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Mission on the margin : a case study on reformed mission prospects in Enkumane, KwaZulu-Natal.

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Since about 1960, a foreign missionary project, the ‘Reformed Mission Enkumane’, has been situated in eNkumane, a rural area on the banks of the uMkhomazi River in KwaZulu-Natal. In order to describe this missionary project and its role in the area, a study was completed of the following three topics: the history of the people in the eNkumane area, the history of three other missionary projects in the vicinity of eNkumane and the history of the Reformed Mission in eNkumane. It was found that some of the inhabitants of eNkumane trace their history back to the northern parts of kwaZulu and Swaziland, from where their ancestors fled during the first half of the 19th century and moved in a south-westerly direction. They resettled at the uMkhomazi, where around the middle of the 19th century, the British Colonial Government started to divide the area and allocate it as commercial farmland. During the second half of the 19th century, the migration of labourers towards industrial centres started to deprive the area of especially the male part of the population for the majority of each year. Out of the migrant labour system several social webs grew which extend into industrial urban areas as far as Durban and Johannesburg. The ongoing drain of especially men and youngsters from the area looking for employment in industrial urban centres is counterbalanced by the return of community members through retirement, sickness or failure to maintain jobs. As a result, whilst the eNkumane can be seen as constituting a marginal area with a residue population, the homesteads also function as nodes in wide social webs. At the time of arrival of the Reformed Mission in the area, three missionary projects had already been undertaken within a diameter of about 40 kilometres around eNkumane since the middle of the 19th century. A common characteristic of these projects was their focus on church, school, clinic and agriculture. Their missionary activities can be seen as a sharing of the Gospel with people in need across cultural barriers. The centre of each missionary project was a Mission Station, which in certain aspects simultaneously functioned as both a refuge and a threat to the surrounding community. At present, the former Mission Stations still comprise small congregations with a maximum of about 200 members. The Reformed Mission Enkumane is a missionary project of a church in The Netherlands, which history is characterized by a number of church schisms that resulted from the struggle for its orthodox identity, especially concerning the independent status of local church congregations. Although the missionary project led to the formation of four local Reformed Churches elsewhere in the southern part of KwaZulu-Natal, in the eNkumane area, the project only really settled in a marginal way through its involvement in funerals, prayer meetings and occasional gatherings. Nonetheless, the project can been seen as a good example of missionary work defined as the activities of a church moving beyond its own boundaries into the margins of God’s Kingdom. It offers a unique opportunity for people from different backgrounds to live, work and worship together.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2010.