By: Rev. Elise Theunissen, vice chair, South African Province
This year we will celebrate the beginning of missionary work in Hlubiland, with the festival of Adullam, on 17th November 2019, at the Adullam Cave, Matatiele, Eastern Cape. Here follows a short synopsis of the history.
Taken from Unitas Fratrum, Moravian Church, Unity Newsletter, September 2011
Heinrich Meyer born 23 November 1826 in Neuwied on the Rhine, turned 43 when he started to work and that would make his name unforgettable among the Hlubis and the history of the Moravian Missions. He was called to make a beginning with missionary work amongst the Hlubi’s, who’s chief Zibi Sidinane, made a request for missionaries.
8 November 1869 Meyer set out from Engotini to an unknown territory. He left without his family as he was first to set up a dwelling for the family. To shorten his journey instead of an oxwagon he used a light two wheeled carriage drawn by four horses, taking along another four horses.
He was a man with exclusive talents at the service of the Lord. He was consumed with a burning love for the Jesus, an urge to work for Christ, to win souls for Him, for His sake to struggle and if necessary, to suffer. He was devoted to his work and therefor he waited in No-mansland for Zibi, who did not arrive. No hut was available, so he made use of a cave for shelter from the rain and named the cave ADULLAM.
He made use of the time and on horseback found a site in upper Tinana and concluded a building contract with a Khoi. A Sotho chief Lehana, enemy of Zibi, who lived on the upper Tinana but promised to respect the building site. (He later annexed and gave it to the Sothos).
Zibi never arrived and Meyer had to return to Engotini. The return journey took seventeen hazardous days. Zibi’s main motive was that a white man could provide protection against his enemies, and he would receive preferential treatment from the British Government. It now seemed clear to establish a mission in an inhospitable country as having failed.
Zibi later came to Shiloh and explained his conduct and again asked for the help of the missionnary. 1 April 1870 they left in a southerly route passing through Baziya, Tabase and Pondomisi. It took him three weeks to construct an adequate road through the rock and stones of this ridge and today the road is still called Meyer’s Pass On 17 June he found a site Mtumasi. He consulted the losung for the text for the day: “Yea the sparrow hath faith found a house, and the swallow a nest… Ps.84:3 His family joined him later in Emtumasi.
At a conference of Hlubiland missionaries, it was resolved that more Africans should become evangelist. The aim should be to let the whole country resound with the message of the gospel, not only on Sundays but weekdays too, since every converted pagan, after baptism, should really be a witness to Christ.
A fear factor where the Moravians were, already active and the Wesleyans were busy with competitive work. After the war when peace was established the Wesleyan church claimed that Zibi and all his Hlubis belonged to their church. Zibi now a loyal Moravian was accused of betrayal and the Moravians was not welcome.
The only way the Moravians could respond was to intensify evangelism and ensure that faithful and active evangelism were available at as many points as possible. The work expanded, the numbers of new centres of evangelism came, and schools and outstations came into existence.