Aurion du Preez

Under the Southern Cross: (Softcover: $25: ISBN: 978-1-68114-493-1; Hardcover: $40: ISBN: 978-1-68114-494-8; EBook: $2.99: ISBN: 978-1-68114-495-5; Fiction—Religious; Edited by: Jennifer Banash (Kevin Anderson & Associates), Gay Ingram, and Jacqueline Oshiro; Release: July 1, 2019; Purchase on Amazon or Barnes & Noble): Set in South Africa during the decline of Apartheid, a story about the disparity of religious idealism and human frailty. Ben Greene is a young American schoolteacher who is sent by his church to assess the mental and physical state of John Rice, an aging missionary who has gone missing in Botswana. The search leads into a war zone in Angola where Ben is caught in a fire-fight and a child dies in his arms. Then, he discovers Rice’s body among a group of murdered missionaries. Left on foot, Ben and his African interpreter Tembu are forced to find their way to safety through the treacherous Okavango swamp.

Ben returns to South Africa physically and emotionally scarred, but determined to compensate for Rice’s loss and to assuage the pain of his own guilt. He and his young wife Marilyn settle in Cape Town, immersing themselves in a burgeoning ministry led by a flamboyant evangelist named Alexander Van Hemel. Unaware of his sinister agenda, the couple find themselves entangled in a dark web from which escape is costly and painful.

“Aurion du Preez’s novel Under the Southern Cross is an unflinching stare into mission, congregation and school ministries, set in South Africa in the waning days of apartheid. Parts of it read like the plot of a fast paced adventure movie. Parts explore the challenges of working as a diverse ministry team on daily routines. Parts are a compelling love story, complete with serious threats to the relationship the reader is cheering for. Parts are profound examinations of theological and ethical debates. All of this follows Ben Greene on his journey from idealism to betrayal and disillusionment. He wrestles with stress that compromises and threatens to destroy his ministry and marriage, integrity and sanity… A few times I put it down, not feeling up to its intensity, only to be compelled to resume reading so I would not be left hanging on impending disaster. Ben’s path took some turns I would not have expected, toward a worthy but painfully won climax. Not all ministry messiness is as intense as portrayed in Under the Southern Cross, but the themes—both dangers and recoveries—are common, even typical, of every ministry that engages people at their points of pain… As I read I cringed and cried, cajoled and cheered.” —Norm Stolpe

“While reading Under the Southern Cross, I never knew exactly where the narrative was going to take me. I enjoy that in a novel. The characters are refreshingly real in that they are all flawed in some way, especially appealing since many of the personalities are Christian ministers. The story takes the reader through South Africa and surrounding countries during a time when apartheid was beginning to fall apart at its seams.  It’s an eye-opening glimpse into a place and time during which politics, rigid racial segregation and Christian fundamentalism are all straining for legitimacy. Having said that, the novel is mainly the personal journey of a young pastor named Ben who signed on for a simple fact-finding trip but instead encountered some of the most harrowing circumstances one could imagine. The story line includes intrigue, mystery, combat, celebration and angst. It is an excellent read indeed.” —Rev. Dr. Mark W. Irons

Aurion du Preez lives with his wife and two dogs in a small community in North Texas. He is retired from a career in ministry, missions, and education. He loves family, travel, gardening, music, and photography, but he devotes most of his energy to writing. He keeps in contact with family and friends, and supports various humanitarian interests locally and abroad. He has published a number of academic books and essays, but Under the Southern Cross is his first novel.

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