Having spent any amount of time studying Scripture you’d be struck by just how much value God puts on history. And I’m not just talking about the historical narratives which weave the story of the Old Testament together or Luke’s masterful recording of the historical development of the early church. No, I’m talking about how God emphasises again and again His involvement in history to His people in order to motivate them, rebuke them, inspire them, comfort them. God wants His people to keep close to mind His "Mighty hand and outstretched arm".

History isn’t that dry, dusty yellow edged book that you were forced to read at school in order to pass an exam. History is a story – no it’s the story – the tale of the people that have contributed to who you are, why you’re here doing what you’re doing, thinking how you’re thinking, living like you’re living. The study of history allows us to understand our people and the societies that we’ve built, understand change and how to cope and adapt to it. It creates a sense of identity, both of self and of corporate.

Baptists have a long, proud history in South Africa, a history which must not be lost, must not be forgotten. It includes men and woman who have suffered for others, lived for others, contributed towards others, even died for others. It’s full of interesting tales; a leper who forged a community (Paul the Leper), a statesman who died a national hero (Mr Jan Hendrick Hofmeyr), a young lady who sacrificed much to glorify her King (Ms Olive Carey Doke). It’s as much the story of the individuals as it is of God; His intervention in steering, guiding and guarding the Church that He said He’d build.

The Baptist Union Historical Society has begun to publish these stories. Please go and check out the efforts, comment regarding what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s depressing, what’s exhilarating.

Remember your past with thanksgiving; live your present with zeal.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

No Turning Back

No Turning Back is a most welcome addition to the existing histories of our South African Baptist missionary endeavour over the past one hundred and eighty years. It is an account of ordinary people who have been used by God to achieve extraordinary things for Him. What a privilege to be part of this army of faithful soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The authors have done a good job arranging the story into coherent sections. The chapter on the involvement of local churches in mission is particularly enlightening and challenging. Even before the founding of the SABMS in 1892 the Boksburg Baptist Church, under the leadership of E R Davies, began a church planting work among the indigenous people of the Transvaal. By 1914, when the work was handed over to the SABMS, forty-seven new churches had been planted. This kind of local church involvement is reminiscent of the work of Pietersburg Baptist Church and Samaria Mission today. Nor was Boksburg the only local church to become involved in hands-on missions work. Those were the days before most of the local cross-cultural outreaches were delegated to the SABMS.

It is most refreshing to have the authors reflecting honestly on the good and bad fruits of the missiological approaches used by the SABMS. With hindsight some of the methods used and the decisions taken, in particular those which led to the cultural polarisation of the work, may not have been the best. Yet, as the story unfolds, we see the wonderful way in which God’s people have worked through these difficulties towards reconciliation. The chapter on Convention/Union relations tells the moving story of the “parting of ways and the healing of hurts.” It is most significant that this new book will be released in the inaugural year of the South African Baptist Alliance, a body that will bring the previously splintered Baptist groupings together into strategic co-operation. Missions is one of the main areas identified for co-operation.

The events recorded in No Turning Back are a vivid fulfilment of our Lord’s promise “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” There really is no turning back for South African Baptists.

Eric Robbins
Baptists Union Mission Developer
February 2001






Chapter 1: Missionary Beginnings

Chapter 2: The Involvement of Individual Churches in Missionary Outreach

Chapter 3: Ties that Bind

Chapter 4: Training for African Pastors

Chapter 5: Further Growth and Development of the SABMS and the Black Churches

Chapter 6: The Regions Beyond

Chapter 7: Specialized Ministries

Chapter 8: Baptist Leaders who played a Formative Role in the South Africa Baptist Missionary Society - A Representative Selection

Chapter 9: The Convention and the Union: The Parting of Ways, the Healing Hurts

Chapter 10: New Directions for Baptist Missions


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Missionary correspondance from Lambaland (1916)

There are many treasurers lying in wait in the dusty archives of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa. This morning I happened across one that I thought I’d share.

There has always been a need for church planters and missionaries to correspond with prayers and supporters back home; those in more remote places all the more. In October of 1916 the mission station in Lambaland begun a newsletter to their support base in South Africa and England. As you read through it you can’t but notice the faithful service, passionate zeal and simple sacrifice of those who “Go, Tell It On The Mountain… …That Jesus Christ is born.”

A digitalization of the first page:

Published Quarterly October, 1916. No. 1.


A record of Missionary Work among the Lamba Speaking People of Northern Rhodesia and Belgian Congo State. – Central Station, Kafulafuta. Established 1905.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Photograph by Kapopo Village. Charles Phillips.

Council of Reference:

Rev. R. Wright Hay, Sir John Kirk, Mr. Wm. Olney, Rev. Thomas Spurgeon, Rev. H. Lenton Staines.

London Committee:

Mrs. Richard Grose, Mr. A. C. Harrison, Mr. G. M. Hewson, Dr. F. W. Passmore

Mr. F, J. Passmore, Miss M. Phillips, Mr. T. D. Simmons.

Honorary Treasurer: Honorary Secretary:

Mr. P. R. Phillips, Mr. C. Phillips,

39, Criffel Avenue, “Wolfdene,” 11, Grove Road,

Telford Park, Streatham Hill, Chapham Park,

London, S.W. London, S.w.



Rev. W. A. Philips, (Superintendent.)

Mr, & Mrs. H. L. Wildey, Mr. & Mrs. M. R. German, Mr. C. M.

Doke, B.A. Miss Olive Doke

Postal Address of Missionaries: Kafylafafuta, Ndola, Northern Rhodesia. (Postage – 1d, per oz.)

Bankers: STANDARD BANK OF SOUTH AFRICA, LTD., 10, Clements Lane, London, E.C.

Honorary Auditor: Mr. H. G. T. DAVIES, C.A., Bassishaw House, Basinghall Street, London, E.C.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ours is the Frontier

Product Description

G.W. Cross was one of the founders of the Baptist Union of South Africa, its first General Secretary, and four times its President. This biography traces the life of a pastor who was dearly loved and honoured in his time.

What kind of man was he? He was reserved and sometimes remote, yet he attracted many and diverse friends. Sensitive and imaginative, he would have liked to be a scholar, a writer, a poet, yet his time was increasingly taken up with practical affairs. In his early years in South Africa Cross found himself facing serious theological problems, and consequently withdrew from the ministry until he had found answers that satisfied his mind and heart. After five years he was able to return to the ministry with renewed vigour. His ministry was not confined to his church but also found expression in his service to the community.

His involvement in education, social service and the arts (especially literature) brought him into contact with some leading personalities of the time amongst whom were Olive Schreiner, Francis Carey Slater and the Rev. James Moffat. His life also touched the lives of President S.J.P. Kruger, President F.W. Reitz and General J.C. Smuts.

Cross’s 43 years in this country, from his arrival in 1877 to his death in 1920, span some of the most important events in its history – the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand, the Anglo-Boer War, and the unification of the separate colonies as a British Dominion in 1910.

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Paperback: 253 pages
Publisher: University of South Africa (1986)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0 86981 383 8
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Price: R75.00

To purchase a copy of this book please contact the Baptist Union Historical Society.