalised and vulnerable.’

Catalytic momentum is possible when we work together, acknowledging that each of our parts is small but essential in the bigger story God is writing.

Leading from the heart

In this interview summary with Ziwani’s Sibs Sibanda, Mergon COO Gauché Radley gives us a fresh perspective on what it means to ‘love your neighbour’ in business today. In a fast paced world of competition where winner takes all, he shares how ‘laying down power’ and ‘moving at the speed of trust’ will always get you further in the long run.

Setting the bar high

Since the beginning, God has invited us to co-labour with Him in the renewal of ‘all things’, beginning with our relationship with him, overflowing to our relationships with others and ultimately extending to the elements of culture and society at large. Central to this mission is God’s love.

Gauché reflected on this idea of loving people in the context of business: ‘In Psalm 24 the writer talks about journeying with clean hands and a pure heart, with no lies and no idols,’ he says. ‘That’s a pretty high standard. It’s one thing not to lie in business – but to negotiate with a ‘pure heart’? To appoint and sever employment relationships with a ‘pure heart’?! That’s a completely different way of dealing with people. It’s where you’re looking out for yourself as well as for the guy on the other side of the table.’

Gauché made this idea practical, sharing a recent example during Covid whereby the Mergon investment team was in the process of raising significant capital for the acquisition of a business in Denmark. Nearing the completion of the deal, with only a handful of legalities left to finalise, the team was confronted with a sobering reality: though profitability projections looked good in the immediate and long term, they would have to ride out a year of inevitable profit loss. ‘We decided to share this information with the investors,’ said Gauché. ‘They ended up pulling out. It was horrible.’ He added: ‘But fast forward a couple of years, and we were able to buy that same company in Denmark. It wasn’t simple – there was a lot of prayer involved and a lot of stressing, submitting and surrendering. What we could say though, is that throughout the process we kept a pure heart and clean hands – and that was worth it.’

Coming to the table as equals

Business can be a powerful vehicle through which we live out God’s commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves, as expressed in Matthew 22. For this to happen, there needs to be a level playing field where both parties can come as equals to the table. Gauché emphasised that part of our role as capital investors is to acknowledge the power that comes with money – and then intentionally lay that power down in the spirit of true partnership.

‘Trust creates speed in our business – and, in the end, it creates financial success too,’ said Gauché.  ‘For us the relational aspect – the partnership – is a fundamental part of our business philosophy, both on the investment side and on the giving side. When you have money, you can almost do anything you want. It’s undiluted, impersonal power – and the way you use that power really defines what your views are on partnership and God’s love in this world.’

Gauché noted that, over the past decade serving as King Price chairman, decisions have always been made in team, with room for robust discussion and disagreement. ‘Even though we have the majority seats on the board to get through what we want, we don’t abuse that power. We always invite discussion and argue our position with respect for one another’s views. We do not use money as a source of power to get what we want.’

Gauché noted that when partnerships are rooted in love, priorities shift away from the bottom line agenda and towards a more holistic, Kingdom perspective. This in turn produces a kind of counter cultural behaviour in the business world. As an illustration, Gauché shared a recent experience with members of the King Price executive board: ‘We were discussing the impact of COVID, the recent storms and riots – all the factors that have made for a rough ride for insurers in the last couple of years. You would think that the board would have first wanted to know more around profitability, share price and our financing arrangement. But their response was, ‘how can we serve the management team in this time’? We decided that in the next month we’ll get on a plane and go pray with the team. We want to create a circle around them and dedicate them to God, asking for God’s wisdom and help. These are the things that really makes a difference in people’s lives and change the way people think about business, said Gauché. 

Success is in surrendering

On the back of this example, Sibs asked how God has challenged Gauché’s notion of ‘success’ in business. ‘Given that God is love,’ he said, ‘how does that truth impact the way you personally define success and how you as a business regard what success is?

Gauché noted that it’s important for us as Christians to strive for excellence in all we do, especially when it comes to excellence in business. ‘If you’re a failed businessman, people won’t necessarily want to hear your opinion. So monetary success is part of our mandate and gives us a voice to speak into the world. With that said, Gauché continued, ‘Money does not define whether you’re successful or not.’ No matter how much you have of it, he reminded us through the famous words of John Rockefeller, you’ll always want ‘just a little bit more’.

Success is rather rooted in relation to our dependence on God. He reflected on a few vulnerable moments at Mergon when liquidity was at risk and there was very little to do other than to get on one’s knees and surrender: ‘In those moments we’d say to the Lord, You built this company – Mergon is yours, so you do what you want with it. It’s these points of true surrender that have brought forth much growth, where God has put more of his Kingdom into our hearts.’

Gauché ended with an encouragement for business leaders to strive for God’s definition of success. ‘Trust God to get out and walk on the water with Jesus. It requires a lot of faith and a lot of trust; you’ll have to keep surrendering. But in the end, I really believe it will be worth it.’

This article is a summary overview of the podcast entitled ‘Balancing Love and Power’, an episode of Ziwani’s latest podcast series, Monday Christian. To listen to the full podcast, visit here.

Stewarding our lives from the inside out

In Luke 12, Jesus draws from the parable of a rich man who stored up treasures on earth at the expense of heavenly wealth. Drawing from the warnings and wisdom expressed through this parable, Mergon CEO Pieter Faure shares some of the thinking around biblical stewardship that has shaped our 4-decade journey at Mergon. In this CEF white paper, he unpacks some of the flawed thought patterns that we as stewards could just as easily fall into, and how can we embrace a different kind of stewardship.

In Luke 12 v 16–21, Jesus tells the well-known story of a successful farmer and businessman who in a particular year had been blessed with an abundant harvest. In fact, the blessing was so great that he asked with angst, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops?’

His solution was to tear down his existing barns where he stored his wealth and build a bigger one. Having done this, he sat back, content, with a store of wealth to last a lifetime and the prospect of living the good life. 

Yet despite his meticulous planning, he miscalculated in one respect; that very night his life would be demanded from him, and all he had built up for himself would go to someone else or to ruin. 

Jesus closes with a warning to all of us: ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’

Stewarding our barn today

At Mergon our mission is to steward all the resources entrusted to us for Kingdom impact, that is to see lives transformed through the power of the gospel and culture redeemed through the way we manage and multiply God’s resources. In a way one could say that we are stewarding a ‘modern day barn’. 

Outwardly this makes us very different to the farmer in Jesus’ story who is stewarding the barn and its resources purely for selfish gain. Yet this higher purpose doesn’t vaccinate us against unintentionally succumbing to the same flawed thinking that led to the farmer’s demise.

What are some of the flawed thought patterns in this parable that we as stewards could just as easily fall into, and how can we embrace a different kind of stewardship? Here are some of the thoughts that have been shaping our journey at Mergon.

We are sons before stewards

The farmer in Jesus’ parable seems to have found his identity in his success, the size of ‘his’ barn, and his self-sufficiency—it defined and changed him. As stewards of capital we need to pause and ask ourselves from time to time, ‘Wherein do we find our identity; what ultimately defines us?’  

I, like many of you, may be quick to contest that my identity is secure in Christ.  Yet the reality is that after many years as CEO of Mergon my identity could so easily be defined by ‘what I do’ or by Mergon’s success rather than ‘Whom I belong to’. 

I need to remind myself daily that I am a son before I am a steward.  Like the farmer in the parable, my life may be demanded from us this very night. Might it be that, when I come face-to-face with God, the first thing He says to me is, ‘Welcome home, My beloved child,’ before He says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

The barn is not our source

The farmer in our story clearly viewed the barn as his source of security and provision. He lost sight of the fact that no matter how great the barn is, all its contents are temporal and the result of God’s gracious and faithful provision.  

During Covid, Mergon’s cashflow came under severe pressure. At one point it seemed that we would be unable to meet our funding commitments to our various ministries partners. In this difficult time I wrestled with questions like ‘Who will provide for our partners if Mergon can’t?’ and ‘What does this say about our stewardship?’  It was a heavy burden to carry. 

Eventually God, in His graciousness, brought me to a place of true surrender. This came when I realised we needed to write a letter to the ministry partners who received Mergon funding. In it, we transparently explained that henceforth our funding commitment would be a month-by-month faith journey—whatever God provided, we would distribute.

It was one of the hardest letters I’ve ever had to write; it felt like we had failed in our stewardship. Yet once it was sent, a huge burden lifted. It was as though, by declaring God to be our true Provider, our faith in Him and reliance on Him had set us free. 

The response from our ministry partners was overwhelming. They deeply appreciated our vulnerability, they prayed for us, and some even offered to forfeit their financial benefit to other ministries who might be in greater need. It was a beautiful moment of solidarity, where funder and beneficiaries stood in unity as true partners in the gospel, together trusting God to provide so that we could each play our part in advancing His Kingdom.

God was faithful to provide throughout this challenging period and by grace, Mergon managed to fulfill all its financial commitments.   

We need to discern the season

The farmer in the parable had a real problem—his barn was overflowing. His solution was to build a bigger barn. Yet, he was not condemned for building a barn or for building a bigger barn—but rather for not being rich toward God.

How different the outcome might have been if he had paused and asked, ‘God, this is your harvest and your barn; what will you have me do with this? How do I use this to be rich to you?’ One can only wonder what creative suggestions God may have had for him. 

Ecclesiastes says “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens . . . a time to tear down and a time to build.” 

As stewards of Kingdom capital, we need to pause from time to time to discern the season we’re in—is it a season to build or to tear down, a season to invest or a season to give?  It will be different for each of us, depending on where we are on our journeys and what God has called us to.  But if we truly believe God owns it all we can submit all to his plans and not just a portion of our proceeds.

In reflecting on our Mergon journey, there have been two distinct past seasons with a new, third season beckoning.   

Season one was about building the barn. Mergon’s journey started in 1980 with a desperate commitment from our founder, Francois van Niekerk, to give 30% of his near bankrupt business to serve God’s Kingdom, if He would somehow give a breakthrough. The breakthrough came and in the years that followed the business prospered from those humble beginnings. Francois’ heart was for Mergon to impact the Kingdom but he knew it was a time to re-invest in order to build up a storehouse of capital that might be released more fully at the appropriate time in the future. 

In 2008, after 28 years of building, Francois and the trustees sensed that the season had changed.

In Mergon’s second season we threw open the barn doors. Francois handed over operational leadership to a newly established team tasked with stewarding Mergon’s resources. The original 30% of assets committed to Mergon was increased to 70%. We invested in numerous early-stage businesses, establishing an active presence in the South African business community – its impact through funds distributed spread across Africa and the Middle East. We’ve also developed innovative collaborative initiatives to bring about social change in South Africa. 

The leadership team and board once again sense that Mergon is on the brink of a season change. We are still discerning what this might look like but it is challenging us to rethink some of our core beliefs around our stewardship call, such as “stewardship control vs. stewardship released,” “building stewardship capacity vs. enabling a stewardship community,” and “stewarding resources for return vs. sowing resources for multiplication.”

Whatever it may be, the most important thing is that our posture is one of open hands and prayerful hearts toward God, to wait on Him to show us what He has in mind for Mergon’s next season. As stewards we need to release our plans for the Mergon-barn into his hands to fulfill his purposes through it.  

In Conclusion   

In conclusion, courageous stewardship is an inside-out journey. It starts with us being secure in understanding our identity as children of God, loved and accepted, independent of our stewardship calling. It invites us to lay down our gifts and talents at the foot of the cross to fully rely on Him—the true Owner, the abundant Source of provision, and the Sustainer of the work. Lastly, it requires us to submit our plans and models to Him, seeking Him and waiting to hear His heart for the season we are in and the plans He has through which we are to accomplish His work. 

From that place of being fully surrendered, we can walk with a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. We can rejoice in the impact and success we see, without being overwhelmed by challenges and failures we go through. We can hold lightly to models, strategies, and plans yet bring to bear all our creative, daring, faith-filled energy to fulfill our stewardship calling and shine the light of His Kingdom into the places He has called us to be.

A Christian perspective of philanthropy – more than just charity


By Neil Hart, executive head of the Mergon Foundation

Generosity through catalytic partnerships

The culture of biblical stewardship which underpins the character of Mergon dates back to a September morning in 1980. Francois van Niekerk found himself desperately reaching out to God as a lifeline to save his business.

Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined just how significant that day was and how it would change the course of his life – how his influence would grow, his perspective on giving and stewarding finances would be shaped, and perhaps most importantly, how many lives would be impacted as a result.

The Mergon story is unique in that, from humble beginnings and limited capital, Francois initiated a structure and financial ecosystem that now allocates the majority of its investment proceeds through the Mergon Foundation. In distributing these funds, the Foundation works with many ministries and NPOs across Africa and the Middle East.

A view on generosity

As a Christian faith-based organisation, some might say we have a unique view on giving and generosity. First of all, we believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is such joy in the act of giving when it is done with pure motives and it often promotes our own peace.

Secondly, it undoubtedly links up with our belief that nothing we have is our own, but that we are to steward what we have well, for the benefit of others and the generations that follow. Yes, we often also reap the benefits, but it is not as a result of holding on to what we have due to a fear that we might lack.

As Francois puts it in his book Doing Business with Purpose: “Whatever success we may achieve is not from within ourselves. We should continue to seek common ground not only in furthering commercial success but also to improve the social fibre of the world. A giving disposition brings significance to our lives and often also unexpected material benefit. But we receive the latter only if we do not give to receive, and the material blessing does not become the focus of our life.”

Thirdly, we don’t want to get attached to money and allow it to rule us or hold on to it for our own interest. The Bible teaches us that “Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them.” (1 Cor. 7:31) and “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

RT Kendall also beautifully explains that “Joseph was given something that he could be trusted with because it didn’t mean that much to him.” That is, a Jew given the authority to manage the entire Egyptian empire on behalf of Pharaoh!

From funder to partner

Over time, the Mergon Foundation has evolved from purely being a conduit of funds, to being a resource partner. Even though funding is still at the centre of what we do, there are several, equally valuable resources we make available to our ministry partners, such as leadership and organisational health tools and support. This is motivated by 1) our desire to see healthy, thriving organisations functioning at their full potential to achieve maximum impact and 2) our mission to be a catalyst.

A catalyst is defined as a small dose of substance that, when released into the right environment, can cause a disproportionate effect. Scripture talks about a small seed sowed to yield a great harvest. Across Africa and the Middle East, we aim to sow our small seeds in order to be a catalytic partner that contributes to the multiplication and increase of the impactful work of our partner organisations – be that in discipleship, education, skills development, training or caring for the poor, marginalised and vulnerable.

We ask ourselves how we can leverage that which has been put in our hand — funds, knowledge, experience, networks, and relationships — to facilitate a disproportionate impact. This has led to various impactful strategic initiatives and partnerships.

Staying true to the calling

It’s 40 years later since its founding and the Mergon Foundation’s reach has increased to the point that thousands of lives are being impacted. From having only a handful of partners a few years ago, the Mergon Foundation now resources over 100 partners across three regions namely South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East & North Africa. This is not our doing, but God’s. Perhaps another thing that has played a role is the fact that our calling hasn’t changed and we remain committed to keeping it at the centre of all we do.

As part of the Mergon Group, the Foundation’s vision is to see God’s Kingdom come in every level of society and every geographic region we work in. When ‘God’s Kingdom comes’ in a community or an individual’s life, we see that restoration takes place, peace is restored, people’s needs are met, and sustainable community transformation happens.

We have a passion to see the good news of Christ shared and people being discipled; to see the poor and marginalised uplifted, filled with hope and their dignity restored; and to bring about reconciliation and peace in our nation and beyond. Because of this, we strategically deploy our entrusted resources through well-chosen partnerships for the maximum expansion of God’s Kingdom.

As a funder and partner, our focus is being faithful with what has been entrusted to us. That’s what drives us to be generous and give strategically.

We believe that we are part of God’s story and that we are merely stewards in amazement of what He is doing in and through us. As we mix our endeavors and resources with faith, we entrust them back into God’s hands with an expectation that He can do so much more than we can ask or imagine.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 Mergon Group.

Our mission explained: Calling at the centre


By Pieter Faure

At Mergon we live with a deep awareness that our work wasn’t established through the generosity of a man, but through the grace and provision of God. The golden thread that has woven through our +40-year story is one of surrender – the more we have learned to lean into His leading through prayer, the more crystallised our calling has become as an organisation over the years.

In the early days of Mergon the narrative was slightly more straightforward – our impact was measured primarily by the reality of people coming to the knowledge of Christ and to salvation. Over the past decade, however, this perspective has broadened to reflect a more holistic understanding of what it means for God’s Kingdom to intersect our lives. Today we see ourselves as catalysts for Kingdom impact. Everything about us – our activities, behaviours and approach to relational partnerships – pivots on this purpose.

But perhaps the questions beg asking, ‘What exactly do we mean by Kingdom impact – and how do you begin to qualify something as vast and illimitable as the ‘Kingdom of God’? Over the years we have wrestled with these questions. Scripture, in particular Colossians 1, has helped provide some clues.

Verses 16-20 read:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

There is a certain far-reaching, all-comprehending ‘fullness’ that God desires for every sphere of living when heaven invades our lives. A flourishing takes place as our lives align to the original intent of God’s design – not just inwardly, but practically: economies thrive, science innovates, arts flourish, medicine advances, the poor are uplifted and just law prevails. As John Dunn puts it, through the single act of reconciliation in the cross, God ‘resolves the disharmonies of nature and the inhumanities of humankind’ and reinstates us, and his creation as a whole, to the way things ought to be.

The ‘all things’ to which Paul refers in Col 1:16 and 1:20 implies that all broken relationships will be reconciled and restored to Him – beginning with our relationship with him, overflowing to our relationships with others and ultimately extending to the elements of culture and society at large. As Paul reminds us in Romans 14:17, when our broken humanity is restored to perfect harmony in Christ, ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ break out in unexpected places, bringing light and freedom to architect a new Kingdom atmosphere.

Our mission: a 3-pillar strategy 

Now we know this mission is vast and wide, and we need to prayerfully discern the role we are meant to play within it. That’s why we have identified three areas on which we believe God has called us to focus:

1. To see the good news of Christ shared and people being discipled and assimilated into communities of faith. (Restoring relationship with Him)

2. To see the poor and marginalised filled with hope in Christ and experience their dignity restored. (Restoring relationships between people)

3. To see culture transformed by inspiring redemptive stewardship of God-entrusted resources (Restoring relationship with creation back to God’s original intent)

In the same way, we believe these three priorities encapsulate this nature of God’s restorative work in our lives – a work that begins with personal transformation and then extends outwardly in ever-expanding circles to see relationships, culture and creation realigned to the original blueprint for human flourishing.

The priority of partnership

With these areas top of mind, we strategically invest and deploy our resources to see God’s Kingdom expand. How we do this is mainly by partnering with like-minded people and organisations. Whether it be by helping entrepreneurs to build strong, scalable businesses, supporting impactful ministries across Africa and the Middle East, or co-creating resources with our Ziwani and Nation Builder communities – we strive to do it together.

Christ walked in relationship – and as his ambassadors we have to approach each opportunity in a similar way. By assuming a posture of humility, through the same gritty, on-the-ground commitment to see a work beyond ourselves succeed, we position ourselves as relational partners on the journey, rather than those who leverage their influence to optimise investment returns.

Prayer at the centre 

Above all else, cultivating a culture of prayer in Mergon has been the single-most important strategy to help quicken and catalyse our Kingdom impact. Prayer has anchored and safeguarded us in the reality that all we have comes from God. Though we’re called to faithfully steward these gifts, talents and time throughout our lifetime, at the end of the day these resources are only on heavenly loan and will ultimately be given back into his hands.

Galatians 5:25 encourages us to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’, as well as Philippians 4:6 which reminds us to ‘not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’. As we continually learn how to enquire of Him and wait on Him, trusting that He will direct our steps, we are able to strengthen our dependence on Christ to navigate our way forward.

Prayer has opened countless doors for us, but it has thankfully closed many too. On more than one occasion we have had to face tough decisions. In spite of what at times seemed to be the perfect investment opportunity, the team has occasionally had to decline the offer because they just didn’t have the peace of mind to enter into the relationship.

More than anything else over the years, prayer has enabled us to stay steady and true to the vision God has placed within our hearts. When peace has paved the way, we have been able to take risks and act on brave ideas, knowing that God is ultimately the One who guides our steps and carries the load. Prayer has enabled us to act, but also take the long term view, remembering that it’s all a work in progress – ourselves included.

The mission to catalyse Kingdom impact spans sectors and generations, and draws upon the creative capacities of God’s diverse people to accomplish. As individuals and as Mergon, we may only contribute to one chapter, but our combined contributions will some day complete the story of God’s redemptive work in our lives. The beauty of it all is that, as we experience change through what we do at Mergon we ourselves are changed.

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