|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 as ‘South West Africa ‘.
|The home of Martin Rautanen|
Over the years, I have produced biographical papers on 3 major missionaries. 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 Tjijenda speaking on the lives of some Herero chiefs|
|Books are important witnesses to our church history!( Ignore the Coke advert!!!)|