It turns out there is no shortcut, bolt-of-inspiration way to transform a person from layman to minister in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. It takes seven years of rigorous training—seven years of Deon Snyman's youth—which made it all the more distressing when, toward the end of his studies at the University of Pretoria in 1990, Snyman realized he had all the theology a person could possibly need to function in the old South Africa but almost no skills to guide him in the country that had just released Nelson Mandela.
Snyman, who was born and raised in "a traditional Afrikaans family, in a typical Afrikaans town north of Johannesburg," says that back then he knew no black people, had no black friends, had never even had a meaningful conversation with a black person. "The church was divided into white congregations, Coloured congregations, Indian congregations, and black congregations," he says. He decided that the best way he could avoid waking up one morning a foreigner in his own country was to become the minister of a rural, black congregation.