Bishop Petrus Tjijombo was the founder of St. John’s Apostolic Faith Mission in Namibia. He was born in 1936 in Kaokoland. In 1952, Petrus had a dream in which God called him to the Christian ministry. In 1953, he moved to Windhoek with his parents and started a personal ministry under the auspices of the Oruuano Church. While in Windhoek, he heard about the Wilberforce Institute of the AME Church in Evaton, south of Johannesburg, offering theological education for Africans (Tjijombo 2002, cf. Sundermeier 1973:121). He was admitted and studied for two years at the institute.
On his return to Namibia in 1955, Tjijombo again joined the ministry of Oruuano for four years until 1959. That year, he returned to the Wilberforce Institute in Evaton to continue his studies for the office of evangelist. While in Evaton, Tjijombo discovered the headquarters of the St. John’s Apostolic Faith Mission (SJAFM), founded by the remarkable woman prophet, Ma Nku (Sundermeier 1973:122-123). The SJAFM was a Zionist secession from the Pentecostal Movement, which had a following of 180,000 members in 1968 (Strassberger 1969:4). Tjijombo became a member of the SJAFM after being re-baptized by Bishop Masango, and being ordained as preacher. He was sent back to Namibia to establish the SJAFM in 1960.
After his return to Namibia, Tjijombo’s work was immediately criticized by Ruzo and Kanambunga of the Oruuano as an Omuzeva (in Afrikaans, Wederdoper or Anabaptist). They circulated a letter of warning. Consequently, his original following was limited. The situation changed for the better when Thusnelda Hambuindja, a female prophet from Botswana, joined the work of Tjijombo after she settled in Windhoek in 1960. She was highly respected by the Herero people and was addressed as “mother.” Many Herero people supported her in the SJAFM.
In 1960, Tjijombo built his first church in the village of Chief Munjuku of the Mbanderu tribe in the Epukiro Reserve. The beginning was a time of magnificent growth for the SJAFM, with three services per day. The AFM / Zionist traditions including Sunday worship services through healing ministries and adult baptism with submersion were followed, continuing the SJAFM pattern of Ma Nku of Evaton. The church also spread to the Aminuis Reserve. Ecstatic prophetic utterances occurred under the SJAFM ministries in both Epukiro and Aminuis.
In 1964, the Mbanderu established their own tribal church, called the Church of Africa, under the leadership of Daniel Kandjavera. Although Tjijombo was offered the position of prophet in the Church of Africa (positioned under Kandjavera’s leadership), he declined. Even though he lost considerable influence among the Mbanderu people, he stayed true to his principles as a pentecostal preacher, under the authority of the prophet Ma Nku.
Bishop Petrus Tjijombo is still alive and ministering in Windhoek.
Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala
This story is taken from Buys & Nambala p. 189-190.
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)
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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.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (complete article): Zionist Church