Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Saturday, August 11, 2012

NAMIBIA PASTORS CONFERENCE: Olukonda - Ovamboland : 8th – 10th August 2012


The old Olukonda Mission church
This year  Pastors  Laban Mwashekele,  Tuundjakuje (Spencer) Tjijenda  and I decided to do things a little different  with respect to the  annual Pastor’s  conference   which normally is sponsored by Eastside Baptist Church,  and which normally takes place in Windhoek.

We decided to hold a conference for pastors in Ovamboland. For this purpose we chose a historically significant place: Olukonda, the mission station of   the Finnish missionary, Dr Martin Rautanen (1845-1926). He  truly was the ‘apostle’ to the Ovambos.  
About  20 pastors  from various  denominations  gathered for this purpose.  The subject matter of this conference  was “Namibian Church History: How the gospel came to Namibia and  what effects it had on  the country”.  In previous years,   in connection with our  pastors   conferences,  we have had always included a biographical paper  on  the work of    a   missionary to what was known  in  pre- colonial days[1]   as ‘South West Africa ‘.
The home of Martin Rautanen

Over the years,  I have  produced biographical  papers on 3 major  missionaries.[2] The first  pioneer missionary  was Johan Heinrich Schmelen (1777-1848). He first brought the gospel  to the Nama  people of   Southern Namibia.  He  too had always prayed for  the people  who  lived  north  of  this territory  i.e. the Herero people  of central Namibia, and for  the  Ovambo people  of northern Namibia. This  remarkable missionary’s  prayers were heard  by God, in that  He  eventually sent  missionaries to the  Hereros  and the Ovambos.

Pastor Laban Mwashekele in Rautanen's study  and in his chair!
The second paper focussed  on  Carl Hugo Hahn  (1818-1895). He  may be considered to be  the  pioneer missionary  to the  Herero people.  He also  saw to it that the Ovambos were  reached with the gospel, by asking the Finnish Missionary  society    to send missionaries  to them.  

The most prominent and most outstanding missionary to  the Ovambos was   Martin  Rautanen  (1845-1926). He laboured 50 years in Ovamboland, and lies buried along with his wife and most of his children in Olukonda. Rautanen  was the subject  of my third paper, and it was very fitting  that  we should  have met on the  grounds of  his   mission station, which is now a museum. Our hearts were indeed moved by this man’s  testimony.   
Martin  & Frieda Rautanen with their daughter , Johanna
Thus Johan Heinrich Schmelen’s prayer was answered in a most remarkable way.  Not only did God send Martin Rautanen to Ovamboland  to preach the gospel  and to see much fruit after many years of labour, but Martin Rautanen married one of his offspring  - a  granddaughter of Schmelen, Frieda  Kleinschmidt  whom he met  at  Hugo Hahn’s mission  station in Otjimbingwe.    Here is a remarkable testimony in terms of how God moves in answer to prayer, and over a number of generations! And so the whole territory was just about covered with the gospel in the 1800’s! A remarkable feat, when one considers the size and the aridity, and the inhospitable nature of this desert country.
Pastor Tjijenda (Grace Reformed Baptist Church)  presented 2  excellent papers  which illustrated how the gospel  preached by  men like Hugo Hahn  had influenced two  former Herero chief’s , Samuel Maherero  (1856-1923) and Hosea Kutako (1870-1970). We have challenged our Namibian pastors to  do  further research  on  how  the gospel  has  influenced  the various tribes of Namibia,  whilst also asking  why our nation is  currently  so lukewarm,  having evidently been previously favoured with such  rich deposits of gospel truth. 
Pastor's Conference
Pastor  Tjijenda   speaking on the lives of some  Herero chiefs

Books  are important  witnesses  to our church history!( Ignore the Coke advert!!!)



[1] The scramble for Africa only began in the mid 1880’s
[2] These three biographies may be found on my blog “ A Reformed Baptist in Namibia”

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