Mission celebrates 200 years

2016-03-16 06:00
THE Moffat Mission. Photos: Supplied

THE Moffat Mission. Photos: Supplied

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A WORSHI P SERVICE, to launch the 200-year celebrations of the London Missionary Society (LMS), will be hosted on Friday (18/03) at 09:00.

Various people and organisations are expected to attend the launch of the 200-year celebrations of the mission, in collaboration with the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality.

Sylvia Lucas (premier of the Northern Cape), Moshoeu Simane (president of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa Z UCCSA), Allaister Arends (general secretary), including leaders of other faith organisations, members of civil societies, mayors and councillors of various municipalities, are expected to be present.

The celebrations came after the closure of the mission to the public due to renovations over the past two years.

The restoration work that is ongoing has been solely funded by the National Lotteries Commission to the amount of R13,7 million.

Strengthening the roof for many years to come, was the main focus.

According to Peter Manzana, the head of the communications unit at the municipality, the celebrations are expected to continue over a period of about five years.

Manzana stated in a press release that the celebrations would mostly involve and be led by members of the various synods, but governmental and non-governmental organisations and entities would also take part, since the arrival and influence of the London Missionaries in South Africa affected the lives of communities, even beyond the members and congregants of the UCCSA.

He added that part of this celebrations would also involve research by academics to bring to light the contribution of all involved (including the locals) in the establishment of the mission.

As the mission is a heritage site, most of the sections have been left in their original state to give visitors a feel and view of how things were 200 years ago when the first group of missionaries arrived in the area.

The executive director of the Moffat Mission, Rev. Kudzani Ndebele, said during a briefing session and a tour around the mission premises, that it was imperative to go through the memory lane of the church and its historical pioneers.

“This gives credence to why the place has to be a symbol of significance to the local community, region and the world over.”

Elaborating on the mission’s history he said: “Initially, in 1816, the site was at what is now the Dithakong Village, but due to water scarcity it was relocated to the present Maruping Village a year later.

“Upon a cordial encounter with the chief of Batlhaping, Chief Mothibi, Robert Hamilton and James Reed, two pioneering missionaries of the LMS, and under the tutelage of Rev. John Campbell, Chief Mothibi granted them the present site between the Eye and Maruping for a win-win reason.”

According to Ndebele, they were granted the strategic site ostensibly to serve the community by digging a tunnel to supply water to the struggling villages and to promote agricultural activities with the availability of water.

“Led by the two pioneers, that dream was turned into reality as the furrow was constructed from 1820 to 1822 to facilitate the supply of water to the targeted communities.”

Robert Moffat then joined the two missionaries in 1820 to establish the present-day Kuruman Moffat Mission.

Ndebele added that the celebration was not only about the restoration process that was currently underway, but also a moment of reflection on the Christian development vision that had been started in 1816.

“The notion behind the establishment of the Moffat Mission was far beyond its confinement. The ultimate objective of Robert Moffat was to create a benedictory citadel which the London Missionary Society could use as its launch-pad in their exploration work to the north.

“They eventually settled in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

“Their mission work was multifaceted in that they wanted to promote education and literacy amongst the indigenous communities,” he informed.

“This resulted in the translation of the Bible into the SeTswana language in 1857.”

Other sites of importance associated with the London Missionaries are the Tiger-kloof Centre of Education, situated about 10 km from Vryburg.

“Mary Moffat came up with the gardening project to encourage agriculture among communities.

“A clinic was also established to cater for the community and missionary visitors.

“This includes the first school north of the Orange River in 1829 to promote literacy amongst different ethnic groups.

“The mission became the nerve centre for the LMS in the region.”

The mission has to this day carried a symbolic milestone going into the future as a community development and a convergence centre. It is also expected that there will be a series of several recitals about the heritage shrine around the Southern Africa UCCSA countries later in the year.

It will be culminating into a mega celebration event in October.

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