We left the dirt road and turned into open desert. Packed into two trucks, our team of three American journalists and six Namibian missionaries careened between skeletal shrubs and across dry riverbeds. We got stuck in sand. We blew two tires. We hit an ostrich. After hours of driving through African wilderness, one of the missionaries turned in his seat to inform me, “We have not gone far yet.”

We were searching for Himba villages in the oldest desert on earth. A nomadic people, the Himba traverse northern Namibia with herds of goats and cattle. Their homes are constructed of sticks and caked mud, ideal for life on the move. When their animals run out of pasture or water — typically after a matter of months — the village picks up and moves to new territory.

This makes Himba communities very difficult to find. Fortunately, the missionaries who guided us were familiar with the desert and the people who live there. In a dry, rocky expanse without mile markers or paved roads, they navigated by an intuition I could never hope to imitate. This was their home turf.

We were searching for Himba villages in the oldest desert on earth. A nomadic people, the Himba traverse northern Namibia with herds of goats and cattle. Their homes are constructed of sticks and caked mud, ideal for life on the move. When their animals run out of pasture or water — typically after a matter of months — the village picks up and moves to new territory.

This makes Himba communities very difficult to find. Fortunately, the missionaries who guided us were familiar with the desert and the people who live there. In a dry, rocky expanse without mile markers or paved roads, they navigated by an intuition I could never hope to imitate. This was their home turf.

“Now, Christianity is spreading through the desert, new choruses rising in dozens of villages.”

We slid to a dusty stop and were met by an unexpected sound — raised voices in jubilant chorus. Roughly 30 Himba believers gathered under a natural trellis of arching trees, singing to the beat of an old Africa drum. Children stomped to the rhythm, their feet raising plumes of dust. Women danced in procession, their skin radiant with red lotion, their extravagant red braids swaying with every movement.

Having traveled for five days to get here, I was startled to find a familiar scene — brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping God with abandon.

A few decades ago, very few of the roughly 50,000 Himba people had ever heard the name of Jesus. Now, Christianity is spreading through the desert, new choruses rising in dozens of villages. It is largely the result of one man’s efforts.

Daniel Muharukua, a pastor and Every Home for Christ leader, is the son of a Himba chief. As a child, he watched his father sit at the holy fire, requesting favor from Mukuru. Regarded as a mysterious and aloof creator, Mukuru required the intercession of Himba ancestors to subdue his judgment. It was impossible for Daniel to have any personal relationship with this god.

When he came across a portion of the Bible as a young man, Daniel spent years trying to find someone who could explain it to him. He eventually drove 300 kilometers to find a church in another city, where he heard the Gospel for the first time. Transformed by his encounter with a loving God, he returned home with a mission that engages him to this day — sharing the Good News with all of the Himba tribe.

THE PIONEERS

Daniel Muharukua

Himba Pastor, Kunene Region

“We don’t come [to the Himba people] and say, ‘Hey, the worshipping of ancestors is wrong!’ No, no. First, we preach the pure Gospel — we talk about the love that God has for human beings. And when they hear about the love of God, it’s easy for them to change.”

Hansen Muhuka

Every Home Volunteer, Himba tribe

“You have to be ready for anything. Sometimes we sleep in the truck with no blanket, because we get stuck. If you don’t have a spare tire, you sleep there and make a fire. Those are everyday things. I have to sacrifice all that I have for the sake of the Gospel.”

Jeffrey Damaseb

National Director, Namibia

“When you have the love of God, it’s impossible to keep it to yourself. It’s a lifestyle — not just something I do. Every morning I wake up, I know that there must be somebody who wants to hear the message.”

Douglas Mudimba

Regional Director, East Africa

“There can be no better joy than being part of what God is doing on the earth. It puts you at the center stage of the salvation of mankind — in your own community.”

The implications of this work cannot be overstated. As I visited startup churches throughout the Namib Desert and shook hands with person after person — a unique Namibian handshake that I somehow botched every time — my palm came away stained red. These people who were leaving their mark on me were nearly all first- generation Christians. If I were to peer back through their family histories, it was unlikely that I would find even one person who had encountered the Gospel.

The Himba people have been without a gospel witness since their inception. For them, the Gospel is not only “good news” in a general sense — it is news. And this news is sorely needed.

Systemic injustice confronts the Himba in myriad forms. In the twentieth century, they endured apartheid and forced migration. In the twenty-first, they have averted various attempts by the Namibian government to exploit their land’s resources. Even within local villages, witch doctors often capitalize on complex power dynamics to rob their own communities. They exact costly payments for remedies that rarely work, and they collect bribes from criminals to misdirect their victims.

The Gospel is the exact inverse of these injustices — a free gift that heals people and restores communities.

Pastor Daniel has teamed up with a small band of resilient missionaries and volunteers to speed Good News to Himba villages. There are Douglas and Jeffrey, faithful Every Home for Christ leaders, who travel the nation to equip missionaries with much-needed training and resources. As I dozed in the backseat of Douglas’s truck at the end of a long day, I could hear the two of them softly praying through
the night. Then there’s Hansen, a public school teacher who spends all his free time evangelizing.

“Every weekend, every holiday, I’m doing this,” he told me. “Sometimes, you finish at midnight, you drive back home, go to work.”

For this team, evangelism is not just a matter of dropping off gospel literature and moving on. Himba culture is built on trust, and trust takes a deeper investment. Missionaries like Jeffrey or Hansen must often walk many kilometers through trackless desert just to find one small village, and when they arrive, they stay.

“Normally, when we go out on mission, we go and sleep overnight,” Hansen says. “You come, you preach, you leave, you come back, you preach. And while you are preaching, they are observing you. They want to compare your message with your lifestyle.”

This team has spent decades building trust with Himba villages. When I asked Pastor Daniel if anyone else is working among the Himba people, he couldn’t think of anyone. After all, who would go? The Himba live in one location on earth and speak a language that is exclusive to their people. They are hesitant to receive outsiders, and any gospel presentation they receive must be embedded in their local culture.

Another missionary, Pastor Julius, told me about the failed attempts of western missionaries who lacked respect for Himba clothing or culture.

“Many missionaries, when the Himba people receive Christ, they want them to change their dress. They will never win them.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because they want to take away their culture. They are robbing them of their inheritance. They are not winning them for Christ. To win the people, you need to win their heart — not change their clothes.”

When Pastor Daniel and his team preach among Himba villages, they use local customs to communicate the Gospel. They talk about shepherding. They use their mutual belief in a creator as a starting place for conversation. They respect their culture, because it is their own.

During the course of our trip, we met with nine different Himba congregations — small churches that gathered under trees or in sheds. Pastor Daniel was a spiritual father to every single one.

In one church, I got the chance to sit down with Kombopi and a translator. Before she knew Jesus, Kombopi suffered six painful miscarriages. Following the local custom, she sought out herbal remedies and healing incantations from several witch doctors. She had visited witch doctors ever since she was a child, even though she felt uneasy in their presence. Her family, like many Himba families, lacked any alternative.

When Pastor Daniel’s team met Kombopi, they didn’t request any payment or ask for favors. They prayed, and God healed her of her infirmity. Kombopi gave birth to her first child.

When Every Home missionaries arrive in a village, they make no demands. They work among the Himba people like Paul among the Thessalonians: “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed… we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God”

(1 Thess. 2:5, 9).

On our final day together, Pastor Daniel drove me once again across dry riverbeds and over sandy plains. I was tired from a week of traveling, but I knew that after I returned to the comfort of my home, he and his team would continue to push past their exhaustion to reach the nomads of the Namib Desert. There are thousands who have not yet heard, for whom Pastor Daniel takes personal responsibility.

“You see there?” he said, gesturing to distant mountains. “There are houses up there, somewhere.”

“And we must reach there,” Hansen added. “Because it’s every home.”

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