The Early History of the AFM Church in Namibia
History of the AFM
Written by Louis F Prinsloo (Boet Prinsloo)
The History of the Apostolic Faith Mission of Namibia (AFM of Namibia) may be traced back as far as 1919. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was not brought to our country through a singular and organized effort by one church or missionary organisation but came in different waves and at different times. God raised up ordinary people to do His work. Even though most were unordained, they were passionate and thus the Good News reached Namibia.
The First Wave
1919 AJ Venter
The first member of the A.F.M. who preached in Namibia was a man by the name of A.J. Venter. He was a South African police officer who had been transferred to Namibia in 1919. He began to share his faith with neighbours and friends. The effect of his labour is confirmed in the testimony of Mr. Koos Alberts who wrote that in 1921, while he was still living in Angola, word came from Namibia of a certain Mr. Venter who preached the Gospel and baptised adults! The zeal of this righteous man’s witness broke the ground for the movement of the Holy Spirit in Namibia and brought the message of Pentecost.
The Second Wave
1928 The Dorsland Trekkers
The second wave of converts to the A.F.M. came in 1928 when the Dorsland Trekkers arrived from Angola. The phrase Dorsland Trekkers literally means: ‘Those who travelled through a land of thirst.’ The Dorsland Trek began on May 15, 1875 and was a migration of Afrikaners who travelled North-West from the towns of Pretoria, Heidelberg and Rustenburg in South Africa. The reasons for their trek have been noted as Wanderlust and also the search for a better land. They travelled through the barren Kalahari Desert, braving the desert sun, long periods without water, and finally, as they neared the Lake Ngami and Okavango River, Tsetse Flies. About 75 members of the trek died of Malaria. They held course and finally reach the town Humpata in Angola on January, 1881, where they settled down. After a period of fifty years the South African government assisted them in relocating to Namibia. For the first few years they were stationed in the Gobabis district and on the farm Kamkarap in the Outjo District. In the Outjo district they first heard the message of Pentecost as preached by the above mentioned brother A.J. Venter. As with many of the other Angola Farmers, the Word of the Lord found entrance into the hearts of Koos Alberts and his wife and they were baptised on 22 September 1929. In 1936 brother Alberts was ordained as evangelist at the A.F.M. Conference in Johannesburg. One of the Angola Farmers who had come to Christ in those days, was Paul Potgieter, who lived on the farm Bitterwater in the District Gobabis. This was the gathering place of the first A.F.M. Congregation among the Angola Farmers. They were frequently ministered to by pastors from South Africa, such as Pastor Brits from Upington, Pastor Brady, a Messianic Jew and Pastor Stoffel du Toit. Among those who came to Christ on the farm Bitterwater were Hermaans Grobler and his wife Martie. They were baptised on June 26, 1940. He visited Angola from time to time and preached both to the Dorsland Trekkers who were still in Angola, as well as to Portuguese government officials. Many of them accepted Christ and some now live in South Africa. Paul Potgieter of Bitterwater witnessed to his family in the Grootfontein District and shared his faith with them. Petrus Gerhardus Breedt and his wife Anna Elizabeth were the first from that area to be baptised.
The Third Wave
1942 Andries de Kock
The third movement came to Central Namibia in 1942 when Pastor Andries de Kock planted a congregation in the capitol city, Windhoek. His first candidates for baptism were the members of the De Jager family. Pastor de Kock also visited the farm Hammerstein in the district Maltahohe in Southern Namibia. The farm belonged to Tinus Coetzee. His sons, Kowie and Gert were baptised and became pastors in the A.F.M. in South Africa. Kowie Coetzee had a great influence in Namibia and baptised many converts. He ministered as a full-time pastor in Maltahohe, Keetmanshoop, Tsumeb and Grootfontein.
The fourth Wave
1943 Missionary work among the African Community
In 1943 P.J. van der Walt and his wife arrived in Namibia. They started their work among the African people who lived in a part of Windhoek known as The Old Location. They were the first permanent missionaries to the indigenous peoples of Namibia.
The Fifth Wave
1975 The African Community in the North
In the Northern parts of Namibia the work among the African community was begun by three Oshi-Vambo speaking young men who founded the A.F.M. in the North. One of these was Paulus Nambindi. He left the North of Namibia to travel to Cape Town because he was ill and had heard reports of people in Cape Town who prayed for the sick. He stayed in the Langa Township and visited the A.F.M. congregations in Woodstock and Salt River. They were both multi-racial congregations with people from all ethnic backgrounds worshipping together. In the Woodstock congregation someone prayed for him and he was healed. For a while he made a living in Cape Town as a clothes-salesman, using his free time to preach to the Xhosa people. Then God spoke to him in a dream and told him to go back to Namibia and preach the Good News to his own people. Pastor Botes laid hands on him and blessed him for his ministry. With the financial assistance of a fellow Namibian, Jakob Paulus, he was able to travel back home. He arrived in the North of Namibia in 1957 and started a church at Okaonde. Though Paulus Nambindi had baptised the first converts, first A.F.M. church was planted by Polikalipus Mwahekange Namutenya. He also came from Cape Town early in 1957 and started a church at Epuku in Northern Namibia. Jakob Paulus was a domestic worker in Cape Town. He was employed by a Mr. Odendaal. He came to Christ in the Salt-River Congregation of the A.F.M. under the ministry of pastor Jongebloed. He also attended the Langa congregation of Pastor Jantjes, who was a Xhosa. In 1957 Jakob Paulus returned to Northern Namibia and planted a church at Endama. Together these three pastors had a tremendous influence among their own people in the North.
1968 CP Denyschen: Pastor CP Denyschen, the second missionary pastor, was sent to Namibia in 1968. He ministered in Windhoek and in the North. He also had a great influence in Namibia. He baptised many people and built churches throughout Namibia.
The Sixth Wave
The Move Among the Colored People
A.F.M. fishermen from the coloured community of the South African West coast worked on contract in Walvis Bay and they started a mission in Walvis Bay which spread to Windhoek. In 1965, pastor Hennie van der Colf arrived in Windhoek. He was the first A.F.M. pastor from the Coloured branch in Namibia and started the A.F.M. congregation in Khomasdal. From there the work amongst the Coloured community spread to Rehoboth, Walvis Bay and Tamariskia in the coastal town of Swakopmund.
AFM among the San People
There were no San (Bushmen) congregations until the Grootfontein AFM congregation reached out to them in 1996. They started a Bible School among the farm workers and out of that initiative some of them were converted and baptized. Daan Musheshe, of the Vasikela San tribe and one of the Bible School students received a calling while he was a herdsman on a commercial farm. In 1998 he established the first San speaking AFM congregations in Bushman land. Today there are five San speaking congregations in the North of Namibia with a host of smaller branches, mainly on the commercial farms.
Growth of the church
Today the church has reached every corner of Namibia. The AFM has now exceeded the number of 161 congregations and branch congregations exist in cities as well as in rural areas. The type of church buildings ranges from adequate well-built brick places to pole structures with a tin roof.
Training of pastors in the AFM of Namibia
In addition to the 40 pastors (some of which who are retired, but still active) quite a number of elders leading the congregations have been trained. For many years pastors of the AFM of Namibia were trained at the various institutions in South Africa. They did this either by contact – or distance education. In 1996 the AFM church in Grootfontein, under pastor Louis Prinsloo, started a Bible School. He trained local people in courses that would lead up to further studies recognized for admission to legitimization. The number of students over the past years grew to about 200 in total. The AFM of Namibia took over the Bible School in 2003 and it became the official Training Centre of the church.
The AFM Family
The AFM Church was established in South Africa in 1908 through the ministry of John G Lake and Thomas Hessmallach from the USA. The AFM family of churches have congregations in 23 countries of the world, mostly in Africa, but also in Europe. The Apostolic Faith Mission of Namibia is the oldest and largest Pentecostal Church in Namibia. Currently we have 110 congregations in Namibia, of which 60% are in the North.
The AFM Church of Namibia has the desire to be obedient to the following two commands of the Lord Jesus Christ
The Great Commission
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Greatest Commandment
Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”