Peter Waldo was a wealthy merchant, well respected and a man of influence, in the community of Lyons. One evening, while entertaining friends at his home, one of them suffered a sudden seizure and died. This incident so shook Waldo that he began to seriously think of his soul and eternity beyond the grave. He began to regularly attend church services, but was not satisfied with the superficial rituals in Latin. He employed two priests to come to his house to translate the Gospels of Christ into French. Waldo was most excited as he read, meditated on and carefully studied the Words of Christ.
Yet, instead of comfort and peace, he found conviction and challenge. He saw himself as the foolish rich man who was laying up treasures on earth, but was spiritually poor towards God. Again and again he read the Words of Christ: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for the abundance of a man’s life consisteth not in those things which he possesseth” Luke 12:15.
The Huguenots have left us a tremendous legacy of heroic faith, Christian endurance and sacrifice. Their contributions to our culture, spiritual life and prosperity have been out of all proportion to their small numbers.
There are many Huguenot surnames amongst us to this day: Blignaut, De Klerk, De Villiers, Du Preez, Du Toit, Fourie, Hugo, Joubert, Le Roux, Malan, Nel, Pienaar, Retief, Rossouw, Theron, Viljoen, Visagie, and many others. The first Huguenot to arrive at the Cape, on 6 April 1652, was Maria de la Quellerie, the wife of the first governor of the Cape, Jan Van Riebeeck. Maria's grandfather had been a French Huguenot pastor.
Dynamic Christian Movement
The Huguenots were Protestants, members of the Reformed Church of France. Their forerunners were the Waldensians, a dynamic Bible study movement which arose in the 12th century, led by Peter Waldo, a merchant of Lyons. The Waldensians desired to study the Scriptures and be faithful to Biblical principles in all areas of life. These poor men of Lyons went out in twos and boldly proclaimed the Word of God throughout Southern France, Northern Italy and Switzerland.