Angus Buchan: I would say, “Lord, if this crop gets wiped out by hail, which does happen from time to time, then You’ve got another plan for me, because I’ve given You my life, I’ve given You the farm, I’ve given You my wife, my children, my business, my staff, my animals,” and an absolute peace would come over me.
Moving On and Starting Over: Angus Buchan and Tara Royer Steele – Episode #233
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Have you ever had a moment where you had to find the courage to change your situation and start something totally new? Our guests this week can testify to how hard that can be, but can also report how leaning on God’s strength to make a needed shift in life can net amazing rewards: South African farmer and evangelist Angus Buchan and author and pie shop owner Tara Royer Steele join the show this week to share their stories.
Angus Buchan is a South African farmer who would eventually become a full-time evangelist. Committed to hard work and hard living, he made a radical change by becoming a Christian, surprising friends and family with his newfound faith. That faith has sustained him through family tragedies and financial crises. Feeling a burden for his community in South Africa, Angus felt called to share the faith he’d found on a larger platform. Still a farmer, he is now an international evangelist, having traveled through Africa in a refitted yellow fire engine, telling people about Christ, and filling the largest venues in South Africa. The story of his spiritual adventures was detailed in the popular book and movie Faith Like Potatoes, and he now shares how God is still working as he looks forward to celebrating seventy-five glorious years of life.
Angus: My name is Angus Buchan and I’m an evangelist, stroke farmer, and we are farming in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and I come from a Scottish background. My father and mother came out to South Africa and I was born out here. My dad was a country blacksmith from the northeast of Scotland, the Aberdeenshire area. I am happily married to my best friend, Jill, my wife. We have five children, eleven grandchildren, twenty-seven adopted Zulu children, and I have 480 men that I’m mentoring. So you can call me Father Abraham if you’d like.
Growing Up in Central Africa
I was born in Zimbabwe, I grew up in Zambia, just north of the Zambezi River, and as I say, I come from a blue collar family. My dad was a wonderful man, one of my heroes. He really was a big, strong man. And I had the privilege of actually leading him to Jesus much later on in life when he came to live with me on my farm in South Africa. And my mother was a bonnie Scottish lass, and she was a storyteller of note, just like Jesus was just a storyteller, just telling hungry people where to find bread.
But my upbringing in Central Africa was very unique. I am an African through and through. I can speak the Zulu language. In fact, I preach in the Zulu language. That’s in South Africa, of course, but I did all my schooling in Central Africa. Then I went back to Bonnie Scotland, where I did my agricultural training. And from there, as a wild colonial boy, I then went to Australia where they taught me to ride horses and lots of other things. And then eventually I married and then things got a bit rough in Central Africa. We packed up all our goods and chattels in a truck and trailer came across the mighty Zambezi River on a pontoon in the middle of the Rhodesian Bush War.
And we came down to South Africa and settled here via Swaziland. And we literally started with nothing. I fed the hogs, and I cut the firewood, and I built my house out of wattle and daub. And we had a wonderful time together.
Angus Meets Jesus
On the 18th of February, 1979, [I was] a young farmer who had literally worked himself to a standstill. I was working seven days a week, you know, but I had five young children and a young wife and I was trying to learn to speak the local language, Zulu, and I didn’t have any friends, not many neighbors. And the only thing we did was work.
Jill, my beautiful wife, said to me, “Angus, you can’t go on like this.” And she persuaded me to go to a little church in the main street of the town, which is close to a farm that’s about maybe seven or eight miles away.
I’ll never forget it. It was a Sunday morning. It was nine o’clock. The preacher was not preaching that day. Men were getting up, and women, and giving their testimonies, you know, building contractors, housewives, sportsmen. And I sat there and I saw these men and these women that were weeping. “You know, my business was going bankrupt. My marriage was finished. I had terminal cancer and Jesus healed me.”
And I sat there with my mouth open and then right at the end, one of the laymen said, “If you want Jesus to be your Savior, we want you to come forward now.” And I stood up—me, Jill, and all our children, just like a gander, a goose, and all the goslings. And we walked straight to the front with lots of other people. That was the defining moment of my life. I have never been the same since. I didn’t see any visions. I never heard any bells, no lightning. But I knew in my heart that Jesus Christ was now the general manager of my life, my farm, my family.
“I knew in my heart that Jesus Christ was now the general manager of my life, my farm, my family.” – Angus Buchan
And that was the beginning of the beginning. I couldn’t contain myself. I was so overwhelmed. My sins were forgiven. I was a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17—“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” You know, I was going one way and then the road knocked me off my horse and my life has never, ever been the same again. Look, I’ve had some tragedies, as you probably know, like all of us, but miracles have taken place. Nobody will ever persuade me that Jesus Christ is not alive and the Son of God, never.
“Look, I’ve had some tragedies, as you probably know, like all of us, but miracles have taken place. Nobody will ever persuade me that Jesus Christ is not alive and the Son of God, never.” – Angus Buchan
Faith To Calm The Storm
My theological training college was on the farm. You know, we literally cleared this farm by hand. I didn’t even have enough money for a chainsaw. I had to clear the farm with a long handled axe, just like Abraham Lincoln, I don’t suspect I split the trees quite as quickly as he did, but we gave it a good go. And then, of course, one of my best friends was my foreman, a Zulu, Simeon Bengoa. Together we cut this bush down and turned this into a beautiful farm as it is today.
I came here with one tractor, then I managed to get another tractor and that was about it. I was surrounded by big forests, commercial forests that grow pine trees, and the one year a fire broke out on my farm. And if that fire had jumped the fence into the neighbors, which was a big timber company, they would have taken me to the cleaners. I would have left the farm with my shirt on my back. That’s all.
This fire was raging, and it was out of the rainy season. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, even the size of a man’s fist. And all the farmers, like they always do, gathered around to come and help me. And they were trying to hold this fire at bay and they could not put it out. It was too intense. We couldn’t get within like twenty feet of it. And by eleven o’clock in the day, the farmers started coming to me and saying, “Listen, Angus, we’re very sorry, but we’ve got to go now. We’ve got to pay wages because tomorrow is a public holiday. It’s Easter.” And I understood that and I didn’t know what to do. I had one of my Zulu drivers next to me. I said to him, “I’m going to pray.” I said this in Zulu. “I’m going to pray and I’m going to ask God to send rain to put the fire out.”
And so I got on my knees in the dust, and the farmers standing around must have thought that I had gone mad. And I started to pray. “Lord, I’m Your son. You’ve told me to cast my cares upon you. I’m doing it, Lord, I need rain to put this fire out. Lord Jesus, if this fire jumps across the fence, I’m finished. I’m ruined.”
And I’ve got up and I’m telling you, God is my witness. I don’t realize anymore. I’m a Christian now. A shot of lightning came out of a clear sky. And about two minutes later, a sound of thunder, like I’ve never heard before. And the north wind stopped, it turned around and the wind started blowing from the south and gentle rain came up. Now that is God’s honest truth.
You know, that driver of mine, his eyes were like saucers, you know, he couldn’t believe it. Look, my legs were shaking like jelly, and the farmers came up and you know what they said? “Angus, you’re very lucky. I don’t know where the rains come from, but all the best. We’ll see you later.” And this is how my spiritual walk started with the Lord Jesus Christ.
From Farmer to Preacher
Now, a lot of these men that were driving around in their pickups were farmers who knew me before. And they knew me to be a hard-drinking, hard-fighting man about the place, and they could not believe that I was still the same person. I had a complete transformation.
I had joy, I had peace, and I was ready for whatever God told me to do. And, you know, the one day I said to Jill, because I was a new Christian and I didn’t understand how it happened—I wanted to be a preacher. So I thought, What I must do is I must give my farm away, not sell it, give it away. Go to Bible College, study to be a pastor, and then become a pastor. That’s how naive I was.
“I had joy, I had peace, and I was ready for whatever God told me to do.” – Angus Buchan
And I looked at Jill, and she was so happy, she wasn’t worried or concerned. I don’t know how you would feel if your husband said, “We’re coming home and I’m going to give the house away and the farm and we’re going to go by faith to Bible College.” And I said, “Jill, God has given me the answer.”
And she said to me, “I know.”
I said, “How do you know?”
She said, “Because He told me as well, isn’t that so beautiful?”
So we went into the bedroom, we sat down, I opened up the Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:8. She opened up her Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:8. You know, and my legs went to jelly again. She never knew that I was reading the book at 2 Corinthians. I didn’t know what she was reading, and God confirmed it, that we are to stay on this farm—it’s called Shalom, by the way. We called it Shalom—stay on this farm and make a place for our Holy Spirit to move. We built a little chapel, it’s a thatched chapel, it can sit about 100 people. Since then, we’ve built what we call the Tabernacle, which can seat 500. But then God told me to mentor men, and I thought of three or four men. I can tell you, I can show you photographs we had in 2010, Some say 400, some say 450,000 men on this farm. Now, this is the God that I’m wanting to tell you about. This is the God that has changed my life. You know, when I was a little boy, I couldn’t speak to more than two people. If I saw a girl, I’d run a mile. What has happened? The Holy Spirit has taken over. We have got now Mighty Men conferences all over the world.
So we have been subjected to many, many tests. I’ve had floods, I’ve had droughts, I’ve had fires, I’ve told you just about one, but probably the hardest test of my life…
The Tragic Loss of a Nephew
About forty-four years ago, I can remember it like it was yesterday, my brother’s youngest son was down on the farm. My brother, he’s a golf professional and he was playing cricket with the kids on the lawn, and I was sitting there having a cup of tea, watching everything. And one of my tractor drivers came to me and said, “There’s a tractor which is stuck in the field. Could you please come and help us to pull it out?”
I said, “No problem.” I was going to get on the other tractor with a chain and go and pull it out.
As I was walking up the path, my little nephew, his name is Alistair, four years old, blond hair, blue eyes. I was his favorite uncle and his favorite tractor was the green John Deere tractor. And he said to me—he called me Unky Angus—“Unky Angus, where are you going?”
I said, “I’m going to drive the [tractor].”
And he said, “Can I come, please?” Four years old.
I said to him, “Go and ask your daddy first.”
And of course, my brother, who’s two years younger than me, said, “Of course he can go with you.”
He was standing on the running board next to me, sister was on the other side, the driver was standing behind me. We went around a corner. I’ll never know. Jesus will tell me one day. The little boy fell forward off the tractor onto the ground, and the tractor rolled over him and killed him.
At that moment, a neighbor arrived in a pickup, and I asked him to take me to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, the doctor said, “The little boy is dead.”
At that moment, my brother walked up the steps of that hospital. You know, I always looked after my brother at school. I was always the oldest one, even though he’s bigger than me. And I saw that little boy again, you know, with his hands outstretched. “Angus, Angus, where’s my son?” And I had to say to him, “Your son is with Jesus.”
And at that moment, I knew, God, if You don’t help me now, I’m going to go mad. And he’s never held it against me. He’s now preaching the gospel himself, can you believe that? And his other son is also a preacher in Boston, USA. And I had to work through that one. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep for more than six days. But Jesus, slowly but surely, He restored me.
And I can honestly tell you that the Lord saw me through. And, you know, if there’s anybody listening to this program that has had those accidents because many people have been to see me—a lot of them farmers actually, who have had similar accidents—I tell them straight, “You’ll never get over it. You’ll learn to live with it.” And I know that Alistair is in heaven. I know he’s waiting for me. And I know that when I die, he’ll be there at the Pearly Gates standing next to Jesus and he’ll say probably something like, “Unky Angus, what’s taken you so long?” And that’s why I’m preaching until the day I die.
South Africa’s Gospel Train
You know, that beautiful song, I think Randy Travis sings it, and there are a few others of your beautiful singers, that gospel train, that revival train. Well, God’s given me a vision. And I’ve already been down to Cape Town, which is the southern point of our continent. And I think I’ve found the train, a complete train. And what we’re going to do early next year: steaming into a town and all aboard and everybody off-board and into the streets, into the hospitals, the schools, you do the workplaces telling people about Jesus, praying for the sick, giving them full of material, then coming together in the evening at the station where I will speak, we’ll have one flatbed carriage that’ll have a permanent sound system, floodlights, speakers, the top bands. And we are going to flood this beloved country of South Africa. We’re going to preach the undiluted gospel of Jesus Christ, that that is what I’m praying for right at this very moment.
“We are going to flood this beloved country of South Africa. We’re going to preach the undiluted gospel of Jesus Christ, that that is what I’m praying for right at this very moment.” – Angus Buchan
Stay tuned to Tara Royer Steele’s story after a brief message.
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Narrator: Our next guest is Tara Royer Steele of the Pie Haven in Round Top Texas. Growing up, Tara worked hard to help her family run their business and achieved much, but the love she craved and the affirmation she sought went deeper than her achievements in the family business. And as a young woman, Tara entered into an unhealthy marriage. She grappled with the ongoing abuse from her husband and the belief that she didn’t deserve anything better until she felt the spirit of God offering a chance for a life free of the cruel situation in her marriage. Making the break was tough, but Tara went on to rebuild and eventually met and married the man who would walk with her to reach her dream of creating her own special place for people to come and connect over tables—a haven for conversation and community over each slice of pie.
Tara Royer Steele: My name is Tara Royer Steele and I live in Brenham, Texas, which is smack dab in the middle of Houston and Austin. And I grew up in a tiny town called Round Top Texas, which a lot of people know because of antiques.
But I grew up in our family business of pie. I have a pie shop with my husband and we also have a commercial kitchen which helps bake all the pies for our other businesses. I have two cute boys, Braden and Bentley, and we just love to create spaces for people to come and gather, and create safe havens for people.
The Family Pie Business
So when we took over this cafe in Round Top, Texas, it was my parents’. We have three younger brothers. You know, it was a huge leap of faith. My dad had been out of work for years and we really did not even have the gas money to get to Round Top.
My dad had been in the restaurant business, but he’d never run a restaurant business. And we also knew nothing about pies. But the cafe came with two pies. And so they really dug in and said, like, “We have to do this, God has given us this gift. We have taken this leap of faith. So let’s use the knowledge that we have and the gifts that have been given in this joint and make it work.”
And so, as they say, you know, the rest is history, because my dad just started. My mom was in the kitchen and my dad was actually out front. He’s always said, “We’re not in the food business, we’re in the marketing business. We’re in the relationship business.” So the cafe became a relational restaurant, and people that walked to the door felt safe and welcomed and loved and seen. It grew, and two pies became five pies and sixteen pies. And before you know it, it’s on TV and in the magazines.
“The cafe became a relational restaurant, and people that walked to the door felt safe and welcomed and loved and seen.” – Tara Royer Steele
But my parents not having all the skills, of course, they were doing the best that they could at the time, you know, there were financial difficulties. Of course, we also came from not having any money whatsoever. And so there was a lot of strain on our family to perform. And I lived in this fear of my father and I just wanted to please him, so I did whatever I needed to do to help. And, of course, it caused us to just have this relationship that was business. And there was no father-daughter relationship, which I always craved. But I also had no idea what it really looked like to be loved from the father. So I wasn’t getting it from anywhere, but I was doing whatever I could so I could get something from my dad and to make him happy.
So the pressures of running a family business in a town of ninety people, and then it grew quickly in popularity, put a lot of strain on our family. But it also was so good and it brought so many relationships—and relationships that over thirty years are still deeply rooted. And honestly, though, the restaurant at times was strife. But what it has done is kept our family together and not divided us, which so many family businesses can do.
And there is no way that I would be sitting here right now if God hadn’t protected and provided through that whole season. And it was a long season, about a good eighteen years of running the restaurant.
“There is no way that I would be sitting here right now if God hadn’t protected and provided through that whole season.” – Tara Royer Steele, on working in her family business
Courage to Stop the Cycle of Abuse
Narrator: Tara’s deep seated need for love and approval unfortunately led to a marriage that wasn’t healthy. Tara shares how she found the courage to confront the abuse in her first marriage and how her healing really began when she accepted God’s invitation to experience the good He had in store for her life.
Tara: Oh, goodness. He was abusive and that was not even the last straw for me, and I had opportunity after opportunity to walk away. But I was stuck in that same cycle of needing someone to love me and approval.
And so I was the girl that was not always the skinny girl. And so I just wanted someone to love me, but he didn’t love me. And I had to learn that, you know. God had to grab me and say, “Listen, this is your last chance. I love you. I see you. I am enough for you.”
“God had to grab me and say, “Listen, this is your last chance. I love you. I see you. I am enough for you.” – Tara Royer Steele
I didn’t have a choice. There were no other options for me. So I just had to walk in that. And of course, then we got divorced. I’d been the take the keys away girl, the make sure everyone’s safe girl. And now it’s like, “I don’t care about any of y’all. I’m going to party like a rockstar now and I’m going to be the one who goes and drinks and has fun.” I mean, grace of God that I can sit here and be talking here. I don’t know how I made it home many nights.
And so I once again was searching for attention, and I was the one that, “Hey, call Tara, she’ll go out. She’s fun. She’s the fun girl. She’ll buy our drinks.” And still, though, of course, that just numbed everything. Nothing was repaired or resolved. The wounds and the pain just kept getting deeper and deeper.
And so it eventually had to come to a point where I had to do something about it. This is the craziest thing. Like, it was once again God saying, “Listen, I have really good stuff for you. Can you trust Me? Quit trying to please everybody and quit trying to make friends. And just trust me?” But I just saw all the ick and none of the good. None of the blessings. I remember conversations of driving with a friend going, “It would just be easier if I just ended my life right now. I have nothing,” which is such a lie that I believed because I had so much. I did have amazing relationships. I had a family. I had a great job. I had amazing opportunities. So I was in a pretty deep pit.
And it’s crazy that God used Match.com to introduce me to my husband, who had been in silence for a year because of his previous marriage, just talking to God. And he grew up in the faith, but he didn’t know—and I, too, grew up in all of it, and I knew, but I didn’t know the goodness of God and what He had for me. And He put us together, we got married really quickly, because we both knew, like, “Oh, my gosh. I know what I don’t want. And this is exactly what I want.” He is such a gift from God. And we’ve been working together for fifteen years.
And, you know, through it, we have gotten to do amazing things and grow our businesses and dream together. And the dreams that God laid on my heart when I was a little girl and dreams that he’s dreamed of, we are getting to do it together. So it’s just been such a sweet thing to be able to walk it all out, like, I don’t remember so much of my past. But man, I would do it all over again to be where I am right now.
You know, the cafe was a family thing, and I got to put a little bit of my spin on it, but still everyone had their opinions and everyone had their thoughts. And so it wasn’t a place where I got to just truly dream and do whatever. God laid an idea, God gave me this creative thought. Well, how can I go do that spin? So an opportunity came about where we could open this pie shop across the street, like, in a town of ninety people. Yes, across the street. Another pie shop. And it was an overflow because people would come to eat at the cafe and we’d have no seating for them if they just wanted pie. So it became an opportunity.
But I never got to be there. Rick never was there. We just had our finger on it. And so we created this space, though, where we didn’t have to be there, because if you walk into the cafe, you would always have seen my dad on the front porch, J.B., my brother waiting on you. Todd, my brother waiting on you. My brother Micah, Rick and I in the kitchen. So you saw us and you expected it. And the couple customers came to know that.
And the Pie Haven was not that, you walked in and it was this sensory overload of wonderful pies and wonderful smells. And, you know, this old little house with a big oak tree and chairs outside and words of inspiration. I literally just wrote all over the walls. So it really became a haven. Not having a clue when we named it Royer’s Pie Haven that that’s what it was going to be. And I really am loving that because, you know, someone asked me, ‘What’s your business plan?” I was like, “Well, God’s my business plan.” I did not go to school. I have no degrees. The only degree is one my mom and dad gave me and it’s hanging on the wall. I went to the School of Life. But what I do know from the School of Life is that customers, especially these days, want to come to a place where they know that it’s safe, and that they are seen, and that they are loved, and that there’s room for them at all the tables.
“Someone asked me, ‘What’s your business plan?’ I was like, ‘Well, God’s my business plan.’” – Tara Royer Steele
So then you get to strike up conversations with people and build relationships with people over pie. And of course, everyone loves eating. Everyone’s favorite, and maybe mine, is the Sweet and Salty, which is like this dense fudgy brownie with caramel and sea salt. And then another fave is the Junkberry, which is apples and peaches and blackberries and raspberries and blueberries with a sour cream topping. And so, I mean, eating food together is a common thing that we all have together.
I just am super grateful for the customers who have been so kind to us because we would not have this tribe of people, this community, if it wasn’t for pie.
The Good Ingredients of Life
So many things in life—the ingredients in our life are just like the Fruit of the Spirit, right? Like are you pouring in love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? Are you pouring all those ingredients into your pie? Are you molding and shaping your children like a pie crust? Are you coming alongside them and crimping it with grace and mercy and forgiveness and love, just like if Jesus was standing right next to you and was walking you through?
I bought the Jesus Calling book forever ago. I bought it for my kids, Jesus Calling for Kids. I read it with my kids. What I love about it, truly, is that you can just flip the switch. It’s real easy in that book, in that devotion, to put your name there and read the words and know that Jesus is speaking to you. I love the words. They are full of truth and full of life and full of hope.
I’m a routine girl, and I love to get up in the morning and make my coffee, I make twelve cups. I don’t drink it all by myself. And I always have to have music playing in the background, my favorite right now is Maverick City. So I have that going. Coffee’s brewing. And I have my Bible and a devotional. And it is so important for me to have that time in the morning, to be intentional about the day. I really believe that if we’re not jumping out of bed and racing and we’ve created that time, then I mean, it really does set our days. So I think it’s very key to our daily walk.
Jesus Calling, March 23rd:
I AM A GOD of both intricate detail and overflowing abundance. When you entrust the details of your life to Me, you are surprised by how thoroughly I answer your petitions. I take pleasure in hearing your prayers, so feel free to bring Me all your requests. The more you pray, the more answers you can recieve. Best of all, your faith is strengthened as you see how precisely I respond to your specific prayers. Because I am infinite in all My ways, you need not fear that I will run out of resources. Abundance is at the very heart of who I am. Come to Me in joyful expectation of receiving all you need—and sometimes much more! I delight in showering blessings on My beloved Children. Come to Me with open hands and heart, ready to receive all I have for you.
Are you truly seeing that and stopping and noticing that He’s right there, going, “Hey, guys, let’s love each other, and let’s put lasting crimps on our lives, on our relationships, on our kids, lives of grace and love and kindness and mercy and goodness and faithfulness”? It is not easy. I mean, I’m sitting there talking about this going, Well you better do that today, sister. I know you have lots of conversations you get to have today, and I sure hope you do all those things because it’s so easy for us in a world now where we quickly react and we don’t step back and truly savor the moments that we have and these opportunities that we have to meet people exactly where they are and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
“It’s so easy for us in a world now where we quickly react and we don’t step back and truly savor the moments that we have and these opportunities that we have to meet people exactly where they are and be the hands and feet of Jesus.” – Tara Royer Steele
If you’d like to hear more stories about courage to change our circumstances, listen to our interview with “Auntie Anne” Beiler.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with beloved NFL Super Bowl-winning coach and commentator Tony Dungy. The coach shares how he learned early on as a player how all-consuming pro football life could be and the impact it could have on his life and family, and the wise words he received from his first coach in the NFL, coach Chuck Knoll.
Tony Dungy: If you make football your life, you’re going to leave the game disappointed. And I remember I was writing that down and thought, This sounds like my mother. And it hit home to me that here was this man who had won two Super Bowls already and he was saying, “Don’t make football your whole life.”