Eagerly we CROWD INTO THE OPUWO Church building as we join the congregants, excited and filled with joy. Today is the day! Today—September 23, 2017—the Opuwo Company would be organized as the Opuwo Church. Malcolm Hunter says that it takes about 25 years to establish a faith community in a nomadic culture. The Opuwo Church is no exception. It has been 31 years in the making. It took dedication and much prayer and effort from many people to plant the church. It required consistency through multiple teams to make this day a reality.
As I look around, I am thrilled to see friends from near and far who have come to celebrate this day. There is Elias Evaristo from Oshakati, 240 km east of Opuwo. He is now an elderly man, yet still filled with passion to bring the gospel to the people of Kaokoland. He initiated the work here 31 years ago by asking Pastor Ramagumo to visit his family in Kaokoland. It was a challenging task for Pastor Ramagumo. The area was a war zone, and travel was dangerous. Yet Pastor Ramagumo, Elias Evaristo and Rikulano Ndjamba traveled the six hours on rugged dirt roads whenever they could obtain the special travel permit to visit the Opuwo area.
Inspired by the people’s desire to hear the gospel, Pastor Ramagumo asked the Conference President, Pastor Böhme, and the Union President, Pastor Bradfield, for help. In 1990, a Global Mission Pioneer, Percival Mdaba, served for a year. It was a difficult and lonely task. In 1993, Viriato and Marianne Ferreira agreed to serve as tentmakers. We joined them in 1995 as Global Mission Pioneers.
But that was just the beginning. As I look over the group gathered to celebrate the incorporation of the Opuwo church, there are many others who worked with us to share the gospel with the Himba and others in Kaokoland.
In front is Pastor Ndjamba (Kapitango), our colleague since 1995. He began as our translator and later joined us full time. When we left Namibia, he and his wife Kenoo faithfully continued the work. Without them, the Opuwo company would not have developed into an organized church. With Pastor Ndjamba is Zinyo—once a mischievous little boy, now an enthusiastic worker for God. Then I see Orlando Shilombo with his family. He faithfully shared the gospel as he traveled around Kaokoland as a trader. He started a group that is still meeting every Sabbath. Mary Lyamine, now living in Katima Mulilo, worked tirelessly with the youth and pathfinders. Dina, our first preschool teacher, is here, too, along with Suze Mbarros, one of Pastor Ramagumo’s first converts. The Kamolakamwe family, Mama Celina, Mr. Carlos, Mr. Matengu, Brighton and Innes and other church members faithfully witnessed to their friends and neighbors.
I also think of others who could not attend. Charlie Eklund, is especially remembered. Today, the young people he mentored and nurtured are active in the church as leaders and teachers. They haven’t lost the vision he instilled in them to share the gospel. All the student missionaries touched the lives of the youth and those they worked with. The Otuzemba Kindergarten teachers served the community’s children, patiently teaching them to know Jesus as their friend. Many of the children are now active youth in the church.
There are also many people who supported the Himba Project in various ways from the capital city, Windhoek. We especially think of the Solomon, Kotze and Morroff families who continue to help Pastor Kapitango. To the hundreds of donors, we stand in awe of your unselfish giving. We also thank the many supervisors who encouraged us, prayed with us and helped us wrestle with the task of church planting. To the AFM home office, thank you for standing behind us.
Church planting is not a one-man show. It takes a team willing to be coworkers with God. As I watch the Conference Secretary go through the organizing formalities, I know the Opuwo Seventh-day Adventist Church has a great future because they have God as their leader. The work is only beginning, and we are thankful the local Conference has made evangelism in this area a priority. Today, an organized church now serves as a lighthouse in Kaokoland. Praise be to God!
Gideon and Pam Petersen were career missionaries from 2000-2013, serving the Himba people of Namibia, and the Training Department of Adventist Frontier Missions.