*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 1st of March 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

The modern history of Africa is replete with examples of how foreign countries and missionaries should not attempt to bring Christ and Civilization to African peoples.

We also keep in mind that Africa is not a monolith- and the history of Christianity in Africa is complicated, from the days of Augustine to Nelson Mandela. Today we look at events in South Africa and a Dutchman named Johannes Van Der Kemp.

First- remember that the first European contact with South Africa came around the year 1500 and the travels of Vasco De Gama. As the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch began trading with the far east, Cape Town became a bustling center for trade and missionary work.

Johannes Van Der Kemp was born in 1747 in Rotterdam. His father was a Reformed minister, and his brother became a professor of Church History. But Johannes wanted nothing to do with the Reformed faith of his youth.

He dropped out of the University of Leiden- took up with a married woman, and joined the military. He was told he had to leave the woman or leave the army. He left the army and married Christina in 1779, and raised their little girl Johanna.

He went back to school in Edinburgh, where he received his degree in medicine- he then returned home to the Netherlands to practice. He had left the faith but continued to work in philology and philosophy. In 1791 tragedy struck his family- while on a boat trip on the river Maas the boat sank- Johannes managed to escape, but his wife and daughter did not.

In despair, he was driven back to the faith of his youth. He met a few Moravians who turned him on to the work of the London Missionary Society. He studied theology and was ordained by the London Missionary Society. He helped to form the Dutch Missionary Society and in 1799 was sent to South Africa

On the 1st of March in 1799, Johannes Van Der Kemp landed in Cape Town to begin his ministry.

Van Der Kemp would live in South Africa as it changed hands between the French, English, and the Dutch. Johannes avoided controversy initially and went to work with the Xhosa tribe. While he was unsuccessful with these people, he came into contact with the Khoisan.

A quick note: the Khoi were farmers, and the San were hunter-gatherers. The English and Dutch would call them Hottentots and Bushmen- they would become a target for the growing French, German, English, and Dutch settlers (when they intermarried, they should become known as the Afrikaners).

Van Der Kemp had begun working with the Khoisan- in 1803; he was granted land that he would name “Bethelsdorp”- a mission for the Khoisan and others who were displaced or vagrant.

The Europeans complained that Bethelsdorp became a haven for runaway slaves and those who believed mistreated. One of Van Der Kemps’s “offensive” teachings was that black Africans were not descendants of Ham, the son of Noah.

Van Der Kemp was known for his lack of shoes and hats to assimilate the Khoi people. He also redeemed Khoisan, who had been sold into slavery- even taking one as a wife and having four children with her. As you could imagine, this infuriated the European crowd who saw the black Africans as inferiors and natural slaves.

Amid South Africa being handed back and forth between colonial powers, Van Der Kemp would be called back to Cape Town. In 1811, while in Cape Town, Johannes contracted a fever and died- born in 1747, Johannes Van Der Kemp was 64 years old.

A quick note- this weekend, on the Weekend Edition, we will be looking at my list of the best movies that pertain to the history of Christianity. Three of them are missionary movies- I have many thoughts these days about good and bad missions… that to say- I look forward to that show, and I’m going to keep noodling on this theme.

The Last Word for today comes from John chapter 1. ON Yesterday’s show, we read from Eugene Peterson’s translation of Genesis 1- let’s get his bookend with the prologue to the 4th Gospel:

The Word was first,
 the Word present to God,
 God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
 in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;
 nothing—not one thing!—
 came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
 and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
 the darkness couldn’t put it out.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 1st of March 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man whose favorite “Van Ders” includes Johannes Van Der Kemp, Van De Kamps fish sticks, and James Van Der Beek of Dawsons Creek fame. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a “van” himself who reminds you to alphabetize Dutch names after the prepositions. Johannes should be a “K,” and I’m alphabetized as “VO” I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.