Spiritual father of millions

Figuring out the correct dates of his life is a challenge. But then the pioneers of those days had more important things to do than writing down numbers for posterity. What matters is the spiritual legacy: Apostle George Henwood Mkandawire would have celebrated his 120th birthday in a few days.

We are in the year 1954: Racial segregation had just been declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court, although not all states accepted the Supreme Court’s decision. That would take another decade. In South Africa, however, the Apartheid policy had just been sanctioned. It was exactly in that year that the New Apostolic Church ordained its first black Apostles.

Student follows his mentor into the unknown

George Mkandawire—then still without Henwood as a middle name—was born in Mzimba in Nyasaland, modern Malawi. His father was able to send him to a mission school in Livingstone. “I directed all my striving towards coming into contact with God and Christ,” it says in his autobiographical data.

A teacher recognised the talents of the unusually gifted student and encouraged him. The man’s name is Henwood. When the teacher returned to Cape Town, young George decided to join him and his family. The couple took George into their home, who then also assumed the name Henwood.

Stopped on the way home

In South Africa the young man met his later wife, through whom he became New Apostolic. He was sealed in 1923. In the congregation of Athlone he stood out as a particularly active member. His biography lists 1926 and 1927 as the years of his ordination as a Priest and Evangelist. He earned his living as a shoemaker.

On a trip home in 1928, Henwood made a stopover in Northern Rhodesia, modern Zambia. In Livingstone, the capital at the time, in a conversation with fellow shoemakers his testimony of the New Apostolic faith fell on fertile ground. He decided to stay and thus laid the foundation for the first congregations, which received state recognition as early as 1929.

Reaching his goal

Step by step the New Apostolic faith gained a foothold throughout the country. In the 1940s Mkandawire finally also brought his faith home: as a District Elder he sent missionaries to Nyasaland. The reports they sent back were encouraging.

The only country missing now was Southern Rhodesia, modern Zimbabwe, which was introduced to the New Apostolic faith from South Africa. This is the District Apostle Area that looks after the entire region. Some 1.5 million members currently belong to this Regional Church. The members are cared for by some 43,000 ministers under the leadership of 27 Apostles.

On Christmas Day 1955 Apostle Henwood sealed an 18-year-old who was to play a major role in this development: Duncan Burton Mfune. He became the first black District Apostle in 1988.

Photo: NAC International

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Andreas Rother
Congregational life, People/Personalities