Simson Shituwa and Wilhelm Kafita, preachers of Omafo, Kwanyama tribal area (1916-1920).
In 1891 the Rhenish Missionary Society assisted the Finnish Mission when it founded a mission station at Ondjiva in the Kwanyama area. After the colonial borders were drawn, Ondjiva became part of southern Angola. This was a very successful mission (Kritzinger 1972: 39, b290). However, in 1916, the Rhenish missionaries had to leave the area, under pressure from the Portuguese authorities and chief Mandume of the Kwanyama. By then, four congregations existed with a total membership of 1,300, of whom 800 were confessing members. When the missionaries departed, the churches were without pastors. Two elders, Simson Shituwa and Wilhelm Kafita took over the leadership of these churches.
Under their leadership thirteen church and school centers were established in the area. Hundreds of people received catechism classes. A government official on the South African border, Major Fairlie, supported them and enabled them to build a church at Omafo. Even chief Mandume supported them by supplying a wagon for transport. This church building was completed in 1918 when the first group of 55 adults was baptized by a visiting missionary, Liljeblad. In the years of independent ministry by these two lay preachers (1916-1920) no less than 1,077 converts were baptized. The membership more than doubled to a total of almost 2,000 in four years!
In 1920, the Rhenish Mission officially transferred this mission to the Finnish Mission Society. On June 21 of that year, missionary Hänninen arrived at Engela, to help the mission at Ondjiva. By 1923, there were already 4,200 members. In 1922, Simson Shituwa and another lay leader of Ondjiva, Paulus Hamutenya arrived at Oniipa for theological education as pastors, in the first class of formal theological training for pastors in Namibian history. They were among the first seven pastors ordained by the Finnish Mission Church in 1925 (Shejavali 1970:121-123; Voipio 1971:419; Kritzinger 1972:b290, b298, b386).
The work of the Finnish Missionary Society continued to be blessed in this region for many years. Today, this work is part of the ELCIN (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia). The Ondjiva mission experienced unparalleled growth during the four years of independent leadership by two indigenous Namibians. From 1916 on, they built their ministry on the foundations laid by the Rhenish missionaries, and submitted the work again to the Finnish Mission in 1920.
Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala
See Buys and Nambala, map 1.4.
See Buys and Nambala, photo, chap. 13.
This story is found on p. 194-195 of History of the Church in Namibia, an Introduction - 1805-1990. s —
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.
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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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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.
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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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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.