Naughty Schoolboy Now Retires as Well-Loved Pastor

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK He was discouraged from receiving formal education, exposed to political hatred, and yet his determination and “stubbornness” made him emerge as one of the few faith-based ‘messiahs’ in the country. Pastor Joshua Musutua of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia was born at Ondore 69 years ago. He grew up at a time when attending school was not always a family’s top priority for their offspring. Even if his parents insisted on Musutua shepherding cows, goats and sheep in the veld, he had the aspiration to explore life beyond the Ovahimba norms and became one of the children of those days who saw the need to go to school. Near his home village in Kaokoland, there was a primary school, Orumana, and “when my parents would send me to take care of the animals, I would dodge and go to school,” he recalls. Known in the area as a ‘naughty’ young boy who would bully his peers he, on the contrary, grew up being a favourite child not only in his family but also at school, as teachers loved him. “The Whites liked me and they supported me at school. I helped them with the dishes and I took visitors ‘on tour’ to the Ruacana Falls,” he reminisced. Not for long in primary school, the young boy found himself at the coastal town of Walvis Bay where he continued with his primary education at Naraville Primary School. Being a ‘Coloured’ school in those years, his schooling was cut short when inspectors from Windhoek demanded his removal from class as a black child. “I was hurt and wondered why all these injustices were taking place. At the same time, I was thirsty for something I could not really explain,” he recalls. Not so different from the Jesus scenario of ‘fishing’ for men in the street, one day Musutua decided to take a walk in the streets of Walvis Bay. As he lazed around, he met some missionaries preaching the Word. “When I drew closer, I became more interested in what they were talking about, and I then asked them what one needed to be like them,” he related. Without wasting time, the young man was sent to Pretoria to study as an evangelist for three years. “I told myself this was life – no touching a woman, no drinking,” he says. Times were hard, given the political pressures of the time. Musutua had developed a mind of political hatred. Although he was at an institution that was supposed to teach about ‘loving thy neighbour’, divisions and hatred brought about by brainwashed minds could be felt. “Most priests had the apartheid mentality,” he relayed. Musutua was, however, rarely “moved” by the happenings that surrounded him. He was known by many for his straight talk, for challenging the status quo and for making his voice heard even on the thorniest of issues. Even if his colour was an issue in those days, Musutua hardly ever struggled to blend in with the lot. “They never allowed us to swim because the pool was for whites, and I questioned why they always wanted to make themselves different. When they were sleeping at night, we would go in the pool and make a noise. When we saw the lights were on, we would disappear,” he said. He added: “I showed them my good side and behind their backs I was naughty.” Upon the completion of his three years, he returned home and engaged in full-time evangelism. He travelled the length and breadth of Namibia spreading the gospel. A few years later, he decided to further his studies and enrolled at the ULTS (Paulinium). After four years of theological training, he was ordained in 1970 as a pastor in Okahandja. Given his experiences, after his ordination Pastor Musutua was sent as a missionary to Botswana together with Pastor Gabriel Dawids and Ananias Goa-gaseb to work among the Herero people, the descendants of survivors of the 1904-1907 Herero-German war. This made him a pioneer in establishing the mission station at Sehitwa. According to Musutua, “being the head of the mission was not an easy task. Some of the staff, namely the white co-workers from Germany, were not comfortable with being under the leadership of a ‘black boss’.” Despite the challenges, he says he realized that to lead and to work with people is the most difficult responsibility one can be entrusted with and, in order for one to succeed, there is a great need for humility. The South African government was not impressed with his work and believed he was mobilizing the masses to act against the colonial masters. His work in Botswana lasted from 1971 to 1976. They confiscated his passport and he was ordered to stay in Namibia. Pastor Musutua returned to Namibia in 1976 and, since then, he worked for the Ephesians congregation in Gobabis, the Georg KrÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶nlein Centre in Berseba, Betesda congregation in Otavi, the Social Diaconal Work in Windhoek, the Zion congregation in Otjiwarongo and the Macedonia congregation in Windhoek. Each of these churches he led had their own challenges. He recalls that when he was called to lead the Macedonia congregation in Windhoek, the church was divided, with each tribe hosting its own church service. Convincing the masses that they were one people despite different ‘tongues’ was not easy but, after kneeling down in prayer, today the church stands as a united unit with the same mission of serving God. Last weekend, the church bade farewell to Pastor Musutua who feels he has accomplished his mission and that time has come to retire. After 35 years of service as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), more than 300 well-wishers from all over the country, including government ministers, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other retired pastors of the church attended this great event. “I have had my struggles and fought my battles for the Lord during all this time. But I’m also grateful and proud of what we’ve managed to achieve as a church in the years that I’ve been here. The harmony and peace seen today is testimony to the success earned through hard work and dedication all through these years,” Musutua said Saturday. Various speakers – even from other religious denominations – gave the retiring religious leader a standing ovation during the church service, praising him for his hard work and devotion to social justice and community development. Agriculture Minister, Nickey Iyambo, told Musutua that Namibians would still want to make use of his expertise long after his retirement. “We are not going to give you peace. We will still call at your door for service because government wants all its soldiers to be on duty 24 hours a day for the development of our country and nation,” said Iyambo. He also called on all other religious church leaders in the country to emulate the good example set by Musutua. While December 30, 2006 will mark the end of his official duties, Musutua told New Era he would like to engage in farming, although resources at this stage seem to be scarce. His pension only comes to about N$31ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000. Comparing today’s church to the olden days, Musutua says the church has failed to retain its members given individuals’ ideologies. “People come to church for different reasons. Others do it for tradition, while yet others go there to watch and criticize,” he said. The mushrooming of small churches has also made people lose sight of what worship is all about. “Some churches have become jackpots; other churches have become business centres, and the poor are ripped off of their money after being promised that they will receive in abundance. They target the weak in society. They ‘buy’ people, and yet people must follow God by choice.” To the church, Musutua says: “Obey the rule of God, it is the only way we can emerge on top of all problems in life.”