Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cape Revival Pioneers

Radio series on Cape Revival Pioneers


1.The first Missionary at the Cape
2.The legacy of Georg Schmidt
3.Dr Helperus Ritzema van Lier, a spiritual Giant
4.Indigenous missionary Diamonds
5.The Impact of an Earthquake

Every programme to begin with something like:
This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the tremendous spiritual revival at the Cape. The whole Christian world is greatly indebted to Dr Andrew Murray, one of South Africa's greatest sons. However, the 1860 revival seems to have been linked much too closely to his name. It was clearly part of a worldwide move of the Holy Spirit, with many sparks that ignited the likes of North America from 1858, Wales and Ireland in 1859 and Australia in the 1860s. At the Cape itself, there were a quite few fore-runners in the decades prior to the revival. We are looking at them especially during the coming weeks.

1. The first Missionary at the Cape

Count Zinzendorf, the leader of the 18th century missionary movement started by the Moravian after the revival of 13 august 1727 in the East German village Herrnhut ‘stepped down’ to speak to the slave Anton at the occasion of the coronation of Christian VI of Denmark in 1731, after the mediation of one of his team from Herrnhut. This was a case of meaningful dialogue1 because Anton, the slave, challenged Zinzendorf, the aristocrat, in no uncertain way. Zinzendorf responded in a positive way by inviting Anton over to Herrnhut to come and repeat his challenge to the congregation that had regularly heard of the worldwide mission need before.
A mere six years later in July 1737 Georg Schmidt arrived at the Cape as our very first missionary. He was ‘banished’ to the Cape as punishment for a perceived serious misdemeanor. An unsubstantiated rumour did the rounds that Schmidt recanted in order to be set free. He had been imprisoned by the Roman Catholic Church authorities in Bohemia for preaching the Gospel in public. Schmidt was ‘banished’, to work amongst the primal Cape ‘Hottentotten’ to compensate for the perceived damage he had done to the cause of the Gospel.

Early prayerful evangelical Beginnings in the Mother City
In different parts of the world Christian missionaries played a major role not only in the fight against ideologies and barbarism, but also in protecting the indigenous people against colonial exploitation and of course, in the spread of the Gospel. South Africa was no exception.
The first serious effort in the 18th century to evangelize the slaves at the Cape is said to have been that of the Dutch Reformed Ds. Henricus Beck, a Groote Kerk minister who previously had been the minister to the French Huguenots. At Drakenstein (the later Paarl) where he started in 1702, a new Muslim background believer was confirmed in 1703. It is said that Beck started evangelizing slaves at the Cape after his retirement in 1731, the same year in which Count Zinzendorf had his encounter in Denmark with the Caribbean slave Anton. (That encounter was the significant move to ignite the missionary movement from Herrnhut.)
Beck’s pioneering work provided the spade work for the dynamic Georg Schmidt to start lively Christian groups in due course. This would decisively influence the religious life at the Cape for the subsequent decades. It has been reported that Schmidt had a small congregation of 47 in quite a short time, and that he was in contact with 39 other Whites. The evangelical group in the Mother City formed the foundation of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Gesticht (Z.A. Gesticht).

The Ministry of Georg Schmidt
Georg Schmidt was the first cleric outside of the Reformed ranks to operate at the Cape. Schmidt, who initially experienced ‘nothing but kindness’ from the government at the Cape, was a powerful evangelist. His sense of purpose is demonstrated by the fact that Schmidt moved on from Zoetemelksvlei to the Sergeant's River soon after the conversion of Corporal Kampen, to push through the original reason for his coming - to evangelize the ‘Wilden’, the barbarous Khoi. Slowly the Christian settlement Baviaanskloof came into being. It was however no easy feat.
Schmidt was handicapped right from the outset after Ds. Kulenkamp, a minister of Amsterdam, had issued a pastoral letter of warning against the extreme views expressed by the Moravians. (A basic objection against the German missionary was that he was not a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.) The colonial church officials did not expect any Khoi to be converted. Nevertheless, Schmidt was expected to refrain from starting a new church through his missionary work at Baviaanskloof. Georg Schmidt was merely tolerated and required to work far away from company settlements.
Schmidt’s reaction to the ‘whisperings’ that were intended to halt his work, was typical of that generation of Moravians: ‘More than ever, Schmidt sought the guidance of the Lord of the harvest and declared that that guidance demanded that he should not only continue, but renew his efforts with even greater vigour.’
Worldwide the Moravians were operating in remote places. It is quite telling of the religious intolerance at the Cape that this church group was almost treated as criminals for attempting to reach the indigenous people. It had not always been like that, though. But it was to change significantly in due course, also at the Cape.
Schmidt gradually overcame the apathy of his flock with ‘labour of love and patience of hope’. By 1742 Schmidt was very frustrated after long years of toil with little to show for it. But then the fruit came in the form of three male converts, followed by two female Khoi. At this time Schmidt came to the Mother City to greet his compatriots Nitschmann and Eller, two Moravian missionaries en route from Ceylon (the modern-day Sri Lanka), from where they had been deported because of their evangelistic work and the effect of Ds. Kulenkamp's pastoral letter. Moravians were unwanted in all the Dutch colonies, villified and branded as fanatics with wild views.
The visit to the Mother City with his convert Willem resulted in unprecedented interest among colonists and officials. Willem's knowledge of the Scriptures impressed all and sundry. During this visit Schmidt received his letter of ordination from Count Zinzendorf. The Count encouraged him in the same letter to baptize his converts ‘where you shot the rhino’, i.e. at the river. Thus at last, in March 1742, he had authority to baptize suitable candidates. Schmidt succeeded - against all odds and contrary to all expectations - to convert Khoi, baptizing them in or at the Sergeant’s River. In passing he mentioned this to a Zoetemelksvlei military.
To the Cape church authorities this was unacceptable, the ordination having being signed by a foreign denomination. After the baptism of five converts in 1742, he was forbidden to baptize more Khoi. We can hardly comprehend the thinking that caused a government to forbid missionaries to baptize their indigenous converts. He was promptly called to book because he had not heeded the warning, albeit that the Calvinists had a convenient formal excuse: Schmidt was regarded as ‘not properly ordained’. Count Zinzendorf, the leader of their church, had only ordained Schmidt by letter.

A Threat to the Church?
Schmidt was hereafter regarded as a threat. On formal grounds they asserted that his converts were not sufficiently instructed, stressing that Schmidt was not properly ordained. The three Cape dominees wrote to Amsterdam, referring to Zinzendorf’s letter of ordination in very disparaging terms. The real problem to them was that Schmidt baptized in the river and not in a church. The letter sent by the three Cape clergymen spread like wildfire in Europe.
Pressure was successfully exerted by the three ministers to get Schmidt sent back to Germany, and Schmidt’s position became extremely unpleasant ‘if not untenable’. Furthermore, neighbouring farmers instigated the indigenous Khoi of Baviaanskloof and surroundings so successfully that many of them left the mission post. At this time the Moravians had been banished from Saxony, in which Herrnhut was situated. This coincided with Count Zinzendorf’s absence from Herrnhaag where the revolutionary fellowship had found a refuge.

A Christ-like Personality
Georg Schmidt’s life story could be described as an 18th century version of the biblical Joseph. Schmidt had been imprisoned in Bohemia because of his faith. After his release his name was smeared and slandered. Some even asserted that Schmidt had returned to Roman Catholicism. Schmidt was hardly back in Herrnhut when he returned to the geographical regions from where he hailed to encourage the Protestants there, risking a new imprisonment or even worse. Just like his Lord Jesus, Schmidt appeared not to have made any attempt to defend himself.
Without any apparent grudge, he had accepted the unfair punishment to be ‘banished’ innocently to the distant Cape of Good Hope, to minister to the resistant ‘Hottentotten’. He had a great sense of purpose, not allowing himself to be distracted by his initial successes amongst sailors and colonists. Schmidt was also honest about his failures and frustrations. This came through in his diary. He was for instance very frustrated at the lack of response to the preaching of the Gospel in the first few years. Schmidt’s own report on the discussions around his baptism of the five Khoi converts - which can be found in his diary - is quite charitable, completely devoid of bitterness or any vengeance against the dominees. He still hoped that the differences could be resolved. He returned to Europe with the yearning to get ordained as a Dutch Reformed minister, to enable him to resume working with his flock in Baviaanskloof. Rumours that were going around - about the Moravians being a dangerous sect - made this impossible. Schmidt nevertheless did not become bitter or resentful. He utilized the two months of waiting for a ship to take him back to Europe, evangelizing among the colonists at the Cape. It was reported that ‘many came to a living faith...’ through Schmidt’s endeavours.

2. The legacy of Georg Schmidt

The zealous missionary toiled in far-away Baviaanskloof (the later Genadendal). Because of the distance he could only visit the Mother City occasionally. Overcoming his initial prejudice, Schmidt was obviously very unconventional for his time when he gave women some attention who came to him for advice. In the colonial church of the time, women were not supposed to make a substantial contribution, a prejudice that Schmidt had initially shared with his contemporaries. His prejudice against women made him very hesitant to test the Bible knowledge of the female Vehettge Vittuie.
In her conversion there was a clear supernatural element. At first he found only three men suitable for baptism. Quite prejudiced against females, Schmidt only proceeded to test Vehettge Tikkuie’s Bible knowledge on 4 April 1742. He was very surprised by her answers. He had little choice than to baptize not only the intelligent Khoi woman, giving her the name of Magdalena. A second female followed who got the name Christina at her baptism. Schmidt surely hoped that Magdalena would emulate her biblical namesake - that she would spread the news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This she definitely did. She was exceptional in every way, progressing quickly from the Dutch ABC manual to reading the New Testament in that language.
There is no evidence that Schmidt endeavoured to start a church. Yet, the letter of ordination from Count Zinzendorf and the encouragement to baptize his converts at or in a river was a great relief to him. One does not get the impression that he deliberately defied the instructions of the authorities when he proceeded to baptize five converts. He was very surprised at the fierce reaction of the dominees. Count Zinzendorf possibly also did not expect that the word would spread so quickly.
The Seed sown by Schmidt germinates
The seed that Schmidt had sown at the Cape during his stint of not even seven years germinated, both at the Cape and in Baviaanskloof, the later Genadendal. Schmidt was said to have been ‘n man van sterk geloof en ‘n bidder, a man of great faith and a prayer warrior. In fact, colonists told his two colleagues Nitchmann and Eller admiringly during their stay in Cape Town en route from Ceylon, how Schmidt succeeded ‘to teach a Hottentot to pray as he has done. They actually retire from time to time to pray in solitude’. Apparently, this example rubbed off on Vehettge Tikkuie, who got the name Magdalena. Khoi Christians, with whom later missionaries had interaction, reported that she was found ‘dikwels biddend in ‘n knielende posisie’, often in prayer on her knees. The intelligent Magdalena was urged to lead the saddened flock without a shepherd by Hanna, the daughter of Joshua, Schmidt’s first convert.
Cape colonists described the impact of Schmidt’s ministry in 1742 to Nitschmann and Eller, the two deported Moravian missionaries en route from Ceylon (the modern-day Sri Lanka). In this assessment they stated that Schmidt had accomplished in three and a half years ‘what others would not have affected in thirty years’. Magdalena taught the believers from the New Testament, which she had received from Georg Schmidt. Andreas Sparrman, a Swedish traveller in the Cape Colony from 1775 to 1776, reported how he heard of an aged Khoi lady, who was building on the foundations laid by a German missionary. On Sundays ‘de oude Lena’ would walk to the pear tree where Georg Schmidt had preached, to read the New Testament and pray with her folk. Almost 50 years after Schmidt had left, Khoi witnesses said that they came together at her home every evening where she prayed with them. If one takes the finance minister of Ethiopia mentioned in Acts 8 as the absolute first indigenous evangelist, we can now say that Magdalena was definitely the first one of Sub Saharan Africa. But she was also the first known indigenous female church planting evangelist of all time.
'De oude Lena’ had the New Testament on hand that she received from Georg Schmidt, the pioneer missionary, when three new Moravian missionaries arrived in 1792. Lena herself could no longer read, due to failing eyesight, but the woman whom she had taught ‘opened the sacred volume and read the second chapter of Matthews’s gospel with considerable fluency’ (Du Plessis, 1911:73). Even though she could not remember anything Georg Schmidt had taught her, his example and teaching was evidently still operating.

Deep Impact of Schmidt's Ministry
It is not difficult to deduce how deeply Schmidt must have impacted the lives of his Khoi congregants in Baviaanskloof. Apart from his remarkable personality, which saw him continuing to influence events at the Cape almost fifty years after he was all but forced to leave, the prayer support of the believers in Herrnhut was evidently the driving force. It was also reported that Schmidt continued to pray for his Khoi flock without a shepherd in Africa until old age in the East German village of Niesky where he went to be with his Lord in August 1785. Schmidt died before he could hear of the resumption of the missionary work in Baviaanskloof seven years later. The Council of Seventeen in Amsterdam dreaded Schmidt's possible return, ‘lest another Church than the Reformed should be established at the Cape’.
Quite soon after the arrival of the dynamic Ds. Helperus van Lier at the Cape in 1786, the next spiritual giant at the Cape, the legacy of Schmidt worked through when Van Lier was present at the deathbed of another convert of the missionary pioneer. He saw how the Khoi believer died ‘in volkome rus en vrede van sy siel en in vertroue op die Here.’2 It made such a deep impression on Van Lier that he mentioned this in one of his letters to his uncle Professor Petrus Hofstede, an influential academic in Rotterdam, who was at that stage still an ardent opponent of the Moravian brethren.
Van Lier became a special catalyst of the Gospel not only in getting the Moravians back to the Cape in 1792, but he was also instrumental in sowing the seed for the first mini-revival at the Cape.

A Cape spiritual ‘Revolution’
Dr van Lier was appointed as the third minister of the Groote Kerk. He found fertile ground among a group of Christians at the Cape, including a group of pietist Lutherans, who were the spiritual descendants of those believers, who had been impacted by the short stint of Georg Schmidt. As a result of the vision of Van Lier, the young reformed pastor, about 60 Christians in Cape Town and its surroundings set aside one day in the week as early as 1788 for teaching and evangelising slaves.
A spiritual ‘revolution’, in which the Lord used Dr van Lier, was the change in the attitude of many White believers towards slaves and other people of colour. In those days slaves were initially not allowed near the entrance of the church after the closing of services and they were punished if they dared to attend the funeral of one of the colonists. Prejudice against missionaries was still prevalent when Van Lier arrived. The youthful minister dared to challenge the church through his fiery sermons and personal example. The young dominee literally also caused an ecclesiastical revolution at the Cape, shortening the duration of sermons and prayers during church services. He also increased house visitation. Believers were encouraged to get involved with the spreading of the Gospel. The historian Theal reports that when Van Lier was in the pulpit, people hardly dared to sleep in church because ‘at times it seemed as if he would jump from the pulpit’. Furthermore, his preaching was full of earnest appeals and ‘…women were often moved to tears, and sometimes fell into hysterics’. Van Lier was very zealous, spending much of his time visiting people from door to door ‘...holding prayer meetings and encouraging works of benevolence.’ Among a few young believers who caught the fire for evangelism was Machteld Smith, who subsequently became a great missionary worker.

Colonist Opposition to missionary Work
The arrival of three new missionaries in 1792 was the signal for opposition by colonists. They sent a petition to prohibit the missionaries from further instruction to the Khoi. Because many of the Christians in the colony had been debarred from education and thus were more or less illiterate, it was therefore regarded as ‘not fair that the Khoi would advance beyond them (the White colonists).’ How powerful and deep Schmidt had evangelized, is further evidenced by the fact that Hendrik Cloete, the owner of the wine farm Groot Constantia, who had been impacted under Schmidt’s ministry as a juvenile, supported the new Moravian missionaries when Cape church people contrived flimsy reasons to attack the missionary work. In February 1796 there was another threat of an attack and a rumour that the Khoi would be driven from Baviaanskloof. Firm reassurances from Major-General James Craig, the British military Commander, who appeared not to back down from using force, kept the colonists at bay. Ds. Michiel Christiaan Vos, who became the minister for Swartberg (Caledon), brought about some change in the views and attitudes of the colonists of the vicinity. Hendrik Cloete was one of ‘a host of well-wishers’ in Cape Town. He travelled all the way to Baviaanskloof ‘and by his kind mediation procured some relief for the Brethren from obnoxious Government regulations.’

3. Dr Helperus Ritzema van Lier, a spiritual Giant

Christian colonists at the Cape did not compare badly in spiritual terms in relation to what was happening in other parts of the world. This was mainly due to the efforts of a major role player in the evangelization at the Cape, Dr Helperus Ritzema van Lier. He arrived at the Cape in 1786 - merely 22 years old. The conversion of Van Lier was the product of the faithful prayers of his mother. He had narrowly escaped death after breaking through ice. After the sudden death of his fianceé, Van Lier sensed the call of God upon his life.
We highlighted already how Schmidt’s legacy worked through into Van Lier’s life soon after his arrival,when he was present at the deathbed of one of the missionary pioneer’s converts. It made such a deep impression on Van Lier that he described this in one of his letters to his uncle, Professor Petrus Hofstede, an influential academic in Rotterdam. Initially Van Lier had been unsuccessful in convincing his learned uncle Petrus Hofstede to use his influence to have the Moravians resume their missionary work in Baviaanskloof. Hofstede’s attitude to the Moravians and their missionary work would change in due course. Van Lier’s correspondence may have influenced his uncle not only to attack the internal ‘onverdraagzaamheid’ (intolerance) in the church in Holland, but also to challenge the general arrogant attitude towards ‘de heidenen’ (the pagans). God used Hofstede to such an extent that religious tolerance increased significantly in the Netherlands towards the end of the 18th century.

Local Influence of the prayerful Van Lier
Due to Van Lier's influence various people in Cape Town and its surroundings set aside one day in the week from 1788 for the religious teaching of ‘the heathen’ at the Zuid-Afrikaanse Gesticht on the corner of Long and Hout Street. In this regard Cape Town evangelicals were among the worldwide leaders at that time. A local newspaper, the Zuid-Afrikaansche Tijdschrift, Vol.1 (1824) wrote about their zeal: ‘When people in many parts of Europe were still discussing whether slaves and heathen should believe and whether they could be taught, they had already started with that work in this Colony’. These church members were eager to spread the Gospel. When Van Lier heard in 1790 that the Dutch East India Company contemplated attempting to ‘Christianize the various races in their vast possessions’, he immediately wrote once more to his uncle, Petrus Hofstede, offering to collect 50,000 guilders in South Africa towards the capital required. That speaks a lot for Van Lier’s confidence in the sacrificial giving potential of the Christians of his era at the Cape.
Van Lier was a great visionary, seeing the need for learning the heart language of the people to be reached with the Gospel. He was one of the first to start learning Malayu, the trade language, with the object of reaching out to the Cape Muslim slaves. And he apparently already had a vision to incorporate young people in church and mission work.

The international Impact of Van Lier
The young preacher Van Lier almost single-handedly set the evangelical world ablaze. His letters from the Cape to Europe were very influential indeed. His testimony - in the form of six letters to Rev. John Newton - was originally written in Latin and translated by the well-known poet William Cowper. The title of the booklet in English is The Power of Grace, illustrated in six letters from a Minister of the Reformed church to the Rev John Newton. Van Lier’s story about the influence of divine grace in his life seems to have made a lasting impression on Newton, who belonged to the inner circle of (slave) abolitionists - especially when one considers that the famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ came from Newton’s pen. Van Lier’s humility came through when he insisted that a pseudonym Christodulus, (slave of Christ) and not his own name would be used with the publication.
Various letters of Van Lier had the goal of getting the Moravians back to the Cape. After initially failing to sway his uncle, the Rotterdam clergyman and academic Petrus Hofstede (1716-1803) into action, Van Lier wrote to Ds. Hubert in Amsterdam. Van Lier’s letter of 6 September 1791 to the Moravian Jan Swertner in Fairfield, England might have been ‘too late’ to have any direct effect. A decision had already been taken when his letter arrived, to send three missionaries to Baviaanskloof.
It is only natural that the prayer chain – 24 hours a day seven days a week - at Herrnhut would have included intercession for their Bishop Reichel on his trip to the East. But no one probably have envisaged that this would lead so soon to the resumption of their missionary work at Baviaanskloof. This was partly due to the mission-minded new dominee whom Reichel had met at the Cape.
Van Lier’s correspondence continued to have an impact in Europe. Through his evangelical zeal Van Lier, along with William Carey’s 1792 book An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens, definitely laid the foundations for a Cape missionary society.
Tragically, Van Lier was not around to see the actual founding of the SAMS in April 1799. He had died of tuberculosis in March 1793 at the age of only twenty eight. Ds. M.C. Vos, who was later to become the first foreign missionary of South African origin, took up where Dr van Lier had left off.
A Mini-Revival at Baviaanskloof
The majority of the materialistic colonists rejected slaves outright, even in the Groote Kerk and the Lutheran church. Just as bad was what was happening on the farms. The workers who came to Baviaanskloof, where three new Moravian missionaries arrived in 1792, had been told by some of the farmers that they were not equal to them, and that it was therefore impossible for them to enter heaven. The negative attitude of the farmers however made the Khoi inquisitive. In the Genadendal Diaries one reads in the entry for 5 September 1794: ‘...they have heard the farmers say many bad things about them... So they wanted to come and see and hear for themselves.’
It is interesting to note that the three Genadendal missionaries - Kühnel, Marsveld and Schwinn - recorded in their diary the story of a man who ‘dreamt that three would come to teach them... They (the Khoi) say that they spoke about it often because they very much wished for it to happen’.
Khoi came to Baviaanskloof, desiring to know more,
wanting to accept the Lord into their lives
In the diaries of these three missionaries one reads again and again of Khoi coming to them, desiring to know more, wanting to accept the Lord into their lives and wishing to be baptized. Evidently the Holy Spirit had prepared these people through dreams and visions. On a daily basis the new Genadendal missionaries were overwhelmed by questions such as ‘What must I do to be saved?’ It is striking that those who came to faith in Christ also sought protection against satanic forces.
People came to Baviaanskloof from all over, drawn to the mission station as if by a magnet. One of these was a former slave Daniel - the first Black to be baptized at Genadendal in 1808. He was a Tembu, who had been enslaved by the Portuguese in his youth. After the slave-ship on which he was travelling had been captured by the British, he was set free in Cape Town from where he proceeded to Genadendal. Another one was a Gaika woman, whose husband had deserted her. There this woman, who got the aristocratic Dutch name Wilhelmina, became a follower of Jesus. Some of those from the Cape testified to the obvious: ‘... this is God’s work, no one can hinder it though many are trying’.
In 1794 Dominee Michiel Vos returned from the Netherlands. There he had been touched anew by the Holy Spirit to return to his home country to minister to the slaves and the Khoi. Ds. Vos took up the legacy of Dr van Lier.3 Although he soon moved to Roodezand (Tulbagh), his influence was felt all over the Western Cape. In the Mother City itself, Mechteld Smit(h), a widow who had been discipled by Van Lier, was performing a similar role to that of Magdalena Tikkuie in Genadendal. God used her - along with Ds. Vos as the main role players - to advance the evangelical cause. At the end of the 18th century, two stars of Cape mission work were operating in full force. Even though Rev. M.C. Vos - born and bred in South Africa - initially laboured in far-away Tulbagh, his influence and that of Dr van Lier was felt at the Cape ‘soos ‘n suurdeeg in die Kaapse volksplanting.’4 A century after their pioneering work, historian J.I. Marais wrote in the foreword of a book on missions in South Africa: ‘Het tegenwoordig geslacht plukt de vrucht van hun gebed en arbeid, van hun tranen en hun strijd. Het waren donkere dagen toen zij optraden... Doch hun geloofsmoed zegevierde.’5

4. Indigenous missionary Diamonds

The January 1797 visit to Baviaanskloof by Ds. Vos with Machteld Smith and other mission friends for a few days caused a marked changed of public opinion. (Mechteld Smit(h) was to become a powerful instrument in God’s hand at the Cape and at Berthelsdorp, the mission station of the LMS where Dr Johannes van der Kemp and others did phenomenal work.) A few weeks later, farmers told the brethren of a revival among them, caused by this visit. The colonist farmers who a few years prior to this had been ready to attack and destroy the mission institution now asked for permission to attend the worship at Baviaanskloof. Some farmers introduced family prayers for the whole community on their farms, which caused the Khoi to prefer them to other employers.
The South African Mission Society (SAMS), which was started on 22 April 1799, had the authorities and conservative Christians at the Cape against them from the outset. Article 12 of its constitution - according to which membership was open to non-reformed believers and women - rubbed conservative church elements up the wrong way. Ma(a)nenberg and the directors were careful not to organize meetings for ‘heathen slaves’ on Sundays because it could clash with the other church services or it could inconvenience the slave owners.

Ripple Effects of early missionary Work
Ripple effects of early missionary work were discernable all over the Cape Colony. In the case of the other indigenous people group, the San, called the Bosjesmannetjes, divine intervention was no less spectacular. In order to reach the people described as a race that stood ‘at a lower stage socially and religiously than any other race upon the surface of the globe,’ God initially used a devout colonist, the excellent field-cornet Floris Visser. He was described by the church historian Du Plessis, as ‘a man of character and piety, whose custom it was, even when journeying, to gather his companions and then to offer prayer and sing a psalm both morning and night.’
The San people were deeply impressed by the devotion of Visser and his fellow Boers. Soon they expressed an earnest desire to get to know the God of the Dutchmen. Visser promised to assist them, suggesting that they go to Cape Town to present their request there for a teacher or missionary. Two ‘Bushmen’ and a Koranna, two of whom had been given the rather derogatory Dutch names ‘Oorlams’ (cunning) and ‘Slaparm’ (weakling), arrived in Cape Town at the very time that the first four missionaries of the LMS landed on the shores of Table Bay. This can be regarded as the pristine beginning of the significant work for which Robert Moffat was to become known throughout the British Empire.
From the Ngika (Gaika) tribe at least two missionary diamonds were formed out of the black coal of oppressive colonial history. One of the most memorable of these diamonds formed, was the influence of missionary work on Ntsikana. Born in 1780, he was said to have heard a sermon by the great Dutch missionary Dr van der Kemp as a child. Around 1815 Ntsikana, already a married man, converted to Christianity. He started an evangelistic ministry immediately thereafter, conducting two daily meetings in his homestead where there was singing, praying and preaching. Ntsikana composed at least four hymns, the first Christian ones in Xhosa. Imbibed by the Spirit of Jesus, he was a rebel in the best sense of the word. He had a special ability to bring about change, filling old concepts and images with new content to lead his people in the new faith. Ntsikana’s pacifist advice to his folk was however rejected by many, including Ngika, their chief. They felt that the source of his advice was a new strange God, not their traditional one.
A Xhosa Female missionary Pioneer
The other diamond was a woman, whose husband had deserted her. She was among the first Blacks to be settled in Genadendal in this way. There this woman, who got the name Wilhelmina, became a follower of Jesus. In Genadendal the missionary spirit took hold of Wilhelmina. Soon she urged the Genadendal Moravians to start independent work among her own people. She was appointed as nursemaid to the children of the missionaries, also assisting with the teaching of the little ones at the ‘Kindergarten’ of Genadendal. She had the vision to teach the missionaries’ children the fundamentals of her language, so that they could later bring the gospel to her people. Johann Adolph, the son of Johann Gottlieb Bonatz, one of her pupils, later became one of the pioneers among the red blanketed pagan Xhosa in the Ciskei.
The Swedish missionary Bishop Hans-Peter Hallbeck, who became the Genadendal Moravian superintendent in 1817, was quick to act on the suggestion and the encouragement of the British mission inspector La Trobe to send a party of missionaries to the Eastern Cape. This happened in 1818. The party included Genadendal-trained artisans and the Xhosa woman Wilhelmina, along with four German missionaries. Schmitt, their leader, appealed for people to come and help with the missionary effort at Witte River, where elephants, rhinoceros, buffaloes and other beasts abounded. The missionary spirit of Herrnhut prevailed at Genadendal where there were now some outstanding Khoi and Xhosa believers. The Moravian mission station started there was called Enon. Wilhelmina married Carl Stompjes, a Khoi believer, in Enon.
Missionaries from Enon could take a few artisans with them to assist in the erection of a new mission station. This happened at short notice. Among the pioneering group to be sent was Wilhelmina Stompjes, who regarded it as a call from the Lord. She would have preferred to bring the Gospel to her own people, the Xhosa’s, but even so it was for her the fulfillment of a long-standing desire. Also in the group there was as second interpreter Daniel Kaffer, the first Black to be baptized at Genadendal in 1808. He was a Tembu, who had been enslaved by the Portuguese in his youth. After the slave-ship on which he was travelling had been captured by the British, he was set free in Cape Town he proceeded to Genadendal, and later to Enon.
A Rainbow missionary Team
More inhabitants of the Moravian stations later followed the first party, responding to the call to spread the Gospel. At the end of the first year, thirty people from the western settlements formed the nucleus of the new station. The settlement which was started in 1828 received the name Shiloh (derived from Shalom, which implies peace, but the Blacks called it Ebede, meaning place of prayer). Carl and Wilhelmina Stompjes were among the group who started this venture, operating as translators. Many newcomers came to Shiloh from different cultural backgrounds. This included a Sotho, Nakin, who had fled the Mfecane - the murderous tribal killings by Chaka and his Zulu warriors - plus a number of San (‘Bushmen’).6 Nakin and his wife were the first candidates for baptism in Shiloh. Wilhelmina Stompjes soon more or less ran the school for the children at the new mission station.
Magdalena Tikkuie and Wilhelmina Stompjes ploughed the ground for equality of women by doing work for which women would normally not have qualified. As the translator of missionaries, Wilhelmina Stompjes was perhaps one of the first worldwide.
Special pioneering Work
The missionary work at Shiloh was special in every sense. A hall-mark was the racial harmony that characterised the mission station in a war-torn environment. At the end of 1829, 88 Xhosas and Tembu’s lived in the settlement with 31 Khoi. Even some San joined the fray, enjoying the protection that the missionary presence gave to them. Another special facet at Shiloh was the role of Wilhelmina Stompjes with regard to the newcomers. ‘More than the missionaries, Wilhelmina succeeded in gaining their confidence’.
Johann Adolph Bonatz, her protégée from the Genadendal days, had exceptional educative talent. He took over the leadership of the school at Shiloh, going on to become the missionary among the Blacks par excellence, making various translations into Xhosa. Increasingly, Wilhelmina became ‘the advisor and support of the missionaries, besides having to act as the sole interpreter.’ Her translations of the preaching were of a special order, using Bonatz's thoughts and words rather as a sort of epigram, ‘which she then expanded to include what she considered would be suitable for the listeners and easily understood’. ‘She added picturesque illustrations and vigorous exhortations of her own, and her private conversations proved a blessing to many’.
The situation at Shiloh became so dangerous at some stage that Bishop Hallbeck seriously considered abandoning the mission enterprise there. In fact, an instance is told how the missionaries would have been killed if Wilhelmina Stompjes did not intervene resolutely: ‘She then violently berated Maphasa, who was so dumbfounded that he quietly retreated with his men.’ Johann Adolph Bonatz remained in Shiloh for twenty-six years, becoming the real pioneer of the Moravian Mission in the east.
The pioneering work of Wilhelmina Stompjes and Johann Adolph Bonatz provided the spadework for other mission agencies to the Eastern Cape, preparation for the revival that was to occur after the tragic cattle-killing of 1856-57. (A young Xhosa prophetess, Nonquase convinced her people that the ancestors would help them put a stop to the suffering caused by the colonisers if they sacrificed their cattle, and burnt their crops. This resulted in wide-spread starvation which drove many of her tribesfolk to towns like Grahamstown where they were later impacted by the Gospel during the revival of 1859-60).
5. The Impact of an Earthquake

The Church and the colonists at the Cape at large were disinterested in reaching out in love to the slaves yet again. But God intervened - surely because of the prayers of the faithful few elsewhere.
God sometimes appears to supernaturally use natural disasters to shake people out of their indifference and complacency. An earthquake on 4 December 1809 at the Cape caused not only an 8-day revival and a significant increase of evangelicals, but it also imparted a new surge of missionary work among the slaves.
During the earthquake, not a single person was killed, but the people fled in fear and watched horrified as the city was shaken as if by the fury of a giant hand.
The Methodist military officer Sergeant Kendrick wrote on 20 November 1810 that it was the greatest thing that could have happened as soldiers and civilians turned to God in prayer and pleaded for mercy. Many persons were led to think seriously about the salvation of their souls. A weekly prayer meeting was started every Saturday evening in addition to a monthly one. Kendrick mentions local revivals at Cape Town and at Wynberg. By 1812 there were 142 men in the Methodist Society, “all of whom experienced the love of God shed abroad in their hearts’.
Jacobus Henricus Beck, a Cape colonist who had joined the South African Missionary Society (SAMS) , was deeply touched by the disaster. Before long he was on his way to the Netherlands, Scotland and England for theological training. Later he became the first pastor of the congregation formed at the ZA Gesticht.7
Another Cape colonist who was deeply affected by the earthquake was Martinus Casparus Petrus Vogelgezang. He was a teacher, who also received missionary training. Later he became a powerful preacher and church planter at the Cape where he started the first denominationally independent church.
In the same year of the earthquake, the Earl of Caledon’s 1809 proclamation on behalf of the Khoisan had been making a deep impact on society. William Wilberforce Bird, a colonial official, called the decree the ‘Magna Carta of the Hottentots’, which ascribed basic right to the primal Cape people groups. This document had some problematic clauses from a modern point of view, but it was nevertheless in a sense a precursor to Ordinance 50 of 1828. The latter ordinance equated all races, also repealing the restricting pass laws that the ‘Magna Carta’ had introduced. ‘Gelykstelling’ of all races was very difficult to swallow, especially for Dutch colonists, running parallel with the anglicizing policy of Lord Charles Somerset. The bulk of the farmers were themselves ‘in a state of mental and spiritual neglect’. Understandably, they resented the establishment of schools at which the children of those whom they despised and resented, now received an education which was denied to their own children.
New Pastors for the Cape Colony
When Rev. George Thom, the pastor of Caledon was due to go home on furlough in 1821, Lord Charles Somerset commissioned him to recruit teachers as well as young Scottish pastors for the Cape. Dr Thom managed to recruit 11 evangelical pastors from Scotland. And the very first among them to have offered his services was Andrew Murray Sr. Because he had been recruited quite early, he hwas able to spend ten months in Holland to learn Dutch.
The work of Z.A. Gesticht flourished despite a significant simultaneous turning to Islam from the side of the slaves. Under Reverend Beck a living ecumenical spirit prevailed. The missionary ‘Genootschap’ enjoyed the support of all the church and mission agencies at the Cape. Since 1824 the Directors invited the ministers of all the congregations to become honorary members. Nobody refused. Their stance was not founded on window dressing, but was based on sound biblical principals. Thus the secretary Metelerkamp uttered his conviction at the welcoming of honorary members on 20 May 1824 that the kingdom of God can only be credibly extended on the foundation of unity of Christians according to John 17. Missionaries were also encouraged to come to the Mother City to meet other spiritual leaders. It has been suggested that the Gesticht fellowship ‘was probably one of the reasons why the Dutch Reformed Church decided at their first Synod in 1824 to begin mission work…’
Practical Christianity by the Moravians From the very beginnings, missionary work was holistic by nature. The Moravians succeeded in making the Gospel very practical. Georg Schmidt, the pioneer missionary, taught the Khoi the basics of gardening, baking and other skills while he shared the Good News of Jesus with them. In due course every inhabitant of Genadendal, the first mission station, had a vegetable garden adjoining his dwelling. The Moravian Brethren encouraged simplicity, urging the Khoikhoi to spend their meager earnings on proper clothing instead of on wine and tobacco. Furthermore, a forest was planted west of the grave-yard, and new branches of industry like a joinery and a forge were started when new missionaries arrived with these skills. Some inhabitants practised their own trades - a cart-right and blacksmith, a cooper, a transport-rider and the owner of a handmill are mentioned. Other villagers became competent masons. Midwives from Genadendal (and Groene Kloof, later renamed to Mamre) had a good reputation, and were called by the wives of the farmers. When the postal service was improved in 1806, two men from Genadendal were appointed to carry the mail across the country. At Genadendal the economy flourished during this period, making the town the second of the Colony after Cape Town. The mill, the smithy, the cutlery, the garden, the vineyard and the shop contributed to the income. Under the supervision of the brilliant Swedish Superintendent Hans Peter Hallbeck new vocational branches were tried in order to create opportunities of employment for the inhabitants.
Under Bishop Hallbeck and a Khoikhoi captain trees were planted. It was agreed that the timber would be sold at half-price to the residents and the profit would go to poverty relief.
A Breakthrough: indigenous Teachers
The contribution of Hallbeck in the field of education was completely revolutionary, when he made use of intelligent learners to assist him. Thus he used Maria Koopman, the wife of the Khoi captain and a young girl who unfortunately drowned in 1810 in the Sondereind River. Hallbeck initiated the creation of an indigenous mission church by the establishment of a training school at Genadendal. He not only adopted an indigenous orphan, Ezekiel Pfeiffer, but he also decided to train him and another local boy, Wilhelm Pleizier.8 That would have been fairly revolutionary for the Cape of the early 19th century. The two did so well that Hallbeck decided to train these two to become teachers to their own people. In September 1831, an infant school started in Genadendal with Hallbeck, Pfeiffer, Pleizier and a German female as teachers.
Apart from a few companies and factories which were started at Genadendal, the Moravians also pioneered teacher training in 1838. Hallbeck raved about Ezekiel Pfeiffer in 1834, praising his ‘grote getrouwheid as onderwyser… asof hy hom by vernuwing aan die Here toegewy het’ 9. No wonder that Pfeiffer was among the first to be appointed to train new teachers when the Moravians started the Kweekskool in 1838. 10 The Kweekschool at Genadendal was the first of its kind.
A Novum at the Cape
Worldwide the Cape came up with a novum: nationalistic compassion. In 1820 the St Andrew’s Friendly Society was set up to provide relief and medical aid for the Scottish community and in 1829 the St Patrick’s Society was founded to accomplish the same thing for the Irish. St Stephen’s started a system in 1843 by which church members contributed sixpence to one shilling (sterling)11 a month to cover the cost of medicines in the event of sickness or the need of burial. For modern ears it may sound strange to read that the aim of the Ladies’ Benevolent Society, which was initiated by Jane Philip, the wife of the famous missionary Dr John Philip, was ‘to alleviate the sufferings of deserving persons’. However, to the missionaries and evangelicals must be attributed ‘the strongest philanthropic impetus’. In their view, care of the soul was closely linked to the relief of the suffering. The Good Samaritan was the paradigm for border-crossing benevolence. Built on the border of the town on the road to Green Point, Somerset Hospital was founded on this premise by Dr Samuel Bailey. It was intended for the outcasts of society, for merchant seamen and slaves, paupers and ‘lunatics’.
Jane Philip broke ground for the liberation of women. She was paid for the bookkeeping that she did for the London Missionary Society. This work was customarily done by men. She also founded the Bible and Tract Society, distributing religious literature to the poor, as well as being prominent in establishing mission schools in Cape Town.

Cape Churches working together
The Zuid-Afrikaanse Gesticht was a lone exception to the racial arrogance of the time. Lutherans, Reformed believers and other Christians worshipped there together with the common goal to reach the spiritually lost with the Gospel. The cordial harmonious relationship among churches seems to have continued for quite a few years. A special feature of the Cape missionary effort of the early 19th century was the apparent lack of denominational rivalry. Thus Anglican Church services were first held in the Groote Kerk.
The endeavour of the missionaries spawned the working together of the Cape churches around the time of the slave emancipation in 1838. These efforts effectively slowed down the expansion of Islam. Whatever gains were achieved when the different churches and missionaries were working together in the first decades of the 19th century were impeded by the efforts of imperial domination, notably by Lord Charles Somerset. The anglicising of Cape society moved fast during his rule as the British asserted their social position through education, high culture and commerce. At this time seeds of British-Dutch rivalry were sown, which would develop into resentment. Even enmity and hatred followed towards the end of the 19th century.
Undeterred by the rebuff from the big church at the Cape, Martinus Vogelgezang preached the Gospel among the slaves with unprecedented zeal. He initially operated from his shoemaker’s shop in Rose Street, part of present-day Bo-Kaap. That he gained the respect of his ecumenical contemporaries is demonstrated by the fact that various ministers of other denominations were present at his ordination in February 1839 in the Union Chapel on Church Square. In the course of a few years the zealous clergyman planted a few churches, bringing the Gospel to the Muslims with much authority and conviction.

Influence of the Murray Clan In 1822 Andrew Murray Sr. arrived in Cape Town accompanied by Dr Thom and some of the other recruits, His marriage to the sixteen-year-old Maria Stegmann of Cape Town in 1825 would also aid his settling-in process. In the rural town of Graaf Reinet he faithfully prayed for revival in his church for 38 years.
Shortly after Andrew Murray Sr. married Maria Stegmann, her mother died, leaving her young brother, Georg Wilhelm Stegmann (affectionately known as Willie), deprived of both his mother and sister. Because he fretted for Maria, the Murrays agreed to bring him up and oversee his education. When the time came for him to attend secondary school, Andrew Sr. sent him off to his brother John in Scotland. There, Willie came under the influence of several renowned revival preachers.
Andrew and Maria Murray also sent their two sons John and Andrew to study in Scotland where they graduated with M.A. degrees in 1845. Thereafter they left for Utrecht for theological studies and to learn cultured Dutch. While completing their studies, they met two other theological students from the Cape with whom they would become bosom friends. They were Jan Neethling, who arrived in 1846, and Nicolaas Hofmeyr, who arrived a year later. Jan Neethling would strengthen his friendship with the Murray brothers by marrying their sister Maria. When Willie Stegmann returned to the Cape, after completing his theological training for the Lutheran Church, built up a large 'Coloured' congregation in Cape Town known as St Stephen's. When the Presbyterian Dr James Adamson asked Georg Wilhelm Stegmann to join him in the outreach to the ‘Coloureds’ he gladly obliged. Stegmann became a regular preacher at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Green Point. There, Adamson would preach in English in the morning and Stegmann in Dutch at the late afternoon service. Because he had the Lutheran congregation to care for in addition to St Stephen's, he invited young teenage males from the DRC to help him evangelize his Coloured flock. In due course they too were also brought into the kingdom via his anointed preaching plus a localized revival that broke out at St Stephen's.
Nicolaas Hofmeyr and Jan Neethling were two of the young men who had been converted under Willie Stegmann’s preaching. By the time they started studying in Utrecht, they were fiery evangelicals who had also embraced Stegmann’s missionary zeal. So when they met up with Andrew and John Murray, it was not long before the foursome had established an inseparable bond of friendship and mutual support group that God would use in the coming revival. These four would also become pillars of strength to get missionary work going from the Dutch Reformed Church as well as in the start of a seminary in Stellenbosch in 1859.
Soon after his ordination as a Lutheran minister, Stegmann not only felt the need to do something for the slaves, but he also started with a related ministry in Plein Street in the Mother City.
In the ministry of Willie Stegmann his heart for the lost shone through, especially for the Muslims. He was furthermore typified as a man 'met sy gebedsworsteling en herlewingsgees', illustrated by words from his diary: "Oh, how heavy does the case of the poor deluded Mohammedans hang on my mind... Oh Lord, ho long, how long shall they continue in darkness ... open the door, send out Thy servants."
Stegmann had a vision for spiritual warfare. Conversion of souls was the fore-most goal of his ministry and that he was known as a 'warrior of God and an attacker of the strongholds of Satan.' The Lord used Stegmann's powerful preaching to convict the congregation on 5 November 1843 in such a way that a man, evidently overpowered by God's spirit, exclaimed aloud towards the end of the sermon: "Lord have mercy" and fainted. A hush fell over the church and thereafter the whole concregation burst out in tears in a typical revival scenario. Stegmann was also self-critical enough when the near revival looked to have been stifled a few months further on. He took part of the responsibililty when he conceded in August 1844 with regard to the spiritual warfare: "What a havoc Satan has been making in poor St Stephen's lately, so that with my own inward corruption and the perverse walk of many... I am ready to sink down." Nevertheless, an unprecedented revival spirit was sweeping through the Cape, a fore-runner of a much greater one to follow in 1860.

Change of Attitudes
Colonists requested that one of the missionaries should come and live among them. Twenty five years later this was fulfilled, leading to the establishment of the mission station Elim, which became the southernmost village of the continent in due course. Some farmers introduced family prayers for the whole community on their farms, which caused the Khoi to prefer them to other employers. The attitude and stance of Ds. Meent Borcherds, once a fierce opponent of the Moravian brethren, changed after his study of the Moravian Bishop Spangenberg’s doctrinal exposition Idea Fidei Fratrum, even to the extent of apologizing to a visiting Moravian brother for his earlier behaviour. Soon large numbers of colonists were attending services there habitually.
It is all the more special how the co-operation of the mission agencies impacted the church life. Thus one finds the same Ds. Borcherds who had been so negative to missions, opening up to other denominations a few years later. In the pastoral letter of the Dutch Reformed synod of 1826, of which Borcherds was the secretary, one discerns remorse over the earlier period in which there had been ‘zorgvuldige bekommering eene heerschende kerk te willen zijn en blijven.’12 He regarded it as ‘better days’ that they were (i.e. in 1826) preaching in each other’s churches. This formed the basis for the theologically sound synod decision three years later not to divide the church on racial grounds. It was even regarded as ‘een onwrikbaar stelregel’, a steadfast rule based on the Word of God.


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