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Inside the Mighty (mainly white) Men's Conference

200,000 turn out to hear farmer-turned-preacher Angus Buchan

GREYTOWN, South Africa — Tens of thousands of men sitting on plastic chairs and bales of hay suddenly jumped to their feet and cheered as evangelist preacher Angus Buchan finally appeared on a stage large enough to accommodate a full symphony orchestra.

Buchan’s appearance was by no means certain. He had collapsed twice the day before because of an irregular heartbeat and was flown to a nearby hospital. The seriousness of the incident was not lost on him.

“Jesus says, ‘Unless you’re born again, you’ll never see the kingdom of heaven.’ I saw, I glimpsed yesterday,” Buchan said, his voice loud but trembling. “You know what happened chaps? I’ll tell you what happened. They evacuated me with a helicopter out of my front lawn, and I looked and I saw all of you praying for me. And that’s why I love you! That’s why I love you!”

Buchan's Mighty Men’s Conference has grown in just a few years into a phenomenon, becoming one of the largest Christian gatherings of its kind. Close to 200,000 men flocked from all corners of South Africa in April to the rolling fields outside this small farming town in the eastern province of Kwazulu-Natal to hear the gospel of Buchan, a corn and potato farmer turned crusader for Christ.

Over three days, the participants — all male and most of them white — camped on land adjacent to Buchan’s farm and walked twice daily to his open-air chapel. Buchan's evangelistic message was broadcast on God TV.

Many men enjoy the event’s collegial atmosphere, but it is Buchan’s message that draws them. By urging them to surrender their life to Jesus and by promoting the importance of their role as the heads of their families, Buchan provides white males with the order and structure some crave in a rapidly changing South Africa. Many have been church-goers but have been captivated by Buchan's message special directed at them, telling them they can be Mighty Men.

“I’m a Christian, and I enjoy the message that Angus gives us, for me to return back to take my right position as Christian leader of the family home,” said Shawn Mackridge, a 40-year-old computer scientist from Germiston, southeast of Johannesburg. “It’s what’s needed in this country.”

Buchan is part of the revivalist tradition that seeks to instill new life into existing Christians, mostly Protestants, many of them white, according to Yolanda Dreyer, a professor of practical theology at the University of Pretoria.