Elmon Makwale Sekgobela was the pioneer worker in the opening of the Nazarene mission among the Tswana people in the Western Transvaal (now North West Region) in 1973. He was born at Lekgane (Balloon), Ga-Sekororo. His parents were Mr. Mabatla and Mrs. Maasodi Sekgobela. He grew up at Strassburg, near Trichardtsdal in the Northern Province lowveld. His schooling was at Timamogolo and he completed standard six (eight years of schooling) at Mmamathlola.
Sekgobela accepted the Lord Jesus in 1961 and entered Bible College training at Arthurseat, Mapulaneng, in 1963. Sekgobela and Miss Christina Mamosetlane Nkwana (1942-1993) were married at Thabeng on August 21, 1967. They had three sons, Sydney, Paul (named after missionary Paul Dayhoff) and Meshack.
They began pastoring at Lorraine in 1967. They pastored at Laaste Hoop, Ga-Molepo, in the northwest district of the church in 1968. This was the Makapea Church that had been planted by Rev. Hannibal Sebati in 1956.
The Sekgobelas served at Ga-Mphahlele in 1969. From 1970 to 1972 they were pioneer pastors at Ga-Nkwana (Sekhukhuniland). Sekgobela was ordained in 1971 by General Superintendent V. H. Lewis.
They responded to the call to work with missionaries Paul “Katapila” (bulldozer) and Margaret Dayhoff in pioneer mission work in the Brits area about thirty miles west of Pretoria. This involved working among people of a considerably different language and with different traditional customs from those of their Pedi homeland. While Christina and the family stayed in Sekhukhuniland (about two hundred miles to the northeast), Sekgobela went alone and lived provisionally in the evangelism tent. It was first pitched for five weeks at Mothutlung (near Brits) toward the end of 1973. Only children attended the meetings at first as people of other churches were told that it was a Jehovah’s Witness tent.
Young hooligans cut the tent ropes, broke light bulbs, let the air out of the vehicle tires, stopped the light plant during the services and unscrewed the benches during prayer times. There were brawls and fights around the tent over weekends and a murder was committed during daylight just a couple of blocks away. A worker, Rev. J. K. Sentsho, was struck on the leg with a rock and was crippled for several days. Some young men attempted to set fire to the tent. The workers returned from their visitation just in time to interrupt them. The young men fled and left their can of gasoline behind.
Mrs. Maria Tshabalala, a Nazarene lady at Ga-Rankuwa, gave Sekgobela a room to stay in and, after some months, built an apartment in her back yard so that Christina could come with the children. The first church and parsonage buildings in the area were erected at Ga-Rankuwa Zone Sixteen. The Sekgobelas then moved there to care for the Sunday School and church. Christina often carried these on alone as Elmon Sekgobela continued with evangelism in the district.
During the first thirty months of their ministry the tent was continually in the field. Six preaching points were established which developed into churches. They stretched over a distance of over one hundred miles and were located in heavily populated urban areas. One of these was developed from a Sunday School that had been operated by a Nazarene layman, Pastor Johannes Nhlongo, at Mogogela (near Hammanskraal). Eventually lay pastors were found to care for the others: Pastor Johannes Mashao, a construction welder, at Zone Six Ga-Rankuwa, and Pastor Titus Ngobeni, a builder, at Mabopane. Various converts or supply pastors cared for the churches at Tlhabane (Rustenburg) and Mothutlung.
Elmon Sekgobela was always faithful. He carried a heavy load during those years evangelizing with the tent, doing personal evangelism in homes, pastoring, teaching Bible classes in schools and assisting in the heavy building program. From 1982 to 1983, he also served on the school committee of the Maruping Primary School, Ga-Rankuwa.
He sometimes told in his messages that, as a boy, he had seen the dogs eat the meat and gnaw the bones of sacrifices made to the ancestors. Therefore he concluded, “There are no ancestral spirits. They are just the dogs that eat the meat placed on the graves. The Bible explains to us that there are evil spirits or demons that can trouble and even possess a person.”
In 1984, Rev. Elmon and Mrs. Christina Sekgobela went to pastor the Tours Church not far from their homes in the northeastern district of the church. They served there for the remainder of their lives. From 1985 to 1996 Sekgobela served on the school committee of the Mashiloane Primary School and from 1990 to 1993 in the Tours Civic Society. During 1993 and 1994, he worked at the Tours coffee project and for the following two years at the Maswi-a-Kgomo poultry farm.
Christina died in 1993 and Rev. Elmon Sekgobela passed away in the Dr. C. N. Phatudi Hospital on December 1,1996 after a short illness.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Isibani Sobungcwele (The Lamp of Holiness), Swazi/Zulu Magazine of the Church of the Nazarene in South Africa (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, July-September 1970), 11. Lebone la Kgalalelo (The Lamp of Holiness), Pedi/Sotho/Tswana magazine of the Church of the Nazarene in South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, April-June 1972), 6, and (April-June 1974), 7.
P. Dayhoff, “We Are Invading the Devil’s Territory,” The Other Sheep, (May 1974), inside covers.
Obituary, sent by Rev. Calvin Maenetja.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Living Stones In Africa: Pioneers of the Church of the Nazarene, revised edition, copyright © 1999, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.