HEFSIBA

INSTITUTE FOR CHRISTIAN HIGHER EDUCATION 

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THE HISTORY OF THE

REFORMED CHURCH IN MOZAMBIQUE (IRM)

AND HEFSIBA ICHE


The history of the Reformed Church of Mozambique, in Portuguese the Igreja Reformada em Mozambique (IRM), has a most remarkable history of persecution, suffering, grace and growth and worthwhile reading. HEFSIBA’s history is closely linked to the history of this church and for this reason we have decided to relate in short this history that goes back more than 100 years.

To summarise the Reformed Church’s of Mozambique (IRM) history, it will be better to divide it into four developmental stages:

1.  ESTABLISHING THE DRC MISSION IN PORTUGUESE EAST AFRICA (1908- 1922):

In 1909 the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa established the Mphatso mission station in the north-west of Mozambique near the Malawi border. The pioneer missionary that operated from Malawi was Rev. AC Murray. Work expanded gradually amongst the totally unreached Angoni’s – a mixed Zulu and Chewa tribe despite tensions with the Roman Catholic Church and the Portuguese colonial government. By 1919, four missions have opened in the Tete province. It was a sad day when the Portuguese government, inspired by the Roma Catholic Church of the day, closed all the missions in 1922 and forced all the missionaries to leave the country. Not only the missionaries suffered but the indigenous church leadership was severely persecuted. Some had to do forced hard labour and some were expelled from Mozambique – never being able to return. There are also unconfirmed reports that some members lost their lives in the process.

 

2.  SEVENTY YEARS OF EXILE (1922 - 1992):

  • Fifty years without formal leadership in congregations (1922 - 1971): Because of the intolerance from the Roman Catholic Church, the church of the state, the members of the “Duchie’s church,” as they called themselves, the members were forced to meet secretly under the trees, crossing the border to Malawi to attend Catechism classes, baptisms and Holy Communion under dangerous circumstances. Through their witness and leadership, the church grew steadily without the help of pastors. In 1962 the Bungwe la Nine (Council of Nine) was formed to organise the believers – which they did faithfully and with a lot of sacrifices. The Council of Ten elders was later elected to lead the church until the arrival of the first missionaries in 1972. During this time, Rev. Pedro Tembe, the first black missionary from South Africa, started work in the south, in the Gaza province and later also in Maputo.
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  • Twenty years of painful progress (1972 - 1992): A short “time of grace”, between 1972 – 1975, was used to make contact between the Reformed Christians in Mozambique, and the congregations of Mphatso, Benga and Mzewe in the Tete province were established. Rev. Pieter Botha and rev. Kobus Minnaar, both from South Africa both also former missionaries from Malawi, played important roles in this phase, risking sometimes their lives in the process. In 1975 the Igreja Reformada em Mozambique was officially registered, but in the same year the political change in Mozambique, now a Marxist Government, closed the borders again and the church was severely disrupted by the civil war that followed. Even so the first Synodical meeting was held in 1977 at Mphatso, without any pastors present. David Chikakuda and Fanuel Kasamba were the first two elders sent to undergo their theological studies in Lusaka, Zambia. In 1982 they became involved in the leadership of the IRM and helped directing it with the help of Rev. Pieter Botha. In 1983 a big group of believers from Zambesia province asked to become part of the IRM and was accepted after several pastoral visits. They were also suffering from the intense civil war and as from 1986, they lived as refugees in big city centres in Mozambique and also in large refugee camps in neighbouring countries like Malawi. In 1986 Rev and Mrs Botha became the first fulltime missionaries after 1922 for the IRM. They enthusiastically co-ordinated development, training and liaised with the outside world on behalf of the young growing church. More city centres then opened up for missionary work namely in Beira, Tete and the town of Vila Ulónguè. Christian medical operations were started under ACRIS (a Christian Health Organisation where the IRM played a leading role). More missionaries came during this period in the persons of Andries Schwartz, Willie Gouws and Fritz van der Merwe, in cooperation with the Igreja de Cristo. The first outreach teams from South Africa started to arrive to build churches, to evangelise and to ease the suffering in general. In 1992 the first IRM synod was held on Mozambican soil at Vila Ulongue and so came to an end 70 years of exile.

 

3.  RAPID EXPANSION, CONSOLIDATION AND HEALING (1992 - 2009):

  • Expansion and new frontiers (1992 - 1996): The Synod of 1992 was held with the country still in civil war but in the same year the peace treaty was signed between FRELIMO and RENAMO and the country was opened up for new missionary work. More Dutch Reformed missionaries entered, also in the South of Mozambique and the Trichard School for Christian Education became an IRM project in 1993. The training of new pastors of the IRM was initially done at the Recalta Theological School outside Mapto. This was an interdenominational school that unfortunally became theologically liberal in those years. The church leadership then decided to start their own training and in 1994 HEFSIBA started off as a Bible school at Vila Ulongue in the Tete province under the leadership of Rev Wessel Bester. The following year it became a Theological Seminary under Rev. Manie Taute. In 1995 work started in the north at Chiconono amongst the Yao tribe, and also at Muapula amongst the Makua. These were, and still are, two of the most unreached people groups in Mozambique. Projects were undertaken together with a business initiative, SERVIR Mozambique , an affiliate of the IRM, to help reaching the people for Christ. Presbyteries were formed and they initiated the formation of more congregations especially in Zambesia under the leadership of, inter alia the following pastors: Matanda (Malawi), Danie Murray (South Africa) and Samuel Bessitala (Mozambique). Outreach teams from South Africa streamed into Mozambique and did wonderful work. A second synod was formed in 1996 namely the so called “New Synod” who took responsibility of the work in the Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces but also undertook to start with missionary work in the north-east of Mozambiquu up until the border of Tanzania. Hefsiba, however stayed a common project of the synod of Mphatso and the New Synod (Sinodo Novo) and it’s first students graduated in 1997.
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  • Consolidation and local leadership growth into the new millennium (1996 to 2009): After the 1996 split, the work developed rapidly in both synods. In the supply and development of local leadership, HEFSIBA continued to play a pivotal role, becoming a model of academical and professional excellence. HEFSIBA's leadership training became so effective that since 2001 missionaries were able to hand over more and more leadership roles to the indigenous pastors of the different synods. Later a third synod, Thumbine, was formed in the North Eastern part of Mozambique due to the rapid expansion especially in the Zambesia province. The need for a General Synod grew and this synod was formed in 2004 between the three existing Synods. It became necessary for missionaries to redefine their roles and missionary conferences were regularly held. In 1999 Rev Pieter Botha the pioneer missionary passed away and was fittingly buried on the terrain of his dream, the campus of HEFSIBA. New challenges then started getting attention form the leadership of the IRM such as: The persisting socio-economic problem of poverty The economical dependency on foreign help, Ethical and spiritual leadership the contextualising of the gospel amongst the peoples of Mozambique . In this, the role that HEFSIBA played and is still playing, became crucial. The curricula is written within the Mozambican context, from a Reformed biblical interpretation, keeping in touch with the needs of the congregations in the field and concentrating on spiritual and serving leadership training In 2008 the Igreja Reformada em Moçambique celebrated it’s centenary. It was a joyous occasion with the main event at Mphatso and Vila Ulónguè. At this event they took note that the church now has about 70 000 members spread over all provinces of Mozambique. It is served by only 50 pastors, nearly all of them trained at HEFSIBA. The need of training more pastors is very important and should become a priority for the church. Due to the lack of funds received from small congregations, the synods have decided to limit the amount of candidates who receive training at HEFSIBA – this decision should be prayerfully reconsidered.

 

4.  THE REST OF THE HISTORY OF HEFSIBA

In 1997 HEFSIBA was accredited by the Theological faculty of the then Potchefstroom University for Christian Education in South Africa. This uplifted the academic standard of the theological studies and students were now allowed to study a BA degree in Theology with this University (now The University of the North-west) and later also their Honours degrees. In 2004 HEFSIBA received recognition as a Tertiary Institution from the Government of Mozambique. It is now known as HEFSIBA Instituto Superior Cristão – Institute for Christian Higher Education. In 2008 the Education Department of Mozambique also approved a BA in Psychology Degree for HEFSIBA. This four year degree is especially designed for extramural students and is a Christian based counselling degree. HEFSIBA ICHE is looking forward with confidence and faith into the future. The same God that has provided until now is still recognized as the Head of this prestige tertiary institution.













Rev Taute and Rev Bester and first students of HEFSIBA
 

SOLI DIO GLORIA!

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!