Republic of Namibia
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The African nation that is today known as Namibia is said to have been born out of the nineteenth century European scramble for colonies. The large (825,400 sq km, 319,000 sq miles) arid country on Africa’s south west side is comprised mainly of Bantu people who have occupied the area for centuries. In the 1840s missionaries arrived in the area from Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom with the goal of converting the Hereros people to Christianity. Germany established a protectorate over the country in 1884 however by the early twentieth century a brutal punitive action by the Germans against the Hereros left the native population decimated with the survivors scattered or enslaved. A colonial war that lasted over a decade was ignited by these actions. German control ended following the First World War when South African troops occupied South-West Africa, as the country came to be known. An anti-colonial war against South Africa was begun in 1966 and lasted 23 years, until 1989. At that time elections gave the guerilla movement SWAPO (South West African People’s Organization) victory at the polls. Independence was gained in 1990. The present population of Namibia is estimated at 1.8 million (2 per sq km). The Republic of Namibia is governed by a bicameral legislative body; they are known as the National Council and the National Assembly.
Namibia is very large in size (the equivalent of Louisiana and Texas in the USA) with a small population. Despite vast desert tracks (Kalahari and Namib) Namibia has an abundance of natural resources that include typical southern African wildlife and mineral resources such as diamonds, copper, uranium, gold, lead, tin, lithium, cadmium, zinc, vanadium, natural gas and perhaps oil, coal and iron ore. Mining accounts for about 25% of the gross domestic product and relies upon the expertise of the small white minority. More than half of the African people depend on agriculture but must contend with poor soil in unfavorable climates. Livestock include beef and mutton.
Among the first white settlers in Namibia were European missionaries. As a result the religious landscape is dominated by Christian denominations. Of the 85-90% of the population that is Christian at least 50% are Lutheran and 20% Roman Catholic, reflecting the years of German domination. Traditional indigenous beliefs, including a large element of ancestral spirits interceding with the gods, claim 15% of the population.
While the Stone-Campbell Movement has had a presence in South Africa (see South Africa profile) for about one hundred years it is believed that the initial efforts to evangelize in South West Africa, now Namibia, were not put forth until the 1960s when Henry Ewing of the American a cappella Churches of Christ moved to Windhoek, the capital city. Henry had the intention of planting a Church of Christ, however, he became ill and died before his dream could be realized. By 1975 South African Greg Woods succeeded in forming a congregation in Windhoek. Unfortunately, many of the congregants were temporary workers from South Africa and the congregation remained small due to the transience of its members. Woods and Walter Kirsten, a man Woods converted, also began a congregation at MaHahohe. In addition, two South African families began a work in Oranjemund. Another short-lived congregation met in Swakopmund, made up largely of white women who had gone there to work in the uranium mines. Despite several years of financial support from sponsoring congregations in the United States by 1990 only two congregations of the Church of Christ were known to still exist in Namibia, the church in Windhoek proper and another in Windhoek Township. The membership of the two congregations, at that time, numbered about 65. Namibia native Shadrack Mburu is ministering in Windhoek with the financial support of the Richland Hills Church, Forth Worth,TX (USA). In 2012, Roger Dickson,coordinator of Africa International Missions, a Cape Town, South Africa-based ministry that produces literature and conducts seminars on Bible-based Christianity, along with coworkers Malvin and Hazel Kivedo and Denville Willie, traveled 4,000 miles north from Cape Town at the invitation of religious leaders among the Ovambo people in Namibia.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada began their involvement in Namibia in 1972. Since that time the Disciples have maintained ties with the Council of Churches in Namibia and the Namibia Synod of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa with both financial support and the assignment of Division of Overseas Ministries personnel. In 2004 the DOM personnel for Namibia were Bonnie Carenen and Amanda Shipman.
Representing the American Christian Churches /Churches of Christ, Reggie Thomas of White Fields Evangelism made a trip to Zimbabwe (see Zimbabwe profile)to preach teach and evangelize in August of 1995. On that trip the ground work was begun to spread a work into Botswana, Angola (see Angola profile)and Namibia. A cooperative partnership was formed with Jim and Denis Hayes of Hasten International, missionaries in Zimbabwe, and White Fields to cooperatein a church planting venture. Zimbabwean evangelist Lengton Maposa was recruited to enter the work in Namibia and plant a New Testament church. In three months of personal evangelism, teaching, leadership training and regular worship with the Lord’s Supper efforts resulted in the baptism of several dozen Namibians. A congregation was planted and in 1997 were said to be carrying on under self-leadership with no further need of American money or Zimbabwean presence.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, December 12, 2013
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