Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: Namibia

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 2,109,000; Members, 562; Branches, 2;percent LDS .027, or one in 3,753; Africa Southeast Area; South Africa Cape Town Mission.

The Republic of Namibia is located in southwest Africa. It's bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the east, and Angola and Zambia to the north. It became an independent nation on 20 March 1990. It has a population that speaks Afrikaans, English, and indigenous languages. Namibians are 50 percent Lutheran and 30 percent other Christian.

On 7 September 1924, Lawrence and Maud Ratcliff, his sister, Audrey Ratcliff, and his step-children, Bertram Joseph and Norah Cecelia Glynn, joined the Church in South Africa. Soon after the family emigrated to Karibib, Southwest Africa (now Namibia) for work. On 24 July 1927, the Karibib Branch was organized with Lawrence Ratcliff as presiding elder. The first converts in the country were Johannes Andries Cloete and Martha Vermeulen Cloete who were baptized on 11 March 1928 at Karibib by Lawrence C. Ratcliff. The Ratcliffs eventually left Karibib for Utah.

Howard C. Badger, South African Mission president, brought missionaries Russell V. Harper, Michael Cates, and C. (Cecil) Eric Johnson to Windhoek on 25 February 1969. Dennis R. Saunders was transferred from Durban, South Africa to Windhoek on 29 February 1969.

The Windhoek Branch was organized on 19 Dec 1983 with Dieter Greiner as president. A year later the Windhoek Branch was transferred from the South Africa Johannesburg Mission to the South Africa Cape Town Mission.

In February 1990, missionary couple Melvin and June Mabey were transferred from the South Africa Cape Town Mission to Windhoek and were designated lead couple in Namibia. On 5 March, four missionaries were transferred from the South Africa Cape Town Mission to Namibia. The Church was registered 11 May 1990. A. Eugene and L. Ruth Hilton, who arrived on 30 May 1990, were the first missionary couple called to work full-time in Namibia. The Windhoek District was organized in October 1991, with Elder A. Eugene Hilton as president. However, the district was dissolved in February 1992.

In August 1992, Andre Van der Merwe, the first missionary called from Namibia, began serving in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. Elder Russell M. Nelson became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to visit Namibia in August 1992. The seminary program began in late 1994.

The Windhoek Branch meetinghouse, the first and only one in Namibia, was dedicated 6 July 1997 by Elder James O. Mason, of the Africa Area presidency.

Membership in 2001 was 312. It reached 336 in 2002.

Sources: Evan P. Wright, History of the South African Mission, period II, 1903-1944, Church History Library; Melvin Pack Mabey, Journal, Church Archives; Mark Newman and Greg Hagen,"Gospel Springs Forth in Harsh Desert Land of New Africa Nation," Church News, 5 October 1991; Mary Mostert and Gerry Avant, "Prayers of Dedication Offered on 4 Nations in Central, Southern Africa,"Church News, 26 September, 1992; Telephone conversation with Scott W. Colton, 13 April 2004; Record of members, Church Archives; South African Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; South Africa Cape Town Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives.