An Australian pastor died yesterday in a South African hospital after an assault in Malawi, his family announced today.

Salvation Army Major Geoff Freind, 59, had embarked on a five-week trip to train Christian pastors in several African countries, stopping last week in Rwanda. Freind’s brother-in-law Peter Walker said the attack happened when Freind walked down the street from his hotel in Malawi to some nearby shops, sustaining severe injuries. The family still is unaware of the details, Walker said.

Freind died in a hospital in South Africa’s capital, Johannesburg, with his wife, Lyn, and their four sons present.

“Yesterday was probably the worst day of our lives,” Walker said during a press conference today at a Salvation Army church in the west coast city of Perth, where Freind once served. “He was the most enthusiastic person, and he believed he could do anything and God could do anything,” Walker said.

Freind lived in Perth and worked with the Salvation Army for 34 years. He took part in mission efforts across African countries and in several countries in Southeast Asia, the Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory said in a statement. Walker said Freind and his wife built a school in Sierra Leone, and he also reached out to men in pubs.

“He and my father would minister to the pubs in and around Geelong every Friday night,” said Lynden Blackley, who said she knew the pastor for 30 years in a Facebook post on Salvation Army Australia’s page. “Devastating news to hear of his passing.”

Freind authored three books, Enjoy the Journey, Thank you for the Journey, and A Great Journey. He donated
$60 000 (R834 573) from book sales to the Salvation Army’s Chikankata Mission, which operates a school and hospital in Zambia. His fourth book of stories of encouragement and hope sent to him from people around the world is currently with printers, Walker said.

Perth’s Salvation Army divisional commander, Maj. Neil Venables, said Freind lived out the Salvation Army’s mission and served as a strong advocate for the disadvantaged in several countries.

“He wanted everyone to know life in its fullness in the best that it could be,” Venables said.