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Rhenish Mission Church

Okahandja | Namibia

The Rhenish Mission Church is not only the oldest building in Okahandja, but in Namibia. It was consecrated in 1876 and the cemetery has its own place in the Namibian history. Missionaries, German soldiers and Herero people alike have been laid to rest here.

The Rev. Heinrich Schmelen of the London Missionary Society is believed to be the first European to visit Okahandja on one of his trips to the north of the country. He called it 'Schmelens Hope'. The Rhenish Mission Church had plans to start a missionary station in Herero land from 1840, but was dropped due to a drought and subsequent lack of drinking water, not to mention the thirsty Herero had up-sticks and moved on. Towards the end of this decade, the mission were also forced to cancel any hopes of conversion to their faith, when Jonker Afrikaner and his men went on the rampage.

But the Rhenish missionaries picked up the evangelical pace with a vengeance. In 1870 Ph. Diehl and J. Irle set up shop under a large, shady tree in Okahandja. They started to teach the gospel and to educate the children of the community. It was those 2 missionaries who began to build the Rhenish Mission Church in Okahandja and Missionary Diehl consecrated the church in 1876. Congregations gathered here to worship until 1952.

The church is built in the shape of a cross and was constructed using air-dried bricks. It has narrow windows, set in high walls. The congregation sat on wooden benches for services, christenings, marriages and confirmations. On the wall behind the altar Bible are passages in the Nama and Herero language.

There is a small bell tower a few metres from the entrance of the church, although today only 1 of the 2 original bells are still in existence. Behind the church is a small graveyard and some missionaries and civilians are buried here, including members of the Herero community who converted to Christianity. The most prominent is Wilhelm Maharero, son of the Maharero, Wilhelm, who would have succeeded his father as leader of the Herero if he had not been killed in a skirmish with Jan Jonker Afrikaner's men on 11th December 1880. The Herero leader Nikodemus Kavekunua is also buried here, after being court-martialled and executed by a German firing squad on 13th June 1896.

The graves of these leaders and others, are commemorated in the annual traditional Herero festival held on the last Sunday every August. A custom of placing a small stone or touching the gravestone is still upheld today. Other traditions are also remembered at this festival.

The Rhenish Mission Church and Cemetery were proclaimed a national monument on 20th December 1975 and are a popular stop on many a tour in Namibia.

Elegant Farmstead

On an old mission station south of Okahandja, the farm Otjisazu is full of historical interest

Gross Barmen Hot Springs

Situated some distance west of Okahandja the natural hot spring has been tapped and is used to full both an indoor and outdoor pool

Okahandja Country Hotel

A tranquil garden & African decor give this country hotel laid back, relaxed feeling. Situated on the outskirts of the town of Okahandja

Omatozu Game Farm

A game farm which offers a 'boutique camping experience' with accommodation in air-conditioned permanently erected tents

Oropoko Lodge

Situated on farmland west of Okahandja, Oropoko has a well stocked game park

Namibia Self Catering Accommodation