Mrs. Ruth Mangwane Gama  lived near Mbabane. One day a blind man, led by a boy, visited their homestead and preached the gospel. She then determined to become a Christian but there was no church there at Nsingweni. When she heard that a missionary, Rev. Harmon Schmelzenbach, had come she was able to move to within seven miles of the new mission at Endzingeni. Her husband was old and she was his tenth wife. Only the two of them remained. The others had either died or left him.
Harmon Schmelzenbach visited her home periodically. She dared not show interest in his message in front of her husband but gradually she broke down his opposition. One Sunday afternoon in the early summer of 1913 she courageously told the missionary in front of her husband that she wanted to believe. Her husband was angry and refused to allow any prayer in his home as he did not want to be responsible for the consequences. The ancestral spirits would be angry. He did permit her, however, to go to the mission to become a Christian.
She arrived at eight the next morning dressed as was normal, in skins. With her was her ten year old daughter who had no clothes on at all as was customary in those days. The way of salvation was carefully explained, and as they prayed in the mission home she repented. Her response was, “My heart tells me Jesus has come in. It is so light.” She requested soap to wash her hair that had not been washed since her marriage fifteen years before. According to Swazi custom, to wash it would bring a curse of death. She also asked for clothes and wanted to learn to read.
They began attending regular services held in the stable and Mangwane accepted the name Ruth. Her daughter also became a Christian and took the name Maria. Maria worked in the Schmelzenbach’s home and learned to read in the school held under a tree. She later married an outstanding minister, Rev. James Malambe. Mrs. Maria (Dlamini) Malambe (c. 1903-1995) and her mother continued as happy Christians with love in their hearts.
On her deathbed Ruth Mangwane Gama asked a relative to fetch eight eggs from home and take them, together with the next four the hens would lay, to the missionary, Mrs. Mary Spencer. This was in repayment for her missionary dues that the missionary had paid for her not long before that, not thinking that it would be looked upon as a loan. Ruth Gama’s last words were, “I must go home; my Father is calling me.” She was the first Swazi convert at Endzingeni.
When Mrs. Maria Malambe died at Manzini there was a great funeral and a great farewell.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Mutwalisi (The Herald), Shangaan/Tsonga magazine of the Church of the Nazarene in Mozambique and South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, November-December 1960), 4.
Maria Malambe, interview by Robert Perry, tape recording, Nazarene Archives, Manzini, 1985.
Lula Schmelzenbach, The Missionary Prospector: A Life Story of Harmon Schmelzenbach Missionary to South Africa, (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1936), 57ff.
D. H. Spencer, “‘Gogo’ Gama Goes Home, The Other Sheep, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, December 1960).
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.