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Our Work in South Africa

c. 1900


We are very proud to-day when we call to memory the noble and ever refreshing deeds of our Christian hero, Rev. M.M. Mokone (Mangena Maake), the founder of what was known as the Ethiopian Church in South Africa. Rev. Mokone belongs to the Basuto tribe, a tribe which to-day takes the lead in Christianity and civilization among the other South African tribes. Mokone founded the Ethiopian in the Transvaal, his native land, where he preached to his own tribe, the Basutoes, who heard and believed the word of God and began among themselves to carry the gospel to the sister branches of their tribe. A few years alter a paramount chief of the Tembu was converted and he at once built a church and named it Dalindyebo, his own name. There were questions and disputes among the people, for there are thousands of them. They were opposed to having a church and they felt that Dalindyebo had done wrong in building a church and naming it for himself. Some of the chief counsellors criticized him severely, until he felt that he had to withdraw from the church. However, he left faithful men who joined the Bishop an Church under Mokone and they began to organize missions and preach to their people, thus the Tembus and Basutoes joined hand in hand in the Ethiopian Church. The membership grew and the members sang “Lazilas ininga lako” or “Fulfil thy promise O Lord. The work grew until Reve. J. M. Dwane, a member of the Amaxosa tribe, withdrew from the Wesleyan Church with a large number of his members and joined hands with the Tembus and Basutoes and so we find three tribes united by the chord of Christian love.

In the year 1895 there came to Wilberforce University four African young men and one young woman; all of these came under the care of the A.M.E. Church. These young people wrote home about the A.M.E. Church, about the colored Bishops, the Universities, and progress of the people. In 1896 the Conference of the Ethiopian Church met in Pretoria., the founder’s home; there were representatives from about twelve tribes. It was the first Conference of its kind, in which all were colored men. At this Conference Rev. J. M. Dwane was chosen delegate to the great A M. E. Church of America, to see if the Ethiopian Church could not be made a part of the A.M E. Church. The Ethiopian Church was then composed of twenty ministers and about 5,000 members, with Rev. Mokone superintending. After Dwane left for America the people waited eagerly for the report that was to come and after a period of four months Dwane brought back the glad tidings; people came from far and near to hear the news from over the sea, and they shouted and thanked the Lord when they heard of the success with which Dwane met. The membership increased, the people being drawn by the name African M. E. Church.

In 1898 Bishop H. M. (Henry McNeal) Turner sailed for South Africa and was welcomed as never a man was received before. Some called out “now is the promise fulfilled,” others saw in him a Moses to deliver them from the chains of sin and superstition. Bishop H.M. Turner organized two conferences, the first in Pretoria, where many joined church; the second in Queenstown.

Since then Pondoland has been opened up by the Rev. J.Z. Tantsi, who is a faithful worker, one who stood by the church even in its darkest moments, when hope and everything was gone. Thousands of people are to-day sitting in darkness in Pondoland, where Brother Tantsi is laboring. Many of them have not as much as even seen a white many, to say nothing of the missionary.

“Shall we whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high,
Shall we  to men benighted the lamp of light deny?”

God forbid. When Bishop Turner came back to this country he left 120 ministers and 12,000 members, this addition to the church was accomplished during the short stay of Bishop Turner in South Africa. This important field of our work in South Africa Cape Colony, Tembuland, Pondoland, Natal and the Transvaal. Nearly every tribe has been reached by the gospel as far up as the Zambezi River, where the people greatly need the light. It is very encouraging to see more tribes represented at Wilberforce from South Africa, all preparing for the great work of redeeming Africa from darkness through Christ.

The A.M.E Church has done great work in South Africa, and we pray that it may do more. There are under the core of the A.M.E. church 12 students from South Africa at Wilberforce University, one in Atlanta and one in South Central Tennessee. The late General Conference was appropriated $10,000 toward to the South Africa College and a Bishop has been appointed especially for the work there. Do not these things prove that the church has done great things in South Africa? More prayers and more consecrated hearts, dear sisters, for the Church work across the sea. The Lord is in the work. It is his and he means that Africa must be redeemed from the bonds of ignorance and sin. The cry is for a school where girls and boys may be trained how to take hold of the influences of Christian civilization. Then shall they truly sing

“Fulfilled are thy promises O Lord,
Our Father and our Redeemer.”