Towards the end of last year, I met with Heinz and Alette-Johanni Winckler in their Somerset West home to chat about their family life, music and calling to minister in South Africa. This is their story. By Tamsyn Cornelius
A fragrant array of Spring-coloured flowers usher me up the steps of the Winckler family home, where singer-songwriter Heinz Winckler resides with his image consultant wife, Alette, and their three growing sons – Lian, Simeon and Reuben.
From behind a bold red front door, I hear the joyful noise of boys being boys, and I am greeted by a beaming Alette, armed with hugs and a vibrant energy as she welcomes me inside and into her creative work studio.
As two influential entrepreneurs with independent careers and a bustling family life, Heinz and Alette are surprisingly cool, calm and collected.
Alette is a renowned stylist, author and inspirational speaker while Heinz is no stranger to the spotlight as a multi-award-winning singer-songwriter, actor, author… and the list goes on! With so many creative initiatives going on, the couple tell me that their real passion is actually to see people set free through Christ and rooted in their local church. “God first, then family, and then everything else,” explains Heinz.
Discipleship saved my life
As a household name, Heinz will always be remembered as the very first winner of South African Idols in 2002. Over 15 years later, however, there is much more to the man behind the microphone.
“It has been a long road,” admits Heinz. “After Idols happened, all the issues and struggles I had in my Christian walk became pronounced. Suddenly my entire life was in the public eye and I felt really guilty about what was going on in my life.”
God then sent a local pastor to connect with Heinz and introduce him to a new lifestyle of discipleship. “At first, I wanted nothing to do with discipleship,” Heinz laughs. “I didn’t want to talk about those struggles I was really facing… those things that I had kept secret!”
Despite a hesitant start, Heinz agreed to the meeting and this sparked a long-term discipleship relationship. Heinz elaborates: “Through the process of being discipled, I received healing from my past and I realized that I needed to be held accountable and walk with someone. Discipleship really helped me enter into a deeper level of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and this redefined my spiritual walk and saved my life!”
Today the couple are strong advocates for the work and ministry of the local church.
“I believe the local church is Jesus’ plan for His bride – this is where God works and His blessings flow,” explains Heinz.
“I believe we all need to be a part of a local church family… not where you feel good, but where God sends you!”
After 11 years of wedded bliss, marriage and family rank very highly on the Wincklers’ priority list. Alette explains that they absolutely love the energy of three developing boys in the house, but the couple agree that they need to be intentional about how they spend their time and invest in their relationships as a family.
“Our relationship with God is key for our marriage,” Heinz says while pointing to Alette… “which in turn is key for the life and dynamics of our family,” he concludes.
Serving Jesus and Others
“Even though I grew up under the pews (Alette’s parents and grandparents were in ministry), I knew that that fact alone would not get me to Heaven. I needed to make a decision to serve Jesus for myself,” explains Alette. Today, she admits that God is still her first love.
Alette now runs a vibrant business which can also be viewed as a ‘ministry’ to women, in which she offers image consulting and styling, makeovers and inspirational talks to females of all ages, especially those who have lost their sense of style and are unsure of what to wear. Her aim is to speak to the confidence of women – encouraging the mothers, sisters and daughters in society – and challenging toxic mindsets.
Alette has also written three self-help and motivational books aimed at women, and co-owns a lullaby range consisting of English and Afrikaans music on CD and DVD aimed at children, as well as her Lulla-Bible (also available in Afrikaans as ‘Lulla-Bybel’) which has sold more than 39 000 copies in South Africa, USA, Australia and the UAE, making her a two-time best seller. She also hosted her own makeover programme on DSTV where audiences got to see her dynamic personality in action.
Together the Wincklers are also passionate about empowering Christian couples in their marriages. “We want to let others know that with God as the lead, you can have a healthy marriage and family life.” The pair can often be found ministering together – Heinz through song and Alette through motivational talks and singing back-up vocals to her celebrity husband. They are a dynamic duo, working on various projects (together and apart) to bring glory to their Heavenly Father.
A call to worship
Heinz’s passion for Christ couldn’t be more evident than on his latest album ‘The Roar’, written and produced in Nashville, Tennessee (the capital of Christian music) in 2016. Here he had the honour of working alongside renowned Christian influencers including producer Daniel Ornellas (also the bassist for Tree63) as well as top musicians such as Paul Mabury. He also had the opportunity to recreate the well-known ‘Let It Rain’ worship song with its original author, Michael Farren.
As Heinz’s first Christian contemporary album, songs such as ‘Lord Have Your Way’, ‘Follow’, ‘Who Reigns’ and many others easily communicate his soulful style and heart of worship. With a few Afrikaans tracks thrown in, Heinz continues to appeal to a broad South African audience with lyrics that touch the heart and openly honour Christ.
Heinz attributes the success of the album to faith and obedience, as well as a close personal walk with God. He admits that He has long since wanted to produce a Christian album, but that he had to be obedient and wait on God’s timing. It took almost a decade before this album was realized!
“I cried before the Lord and I said YES many years ago – thinking that it was time to do a worship album! But the answer I felt in my heart at that time was a resounding NO, which I later realized was God saying, ‘Not Yet’.”
Nine years later ‘The Roar’ came into being, and Heinz testifies to the miraculous work of God in guiding him through the production of this album – right down to the finances needed to record it.
“God desires a broken and contrite heart that says, ‘Lord your will be done, and not mine!’”
He says the album formed part of a God-move for their family. First, the Lord led him to leave his former recording label, and then with finances running low, God showed him that the time was finally right to produce a worship album. At the same time, God was orchestrating for the Wincklers to move to the Western Cape where they would buy and renovate a house.
“The album formed a part of God guiding us into a whole new season – uprooting us from our home, and bringing us to the Cape.”
Alette and Heinz testify to the fact that the entire process of relocating to Somerset West and renovating their house was part of a God-journey – stepping out in faith and trusting God to take the lead.
Today, the very house we are seated in is immaculate – inside and out – and I can’t help but compliment the couple on the beauty of their home.
There is a real sense of humility when Heinz shakes his head and responds: “Everything you see here (he points to the beautifully renovated interior) … we did not deserve, but God made a way for it to happen. He provided even in our darkest hour! What nobody really knows is that we too have had hard times, but God is faithful and He always provides.”
I am reminded of the Scripture that reads, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19).
Rooted to sow
The Wincklers are trusting that God will continue to direct their path, and for now, this path has lead them to Cape Town. Who knows what the next step will be but “we are exactly where we are supposed to be right now,” says Heinz.
Alette tells us that travel is something they enjoy and want to do more of, especially after having the privilege of living and travelling abroad when Heinz first landed a role in the hit Broadway musical ‘Rent’ just after they were married. For now, however, home is in Somerset West and the couple know without a doubt that God has called them here, within South Africa, for such a time as this!
“We are a blessed nation,” explains Alette. “No matter where we go – there is just no place like home.”
“There is a strong calling on our country and I feel that this is the reason why we are always under attack,” she points out.
Heinz feels strongly about stepping out only through God’s guidance. “Too many South Africans are leaving the country out of fear and not faith,” he shares. “If you are leaving and God did not say so, you are not going to find a better life. I promise you this! It is better to live under the promises and provision of God than to do your own thing!”
The vision is to continue finding new ways to take the message to the rest of the country (and the world). Heinz shares that his dream is to own a production truck with all the necessary equipment to be able to go out to preach and sing in areas where people would otherwise not hear the Gospel.
“The older I get and the more I move into ministry, I am seeing more and more that God actually has a plan for us from this nation, and a calling within this nation; that whatever will happen on an international scale, will happen from here.”
Together the pair believe that there is hope for the nation of South Africa and they will continue to sow and minister here, until the Lord directs them elsewhere.
The Wincklers are presently rooted at Every Nation Church, Somerset West, where the family enjoy local fellowship and discipleship, and are also actively involved in a life group.
In the end – through family, music and ministry – Heinz and Alette thank God for His faithfulness and provision and for establishing their new ‘base’ in the Western Cape. “We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now,” Alette concludes.
Get in touch
Both Heinz and Alette have active social media accounts and business websites where you can find out about their latest projects and ministry. Heinz is also excited to have featured in the new Frans Cronje movie ‘The Roar’ released in 2018.
- This article featured as the cover story of the December 2017 issue of The Christian Lifestyle Magazine.