A ship carried a 28 year old George Schmidt the long journey from Netherlands to Cape Town during the early months of 1737. The ship belonged to the Dutch East Indian Company and was heavy with employees and cargo belonging to the Dutch empire of the day. Schmidt spent his days on the rocky boat, praying and preparing for what lay ahead. Being a missionary however, his heart for the gospel was known by everyone around him. The ship was a hotbed of foul speech, drunkenness, vanity and all kinds of godless behaviour. One day, as the cool sea breeze blew on the deck, Schmidt sat down with a few men. “Friends, I have been with you quite a while now. I know that you all say you are Christians, and that you love the Lord; but I must ask you, don’t you think it is a contradiction to live such godless lives and still call yourself Christians?” There was an awkward pause... he continued with a humble tone, “I mean I noticed that some of you are often drunk, and very often you speak in such perverse and filthy ways - ought not our speech to be always in heaven? Giving grace to those who hears us? Surely you men know that it is not enough to know the truths of Scripture and to call oneself a Christian, one must have the testimony of that truth in your life.” The conversation died away, and he didn’t have much response from the men that day.
He had one fruitful conversation with a Swiss soldier appeared to be truly converted and started hungering after the Lord. On another occasion he spoke to the Dominie (Minister) on the ship, and asked him if his conscience didn’t prick him when he gambled with the other officers. During his evangelistic efforts on the ship, he managed to begin a weekly Bible Study group where four of the ships employees began meeting with him.
On July the 9th 1737 the ship carrying young George Schmidt made its way to Anchor in Cape Town . As the ship sailed to Table Bay, he looked with longing at the coastline, noticing the warehouses and shipyards and behind them townhouses with white lime plaster walls, green shutters and thatched roofs. How many eternal souls were represented by what he saw?
When Schmidt disembarked, walking along van Riebeek’s jetty by the Castle; he was surprised at the impressive double storey townhouses of the wealthy Burghers and VOC officials, intermingled with taverns, lodgings and workshops. The roads were rough, and animals wandered openly. Open sewage sullied spots along the way; but to Schmidt this was a great improvement from being at sea for months. It was an attractive town, but there was an ominous darkness that hung in the air.
This was a historic event! The first Protestant missionary to ever reach the shores of South Africa had arrived. At the time people didn’t think much of it. In fact Schmidt was ridiculed for desiring to evangelize the oppressed Khoi Khoi people. The Reformed Church in Cape town had come to see the Khoi Khoi as less than human and beyond redemption . Some thought these natives...