1836 to 1894
Paris Evangelical Missionary Society
Adolphe Mabille was a Paris Evangelical Missionary Society
(PEMS) missionary in Lesotho. Born at Baulmes, Vaud, Switzerland,
he received a strong formal education in Yverdon and at the
Paedagogium in Basel. He taught French in the Netherlands
and in Great Britain, where he entered the PEMS School of
Missions in Paris, where he met his future wife, Adèle Casalis
(1840-1923), who was born at Thaba Bosiu, Lesotho, the daughter
of PEMS director Eugène
Casalis. They married in 1859, wanting to serve in China,
which was a new project of the PEMS inspired by Mabille; instead
they were sent to Lesotho. Mabille served with great distinction
at Morija from 1860 until his death.
His contribution pertains to four important areas of missionary service. First, in 1856, when he was still a missionary candidate, he suggested the use of "small change" collection cards for fund-raising, which in spite of its modest goals became a major source of income for the PEMS. Second, he worked toward complete translation of the Bible into Sotho, which was achieved in 1879. He launched the first newspaper, in Sotho, Leselinyana (The little light of Lesotho) in 1863, still published today, and in 1889 started a quarterly for church workers, Motsualle oa Baboleli le Nalisa ba likolo (The friend of preachers and shepherds of schools). Third, he encouraged and organized indigenous ministry. He installed the first Sotho minister, Esaia Leeti, at Kolo, near Morija, in 1863. He trained men for the ministry; a theological college was planned very early and finally opened in 1882. Fourth, he encouraged the church of Lesotho to engage in foreign missions. The first Sotho foreign missionary was Isaiah Seële, sent to pioneer among the Pedis of Transvaal in 1863. Other Sotho missionaries were sent in 1875 to the Banyais of Mashonaland (now Zimbabwe) and in 1883 to the Barotsis of Zambesi (now Zambia).
Marc R. Spindler
Works by Adolphe Mabille include a Sotho translation of the Bible, the Sesuto-English Dictionary (1876, 1894; revised and enlarged by H. Dieterlen in 1904 and 1911), and numerous articles and papers published in Sotho. James E. Siordet, Adèle Mabille, née Casalis (1840-1923) d'après ses souvenirs et sa correspondence (1933); Edwin W. Smith, The Mabilles of Basutoland (1939).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.