Far away in the remote sandy wastes of the Kalahari Desert in Bechuanaland, Southern Africa, live the primitive Bushmen. They have never known civilization. They live where the white man seldom goes and never stays. Sekuba was one of these little Bushmen. Though he was a full-grown man, he was barely five feet tall.
As Sekuba and others of his family group of Bushmen crept into their crude shelters out of the desert cold one night in 1953, they had no inkling that their way of life was to change forever. The heat of the day gave way quickly to the chill of the winter night. Near him Sekuba kept his bow and quiver of poisoned arrows.
The little people were wise children of Nature and knew her secrets. They knew the roots that yielded the deadly poison in which they dipped their arrowheads. Hidden in places they alone knew were shells of wild ostrich eggs. These they filled with water at the time of the brief rains. They knew where the watery tsama melons grew. The forbidden desert was home to them. They survived incredible hardships in their contest with unrelenting nature but generations of that manner of living seemed to have well-nigh effaced the image of the Creator.
As the stars glittered in the dry crisp sky the night for Sekuba was suddenly brighter than day, and he talked with one who spoke from the fire he saw. The next morning he tried to tell his wife and family what he had experienced. Over and over he repeated the story as their minds tried to grasp the significance of his night vision. Like all primitive peoples they attached great significance to dreams--but who had ever heard of a dream like this! They had never seen the things he tried to tell them about. The Bushmen are a wild, nomadic people who generations before had retreated as civilization advanced. They ate raw flesh from the animals they killed, and wore their skins as loinclothes. They ate snakes, rats, insects, roots--anything that would sustain life. They could find their way in the trackless Kalahari that at times appeared deceitfully green from the thorny bushes and trees that tapped underground water supplies out of man’s reach. Life’s necessities they understood.
But what was the “Book” Sekuba was talking about? From their background of experience it is no wonder Sekuba’s family were having difficulty comprehending. Who was the “shining one” who had spoken from the fire, so bright one could not look at him? Why must Sekuba go to the east to find the people of the “Book” and learn about God, the maker of the things of nature all around them? What were the other books--the brown ones that were also important? What was he trying to tell them about “a plan” this unseen God had for them? They could not understand the urgency Sekuba felt to go that very day in response to the angel command.
“How will you speak to the people you will meet?” they challenged him as he made preparations. He told them as he had told them before, “The ‘Book’ talks. The ‘shining one’ taught me the words of the ‘Book.’ I understood them and I will be able to read them.”
The Bushmen speak a language of clicks and guttural sounds quite unlike languages spoken by Bantu natives. No one ever goes to the Bushmen with books. Their language has never been reduced to writing. They are fugitives who retreated before the Bantu Africans and the white Europeans. If a rare courageous one ventures anywhere near these inhabitants of civilization it is to hunt straying cattle and goats to add to the meager fare of the wild game. They are often considered enemies and thieves to be hunted by both Bantu and European. They are people who shoot their poison arrows from ambush, a people to be feared.
Sekuba’s wife and relatives made no attempt to remind him of the dangers he would find along the way. The awe and wonder of his night vision impressed them too. Together they traveled as a group, each day drawing nearer the eastern border of Bechuanaland, hunting to sustain themselves as they went. Finally, on the fringe of civilization they found a few scattered Bushmen who knew a little more about their Bantu neighbors. Sekuba left his family near them. They believed him when he said he would return for them after he found the people with the “Book.” Clad in his skin loincloth, carrying his kaross (a blanket made of animal hide) and a scanty supply of biltong (dried meat), and armed with his bow and poison-tipped arrows, Sekuba advanced eastward alone into the unknown, obedient to the angel’s direction.
Some 150 miles from the original starting place, and many days later, Sekuba hesitantly approached the scattered huts of some African Bantu farmers on the border of one of the African reserves. Bushmen are known more by reputation than by sight and so the startled tribesman at the first hut was filled with fear and apprehension to see the dusty, loin-clad Bushman. The wizened little man of the desert seemed shy and showed no signs of belligerence. The arrows were in their quiver, and the empty bow in his hand calmed the Aftican’s impulse to flee. Timidly the little Bushman waited for the African to speak. “I see you,” greeted the Bantu according to African custom.
With dignity Sekuba returned the greeting, then asked, “Where will I find the people with the ‘Book’?” When the amazed Bantu tribesman found no words for a moment, Sekuba continued, “I have come to find the people who worship God.”
“You speak our language!” exclaimed the African.
“The ‘shining one’ taught me,” Sekuba stated simply, then explained more of the night vision he had seen. “Can you take me to one who can teach me more of the ‘Book’?” he asked.
“This is marvelous! Yes, I can take you to our pastor. He lives near.” The African entered his hut to explain to his family who followed him outside, wide-eyed, eager to glimpse a real Bushman who said a supernatural being had taught him their language.
Together the African, tall and ebony-dark in tattered old European clothes, and the dusty little brown man in a loin skin, kaross over his shoulder, walked quickly along the path toward more scattered huts where other Africans stopped in amazement at the unexpected sight of a Bushman in their midst. Their progress was delayed as Sekuba’s escort briefly explained the miracle of a Bushman speaking Tswana. A few joined them as they proceeded toward the pastor’s house.
In the gathering dusk the group arrived at the humble dwelling that had real windows with glass panes. When the pastor heard their excited story he spoke to Sekuba.
“These speak for you, but I would like you to tell me for yourself.” The pastor, clad in black suit with a white clerical collar, brought his chair outside and sat while his people squatted African fashion on the ground.
Sekuba, never before in the presence of civilized people, was not abashed. A feeling of joy and gratefulness for the success of his journey filled him. Gladly he gave his testimony and explained the wonderful vision that had sent him on this journey. Every African was silent. When he finished he asked humbly, “Have I found the people who worship God--and have the ‘Book’?”
For answer, the pastor, deeply moved, rose, entered his house, and quickly returned with a Bible in his hand. Sekuba’s eyes lighted. Clapping his hands softly and bowing his head he exclaimed, “That is it! That is the ‘Book.’ ”
“This is the end of your journey,” exclaimed the pastor. “You shall stay with me tonight.” He led the group in prayer. Then the Africans, marveling, returned to their huts. The pastor made the Bushman comfortable in the little hut that served as his kitchen. His servant prepared food for him. Sekuba lay down to sleep, glad to have found the object of his search.
Then another vision was given him. The angel came again. “This is not the true church,” the “shining one” said. “You must continue your search. You must find the Sabbathkeeping church and ask for Pastor Moyo. He will not only have the ‘Book’ but also four brown books that are really nine.”
When morning dawned, obedient to his heavenly visitant, Sekuba explained to his host, “I must leave you. I cannot stay here. The ‘shining one’ came in the night and told me to find a people who keep the seventh day as Sabbath.”
The pastor could not believe his ears. At last he found his voice. “This is the chief’s church. Would the chief be wrong? You have not understood.” With a note of irritation in his voice he spoke to the Bushman.
Sekuba was firm yet respectful. “Sir, I have not misunderstood. These things were shown me plainly. There are people who worship God on the seventh day. Please tell me where I may find them.”
At this the pastor’s voice grew loud and angry. He threatened Sekuba. Neighbors began to gather. The pastor enlisted their sympathy, and anger mounted against the little Bushman. When he had a chance to speak he never wavered from his story, always saying, “The ‘shining one’ bids me find the seventh-day church.”
That an unkempt Bushman in skins should presume to question the pastor’s church was unthinkable. It was, in fact, treason, heresy. The Bushman remained adamant, insisting he must find the Sabbathkeeping church. Ridicule and abuse were heaped upon Sekuba but failed to intimidate him. Then they placed Sekuba under arrest for defying the church of the chief. A growing mob proceeded with their Bushman prisoner the remaining forty miles to Serowe, capital of the Bamangwato tribe of Bechuanaland. Defenseless, the little Bushman was brought before the chief. In his own desert country Sekuba would have hesitated not a moment to kill a stranger who threatened him. What must have been his thoughts as, far from familiar scenes, he stood before the chief of the unfriendly tribesmen and listened to the accusations against him? But he was true to the angel vision and answered fearlessly and courteously. He told the chief that so long as he should live he would remain true to the unseen God who gave him the message of his dream.
The Sabbath message was not exactly new in Bechuanaland. The chief himself knew personally of Adventists, for his wife was one. He now commanded Sekuba to be silent, but Sekuba refused to stop, saying that as long as he had life he would continue to speak of the wonders revealed to him.
The gathering threatened to become unruly and out of control. Not daring to allow matters to climax in trouble and not be able to take action himself, the chief and his court took their prisoner and went to Serowe and asked the native commissioner for judgment.
This man, a European wise to the ways of Africa, heard the story with patience. At first, he too joined in threatening dire penalties for disturbing the peace, but Sekuba remained firm. His testimony was given again for the true God and His Sabbath. The white man was amazed that a Bushman, speaking Tswana, though unlearned and alone, should thus continue to cling to his story of angel instruction. His sincerity was evident. A feeling akin to awe crept over him.
The white man weighed the evidence thoughtfully. After all, Sekuba had committed no offense. It was most remarkable, his ability to converse in fluent Tswana. His courtesy and courage demanded respect. He turned to the chief, his court and his followers waiting expectantly, restlessly. Then he turned to the humble Bushman as the crowd became silent.
He addressed Sekuba, “You have committed no crime. You are free to go speak of your faith.” Then he gave an order for the crowd to disperse and return to their homes. The little Bushman was to continue his search unmolested.
Alone once again somewhere outside Serowe, Sekuba spent the night where darkness found him. How to find Pastor Moyo--in what direction to go--he did not know. He had done his best, but his efforts had brought him into trouble that was nearly disastrous. His wisdom was insufficient for this great problem. Twice the “shining one” had talked to him. In simple faith, alone in the desert he now talked to the unseen God. He prayed that He would direct him, give him a sign. Then he slept the sleep of a trusting child.
With the dawn he saw near the distant horizon a small, mistlike cloud. That, in the clear dry air of the semi-arid country bordering the Kalahari, Sekuba accepted as his sign. Patiently he set out at once to follow it. Each day it was there, a small cloud always to the northeast and ahead of him, leading him on, for seven days and 118 miles. Along the way he carefully avoided roads and men. One mistake was enough.
Somewhere, perhaps in Serowe before he left the shelter of the native commissioner’s court, Sekuba had acquired some European clothes. As he approached Tsessebe, a little settlement beside the railway that threads its way from Cape Town north across the great African continent toward the Congo, he was a small inconspicuous brown man clad similarly to those living in the little village. The cloud that had gone before him disappeared. Before him was Tsessebe on the border of Bechuanaland and Southern Rhodesia. As the rays of the setting sun touched the peaceful countryside, Sekuba made preparations for the night. Would he find the pastor named Moyo?
Next morning as he walked steadily toward Tsessebe he met a Bantu African. The tribesman greeted him with curiosity, but the small brown man clad in shabby European clothes, carrying a kaross and speaking Tswana excited no great wonder. The Bantu directed him to the village, and with no difficulty Sekuba found the pastor’s house.
“Dumelong” (“Good morning”), greeted the Bushman visitor as the pastor answered the knock at his door. The kaross he carried had slipped and the arrows were visible. The startled pastor studied his visitor intently and recognized that no ordinary African stood before him. He, as did other Africans, harbored some fear of Bushmen--but courtesy bade him invite the stranger in.
Sekuba once again told his story in Tswana while the pastor listened with growing awe and wonder. “I am commanded to find the people with the ‘Book’ who keep the seventh-day Sabbath,” concluded Sekuba.
Gladly Pastor Moyo brought out his worn Bible.
“That is it.” But Sekuba had one more request. “Where are the four books that are really nine?” Pastor Moyo turned to his book shelf and brought out the four brown volumes of the Testimonies to the Church. (**See note at end.)
“Yes,” said Sekuba eagerly. “You are the people.” There was joy in his face, joy in his heart, when he knew he had reached the end of his journey. But he must know more--much more.
All that day they talked. Pastor Moyo explained about the first coming of the promised Messiah as a little baby. He showed him from the “Book” why Jesus came and how He would come again.
That night it was the pastor who dreamed. Fear of the Bushmen reaches deep in those who have lived near these people. A text was shown him--Ezekiel 36:8. Awakening he rose quickly and lighted a candle. He found the text and read: “But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.” Fear of the Bushmen left as peace came into his heart. God had other “branches,” people soon to come.
Sekuba stayed two weeks with Pastor Moyo. Daily they searched the Bible together and drank in the wonderful message of salvation. Before Sekuba left to return to his own people he extracted a promise from Pastor Moyo that he would come and teach them more. Sekuba planned to live in the Nata crown lands, government lands set aside but not part of the reserves occupied by various Bantu tribes. Rather than return to the uncertain fortunes of nomadic Bushman life, he wanted to settle on the crown lands with those of his people who would join him, there to begin a new life.
Pastor Moyo traveled by bicycle to Sekuba’s new home. He stayed a week the first time, obtaining his food from an African storekeeper at the trading post. His days were spent instructing the Bushmen who came to hear. Other Bushmen making the transition into civilization lived in that area and were interested.
They had everything to learn, including the ways of civilization. Plowing and cultivating fields, they learned from more advanced neighbors among whom they settled. For the first time they learned about taxes. “You are men among your fellow men, not animals roaming the desert,” the District Commissioner of Francestown told them when they came to register and pay tax.
A few months later, in 1954, Sekuba was baptized, the first fruit of his tribe. In 1955 his wife, brother, and sister were ready for baptism.
Pastor Daniel Mogegeh baptized these people. He says they have phenomenal memories. They retain what they are told and memorize long passages of Scripture in a short time without forgetting. They are intelligent and make loyal Christians.
Sekuba retained the ability to speak, read, and write the Tswana language until his death in 1957. He was ordained church elder, evangelist, and pastor of the first Bushman church. Before his death ten more of his tribe were baptized. The latest report (1963) gives the number as more than forty.
When the angel visitor first appeared to Sekuba, Africa was relatively quiet. Today there are winds of every kind of thought, to confuse and destroy faith. Before the need was evident, God in his mercy allowed this miracle of grace to be performed that the confidence of His people might remain firm.
African pastors and believers have met and talked with Sekuba, the Bushman who obeyed the angel’s command. These people are a living testimony that God has set His seal upon His Sabbath, by directing a primitive Bushman to the church that keeps it. They can know of a certainty that God Himself is leading a people out of every tribe and nation.
Gladys Piatt Ansley, The Youth’s Instructor, January 22, 1963.
Note: The four books that are really nine are the “Testimonies to The Church” by Mrs E.G.White. Some years ago I did actually have a four book set so these really do exist.
Last revised: 25 Jan 2017.