The Murray Family History – From Scotland to Nyasaland via South Africa

Here is a fascinating bit of the Murray family history.  It’s part of the book, William Murray of Nyasaland which I am currently working on.  Enjoy:

andrew-murray-africa-for-christ--pal-box The first missionary of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa to go to Nyasaland was the Rev. A. C. Murray, a son of the Dutch Reformed parsonage of Graaff Reinet.

The Murray family of which he was a member, played a very important part in the church and the religions life of the Dutch people in South Africa.  About thirty to sixty years ago, quite a large number of our ministers and missionaries either belonged to the Murray family or were connected with it by marriage.  The first Murray to come to South Africa was Andrew Murray, a minister of the Church of Scotland, who had wanted to become a missionary.  His mother had, however, strongly objected as she was afraid that if he became a missionary, he would be devoured by cannibals!  He had therefore not gone to the mission field, but in 1821 he accepted an invitation go go to the Cape of Good Hope.  Dr. Thom, the Dutch Reformed Church minister at Caledon, was on a visit to England and Lord Charles Somerset, at that time Governor at the Cape, had charged him to try and find ministers for the vacant congregations at the Cape to obtain teachers as well.  One of the first ministers whom Dr. Thom found was Andrew Murray, who felt that the need at the Cape was so great that he dared not refuse the invitation.  At the same time, he also saw in his going to South Africa an opportunity to do something with regard to mission work amongst the natives and thus to fulfill a long-felt urge.

After his arrival at the Cape, a notice appeared in the Government Gazette to the effect that he had been appointed to the congregation at Graaff Reinet.  He was to live and labour there for the next 45 years.

In 1824, two years after his arrival at Graaff Reinet, he undertook a journey to Cape Town to attend the sitting of the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church.  There he met the young lady who was to become his wife, Maria Susanna Stegmann, the eldest child of Johan Gotlob Stegmann and Jacomina Sophia Hoppe, both of German descent.

When Mr. Murray arrived in South Africa, he could speak Dutch fairly well as he had spent ten months in Holland, before coming out, to learn the language, and he very soon identified himself with his adopted country.

In course of time eleven children were born to the couple in the Graaff Reinet parsonage.  The eldest son John, born in 1826, was later to become one of the professors at the Theological Seminary at Stellenbosch.  The second born son in 1828, became the famous church-father and prolific writer on spiritual subjects whose books are known throughout the world to-day, – Andrew Murray of Wellington.  The third son William, born in 1829, later minister at Worcester, was the father of the subject of this book.  The fifth child was Charles, who was to become his father’s successor at Graaff Reinet and Andrew Charles Murray who became the first Dutch Reformed Church missionary to Nyasaland, was his son.  The youngest son of the parsonage, George, also became a minister so that out of the six sons born to Andrew Murray and Maria Stegmann, five became ministers of the Gospel whilst four daughters married ministers.

Andrew Charles Murray – he was always known as “A.C.” to distinguish him from his father and his uncle – had felt himself called to the mission-field when he was a student at the Theological Seminary at Stellenbosch, where he became the first secretary of the Student’s Missionary Society.  In that capacity he had written to Dr. Stewart of Lovedale to ask advice with regard to a new field of work, where the gospel was unknown, and Dr. Stewart had replied that Nyasaland was such a field and that missionaries of our church would be heartily welcome there by the Scottish missionaries.

 Look out for the book, William Murray of Nyasaland which will be coming out in the next few months – and please remember to pray for this work.  Thank you very much!

The Importance of Time Alone with God

the-door-to-the-aloneYou can transact life-shaping business with God when you’re alone with Him.  Look at the record:

Jacob was alone when he crossed the Jabbok and spent the night wrestling with the Angel of the Lord.

Moses was alone when the Lord revealed Himself through the burning bush, giving an old man a fresh vision for life and a great work to accomplish.

Joshua was alone when he met a warrior angel prior to the attack on Jericho.

Manoah’s wife was alone in the field when the angel of the Lord appeared to her and gave her news about the baby she was to bear – a boy named Samson.

Isaiah was alone when he received his commission from the Lord, saw the Lord high and lifted up, and tasted the burning coals of holiness on his tongue.

Elisha was alone when the mantle of the prophet fell across his shoulders.

Paul was alone when the mantle of the prophet fell across his shoulders.

Paul was alone in the Arabian desert when the Lord gave him personal instructions about preaching the Word.

Mary was alone when the angel brought her the message that she would give birth to the Savior.

John was alone – exiled – on the island of Patmos when he received his matchless revelation of things to come.

If you need a word from the Lord – direction, help, – set aside time to be alone with Him.  Expect Him to speak to you.  Guidance and real fellowship only come in those times of solitude, in an hour when you say to the Lord, “I need You.”

Source:  A Lifetime of Wisdom, Embracing the Way God Heals You by Joni Eareckson Tada

Malawi before Christian Missionaries

I am working on a new edition of a book entitled, William Murray of Nyasaland which should be released in a couple of months or so, Lord willing.  The book is centered on the Rev. Dr. William Murray of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in South Africa who went to Malawi as a missionary in the late 1800’s.  It’s an interesting read.  One of the most remarkable things in the book is the transformation which the gospel has brought to Malawian life and culture.  It’s quite powerful to see how far we have come as a people because of the gospel.  I share with you this long excerpt from the book.

This was what life was like in Malawi before the arrival of the missionaries as reported by the then Evangelist Namoni Katengeza who became the first ordained minister in the Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (C.C.A.P.):

Maji_majiThe state of affairs was terrible because the Native chiefs were like roaring lions, – I mean the Angoni chiefs who had conquered the inhabitants of this country.  They thought no more of killing people than one would think of killing a fowl and had no idea of the value of a man’s life, such as the Word of God teaches.  The Angoni had conquered the Achewa of this country and looked upon them as slaves without any value.  They showed them no mercy and if a man hated another and wanted him out of the way, he would accuse him of some crime before the headman, even if it was not true.  It was useless for the accused to deny the accusation, – the headman simply had him put to death.  If someone should accuse a man of being a mfiti, that is a sorcerer who eats human flesh, or of being a thief, then a small army, or “war” as they called it, was sent by the headman to seize all in that kraal, men, women and children, and to bring them back as prisoners, – not a soul might escape.  Every man was killed and the women and children were sold as slaves.  If a man had a wife with a pretty or attractive face, the Ngoni-chief would say: “It is not fitting for a slave to have such a pretty wife” and he would take her for himself.  Her husband would be killed so that he might not find a way of recovering her or of poisoning the chief.  Or suppose the headman had married a wife from a far-away kraal.  If she visited her own kraal too frequently or stayed away too long, the headman would say:  “She is insulting me” and he would send for her and her mother and would put them both to death.  All such victims were done to death with assegais. 
A Ngoni warriorBut the Angoni-headmen had another custom, namely that of the poison-cup, – Mwabvi.  The chief would say:  “I want to clear my country of mfiti and thieves and adulterers,” and would send for a mwabvi-doctor and his poison bag.  Messengers would then be sent to all the kraals to summon his people to his headkraal to drink the poison-cup.  Everyone had to be there on an appointed day and those who refused or fled were put to death unless they had a  lawful reason for not coming. All present had to drink the poison-cup and if large numbers of them died, the chief and his indunas rejoiced and said that the country had now been cleansed of all its evil inhabitants.  If parents were among those who died of the poison, the headman would give their children to the witchdoctor as payment.  Those who escaped death by being able to vomit the poison were very happy because they could say:  “We are good people who have not practised sorcery or done any other evil.”
Another means of testing people was boiling water.  If a woman was accused of adultery and was ordered to appear before the headman and she denied the accusation, he would say:  “Come back to-morrow morning early and we shall see if you are innocent.” On her return the following day, he would order a pot of water to be put on the fire and as soon as the water was very hot, she had to thrust her hand deep down in it.  Should her hand show traces of burns the next day, she would be judged guilty and the man who had shared her sin would be brought and the two be put to death without mercy, as the tribe believed that if such people were allowed to live they would be the cause of an epidemic of small-pox or some other evil.
These Angoni customs resulted in the depopulation of the country and to-day there are many people who have lost their families and friends because of it.
To obtain clothing was also a reason for going to war.  The first prisoner taken, – woman or child – belonged to the headman, but if more than one was taken, the headman would allow their captor to keep the others so that he could buy clothes for his wife and children.  The Angoni looked upon captives as the money with which they could buy clothes, and the Arab slave-traders, who were the merchants of that time, bought these prisoners as slaves and carried them off to far distant countries.  The currency in which they paid the Angoni for their slaves was clothing. 
Such were the dreadful things in this country which were causing the extermination of the people before the Word of God was brought to them.
koyi-ngonichiefWhy did the first missionaries encounter such terrific opposition?  Because they wanted to put a stop to these wars and raids and opposed the poison-cup and the ordeal of boiling water.  They told the headmen:  “You must stop making war on each other because you are destroying your own nation.  See how empty of inhabitants your own country has become!”
The result was that the Angoni headmen were bent on killing these messengers of God because they forbad these evil deeds and opposed them.  But the Lord softened the hearts of some of the headmen who had influence, and not only they but also their great chief, CHIWERE, became the friend of the messengers of the Lord and did not betray them. (These extracts are taken from a missionary magazine, Die Koningsbode, Feb., 1931).

Look out for the book coming out in a couple of months.  God bless!