Three times a District Apostle: at work in the heart of Africa

They are considered the New Apostolic heart of Africa: Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. It was on this date 100 years ago that one of the region's founding fathers was born: District Apostle Fernandes. But which one? After all, there are no less than three of them.

The story begins with the fourth of this family name: Alfred Francis Fernandes, who helped build up the first congregation in Cape Town. The title page of the South African "New Apostolic Review" of 14 December 1930 reports on him — in an obituary. The simple Priest had just passed away a week before.

At the time, his son, Andrew James Fernandes, who had been born on 28 March 1917, was just thirteen years of age. Among his ten siblings was his older brother, Hubert Howes Fernandes. Over the ensuing years, the latter would become his employer, colleague in ministry, and blessing bearer.

Restless times in the country and the Church

Difficult times prevailed when the brothers Fernandes assumed their leading functions in the Church: the "Iron Apostle", Heinrich Franz Schlaphoff, formerly Chief Apostle Helper for the entire southern hemisphere, had had to give up his duties in 1954. And no less than three new District Apostles were needed to take care of his working area in Africa, namely Arno Abicht for the Cape Region, Jacobus Kreunen for what would later become Southeast Africa, and Hubert Fernandes for Rhodesia, which is today known as the District Church of Zambia – Zimbabwe – Malawi .

District Apostle Fernandes was supported by his brother, Andrew, who was ordained an Apostle in 1957. The two men would often have to undertake long and difficult journeys in order to care for the members in this vast expanse of land. "The so-called roads that lead there are not passable by ordinary vehicles," relates a travelling companion. "What’s more, in some areas it is impossible to find accommodation." And things really started to become dangerous in the 60's and 70's, when a guerrilla and civil war raged in the region.

Development in education and music

In 1971, Andrew Fernandes was called to become a District Apostle: he took over the care of Zambia and Malawi for his brother. This was because Hubert had already been battling a difficult handicap for some time: he had had to have first one leg, then later the other, amputated. In 1976 he retired from ministry, and died shortly thereafter.

So it was that Andrew Fernandes also assumed responsibility for Zimbabwe, in addition to Botswana and parts of Zaire, for a time. He introduced Sunday School and Religious Instruction in his working area, and also began developing the choirs in the region. Under his leadership, the membership grew to around half a million.

Successor and farewell

Andrew Fernandes had two successors in the District Apostle ministry: Anthony H. H. Fernandes, the son of his brother Hubert, took charge of the countries of Zimbabwe and Malawi in 1989. And for Zambia, Duncan Burton Mfune became the very first dark-skinned District Apostle. The three countries under the latter's successor, present-day District Apostle Charles Sakavumbi Ndandula, have now been reunited into one District Church. He had been sealed in 1975 by District Apostle Andrew Fernandes.

Andrew James Fernandes died in June 1989 at the age of 72. His funeral was conducted by Chief Apostle Richard Fehr. The Bible text from 2 Timothy 4: 7-8 also incorporated the verse that had captioned the obituary of his father, Alfred Francis Fernandes nearly 60 years before: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."