Not all of the stories about people influenced or converted center around The Great Controversy, The Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, or her other books written for the non-Adventist public. One account tells how the Testimonies for the Church, a nine-volume collection of articles, pamphlets, and letters of instruction written for Adventists, helped in the conversion of an African Bushman.
The South African Bushmen live in the remote wastes of the Kalahari Desert of Botswana (then known as Bechuanaland). Rejecting modern civilization, they have constantly fled the presence of both other African tribes and the white man. Today, driven out of much of their former homeland, they roam the rolling, sandy desert searching for food. Many scientists fear the Bushmen will soon die out.
Unrelated to the Bantus, a main African race of people, the Bushmen stand only about five feet tall when full grown. Their yellowish-brown skin wrinkles easily, making them look old at an early age. Wearing only simple skin garments and decoratively scarring their bodies, the people wander the Kalahari Desert collecting roots, fruits, and nuts, and hunting the small animals that live in the dry region. Christianity has made little progress among the tiny family groups and bands of Bushmen.
Sekuba and the other members of his family crawled into their crude semicircular hut of grass and twigs one cold night in 1953. The desert always cools rapidly after sunset, and in the winter the Bushmen suffer much from the cold. As Sekuba dropped off to sleep, he pulled his bow and quiver of poisoned arrows close beside him. He slept prepared for any emergency. He had to. Life on the desert was a constant struggle. To survive, the Bushmen had to learn much about their desert home. The Bantu and the white man might consider them ignorant savages, but the little desert people had great intelligence and knowledge. They knew the desert's many secrets—where to find wild ostrich eggs, how to suck the moisture out of the sand, what plants would give them poison to tip their hunting arrows, and where the watery tsama melons grew after the flash floods moistened their seeds. The Bushmen knew how to live in a world where other men would have died.
Stirring in his sleep beneath the hard glintings of the winter stars, Sekuba dreamed a strange dream. The next morning he tried to describe it to his wife and family, but they could not explain the meaning of the shining being who spoke from the strange fire that hid him by its great brightness. Why had the being told Sekuba to journey east and find the people of the “Book”? And the other books the voice talked about—what were they? Sekuba's family could not help him understand. They only knew it was an important dream.
Sekuba felt he must begin his journey east immediately. His sense of urgency baffled the others. They could see only the problems he would face as he traveled across the lonely desert. “How will you talk to these people of the ‘Book’?” one challenged him as he gathered his few belongings.
He related his dream again. “The ‘Book’ talks,” he answered, not knowing how, but only that it did. “The ‘shining one’ taught me the words of the ‘Book.’ I understand them. I will know what it says to me.” The little family protested no more. Somehow they shared the wonder of the dream, and hunting food as they went, they walked toward the eastern border of Bechuanaland.
Leaving the more barren part of the desert behind, Sekuba and his relatives met a few scattered Bushmen who had contact with the Bantu tribes. Sekuba decided to leave his family near the less isolated Bushmen. He told his wife that he would return after he found the people with the “Book.” Carrying only his kaross (a skin blanket made from the hide of a springbok), a handful of biltong (dried meat), and his bow and arrows, he journeyed on alone.
The Bushman had come about 150 miles from the place where he had seen his strange dream when he saw a Bantu farming village shimmering in the African heat. It belonged to the Bamangwato tribe. His fear of strangers fought within him as he approached the scattered huts.
A Bantu man saw Sekuba, and his face filled with surprise and fear as he watched the little man come across the dusty plain. The late afternoon sun tinted everything a reddish hue. He knew that the Bushman could be dangerous at times, but the one approaching did not touch his arrows in his quiver or show any other signs of hostility. In fact, he seemed rather shy, even if he did have the courage to come into a Bantu village. The Bantu man decided not to run for help.
Sekuba paused in front of the villager and waited for him to speak.
“I see you,” the Bantu said, greeting the Bushman according to African custom.
Returning the greeting, Sekuba asked, “Where will I find the people with the ‘Book’?”
The other man stood in amazed silence for a moment. When he did not answer, the Bushman continued, “I have come to find the people who worship God.”
“You speak our language!” the Bantu farmer finally blurted. Few Bushmen spoke a language other than their own.
“The ‘shining one’ taught me,” Sekuba replied briefly. Seeing the puzzlement on the Bantu's face, he quickly told him about the vision that had come to him in the desert. “Can you take me to one who can teach me more about the ‘Book’?” he added.
“This is marvelous.” The Bantu continued to stare at the brownish-skinned man. “I will take you to our pastor.”
Entering his hut, the Bantu told his family about the strange little man who had come out of the desert seeking a minister. They came outside to see the Bushman who claimed to have learned Tswana from a supernatural being.
Then the Bantu and Sekuba followed a dusty path toward some more scattered huts. Villagers appeared and clustered about them, curious about the Bushman. Sekuba's guide paused to tell them how the desert dweller spoke their language. Some of the Bantus followed the two toward the minister's house. Several people tried to tell Sekuba's story at the same time.
The native minister raised his hand for silence. “These seek to speak for you,” he said to the little man, “but I would like you to tell me yourself.”
Taking his chair out of the house, the Bantu minister sat down in front of the others. His black suit and white clerical collar gave him dignity and respect in the eyes of the assembled villagers, who squatted on the ground in front of him.
Proudly and happily Sekuba stood before the native pastor. His long journey across the Kalahari had apparently ended in success. In fluent Tswana he told him of the bright being who had come to him in a dream and told him to seek the people of the “Book.” The villagers listened in solemn awe. As he finished his story, he asked, “Have I found the people who worship God—who have the ‘Book’?”
In reply, the minister went into his little house and returned carrying a Bible.
Sekuba instantly recognized it. “That's it!” he exclaimed, bowing his head and clapping his hands softly. “That is the ‘Book.’”
“Your journey has ended,” the native pastor exclaimed. “You shall stay with me tonight.”
After the pastor led the group in prayer, the Africans—still marveling at Sekuba's strange story—wandered off to their huts.
The pastor lent the Bushman a sleeping mat and said he could sleep on the floor of the little hut used for cooking. He ordered his servant to prepare a meal for Sekuba. His stomach full after the lean days of desert travel, Sekuba went to sleep, content that he had found the object of his search. In a few days he could go after his family.
During the night he received another vision. The “shining one”—an angel—came again. “This is not the true church,” he said, to Sekuba's surprise. “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 the four brown books that are really nine.” Sekuba had forgotten to ask the pastor about them.
The next morning Sekuba arose early and patiently waited until the Bantu pastor emerged from the shadowy interior of his house. “I must leave you,” the Bushman said politely. “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.”
Startled, the pastor did not know what to say. “This is the chief's church,” he finally managed to sputter.
“Would the chief be wrong? You have not understood the shining one. He did not tell you to seek another church,” the minister argued irritably.
“Sir, I understood the shining one correctly. He showed me plainly what I must do. There are people who worship God on the seventh day. Please tell me where I may find them.”
The pastor became furious. Loudly he threatened the tiny man. Hearing angry voices, the neighbors began streaming from their homes to see what was happening. Haranguing the villagers, the pastor turned them against the Bushman. Hostility welled up in the people's minds and faces. They felt insulted because a desert savage had rejected their church. “The shining one told me to find the seventh-day church,” Sekuba repeated each time he had a chance to speak in his defense. But the angry people ignored his words.
As the argument around Sekuba continued, the Bantus became offended. They feared the Bushmen, yet looked down on them as inferior. They took Sekuba's wish to find another church as an injury against their chief's honor. Somehow they had to avenge their hurt tribal pride. At first they hurled abuse and ridicule on him. When Sekuba persisted in wanting to know where to locate the Sabbath observers, the mob placed him under arrest for defying the authority of the chief's church. The angry villagers hustled their prisoner aboard a truck and rode the forty miles to Serowe, capital of the Bamangwato tribe. There they dragged the defenseless man before the chief.
In the Kalahari he would have instantly killed anyone who threatened him. Now he stood before the unfriendly tribesmen's leader in the native court outside Serowe and listened to the charges made against him. The awe and power of his two visions still ruled his life. When the tribal leader demanded to know if the native pastor's claims were true, he answered that he had only asked for help to find the church that worshiped on the seventh day. He did not know much about the God who had sent the glowing being to speak to him, Sekuba continued, but he did know as long as he lived he would do what the dream had told him.
The chief recognized that Sekuba was talking about the Sabbath doctrine. He knew that the Bushman wanted to find the Seventh-day Adventists. The Bantu ruler's wife was one, so he knew about their beliefs. Not wanting the desert man's story to spread around and bring people's attention to the Adventists at the expense of his own church, the chief told Sekuba to be quiet. Sekuba refused. Again he stated he would obey and tell about his dreams as long as he had life.
A sizable crowd had gathered around the open-air court. The villagers who had brought Sekuba to Serowe had circulated among the Africans, turning the people against the Bushman. They feared the strange, secretive Bushmen and saw a chance to get revenge on one. Soon the mob began to get out of control. The chief wanted to make a decision on how to punish Sekuba. If the mob attacked Sekuba, the chief would lose prestige. He did not want that to happen. To prevent it, he decided to take the case to the district commissioner. At least then he would be making some kind of decision himself. It would be better than letting the mob take over.
The district commissioner, a European employed by the colonial government, patiently heard the details. He understood the reasons behind the Bantus’ actions. Not seeing any particular need to offend them, at first he threatened Sekuba also, warning him he would be punished for disturbing the peace. The Bushman did not change his story under the pressure. He continually repeated his desire to obey the visions and find the Sabbath keepers. Never once did he get tangled up in the details of his story. The fact that Sekuba could speak a language other than his own amazed the district commissioner enough, but that the uneducated native could logically cling to his tale of the angel's visits astounded him even more. A feeling almost of awe crept over the white man.
The commissioner mulled the case over in his mind. Sekuba had not committed any crime. In fact, he rather respected the courtesy and courage of the little Bushman who had the rare ability among his race of speaking fluent Tswana. Turning to the waiting Africans, he studied them a moment. They still milled angrily about. His gaze shifted to Sekuba's face. The crowd became silent as it sensed that the commissioner was about to pronounce judgment.
“You have committed no crime,” he addressed Sekuba. “You are free to go tell anyone you want to of your faith.” The white man signaled for the crowd to return to their homes, and Sekuba resumed his search undisturbed.
Darkness found the Bushman alone in the dry wilderness outside Serowe. He rested a moment, wondering what he should do next. The angel in the dream had told him to find Pastor Moyo. But where did the man live? Sekuba had no idea which way he should go. So far he had not prospered too well. He had nearly gotten into trouble. He had to find someone to help him. Perhaps, the Bushman thought, the shining one would come again if he asked him to. He had never talked to the great God before, but he would try. Alone in the desert he talked to the God whom he knew little about and whom he could not see—unlike the moon and stars his people normally worshiped. Sekuba prayed that God would direct him, would send him some kind of sign. Finishing his prayer, he curled up beneath a scrub bush and dropped off into confident sleep.
In the light of dawn he saw on the horizon a small cloud. Such a thing being rare in the dry, clear air of the semiarid country bordering the Kalahari, he accepted it as his sign. Gathering up his few possessions, he prepared to follow the cloud. He glanced at the sky. The sun would soon be high in the sky, searing anyone who ventured to walk abroad, but the heat did not bother Sekuba. He was used to it, and besides, he no longer wore only his loincloth. In Serowe he had picked up some European-style clothes.
Each day the cloud hovered in the northeast. For seven days and a distance of 118 miles he used it as a guide. At the end of his week of journeying he noticed buildings in the distance. They belonged to Tsessebe, a little settlement huddled beside the railroad running from the Congo to the city of Cape Town. The border of Bechuanaland and Southern Rhodesia was not far away.
The cloud disappeared, and Sekuba knew that he would find his goal in the railroad town. Since it was late in the day—almost sunset—he decided to spend the night outside the town rather than try to reach it after dark. He felt more secure and comfortable in the semidesert around the town.
Walking toward Tsessebe, Sekuba met a Bantu. Sekuba had his kaross draped over his quiver of arrows, and he wore European clothing. The Bantu did not recognize that the little brownish man was a Bushman, especially since Sekuba spoke Tswana. The Bantu gave him directions and continued on his way. Had he known Sekuba's identity, his fear and distrust of Bushmen would have turned him against the little desert dweller.
Sekuba found Pastor Moyo's house and tapped on the door. When the minister came to the door, he greeted him with “Dumelong,” the Tswana expression for “Good morning.” His kaross slipped off his shoulder, revealing his quiver of arrows and startling the Adventist pastor. He invited the Bushman inside. Using his ability to speak fluent Tswana, Sekuba again told of his dreams and the teachings of the shining one. “He commanded me to find the people with the ‘Book’ who worship on the seventh-day Sabbath,” he concluded.
Moyo went to a crude shelf on one wall and returned with his own Bible. “That is it,” his visitor nodded, but he remembered something else the angel had told him to look for. “Where are the four books that are really nine?” Instinctively the pastor reached for the four brown volumes of his set of Testimonies for the Church. Happiness covered the Bushman's wrinkled face. “Yes,” he exclaimed, “you belong to the people.”
All day the two talked together, Pastor Moyo explaining to Sekuba the great themes and doctrines of the Bible. He helped the Bushman understand a little about the God who had sent His angel to teach him how to read and write in the Tswana language and to tell him to find the Seventh-day Adventists. The pastor read to him about Christ, how He came as an infant to save the world, and how He would come a second time to take His followers to a faraway place called heaven.
Although Sekuba's miracle awed the Adventist minister, fear and distrust of all Bushmen lurked in his mind. He had grown up sharing the attitude of almost all Bantus who had met or who knew about the strange people of the Kalahari Desert. God knew that He must help Moyo overcome his suspicion. He sent the pastor a dream. In it he saw a text—Ezekiel 36:8. Awakening, he got up, lighted a candle, and flipped open his Bible. Locating the verse, Pastor Moyo 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.” He understood what God wanted him to know. His fear of the Bushmen vanished. God knew that the Bushmen were ready to accept the Bible, and He wanted Pastor Moyo to help them.
Sekuba studied the Bible with the Seventh-day Adventist pastor for two weeks. Then he decided he must return to his own people and tell them what he had learned. Before he left, he made Moyo promise that he would come and teach the Bushmen more.
Instead of returning to his nomadic life in the Kalahari Desert, Sekuba decided to live in the Nata crown lands, government-owned territory outside the areas where the various Bantu tribes lived. He was tired of the hazardous life of the desert hunters. With those willing to join him, he would start a new, more highly civilized life, one in which they would not have to move every few days or weeks to find food and water.
After Sekuba and his family had settled down as farmers, Pastor Moyo traveled to their new home by bicycle. His first visit lasted a week despite the fact that he had to go to a nearby trading post to buy his food. Besides Sekuba's family, he taught a number of Bushmen who had also taken up farming and who lived near Sekuba.
Sekuba grasped the teachings of the Bible. A few months later—in 1954—Pastor Daniel Mogegeh baptized him. The next year, his wife, brother, and sister accepted the rite of baptism. The Bushmen learned the Bible well. Their tradition of passing memorized stories and myths about their gods and ancestors down from generation to generation enabled the new Christians to remember long Scripture passages. Bushmen are intelligent people. They have to be to survive in the harsh environment of the Kalahari Desert. Their keen minds have learned to recognize every source of food and water.
Sekuba never lost his ability to speak, read, and write in the Tswana language. The Seventh-day Adventist Church ordained him as elder, evangelist, and pastor of the first Bushman church. Because of their harsh life, Bushmen do not live long. Sekuba died in 1957, only four years after his visions. But before his death he saw ten more members of his tribe baptized into the Adventist Church. Today at least fifty Bushmen have joined the church.
In his search for the people with the four books that were really nine, Sekuba had unconsciously recognized one of the important traits of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. God has given it the gift of prophecy, which invites all men to accept Jesus and follow Him to heaven.
D. A. Delafield and