Reverend Edward Johannes Leonard was the spiritual father of the white Afrikaner settlers during three political periods: the end of the German colonial period (1910-1916), the South African military authority (1916-1919) and the South African Administration of Namibia (1919-1939).
His ministry started when he settled at Gibeon in 1910, serving the Afrikaners in all parts of Namibia, except Grootfontein. By 1911, he settled in Windhoek, which was more central. His ministry lasted for twenty-nine years without interruption. By the time of his death in 1939, there were seven Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) congregations in Namibia.
For the first ten years he was the only DRC pastor in the country, travelling extensively to visit Afrikaner farmers (DRC members) in all parts of the country, from Warmbad in the south, to Grootfontein in the north. For many years he was the personification of the DRC in Namibia. Nieuwoudt described his ministry as follows:
He was the virtual personification of the DRC in this country. He provided continuity to the ministry, and was the responsible and well-known flag-bearer of the church with heads of state, military authorities, other Christian Churches, and mission institutions - with Afrikaners, Germans, English, whites, blacks and coloureds. He was the planner and founder of the organized development of the church (DRC). (Nieuwoudt 1979: 169-170)
Edward Leonard was born at Winburg, South Africa on January 21, 1884. At the age of sixteen, he joined the war of the Afrikaners against the British in 1899-1902, often only referred to as the “Boer War.” He was captured and deported as a prisoner of war to the island of St. Helena where he completed catechism and received a call to Christian mission.
During the war Leonard lost his whole family, except his father. After the war, he had to study for his secondary school qualification at the Boeren Zending School in 1903 in Worcester, before he could enrol for training at the Missions Institute of the DRC at Wellington, South Africa in 1907 (Oosthuizen 1995: 34, 36). In 1909, Leonard attended a missions conference where he learned of the spiritual need of the Afrikaners in German South West Africa. The DRC of Richmond in the Cape, was willing to sponsor the young missionary for ministry in Namibia. On March 18, 1910 Leonard arrived in Gibeon at the age of twenty-six, still unmarried, for a ministry in the Gibeon church of the DRC, which covered the whole of Namibia.
In 1911 he moved to Windhoek, but continued to be the pastor of the same Gibeon “congregation.” His ministry continued for eighteen years, until 1929, when the Gibeon congregation was divided into two local churches, Windhoek and Mariental (formerly Gibeon). He remained pastor of the Gibeon congregation, and therefore moved to Mariental in 1929. Leonard continued the ministry from Mariental for the final ten years of his life, until his death in 1939.
As from 1912 the whole Afrikaner community, scattered all over the country as rural farmers, was under the spiritual care of Rev. Leonard. He had to travel constantly, preaching the gospel to scattered Afrikaner communities. His work, executed under difficult circumstances, was a unifying factor, providing leadership, care and encouragement to a pioneer Afrikaner community. Whenever he visited a specific outpost, his ministry would last for a long weekend of church celebrations, including catechism, mariages, pastoral counselling, preaching, baptism, and holy communion. These periodic church services and festivities became the focus point of white Afrikaners in Namibia.
Because Leonard was trained to be a missionary, he was ordained in a different “office” than that of a pastor. Consequently the title of eerwaarde was used for Leonard, and not the traditional title of dominee (reserved only for pastors). His congregation appealed many times to the Cape synod, in order for Leonard to be ordained as pastor. Only in 1932, after the 22 years of full time ministry, did the synod approve. From that year on, his office changed from “missionary” to “pastor” (from eerwaarde to dominee).
Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala
Cf. Pakenham, The Boer War) (1979).
This story is from Buys & Nambala, p. 198-199. For a detailed study of the life and ministry of the first permanent DRC dominee in Namibia, see H. Z. M. Oosthuizen, Eerwaarde E.J. Leonard: Pionier van die Boere-gemeenskap. Unpublished M.Th. dissertation at the University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein, 1996.
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).
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.