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Scripture Memory: Spiritual Renewal.
 VERSE : Psalm 51:12 
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness

25 May 2014
8 am & 1045am Worship Service
Eld Ng Beng Kiong (Church that Prays Together, Acts 12:5)
6:00 pm Evening Service
Rev Mathews Abraham (Pergamos - The Compromising Church, Rev 2:12-17)

1 June 2014
8 am & 1045am Worship Service
Rev Quek Keng Khwang (How to Grow Spiritually, 1 Pet 2:1-3)
6:00 pm Evening Service:
Mr Lee Hock Chin (Thyatira - The Corrupt Church, Rev 2:18-29)

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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS (Part 7)

(Extracted from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya –  A Biographical History of Christian Missions, by Ruth A. Tucker)

Robert and Mary Moffat

Robert Moffat was the patriarch of South African missions, a man who had significant influence in that section of the world for more than half a century. He was an evangelist, a translator, an educator, a diplomat, and an explorer, and he effectively combined those roles to become one of Africa’s greatest missionaries of all time.

Born in Scotland in 1795, Moffat was raised in humble circumstances that afforded him a very limited education and no formal biblical training. His parents were Presbyterians with a strong missionary zeal, and on cold winter evenings his mother gathered the children around her while she read aloud stories of missionary heroes. But Moffat was not inclined toward spiritual things. He “ran off to sea” for a time, and at the age of 14 he became apprenticed to a gardener, learning a skill that he carried with him the rest of his life.

At the age of 17, Moffat moved to Cheshire, England, to begin his career in gardening. It was here in 1814 that he joined a small Methodist society that met in a nearby farm house. This association warmed his heart and it gave him a harmonious blend of Scottish Calvinism and Methodist “enthusiasm.” The following year, after hearing a missionary challenge delivered by a director of the London Missionary Society, Moffat applied to that board for missionary service but was turned down.

Undaunted by his rejection, Moffat secured a new gardening job and began studying theology. After a year he again applied to the LMS, and this time he was accepted. Moffat was sent to South Africa with four other novice missionaries, and after 85 days at sea they arrived in Capetown to launch their missionary endeavors.

Moffat had hoped to begin his life as a missionary as a married man. During his last year as a gardener in England he had become interested in his employer’s daughter, Mary Smith, whom he perceived as having a “warm missionary heart.” Though Smith was enthusiastic about Moffat’s missionary plans, he was less excited about sending his only daughter to a distant foreign field. So Moffat went to South Africa single, waiting more than three years before Mary’s parents relented and agreed to let their 24-year-old daughter join him.

In the meantime, Moffat was introduced to the realities of missionary work and African culture. He was disturbed by the strong prejudice against missionaries by both the English and the Dutch colonists, and he was impatient when, for that very reason, government officials stood in the way of evangelism of the interior. But if he was disturbed by government policy, he was shocked by the open immorality and dissension among the missionaries themselves. Writing to the LMS secretary in London, Moffat lamented that “…never was there a period when a body of missionaries were in such a confused and deplorable degraded condition.”

After several months of delays, Moffat and a married couple were granted permission to journey into the bleak regions of Namaqualand, hundreds of miles north of Capetown. It was here that Moffat first met Afrikaner, a fearsome Hottentot chief who had only recently been tamed by a Dutch missionary who left the area after Moffat arrived. Moffat spent nearly two years at Afrikaner’s camp and then invited him to travel to Capetown so that the white colonists could see for themselves the dramatic change Christianity had wrought in this outlaw, whose reputation for raiding colonists farms was known far and wide. It worked. Everywhere Moffat went people were impressed with his trophy, and Moffat’s star as a missionary statesman began to rise.

Showing off Afrikaner was not Moffat’s only reason for traveling back to Capetown. In December of 1819 Mary Smith arrived from England, and three weeks later they were married. It was a happy union from the start and remained so for 53 years. The honeymoon, a 600-mile wagon trek northeast to Kuruman, was not all romance. There were parched deserts, dense forests, quagmire swamps, and raging rivers to be crossed, which no doubt made them grateful they were not alone. With them throughout their honeymoon was a single male missionary.

Kuruman was, in Moffat’s eyes, a choice spot for a mission station. He had hoped Afrikaner and his people could move to the location, but regrettably, Afrikaner died before the move could transpire. The mission compound was situated at the mouth of the Kuruman River, fed by an underground spring that gushed forth crystal clear water. As a gardener, Moffat envisioned bountiful fruit and vegetable gardens watered by irrigating canals and tilled and harvested by industrious natives. Christianity and civilization could develop hand in hand. His ideals were high, and eventually, after many years of struggle, Kuruman became a model station.

The Moffats’ early years in Kuruman were filled with hardships. They lived in primitive conditions, their first home being a mud hut, with the kitchen separate from the house. Although Mary was not used to doing heavy domestic work, she adapted to African life remarkably well. She washed clothes by hand in the river and cooked on an open fireplace. She soon overcame her aversion to cleaning the floors with cow dung and even recommended it: “It lays the dust better than anything, and kills the fleas which would otherwise breed abundantly.”

The greater hardship at Kuruman related to their ministry. The Bechuanas, with whom the Moffats worked, were not at all receptive to Moffat’s message. Tribal superstitions prevailed, and when the official rainmaker could not prevent long periods of drought, Moffat was blamed. Theft also was common among the people, and the Moffats’ house was ransacked on many occasions. “Our labors,” wrote Moffat, “might be compared to the attempts of a husbandman laboring to transform the surface of a granite rock into arable land.”

As time passed, however, Moffat’s prestige among the Bechuanas grew. In 1823, after only a few years at Kuruman, the tribal situation in the area began to change. Waves of nomadic tribes began sweeping across the arid plains, and the very existence of the Bechuanas was in danger. It was at this time that Moffat exercised his diplomatic prowess, and through compromise efforts and military arrangements with another tribe he was able to avert the impending destruction of the Bechuanas. Moffat became a civilian general of sorts and rode out to meet the enemy. Though his peace efforts failed, and fierce battle ensued, the invading Mantatee tribe was severely weakened and driven back.

From this point on, Moffat’s leadership at Kuruman was secure. As a diplomat and military leader he commanded the highest respect. Unfortunately, there was little corresponding success in his evangelistic efforts. His converts were few. Perhaps the greatest reason for the slow progress of Christianity among the Bechuanas was simply a lack of understanding. Neither Moffat nor the Bechuanas fully comprehended the other’s beliefs in spiritual matters. Moffat had little interest in the Bechuana religious traditions, and he sought to evangelize them with the mistaken impression that the tribe had no concept of God or word for “God” in their language.

But an even greater handicap to his ministry was his failure to learn their language. For several years his sole means of communication was Cape Dutch, a trade language that some of the Bechuanas understood for rudimentary business transactions, but hardly suitable for presenting a clear picture of the gospel. Moffat wasted years of precious time trying to squeeze by on this short cut, but he finally realized that learning the language, as difficult as it was, was the only solution to communicating the gospel. So convinced was he of this necessity that in 1827 he left Mary with their little ones, turned his back on his gardens, and went out into the bush with several tribesmen, and for eleven weeks he immersed himself in language study.

On his return, Moffat was ready to begin a translation of the Bible, a task that began very slowly and took him 29 years to complete. Beginning with the Gospel of Luke, he agonized over each sentence, and even then he was painfully aware that his translation was filled with errors. Only the patience of continual revising made the translation comprehensible. But translating was not the only problem Moffat faced in bringing the written Word to the Bechuanas. Printing the text also became a complicated ordeal.

Translation and printing the Bible often seemed like a fruitless, thankless task, but it also had its rewards. In 1836, while conducting a service in an outlying area, Moffat was astonished when a young man stood up and began quoting passages from the Gospel of Luke. To Mary he wrote: “You would weep tears of joy to see what I had seen.”

But even before he was able to make his translation available to the people, Moffat was seeing positive results from his language study. His ability to speak the language of the people brought a new understanding of his teaching. He started a school with 40 pupils, and soon his message began to take hold and a religious awakening followed. The first baptisms took place in 1829, nearly a decade after the Moffat’s arrival in Kuruman. In 1838 a great stone church was built that still stands today.

Although Moffat’s career is generally associated with Kuruman, his work extended far beyond that area. In fact, the nucleus of believers at Kuruman never exceeded 200, but his influence was felt hundreds of miles around. Chiefs of their representatives from distant tribes came to Kuruman to hear Moffat’s message.

The most notable instance of this occurred in 1829 when the great and fearsome Moselekatse, one of Africa’s infamous tribal chiefs, sent five representatives to visit Moffat and to bring him back with them on their return journey. The meeting of Moffat and Moselekatse was an unforgettable encounter. The naked Moselekatse was overwhelmed that the great white “chief” would come so far to visit him, and so began a 30-year friendship built on a deep respect of one man for another. Though Moselekatse himself was never converted to Christianity, in later years he did allow missionaries, including Moffat’s son and daughter-in-law, John and Emily, to establish a mission station among his tribe.

As far as Moffat often traveled, his thoughts were never far from Kuruman. Kuruman, over the years had become a showpiece of African civilization, where Moffat’s philosophy of “Bible and plough” was practiced. The man-made canal was lined with some 500 acres of garden plots cultivated by Africans. The Moffats’ own home consisted of a stone house and a large enclosed back yard where their five servants did domestic chores around a huge open brick oven. It was a homey atmosphere with children always at play. The Moffats had ten children, though only seven survived to adulthood, and of those, five became actively involved in African missions.

After 53 years in Africa with only one furlough (1839-1843), the Moffats were ready to retire. They had suffered severe tragedies, particularly the deaths of their two oldest children within the space of a few months in 1862, but the work was moving forward. There were several native pastors active in the work, and their son John, who had joined them at Kuruman, was prepared to take over the mission.

It was a sad departure from Kuruman and perhaps an unfortunate mistake. Kuruman was the only home they had known for half a century, and readjustments back in England proved difficult, particularly for Mary, who died only months after their return. Moffat lived on another 13 years, during which time he became a noted missionary statesman, traveling throughout the British Isles challenging adults and youth alike with the tremendous needs of Africa. (To be continued)

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1) Life B-P Church Camp, 16-19 June 2014 at Awana Genting, West Malaysia. Church Camp Registration Office will be opened on Sundays till 8 June for camp fees payment between 9.30-10.30am and after second service, till 1pm. Location will be at Church Office Level 3 Beulah Centre. Love gifts to defray the cost are welcome.

2) Our condolences to Kelvin Kew Chin Hin on the homegoing of his father, Mr Kew Kong Hin (age 87) on 19 May 14.

3) Day Seminar: Archaeology and the Trustworthiness of the Holy Scripture by Dr John Davis, Th.D., D.D. 14 June 2014 (Sat); 2– 5 pm at Life B-P Church. *Sign up online at this link: bit.ly/LifeArc (Registration ends by next Sunday.)

4) ERBL Seminar 2014. 23-28 Jun (Mon-Sat, 8.30am - 1.00pm) at Beulah Centre. Speaker: Rev Dr Tim Yates. Topic: Biblical Precepts for Effective Leadership & Discipleship for the Local Church.

5) FREE ERBL Night Lectures on 23 and 26 Jun 14 (Mon and Thurs, 7.30pm to 9.30pm) at Beulah Centre. Speaker: Rev Dr Tim Yates. Topic: Christ-Centered Bible Application. 

6) ERBL Jul–Nov 2014 begins on 7 Jul 2014. Register before 9 Jun 14 for early bird discount. 

Preaching appointment: Rev Quek at Maranatha BPC, 10.45am.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25