Mubonenwa, Libonina and Joel Mwilima
Pastor Joel Mwilima (1907-1995) was the first Namibian to be ordained as pastor of the SDA in 1961. He had no formal training as a pastor and he first served as a teacher for several years. When the mission schools were closed in 1943, he and some of the other teachers remained on, preaching the gospel in their respective areas. Mwilima worked in the Kanono and Linyanti districts, while Dickson Mutabelezi worked in the Sangwali area. Mr. Davison Mubonenwa (father of the current field president) worked in the Katima Mulilo district. Mr. Mixon Fwambi worked in the Luhofu District. All of them planted local churches, raising up the congregations in each of these areas. These teachers died earlier than Mwilima, before they could be ordained as pastors in the ministry. Although they did not have the privilege of being ordained, “these men contributed a great deal in keeping the torch of the Gospel burning.” They were the original church planters of the SDA. “In all the areas where these men lived, there are today strong SDA churches.” They worked with the missionaries Willmore and, later, Cooks (Mubonenwa 1997).
The second Namibian to be ordained as pastor in the SDA (in 1969) was Libonina Lee Mubonenwa, current field president. He did a two year ministerial diploma at the Solusi College in 1963-1964. He was district pastor of the Kanono area, and Caprivi station director, and had to submit regular reports (financial and statistical) to the field office in Francistown, Botswana. By 1990, the statistics of the North East Namibia Field (Caprivi) were: 32 field churches and 55 field companies (1994 Field Directory). A “field company” is the “local company of believers” who assembles for ministry, after trained laity was involved in evangelism (soul winning).
From the beginning, the Caprivi work was under the Zambezi Mission, later the Zambezi Union. It was under the administrative supervision of the field office in Francistown, Botswana. Missionary Cooks was later stationed at the field office in Francistown. In 1972, this situation changed when Botswana urged the takeover by national leadership. In December 1975 at a Union meeting held at Solusi Mission in Zimbabwe, Caprivi was organized to form the independent northeast Namibia Field, which was directly under the Zambezi Union (not under the Botswana field).
Pastor Eric Annandale (South African) was the first field president of Caprivi, and held the post for two years (1976-1977). Pastor Mubonenwa took over as the first Namibian to become field president in Caprivi. After being field president for seven years (1978-1985) he left Caprivi for a five year period of studies at Andrews University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A. (1986-1990). After his return he was re-elected as field president in 1991. He obtained a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1989 and a Master of Arts degree in 1995. Pastor Mubonenwa was supported by a Namibian executive: Pastors Leonard Kumanina (field president 1989-1990), Bennie Mutabelezi (field treasurer), Misheck Mukubonda (B.A. Theol 1986, M.A. 1996). He was still alive and in the office when the researcher interviewed him in 1997.
Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala
- This story is taken from Buys & Nambala p. 135.
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
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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.
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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).
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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.
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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.