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Van der Walt, P. J.
d. 1969
Pentecostal
Namibia

Church Planter of three Pentecostal Denominations

Pastor P. J. van der Walt was the pioneer church planter of three Pentecostal denominations in Namibia: The Apostolic Faith Mission, the Full Gospel Church and the Pentecostal Protestant Church.[1] He was respectfully called Die Leeu van Suidwes ("the Lion of Namibia") by his Pentecostal followers.

Pastor van der Walt had an unwavering missionary calling and a tenacious perseverance in planting new Pentecostal missions in many parts of the country, throughout his twenty-six year ministry in Namibia. He can truly be seen as the father of the Pentecostal Movement in Namibia.

Van der Walt arrived in Namibia for the first time in 1943, and settled in Namibia until his death in 1969. He and his wife jointly launched evangelistic campaigns in all parts of Namibia, even into Angola. After the beginning of the liberation war in the northern parts of Namibia in 1966, they often continued with cross-border ministries, in spite of grave danger to their lives.

Holistic mission: Racial integration

Van der Walt's mission approach reflected a "holistic gospel," by offering the gospel to all peoples in unity, and integrating spiritual salvation with the physical healing of the individual and the community. Although the socio-political dimensions of the gospel were not yet fully developed in van der Walt's theology,--as was the case after 1968 in Lutheran Contextual Theology,--it already had a prophetic voice inherent in his preaching and actions.

By integrating all races, tribes and languages of Namibia into one ministry, he demonstrated that he did not fall into the theological error of so many other South African missions, which uncritically accepted the social standards of the apartheid society. He did not succumb to the general colonial tradition to separate Christian ministry along racial lines, as was the case in almost all of the South African Pentecostal churches.

The Apostolic Faith Mission, the Full Gospel Church and the Pentecostal Protestant Church usually established separate facilities for their white, black, coloured or Indian members. The result was that "white" Pentecostal pastors in Namibia were not sufficiently involved in cross-cultural ministry (with some valuable exceptions). The practical problem they feared was that the local white membership would be eroded by racial tensions, resulting in a decline of white membership and support. Van der walt repeatedly experienced ostracism from the white leadership of the Pentecostal establishment of the AFM, FGC and PPC, due to his stance on racial integration in the church. He was often denied leadership positions in the white Pentecostal branches of the AFM, the FGC and, during his last three years, even in the PPC. According to the views of his co-workers, Pastor van der Walt's death in 1969 was largely caused by the psychological anxiety he suffered due to ostracism from the white leadership of the Pentecostal establishment.

Holistic mission: Healing and Evangelism

Van der Walt's evangelistic work was traditionally accompanied by a healing ministry, which follows the traditional Pentecostal approach. Often converts were healed first, before accepting the Pentecostal message. This integration of the spiritual and physical healing of the local community resulted in the rapid growth of the Pentecostal churches, as compared to the first beginnings of the mainline church missions in the previous century. It took thirteen years before the first Lutheran converts were baptized by the Finnish mission. Providing for a healing ministry was also the aspect in which the AICs developed rapidly. Both AIC traditions, the Ethiopians and the Zionists, always emphasized a healing ministry.(Kamburona 1975)[2]

Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala


Notes:

1. See the histories of the AFM, FGC and PPC in chapter 12 in Buys & Nambala.
2. This story is taken from Buys & Nambala 2003, p. 204.

Bibliography:

Main source

Buys, G. L. & Nambala, S. V. V. 2003. History of the Church in Namibia 1805 - 1990, an Introduction. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan.
Namibia Research Institute (www.nets.iway.na/research)

Unpublished & Published References

1994 Field Directory: SDA in Namibia. Unpublished church data-sheet of the Namibian field, supplied by Rev. Coombs, SDA Field President of the Central Region.

Beris, A. P. J. 1996. From Mission to Local Church: One hundred years of mission by the Catholic Church in Namibia, with special reference to the development of the Archdiocese of Windhoek and the Apostolic Vicariate of Rundu. Windhoek: John Meinert.

Buys, G. L. 1983. Die holistiese sendingbenadering in die ekumeniese diskussie met besondere verwysing na die Kerk en Sending in Suidwes-Afrika/Namibië. Unpublished D.Th. thesis, University of Stellenbosch.

Christians, N. C. 1957. Afrikaanse Metodisme, 'n Kort oorsig: Richard Allen, vader van die Afrikaanse Metodisme in Suidwes-Afrika. Keetmanshoop: Unpublished manuscript.

Friesen, R. H. 1994. "Origins of the Spiritual Healing Church in Botswana" in Oosthuizen, Kitshoff, Dube (Ed). Afro-Christianity at the Grassroots, Its Dynamics and Strategies. New York: E. J. Brill, p.37-50.

Hellberg, C.-J. 1979. A Voice of the Voiceless - The Involvement of the Lutheran World Federation in Southern Africa 1947-1977. Lund: Skeab Verbum.

Hoeflich, K. F. 1961. "In und nach dem Zweiten Weltkriege: 20 Jahre kirchliche Arbeit," in Afrikanischer Heimatkalender, pp. 82-85.

Hunke, N. 1996. Church and State: 100 years of Catholic Mission in Namibia. Windhoek: RCC, John Meinert Printers.

Kamburona, A. C. 1975. Church Order of Oruuano. Unpublished manuscript.

Kandovazu, E. 1968. Die Oruuano-Beweging. Karibib, ELK Boekdepot.

Kritzinger, J. J. 1972, Sending en Kerk in Suidwes-Afrika - Band I & II. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Pretoria. (references to pages in the first volume are indicated by normal page numbers, while pages from the second volume are indicated by adding 'b' in front of the particular page numbers).

Lau, B. (Ed.). 1995b. An Investigation of the Shooting at the Old Location on 10 December 1959. Windhoek: DISCOURSE/MSORP Publications.

Nieuwoudt, M. M. 1979a. Die Nedertduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in Suidwes-Afrika. Woordbediening in pioniersomstandighede op weg na 'n selfstandige sinode, 'n kerkhistoriese studie. Unpublished D.Th. thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Oosthuizen, H. Z. M. 1995. Eerwaarde E.J. Leonard: Pionier van die Boere-gemeenskap. Unpublished M.Th. dissertation at the University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein.

Pakenham, T. 1979. The Boer War. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson. (or the Afrikaans version 1981. Die Boere Oorlog. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball.)

Pöllitzer 1978: Die eigene Kerze anzünden! Untersuching zu Entstehung, Lehre, Leitung und Leben in der Oruuano. (The Protestant Unity Church of South West Africa). Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Pretoria.

Robson, N. and A. Luff. 1999a. A short history of the Anglican Church in northern Namibia, 1924-1999. Unpublished bound manuscript.

Robson, N. and A. Luff. 1999b. A history of the Anglican Church. (The longer edition). Unpublished manuscript.

Shejavali, A. 1970b. The Ovambo-Kavango Church.(Ongerki Yomowambokavango). Helsinki: Kauppakirjapaino Oy, pp. 24-32 (this title is often referred to simply as OKC).

Strassberger, E. 1969. The Rhenish Mission Society in South Africa, 1830-1950. Cape Town: C. Struik.

Sundermeier, T. 1973. Wir aber suchten Gemeinschaft, Kirchwerdung und Kirchentrennung in Südwestafrika. Erlangen, Luther Verlag.

Voipio, R. 1972a. History of the Evangelical Lutheran Ovambo Kavango Church. Oniipa: ELOK (the English translation of the 1968 Afrikaans edition).


Church periodicals

Immanuel, monthly journal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN).

CCN Information, monthly journal of the Council of Churches in Namibia, during the nineteen-eighties.


Interviews & questionnaires

Christians, N. C. 2002. Unpublished notes forwarded on request to Buys, on 22 May 2002. Rev. Nicholas Christians was the pastor of the Trinity AME Church in Keetmanshoop for an uninterrupted period of 43 years (1953 - 1997). In 1998, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Wilberforce Institute of the AMEC in USA.

Mubonenwa, L. 1997. Response of Pastor Mubonenwa on the Questionnaire forwarded by Buys, dated 25 September 1997. Pastor Mubonenwa is the present Field President of the North East Namibia Field of the SDA Church.

Tjijombo, P. 2002. Interview of Buys with Bishop Petrus Tjijombo on 18 January 2002 at his house. Bishop Tjijombo was the founder and still active leader of the St. John's AFM in Namibia when this interview took place, after a ministry which started in 1953. The photo of his ministry starting in that year in the "old location" was unfortunately too bad to use in this publication.

Witbooi, H. 2002. Interview of Buys with the honourable Dr. Hendrik Witbooi, in Windhoek, on the history of Evangelists Petrus Jod and Marcus Witbooi. Dr. Witbooi is the son of Pastor Marcus Witbooi, who was a founder member of the AMEC in Namibia. At the time of the interview, Dr. Witbooi was Deputy Prime Minister in the Namibian government and leader of the AMEC (African Methodist Episcopal Church) in Namibia.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from History of the Church in Namibia, an Introduction - 1805-1990, Gamsberg Macmillan, Windhoek, Namibia, copyright © November 2003 by Dr. Gerhard Buys and Dr. Shekutaamba Nambala. All rights reserved.