BethanienBethanien lies on the C14 Pad, which turns off the B4, approx 110 kilometers west of Keetmanshoop and then leads to the north.
The village has a strong spring and therefore as early as 1804 Orlam Nama people settled in this area. In 1814, the missionary Johann Hinrich Schmelen was sent to Bethanien by the London Mission Society to christianize the Nama. Schmelen built the first stonehouse in Namibia, now known as the "Schmelen House". It is surrounded by several beautiful palm trees and is a National Monument today. It houses the mission history museum of Bethanien.
Pastor Schmelen married a Nama woman called Zara, who helped him to learn the Nama language and translate parts of the New Testament. However, the mission work proved to be very difficult. Not only did the Nama continue their raids against the Herero, but some actually mistrusted the missionary. After he was blamed for a long drought and a terrible cricket plague, Schmelen gave up and left Bethanien in 1828 with his wife and four children.
A few years later, the mission of Bethanien was taken over by the Rhenish Mission Society who erected a new church.
And so the little village of Bethanien - with around 3000 residents - is now the logistic centre for the surrounding farms and Nama settlements. It boasts a couple of impressive churches, all in immediate vicinity to the Schmelen House. The two oldest but most beautiful ones belong to the Lutheran parish. Visitors are welcome to attend the Sunday services. The language used for the preaches is usually Afrikaans. Particularly impressive is the singing of the Nama parishoners.
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Top: Pastor Dean du Toit of the Lutheran parish in Bethanien. Bottom left: The spring of Bethanien, surrounded by palm tree grove.