Mrs. Isabel (LaNdwandwe) Dlamini grew up in a traditional Swazi home in the Pigg’s Peak area. She heard the gospel when visiting elsewhere and desired to be a Christian as a small girl. She was given to be the wife of her sister’s husband. There was no way out of it. In her trouble she began praying under a tree next to a large rock, “If God delivers me from this trouble I will worship him my whole life.” She ran away to the mission at Endzingeni and it was difficult crossing the big Nkomazi river. The water was high and there were crocodiles but she was determined to risk death rather than return home to her trouble. The wonderful power of God helped her through the river.
At the mission on Sunday morning she surrendered to the Lord. Her brother was there but she refused to go home with him. He wanted to whip her right there but missionary Mrs. Lula Schmelzenbach would not allow it on the mission premises. Isabel’s father reported the matter to the magistrate and she was summoned to the court at Pigg’s Peak. Because she was so small she dressed to look older than she was. The Lord helped her and she was saved from her trouble, and at home they permitted her to be a Christian. There were also three uncles and their families living in the homestead, sixty-one persons in all. From that time on she determined to seek God and He saved her.
The next few years were very difficult for Isabel as she had no one to teach her Christian ways. There was no church to attend. No one in the homestead was allowed to be a Christian except herself, and there were no other Christians in the area. She would not participate in non-Christian practices and often had to stay home alone and was afraid as she was so small. All of her sisters were promised in marriage. She had no clothes and no soap with which to wash. They used cleansing substances from plants and trees.
The coming of Pastor Solomon Ndzimandze to Hhelehhele in 1921 helped Isabel greatly. Her four sisters also desired to become Christians and they would crawl away secretly through the grass to go to church. Isabel went as though she was going alone. God worked miracles. Her four sisters committed themselves to God. Then a boy believed. When another girl wanted to become a Christian, she cried and cried, but the others did not know how to help her to pray. She asked her father for permission to believe and he got a stick to strike her. She fled and cried and prayed for three days. Finally he relented and allowed her to join Isabel. What a joy it was when she too found the Lord.
When the father finally heard that Isabel’s four sisters were going to church secretly, he was so angry he was ready to kill. That evening he said he wanted all of the Christians to go into the courtyard with their mothers early the next morning. They could not sleep and prayed all night. At five the next morning their father kicked down the door of their hut. It was not fastened properly and it fell on top of them. He chased them out of the girls’ hut into the courtyard where their mothers joined them. It was April and cold outside. The fields needed to be guarded against birds and animals but they did not go out that day. Their father shouted for the other women to go to the fields. “Who told you you could believe?” he shouted at the girls. They were quiet. He came at them with his stick. They fled into the tall grass. It was wet with dew and it was cold as they were without any clothing. Their father had their brothers bring them back. Again he started to whip them. This time they fled far into the bush but were rounded up like goats.
God intervened in a wonderful way to save them. As was proper, their father started to strike the daughter of his favorite wife. The mother stood up quickly to intervene and shouted, “Don’t hit my child!” So he turned to hit the others. One, for whom *lobola *(the bridal price) had already been paid, stood up and remonstrated, “Father, why are you changing! Hit where you started!” She took hold of Father and put her arms around his neck. They were saved that day.
Isabel went to live and attend school at Endzingeni. She saw her need and committed herself to God and He sanctified her. She married a preacher, Pastor Zakeu Dlamini (?-1932) in 1930. He had a cheerful, sunny disposition and had a passion for Bible study. Often he was heard in the night praying for his people. After years of labor he acquired the ten cows needed for his marriage, and then gave one of them in a church offering taken for a pressing need. He was a great personal evangelist on the roads, in gardens and in homes. They first pastored at Etsheboya. While they were pastoring in the Siteki area he died of blackwater malaria fever leaving his widow Isabel Dlamini with an infant daughter.
She was asked to be matron in the Bible College at Siteki and continued there for many years until her retirement in 1978. She was called Maake Ndwandwe. She supervised the kitchen. At first she also supervised the growing of peanuts and maize. She was industrious and dedicated to her work. Her gifted Spirit-filled life was soon recognized and she became assistant to the pastor. Many repented in their homes through her visitation.
Mama (Mother) Ndwandwe would spend many hours praying and fasting for the needs of the students and the college. Her holy life was a strengthening example through the years to all the ladies at the college. Most of those who knew her referred to her as a real “mother of the church”.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Mrs. Isabel Dlamini, “Perfect Freedom,” Umphaphamisi (The Herald), Swazi-Zulu magazine of the Church of the Nazarene for Swaziland and South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, September 1974), 10.
L. C. Sibandze, “The Power of the Gospel,” Umphaphamisi, (June 1976), 2.
L. C. Sibandze, “The Power of the Gospel,” Umphaphamisi, (December 1976), 8.
Amy N. Hinshaw, Native Torch Bearers, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1934), 112ff.
Mr. Lodrick Gama, notes (2 March 1992); Umphaphamisi, (March 1979).
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.