© Copyright: Eureka S. Beutler 2017

Yes, I could have cut this biography shorter, but if I think of the hours and years she

humbly dedicated, I feel small.

Besides, there is a wonderful story to be shared here.

When you read it, you will understand why I call it authentic and why I chose to dedicate

an exhibition to her and her cause!

It is lovingly written by her youngest daughter, Reinhild.

So, here is the  history of some courageous Souls, who were willing to risk everything,

for their Faith & Love of Christ & Humanity.

Sincerely Eureka
Written by: Reinhild Niebuhr, Chairperson THEMBA TRUST, 28 March 2017   reinhildn@gmail.com On 28 October 1853 a ship named ‘Candace’ – which was the title of the female Emperors of Ethiopia - left the harbour in Lüneburg, Germany, with the aim to take the first group of missionaries from the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission to Africa. Two of them, Jürgen Heinrich Schröder and Heinrich Wilhelm Müller, were the ancestors of my mother, Ingrid Anna Wichmann, who was born on 9 June 1940. My mom, Ingrid, was a child of Hermann Wichmann, a very entrepreneurial farmer, and Margarete Schroeder, both active members of the German-speaking community living in the area of Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal, which had grown out of the descendants of the Hermannsburg Missionaries in this part of the world. She had two olders sisters, Lotte and Edelgard, three younger sisters, Röschen My mom was apparently a rather serious child, according to her younger brother, my uncle Hugo Wichmann, and a true ‘Leseratte’. (Reading-Rat) Because she was a talented child, she started school early, at the age of five. She did very well at school, performing well academically, in sport, arts and crafts, and also shared a musical gift with the rest of her family.

I‘d like to honour an individual, who depicts

the essence of an evolved Human Being &

an authentic Christian!

I am humbled by her Life and her ways:

Ingrid Anna Wichmann Niebuhr

The Life Story of Ingrid Niebuhr,  geb. Wichmann
She completed her primary schooling at the German school in Uelzen, near Dundee, in KwaZulu-Natal, riding  to school in a donkey cart with her siblings, from her father’s farm, Dondola.  She continued her high school education at the Catholic Convent Girls School in Dundee and had lots of colourful  stories to tell about school life living among the nuns. She loved learning and was traumatised when her father  took her out of school in Grade 11, because tragedy had struck the family for a second time.  The first tragedy had happened a few years before. One of my mom’s younger sisters, Rosalie, a lovely,  healthy little girl, had suffered from German measles (Rubella) at the age of five and had become severely  mentally and physically disabled. She practically had to be cared for as if she were an infant again: she was  bedridden, had to be fed and could not speak or react in any normal manner. This meant that my grandmother  could never leave the house, except to go to church at Uelzen on Sundays, bringing ‘Röschen’ along in the back  of the car. When this happened, the three younger children – my mother’s brother and two younger sisters –  were also still very little. Then my grandmother had another baby, a boy called Reinhard.  At the time my mother was 14 years old, and already in high school. But when Reinhard was 18 months old,  he was diagnosed with Leukemia. My grandmother was heartbroken and could not cope with two children who  were sick. Because my mother’s two older sisters had already started training as nurses in Pietermartizburg,  my grandfather decided to take my mother out of school, to help her mom at home.   Why am I telling this story? Because my mother personally experienced the frustration of not being  able to complete her high school education and this became a driving force for her to help ‘make  sure’ that the farmworker children from deep rural areas around Themba, could finish their Matric.  Reinhard died when he was two years old. By then her schoolmates had already completed their Matric and  my mom did not go back to school. Instead, she married my father, Edgar Niebuhr, at the age of 19, and their  first baby, Helga, was born when she was 21. Eighteen months later the second daughter, Karola, was born,  and another eighteen months later, I arrived. My mom – who had hoped for a boy – named me ‘Reinhild’, after  my uncle, who had lived for only two years.  When I was 18 months old my parents took us along to an evangelistic outreach by a highly regarded preacher,  ‘Dominee’ Willie Marais, from the Dutch Reformed Church. I asked my mom about this very clear childhood  memory many years later and she was quite astonished that I could remember the meeting, because I was still  a baby. She shared with me that during that evening sermon, she had been blessed with a spiritual experience,  which gave her a short glimpse of what heaven is like. When we were little, she often had said  “I can’t WAIT to go to heaven!”, and every time she said this her whole face was shining with joy.  At the time we would complain and say, “But we still need you here, Mama!”, not understanding that she was  simply referring to this spiritual experience she had had, which had given her such a strong God-consciousness  and made her such a joyful Christian, with an unwaivering faith in Jesus.  I often tell people that I had an absolutely idyllic childhood, growing up on the farm Rondekopje, with my parents  and my two sisters, a toy pom dog called Goldie and a horse called ‘Bless’. My father’s family was from the area  around Paulpietersburg, also in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and close to the German Church congregation and  school of Lüneburg – another missionary settlement founded by missionaries of the Hermannsburg Mission.  When I was born my parents were living in the tiny village of Hattingspruit, near my mother’s parents farm,  and my father was working as an engineering draughtsman in the coal mining industry. At the time both Dundee  and Glencoe were important coal centres. When my oldest sister Helga had to start school, my parents moved  to the farm Rondekopje, which my father had inherited, so that she could be close to Lüneburg school,  and my father could help his mother and younger brother with the family farm.  All three of us children attended school in Lüneburg, living in the hostel from the age of six.  My mom loved children, and it was quite difficult for her to have to leave us at the hostel every Sunday after  the church service, only to see us again when we would come home for the weekend. But this also made it  possible for her to become a very active member in the community we were living in. I remember when I was a  child, my mother was always active in organising Bible studies, both with German-speaking members of the  Lüneburg congregation and English- and Afrikaans-speaking friends in Paulpietersburg. I also remember her  always teaching handcraft and candlemaking classes, as well as reading Bible stories and praying with,  the wives of the farmworkers living on our farm, as well as with black women living in the ‘township’ eDumbe,  next to the town of Paulpietersburg. She was an avid gardener and loved painting and participated in the ‘ Women’s Institute’ association as an enthusiastic member, at some point serving as the local branch President.  She was also often asked to stand in as a teacher at the primary school in Piet Retief, when the need arose, and  also helped out as a Matron at the Lüneburg school a couple of times, when I was in high school already.  My father, who later on handed over all agricultural responsibilities to his younger brother, focused on building  construction, engineering consulting, car mechanics and architectural drawings. He was always supporting the  Pastors and Missionaries in the area, building farmschools and mission churches, homes for teachers and  pastors and repairing motorbikes for evangelists.  Together, our parents loved leading Church youth outreaches, for instance, to Botswana, building strong  relationships with especially Lutheran missionaries, but also supporting missionaries in our area, who were linked  to other denominations. Our parents also were among the handful of ‘white’ participants in the ‘black’ church  services and ‘Mission Festivals’ of the Zulu congregations which were the fruit of the work of the Lutheran Missions  – both the Hermannsburg Mission and the Bleckmarer Mission, which is now called the Lutheran Church Mission  (Lutherische Kirchenmission – LKM). I remember many hours of my early life spent listening to Zulu sermons  and to beautiful Zulu gospel choirs. Both my parents spoke Zulu fluently and loved to interact with Zulu people,  reaching out in different ways during a time when Apartheid was forcing people of different colours apart. I remember as a nine year old I was already ‘brainwashed’ at school into Apartheid.  I was also a very strict little ‘Lutheran’, who had been taught in religious education classes that emotions should  be avoided in faith, since ‘charismatic’ churches would use emotions to make people ‘feel’ as if they love God,  while in reality this was not always the case. The logic was that if people would focus on ‘feeling’ their faith, they  might struggle to keep their faith in times when their ‘good feelings’ may have disappeared. My mother was a  rather ‘emotional’ Christian and she had lots of friends who were not Lutheran, even some who could be described  as ‘charismatic’, so at the time I suspected that she may also have some ‘strange ideas’ about Apartheid.  I still don’t know what my motivation was, but somehow I wanted to ‘catch her out’. So, one weekend when I was  home from the hostel, I walked out into the garden at sunset to where my mom was busy with one of her  favourite activities: watering the garden. “Mama, is it wrong for a white woman to marry a black man?”, I  asked her, knowing that, of course, this was ILLEGAL in Apartheid South Africa.  My mom didn’t even look at me, but continued looking at the beautiful sunset while watering the garden,  waiting for a few moments before answering:  ”If both of them are Christians, I cannot see anything wrong with them marrying.”  This was such a ‘Jesus’ answer!  I could feel my face go red in shame and I slunk off, like the ‘Judas’ I felt like. I remember this moment so clearly,  because even while I was only nine years old, for me it was a turning point in terms of my own conscious decision  to denounce racism. My mom had clearly pointed me to the Bible, which teaches us that all human beings are  equal. The colour of our skin is completely irrelevant. The thing that should concern us all is our relationship  to God. The Bible teaches us that marrying someone who does not love God will result in a difficult life. I got that.  I am still deeply impressed by the fact that my mother, who was in her early 30s at the time, had the power of  conviction to speak out against the Apartheid laws of her country. It is true that in the time and place we were  living, acting against the Authorities was not something that formed part of our lives. During these times in the  70s and early 80s my parents were very much part of the ‘establishment’ which believed that our country,  South Africa, was at war against the Communists, and not that we were actually also at war with ourselves –  white South Africans vs black South Africans. I certainly never heard my parents tell me that we had to fight the  ‘Swart Gevaar’ (Black Danger). We never experienced any danger from our black fellow citizens. But my parents  were certainly actively supporting efforts to prevent Communism – which promoted secular beliefs and  oppressed Christian believers.  One of my uncles was a missionary, Stillfried Niebuhr. He is in his eighties now. He was a missionary of the  Bleckmarer Mission, which is now called the Lutheran Church Mission (Lutherische Kirchenmission – LKM).  He was an older brother of my father and he and his wife, Elisabeth (neé Schnackenberg), were living and working  in Dirkiesdorp, a tiny village about 80km north-west of Paulpietersburg. Their daughter, Adelheid, is my cousin  and we have been ‘best friends’ since childhood. Our family very often went to visit the Niebuhrs in Dirkiesdorp,  and my parents supported the work of our family’s ‘Missionary’ in any way they could. To my parents’ outrage,  during the Apartheid years, my Christian missionary uncle was called a ‘Communist’, because he was openly  criticising racist attitudes and lobbying the Apartheid government to build schools for black children in so-called  ‘white designated’ areas. He had managed since the 1960s to establish 28 primary schools on farms in the areas  around Dirkiesdorp, Piet Retief, Lüneburg and Paulpietersburg, together with a fellow Lutheran missionary,  Gottfried Stallmann, who was based near Piet Retief. There was nothing ‘communistic’ about wanting to help  children to fulfil their potential, especially since all these schools provided an opportunity to teach children about  Jesus Christ.   Both of our parents instilled missionary values in our hearts, with much greater value being placed on helping  others and reaching out to people with the Gospel of Christ, than on gathering ‘worldly’ goods.  But while my childhood was an idyllic experience, when I grew to become a teenager, our family went through  very difficult times. My father, who had earned the nickname ‘Prof’ in our community, because he was really  good at solving problems, had inadvertently become addicted to alcohol. It happened without anyone really  realising what was going on – except my mother. He loved interacting with people and he loved helping out  people. Typically what would happen, is that someone would call my dad to ask him to help fix a broken borehole  pump or some other mechanical thing. So my dad would make time to drive out to the farmer who had asked  for help and fixed the problem. But because he had a generous spirit, he would not accept payment for his  assistance. So, instead, the person who called on his help, would offer him ‘at least’ a beer. Over the beer  inevitably people started telling my dad all their problems, because he was such a good listener, and of course,  this would lead to another beer. And another beer. And eventually my dad could not function properly any longer,  without drinking alcohol…  Alcoholism in the family is a ‘terrible secret’ that many wives and children, and – thankfully – not as many  husbands, live with. I saw my mother praying, on her knees, for many years, praying that my father would be  healed from his addiction to alcohol. We were fortunate in the sense that my father would not get violent when  he was drunk. In fact, he remained a very sweet man. He also remained a very committed Christian.  But the truth is: he was sick from alcohol. My sisters did not experience this as much as I did, because by the time  things really got bad, they were already students living in Pretoria. I went through the trauma of waiting with my  mother for my father to come home at night, knowing that he had driven off in response to someone’s call for  help with a borehole pump… and not knowing if he would return home safely! This was in a time when cellphones  still only existed in the fantasy of a child.  In fact, twice my father wrote off his ‘bakkie’ (pick-up truck), on the dirt road close to our house.  Each time, the vehicle was a complete write-off. And each time, my father was unharmed, walking back to the  house and arriving, completely drunk, just collapsing on his bed. As a self-righteous and silly young teenager,  I remember encouraging my mom to divorce my father at the time, because I could see how she was suffering and  how he was making a fool of himself, embarrassing her and me, during weddings and other community events  where alcohol was served. But she just said quietly: ”He is my husband and he is sick. I made a promise to God to  stay with him, in sickness and in health. I know that one day God will answer my prayer and he will be healed.”  During this time I was completing my high school education at the secondary school in Piet Retief.  My cousin Adelheid and I were in the same class, and she had invited me to stay with her parents in Dirkiesdorp,  so that I did not have to live in the hostel in Piet Retief during my last year of school. I truly enjoyed staying with  my Missionary uncle and aunt, whose work I had always respected very much. Living with my uncle and aunt,  however, just highlighted the ‘chaos’ of my parents life at the time, since ‘Onkel’ Stillfried and ‘Tante’ Elisabeth were  living very orderly lives, with a peaceful routine and work focused on community development and ministry tasks.  I was far too ashamed to mention, even to my best friend Adelheid, that my father was struggling with alcohol  addiction and that my mother was either praying on her knees or in tears most of the time.  During this year my father often came to Dirkiesdorp to help my uncle with various issues, and whenever he  visited he was thankfully sober. But I knew that probably the next day, when he was not coming to see my uncle,  he would be drinking again…  By the time I had completed matric, I was just relieved to be able to ‘escape’ home to go to Pretoria to study –  a dream that my mother had insisted all three of her daughters should fulfil, because she herself never  had the opportunity.  In 1983 – the year I started my studies in Pretoria – my uncle founded the Themba Trust.  Ironically, he established Themba Trust for one main reason at the time, namely to help black teachers at the farm  schools he was running, to recover from alcoholism! Years later he told me that forming the Themba Trust was  really an act of desperation, because he could not find any rehab clinic in South Africa which would accept black  patients. And he was losing some of his best teachers to alcohol! He had never intended to start an independent  non-profit organisation, but his requests at the time to the Bleckmarer Mission to enable him to set up a  Rehabilitation Clinic in order to save the lives of these educators had fallen on deaf ears. The Mission Authorities  were not prepared to take on the risk of starting a rehab project that would probably have to be dependent on  donations, since most of the black patients would require financial assistance to be able to recover.  At this point my uncle founded the Themba Trust in order to be able to raise funds to make it possible for him to  establish a rehabilitation clinic where black patients could stay for one month in order to help them cope with the  withdrawal from alcohol and recover sufficiently to withstand the temptation of drinking once they leave the  treatment centre. He started by researching alcoholism and fundraising to set up the Rehab Clinic. When my  mother heard that her brother-in-law was planning to start a rehab centre for black alcoholics, she confronted him  with the sad truth that the first person that needed his help, was his own brother, who was always supporting  his mission work! This was in 1985.  With the help of my uncle, my mother was finally able to convince my father to enter into an addiction  rehabilitation programme himself. I was in my third year at university already at the time, when my father stopped  drinking alcohol. My mother’s prayers had been answered! He never drank alcohol again. Instead, he committed  his life to working with his brother to establish the Themba Centre as the first residential rehabilitation centre for  black alcoholics in South Africa. I am very blessed to have been able to restore my relationship with my father,  enjoying a very special bond with him after he had overcome his addiction. I was truly proud of him and humbled  by my mother’s commitment and love. She simply had refused to give up on him! And God blessed her by gifting  her with a doting husband ‘forever after’.  More or less at the same time when my father was recovering, my uncle finally decided to establish the  Sinethemba Agricultural and Technical Secondary School and Hostel on a farm next to Dirkiesdorp, in order to  make it possible for children of farmworkers in the area to attend high school, in order to break out of the  cycle of poverty in which their parents were caught. This has become the ongoing mission of the Themba Trust.  My parents moved to Dirkiesdorp from 1986 to 1993 to commit themselves full-time to supporting the work of the  Themba Trust. My father designed and handled the building construction of all the facilities that the Themba Trust  needed during this period. My mother taught gardening and handcraft skills to the recovering alcoholics and  also taught any subject at Sinethemba Secondary School, as and when the need arose. These were wonderful  years and Themba Trust grew from strength to strength, especialy through the financial and moral support of the  Themba Support Group (Themba Förderverein) in Germany. Themba grew very close to our family’s hearts.  My sister, Karola, and her husband, Johan Pelser, also moved to Dirkiesdorp for a few years during this time, with  Johan helping to get farming and maintenance operations at Themba Trust off the ground.  At the end of 1993 my dear father was diagnosed with lung cancer and my parents had to stop their work in  Dirkiesdorp. They moved back to our house on the farm Rondekopje in order to focus on restoring my father’s  health and spent quite a bit of time with me in Pretoria, while my father was undergoing treatment.  Eighteen months after the diagnosis, on my uncle Stillfried’s birthday, on 7 June 1995, my father passed away  quietly in his sleep, at the age of 59. His funeral was on my mother’s 55th birthday, on 9 June 1995.  This was the same year in which the Siyathemba Secondary School for Girls was founded at Themba Trust.  After his death, my sister Helga, a teacher, and her husband, Hans-Heinrich, responded to a call for help from my  uncle, to serve as the principal of the Sinethemba school, a few months after my father had passed away.   My fathers’ younger brother, Reginald Niebuhr, had bought our farm Rondekopje and an older brother of  my father, Adelbert Niebuhr, had taken over the Trusteeship and work of my father at Themba Trust.  This freed my mother to take some time in order to at last fulfil her personal life’s dream, namely to embark on  academic studies. I was living in Johannesburg during this time and she came to live with me. She registered for a  Certificate Course in Christian Counselling at the University of Johannesburg, and also enrolled for art classes at a  private art school for one year.  At the end of 1996 my mom bought a house in Wakkerstroom, a lovely little village in the Mpumalanga mountains,  about half an hour’s drive away from Dirkiesdorp, while still completing her studies in Gauteng during the next year.  Then in early 1997 our family experienced a new tragedy: my brother-in-law Hans-Heinrich was diagnosed with a  brain tumour in early 1997! I moved to Pretoria, so that Hans-Heinrich could stay with my mom and myself during  his oncology therapy. In mid-1997 my mom moved to Wakkerstroom and started operating a guesthouse, ‘Haus  Bergfrieden’.  She became an active member of the Wakkerstroom community, singing in a local choir and joining  the Wakkerstroom Tourism Association. She also started teaching part-time at the Sinethemba Secondary School  again, in order to support Hans-Heinrich and Helga, who were still teaching at the school.  The next five years were very challenging for my mom. My sister Karola and her husband Johan had moved far  away to Colesberg, in the Northern Cape, where Johan’s family is based. This was quite heartbreaking for my  mother, who missed her daughter and grandchildren very much. My sister Helga and her husband Hans-Heinrich  were struggling to cope with his fight against cancer, and moved back to Vryheid, because he could no longer serve  as the Principal at Sinethemba School. In 2000 the family moved to Pretoria, in order to make it easier for  Hans-Heinrich to receive treatment for his brain tumour. My mother was often needed to support Helga and Hans- Heinrich, and so could no longer assist at the Sinethemba School either. While she loved her house in Wakkerstroom  and was slowly, but surely growing the guesthouse business, it was not easy for her to live alone in a big house,  with all her children far away. I hope that the fact that I had met my future husband, Nico den Oudsten, during the  year that she lived with me in Johannesburg, and that I was blessed to have a successful career, at least provided  some relief in the overall family drama!  Then, in 2002, more life-changing events came about. The year had started on a cheerful note, with Nico and my  wedding in January. But then tragedy struck again. In April 2002 my uncle Stillfried Niebuhr, Founding Missionary  of Themba Trust, rather suddenly fell seriously ill and had to end his work in Dirkiesdorp practically overnight.  In September 2002 my brother-in-law, Hans-Heinrich Hambrock, succumbed to the brain tumour and passed away.  At the time, I was extremely busy running a consulting company, and supporting my sister, so I hardly took note of  what was going on at Themba, believing it to continue ‘as usual’, because at the time the organisation had already  successfully existed for 18 years.  In 2003 Nico and I were happy to be able to invite my mom to accompany us on a trip to Europe, in order to  introduce her to Nico’s mother in the Netherlands, and to visit some old friends in Germany. My mother had one  dream she wanted to fulfil during this visit: to travel to Hermannsburg in order to see the village where her  ancestors decided to leave Germany behind and travel on the Candace ship to reach out to the people of Africa with  the Gospel of Christ. This visit to Hermannsburg made a deep impression on me, and I came back to South Africa  with my mother with a new understanding of my own reason for living in Africa: to share God’s Word and  express the love of Christ through everything I did.  At the end of 2003 I accepted a nomination to serve as a Trustee of the Themba Trust, with the understanding that  I wanted to help make sure that the important work started by my uncle Stillfried Niebuhr, and supported for so  many years by my parents, should continue.   In early 2004 my mother started teaching Religious Education at the Siyathemba Secondary School for Girls in  Dirkiesdorp again. I was now actively involved as a member of the Board of Trustees, while continuing to run my  consulting business in Pretoria. Together with Nico, my mom and I worked hard to organise the  150-Year Anniversary Celebration Event to commemorate the arrival of the ship, Candace, in South Africa in 1884 –  the Hermannsburg Mission story that started the story of our lives.  Nico and I took two week’s leave from work in Pretoria to prepare for this event and we stayed in Dirkiesdorp with  my mother during this time. I realised that Themba Trust was struggling with a leadership crisis after the departure  of my uncle, but also realised that the work at the organisation required a full-time commitment, which I felt I could  not give, because of my heavy work-load running a communication consulting company. The 150-Year Anniversary  Celebration from 24-26 September 2004, was a historic event, with over 1000 people from all the four Lutheran  churches – German-speaking and Zulu- and Setswana-speaking – represented, celebrating the fruit of the original  Hermannsburg Mission in South Africa. My uncle, Missionary Stillfried Niebuhr, who had been recovering slowly  from his illness, made a special effort to address the visitors at the event. My uncle Adelbert Niebuhr, who had  been ‘carrying the baton’, firstly after my father became ill and died and then, after Themba Trust’s founder,  Stillfried Niebuhr, became ill, came to say good-bye to me after the event with tears in his eyes, saying:  “This was the most beautiful day of my life – seeing black and white Lutheran Christians celebrating together.”  Nico and I left for Pretoria that afternoon, with very mixed feelings. We could see that Themba Trust desperately  needed help, because of the major leadership vaccuum that had been created, not only because of  Stillfried Niebuhr’s illness, but also because two other long-standing management team members had both died in  quick succession in 2002, and the long-standing financial manager had resigned at the end of 2003, because of her  husband falling ill.  The Monday after the 150 Year Anniversary Celebration of the start of the Hermannsburg Mission in South Africa  was my 40th Birthday. I was exhausted from the hard work for the event, and had caught a flu, so I stayed in bed  the whole day, with my cellphone switched off. I only switched it on the next morning, to call my uncle  Adelbert Niebuhr in order to let him know that I had decided to resign as a Trustee of Themba Trust, because I  simply could not in good conscience be part of an organisation which was at such high risk, because of its leadership  issues. My work as a consultant was too demanding and I would not be able to handle both. Before I made the call I  decided to listen to my voicemail messages. There was only one message. It was from my mother: ”Uncle Adelbert passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon. Please call me.”  I realised that God had taken the one person away, who was still carrying forward the responsibility of Themba Trust.  And that it was now impossible to resign as a Trustee! I simply had to commit to helping Themba Trust.  When Nico came home from work, I told him what had happened.  He simply said: “I’ll resign from work so that we can move to Themba.”  My mother was overjoyed when she heard the news. Her heart was beating for Themba Trust and she had been  praying for ‘someone’ to help place the organisation on a stronger footing again.  Now she also started working at Themba in January 2005. Nico and I moved to Dirkiesdorp in July 2005.  The next decade would become a roller-coaster ride on the wings of faith, that are worth a whole book, but  – praise God! – the work of Themba Trust is still continuing, despite all set-backs!  My mother, who at the age of 65 took on the full responsibility of Housekeeping and Gardening Management Services  after the Catering Supervisor retired in early 2005, was an absolute ‘rock’ during this period.  She was a ‘servant leader’, always working in the background to make sure everything was ‘OK’, while I was more  at the forefront of juggling the issues that Themba Trust has to handle every day – donor relations, church relations,  community relations, employee relations, government relations, volunteer relations, political relations and the  eternal cashflow question and financial accountability reports.  My mother made sure that the rooms were clean,  that the laundry was washed and counted,  that the vegetables were planted,  that the food for 200-500 learners was ordered  and cooked every day,  that guesthouse accommodation was ready  for volunteers and visitors,  that there were fresh flowers at reception.  She also spent time teaching Bible classes to staff,  teaching religious education classes at school and  met once a week with the local ‘Gogos’ (Granny Club),  to teach crafts and tell Bible stories.  All this had to be done under constant cashflow constraints,  often with roads muddy from rainstorms, goats from the  ‘community’ ruining the flower and vegetable gardens,  old cars breaking, electricity outages, water shortages,  and always working with highly volatile teenagers,  who threaten to ‘toyi-toyi’ if they don’t like the food,  their television set got struck by lightning or  they feel that a teacher has treated them unfairly.  She also made sure that the Morning Devotions  started punctually at 07:30 every morning, and –  as far as possible - that everyone working at Themba,  was at their post, especially during the many times  when Nico and I had to be away to resolve Themba issues in Nelspruit or Pretoria or Standerton or  Pietermaritzburg, and the times we were travelling to Germany or America in order to report back to our donors.   There are many photos of Nico and me, working at Themba,  usually taken when overseas visitors came.  There are few photos of my mother.  One, which a German volunteer took, showing my mom with the  group of Themba Trust staff on the day she handed each one a  Certificate after completing the Lutheran Hour Bible Study  Programme, which she patiently worked through with them every  week.  The other is the only photograph of my mother working at  Themba, which I took during this time. I took this photograph  in the week before she suddenly died. She is wearing an apron,  which had just been given to her by a woman who was visiting  from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It is very symbolic for me: ‘A true Servant Leader’.                   The fact that she was living in South Africa for only ONE reason: namely to continue the spiritual  calling of her ancestors to share the Gospel of Christ with her black fellow South Africans, guided  my mother’s whole life.  For me, even the manner in which her life ended, was a ‘final sermon’ to emphasise what she had  been saying her whole life:  “We must LOVE Africa’s children and share our FAITH in Jesus Christ with them,  and make sure they have the education they need in order to fulfil their human potential,  otherwise there is no HOPE for their future, or for ours.”   The young man who broke into her home to steal some food and used a knife from her own  kitchen to take her life that night on 9 February 2012 was one of Africa’s children who had grown  up without a mother - without love, without faith and without hope. His life is ruined: he is serving  the rest of his life in prison!  I can only pray that my mother’s life story inspires other women to do what they can to  prevent another child going through the same horrific experience. A group photo of the FELSISA Church Women's Retreat - taken on 9 February 2012.  This was her last day on earth. Quite a perfect last week for her: spending time to study the Bible with  other women from the church during an Annual Women's Retreat, which she had initiated about 30 years  before. I found this photo on facebook one day. Quite incredible.  That afternoon she drove home to Wakkerstroom and that evening, her life ended. Vegetable garden at Themba
The Art of Ingrid Niebuhr
And if you are reading this, but are too far away to personally reach  out to Africa’s neglected and lonely children, please find it in your  heart to make a financial contribution so that the people now  working at Themba Trust can continue doing what they can,  to share FAITH, HOPE and LOVE, in Christ, with the children in  their care, on your behalf. www.thembatrust.org
© 2017 Copyright: Eureka S. Beutler

I‘d like to honour an individual, who depicts

the essence of an evolved Human Being &

an authentic Christian!

I am humbled by her Life and her ways:

Ingrid Anna Wichmann Niebuhr

Yes, I could have cut this biography shorter, but if I think

of the hours and years she humbly dedicated, I feel small.

Besides, there is a wonderful story to be shared here.

When you read it, you will understand why I call it

authentic and why I chose to dedicate an exhibition to her

and her cause!

It is lovingly written by her youngest daughter, Reinhild.

So, here is the  history of some courageous Souls, who

were willing to risk everything, for their Faith & Love of

Christ & Humanity.

Sincerely Eureka
Written by: Reinhild Niebuhr, Chairperson THEMBA TRUST, 28 March 2017 www.thembatrust.org reinhildn@gmail.com On 28 October 1853 a ship named ‘Candace’ – which was the title of the female Emperors of Ethiopia - left the harbour in Lüneburg, Germany, with the aim to take the first group of missionaries from the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission to Africa. Two of them, Jürgen Heinrich Schröder and Heinrich Wilhelm Müller, were the ancestors of my mother, Ingrid Anna Wichmann, who was born on 9 June 1940. My mom, Ingrid, was a child of Hermann Wichmann, a very entrepreneurial farmer, and Margarete Schroeder, both active members of the German-speaking community living in the area of Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal, which had grown out of the descendants of the Hermannsburg Missionaries in this part of the world. She had two olders sisters, Lotte and Edelgard, three younger sisters, Röschen. My mom was apparently a rather serious child, according to her younger brother, my uncle Hugo Wichmann, and a true ‘Leseratte’. (Reading-Rat) Because she was a talented child, she started school early, at the age of five. She did very well at school, performing well academically, in sport, arts and crafts, and also shared a musical gift with the rest of her family. She completed her primary schooling at the German school in Uelzen, near Dundee, in KwaZulu-Natal, riding to school in a donkey cart with her siblings, from her father’s farm, Dondola. She continued her high school education at the Catholic Convent Girls School in Dundee and had lots of colourful stories to tell about school life living among the nuns. She loved learning and was traumatised when her father took her out of school in Grade 11, because tragedy had struck the family for a second time. The first tragedy had happened a few years before. One of my mom’s younger sisters, Rosalie, a lovely, healthy little girl, had suffered from German measles (Rubella) at the age of five and had become severely mentally and physically disabled. She practically had to be cared for as if she were an infant again: she was bedridden, had to be fed and could not speak or react in any normal manner. This meant that my grandmother could never leave the house, except to go to church at Uelzen on Sundays, bringing ‘Röschen’ along in the back of the car. When this happened, the three younger children – my mother’s brother and two younger sisters – were also still very little. Then my grandmother had another baby, a boy called Reinhard. At the time my mother was 14 years old, and already in high school. But when Reinhard was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. My grandmother was heartbroken and could not cope with two children who were sick. Because my mother’s two older sisters had already started training as nurses in Pietermartizburg, my grandfather decided to take my mother out of school, to help her mom at home. Why am I telling this story? Because my mother personally experienced the frustration of not being able to complete her high school education and this became a driving force for her to help ‘make sure’ that the farmworker children from deep rural areas around Themba, could finish their Matric. Reinhard died when he was two years old. By then her schoolmates had already completed their Matric and my mom did not go back to school. Instead, she married my father, Edgar Niebuhr, at the age of 19, and their first baby, Helga, was born when she was 21. Eighteen months later the second daughter, Karola, was born, and another eighteen months later, I arrived. My mom – who had hoped for a boy – named me ‘Reinhild’, after my uncle, who had lived for only two years. When I was 18 months old my parents took us along to an evangelistic outreach by a highly regarded preacher, ‘Dominee’ Willie Marais, from the Dutch Reformed Church. I asked my mom about this very clear childhood memory many years later and she was quite astonished that I could remember the meeting, because I was still a baby. She shared with me that during that evening sermon, she had been blessed with a spiritual experience, which gave her a short glimpse of what heaven is like. When we were little, she often had said “I can’t WAIT to go to heaven!”, and every time she said this her whole face was shining with joy. At the time we would complain and say, “But we still need you here, Mama!”, not understanding that she was simply referring to this spiritual experience she had had, which had given her such a strong God-consciousness and made her such a joyful Christian, with an unwaivering faith in Jesus. I often tell people that I had an absolutely idyllic childhood, growing up on the farm Rondekopje, with my parents and my two sisters, a toy pom dog called Goldie and a horse called ‘Bless’. My father’s family was from the area around Paulpietersburg, also in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and close to the German Church congregation and school of Lüneburg – another missionary settlement founded by missionaries of the Hermannsburg Mission. When I was born my parents were living in the tiny village of Hattingspruit, near my mother’s parents farm, and my father was working as an engineering draughtsman in the coal mining industry. At the time both Dundee and Glencoe were important coal centres. When my oldest sister Helga had to start school, my parents moved to the farm Rondekopje, which my father had inherited, so that she could be close to Lüneburg school, and my father could help his mother and younger brother with the family farm. All three of us children attended school in Lüneburg, living in the hostel from the age of six. My mom loved children, and it was quite difficult for her to have to leave us at the hostel every Sunday after the church service, only to see us again when we would come home for the weekend. But this also made it possible for her to become a very active member in the community we were living in. I remember when I was a child, my mother was always active in organising Bible studies, both with German-speaking members of the Lüneburg congregation and English- and Afrikaans-speaking friends in Paulpietersburg. I also remember her always teaching handcraft and candlemaking classes, as well as reading Bible stories and praying with, the wives of the farmworkers living on our farm, as well as with black women living in the ‘township’ eDumbe, next to the town of Paulpietersburg. She was an avid gardener and loved painting and participated in the ‘Women’s Institute’ association as an enthusiastic member, at some point serving as the local branch President. She was also often asked to stand in as a teacher at the primary school in Piet Retief, when the need arose, and also helped out as a Matron at the Lüneburg school a couple of times, when I was in high school already. My father, who later on handed over all agricultural responsibilities to his younger brother, focused on building construction, engineering consulting, car mechanics and architectural drawings. He was always supporting the Pastors and Missionaries in the area, building f armschools and mission churches, homes for teachers and pastors and repairing motorbikes for evangelists. Together, our parents loved leading Church youth outreaches, for instance, to Botswana, building strong relationships with especially Lutheran missionaries, but also supporting missionaries in our area, who were linked to other denominations. Our parents also were among the handful of ‘white’ participants in the ‘black’ church services and ‘Mission Festivals’ of the Zulu congregations which were the fruit of the work of the Lutheran Missions – both the Hermannsburg Mission and the Bleckmarer Mission, which is now called the Lutheran Church Mission (Lutherische Kirchenmission – LKM). I remember many hours of my early life spent listening to Zulu sermons and to beautiful Zulu gospel choirs. Both my parents spoke Zulu fluently and loved to interact with Zulu people, reaching out in different ways during a time when Apartheid was forcing people of different colours apart. I remember as a nine year old I was already ‘brainwashed’ at school into Apartheid. I was also a very strict little ‘Lutheran’, who had been taught in religious education classes that emotions should be avoided in faith, since ‘charismatic’ churches would use emotions to make people ‘feel’ as if they love God, while in reality this was not always the case. The logic was that if people would focus on ‘feeling’ their faith, they might struggle to keep their faith in times when their ‘good feelings’ may have disappeared. My mother was a rather ‘emotional’ Christian and she had lots of friends who were not Lutheran, even some who could be described as ‘charismatic’, so at the time I suspected that she may also have some ‘strange ideas’ about Apartheid. I still don’t know what my motivation was, but somehow I wanted to ‘catch her out’. So, one weekend when I was home from the hostel, I walked out into the garden at sunset to where my mom was busy with one of her favourite activities: watering the garden. “Mama, is it wrong for a white woman to marry a black man?”, I asked her, knowing that, of course, this was ILLEGAL in Apartheid South Africa. My mom didn’t even look at me, but continued looking at the beautiful sunset while watering the garden, waiting for a few moments before answering: ”If both of them are Christians, I cannot see anything wrong with them marrying.” This was such a ‘Jesus’ answer! I could feel my face go red in shame and I slunk off, like the ‘Judas’ I felt like. I remember this moment so clearly, because even while I was only nine years old, for me it was a turning point in terms of my own conscious decision to denounce racism. My mom had clearly pointed me to the Bible, which teaches us that all human beings are equal. The colour of our skin is completely irrelevant. The thing that should concern us all is our relationship to God. The Bible teaches us that marrying someone who does not love God will result in a difficult life. I got that. I am still deeply impressed by the fact that my mother, who was in her early 30s at the time, had the power of conviction to speak out against the Apartheid laws of her country. It is true that in the time and place we were living, acting against the Authorities was not something that formed part of our lives. During these times in the 70s and early 80s my parents were very much part of the ‘establishment’ which believed that our country, South Africa, was at war against the Communists, and not that we were actually also at war with ourselves – white South Africans vs black South Africans. I certainly never heard my parents tell me that we had to fight the ‘Swart Gevaar’ (Black Danger). We never experienced any danger from our black fellow citizens. But my parents were certainly actively supporting efforts to prevent Communism – which promoted secular beliefs and oppressed Christian believers. One of my uncles was a missionary, Stillfried Niebuhr. He is in his eighties now. He was a missionary of the Bleckmarer Mission, which is now called the Lutheran Church Mission (Lutherische Kirchenmission – LKM). He was an older brother of my father and he and his wife, Elisabeth (neé Schnackenberg), were living and working in Dirkiesdorp, a tiny village about 80km north-west of Paulpietersburg. Their daughter, Adelheid, is my cousin and we have been ‘best friends’ since childhood. Our family very often went to visit the Niebuhrs in Dirkiesdorp, and my parents supported the work of our family’s ‘Missionary’ in any way they could. To my parents’ outrage, during the Apartheid years, my Christian missionary uncle was called a ‘Communist’, because he was openly criticising racist attitudes and lobbying the Apartheid government to build schools for black children in so-called ‘white designated’ areas. He had managed since the 1960s to establish 28 primary schools on farms in the areas around Dirkiesdorp, Piet Retief, Lüneburg and Paulpietersburg, together with a fellow Lutheran missionary, Gottfried Stallmann, who was based near Piet Retief. There was nothing ‘communistic’ about wanting to help children to fulfil their potential, especially since all these schools provided an opportunity to teach children about Jesus Christ. Both of our parents instilled missionary values in our hearts, with much greater value being placed on helping others and reaching out to people with the Gospel of Christ, than on gathering ‘worldly’ goods. But while my childhood was an idyllic experience, when I grew to become a teenager, our family went through very difficult times. My father, who had earned the nickname ‘Prof’ in our community, because he was really good at solving problems, had inadvertently become addicted to alcohol. It happened without anyone really realising what was going on – except my mother. He loved interacting with people and he loved helping out people. Typically what would happen, is that someone would call my dad to ask him to help fix a broken borehole pump or some other mechanical thing. So my dad would make time to drive out to the farmer who had asked for help and fixed the problem. But because he had a generous spirit, he would not accept payment for his assistance. So, instead, the person who called on his help, would offer him ‘at least’ a beer. Over the beer inevitably people started telling my dad all their problems, because he was such a good listener, and of course, this would lead to another beer. And another beer. And eventually my dad could not function properly any longer, without drinking alcohol… Alcoholism in the family is a ‘terrible secret’ that many wives and children, and – thankfully – not as many husbands, live with. I saw my mother praying, on her knees, for many years, praying that my father would be healed from his addiction to alcohol. We were fortunate in the sense that my father would not get violent when he was drunk. In fact, he remained a very sweet man. He also remained a very committed Christian. But the truth is: he was sick from alcohol. My sisters did not experience this as much as I did, because by the time things really got bad, they were already students living in Pretoria. I went through the trauma of waiting with my mother for my father to come home at night, knowing that he had driven off in response to someone’s call for help with a borehole pump… and not knowing if he would return home safely! This was in a time when cellphones still only existed in the fantasy of a child. In fact, twice my father wrote off his ‘bakkie’ (pick-up truck), on the dirt road close to our house. Each time, the vehicle was a complete write-off. And each time, my father was unharmed, walking back to the house and arriving, completely drunk, just collapsing on his bed. As a self-righteous and silly young teenager, I remember encouraging my mom to divorce my father at the time, because I could see how she was suffering and how he was making a fool of himself, embarrassing her and me, during weddings and other community events where alcohol was served. But she just said quietly: ”He is my husband and he is sick. I made a promise to God to stay with him, in sickness and in health. I know that one day God will answer my prayer and he will be healed.” During this time I was completing my high school education at the secondary school in Piet Retief. My cousin Adelheid and I were in the same class, and she had invited me to stay with her parents in Dirkiesdorp, so that I did not have to live in the hostel in Piet Retief during my last year of school. I truly enjoyed staying with my Missionary uncle and aunt, whose work I had always respected very much. Living with my uncle and aunt, however, just highlighted the ‘chaos’ of my parents life at the time, since ‘Onkel’ Stillfried and ‘Tante’ Elisabeth were living very orderly lives, with a peaceful routine and work focused on community development and ministry tasks. I was far too ashamed to mention, even to my best friend Adelheid, that my father was struggling with alcohol addiction and that my mother was either praying on her knees or in tears most of the time. During this year my father often came to Dirkiesdorp to help my uncle with various issues, and whenever he visited he was thankfully sober. But I knew that probably the next day, when he was not coming to see my uncle, he would be drinking again… By the time I had completed matric, I was just relieved to be able to ‘escape’ home to go to Pretoria to study – a dream that my mother had insisted all three of her daughters should fulfil, because she herself never had the opportunity. In 1983 – the year I started my studies in Pretoria – my uncle founded the Themba Trust. Ironically, he established Themba Trust for one main reason at the time, namely to help black teachers at the farm schools he was running, to recover from alcoholism! Years later he told me that forming the Themba Trust was really an act of desperation, because he could not find any rehab clinic in South Africa which would accept black patients. And he was losing some of his best teachers to alcohol! He had never intended to start an independent non-profit organisation, but his requests at the time to the Bleckmarer Mission to enable him to set up a Rehabilitation Clinic in order to save the lives of these educators had fallen on deaf ears. The Mission Authorities were not prepared to take on the risk of starting a rehab project that would probably have to be dependent on donations, since most of the black patients would require financial assistance to be able to recover. At this point my uncle founded the Themba Trust in order to be able to raise funds to make it possible for him to establish a rehabilitation clinic where black patients could stay for one month in order to help them cope with the withdrawal from alcohol and recover sufficiently to withstand the temptation of drinking once they leave the treatment centre. He started by researching alcoholism and fundraising to set up the Rehab Clinic. When my mother heard that her brother-in-law was planning to start a rehab centre for black alcoholics, she confronted him with the sad truth that the first person that needed his help, was his own brother, who was always supporting his mission work! This was in 1985. With the help of my uncle, my mother was finally able to convince my father to enter into an addiction rehabilitation programme himself. I was in my third year at university already at the time, when my father stopped drinking alcohol. My mother’s prayers had been answered! He never drank alcohol again. Instead, he committed his life to working with his brother to establish the Themba Centre as the first residential rehabilitation centre for black alcoholics in South Africa. I am very blessed to have been able to restore my relationship with my father, enjoying a very special bond with him after he had overcome his addiction. I was truly proud of him and humbled by my mother’s commitment and love. She simply had refused to give up on him! And God blessed her by gifting her with a doting husband ‘forever after’. More or less at the same time when my father was recovering, my uncle finally decided to establish the Sinethemba Agricultural and Technical Secondary School and Hostel on a farm next to Dirkiesdorp, in order to make it possible for children of farmworkers in the area to attend high school, in order to break out of the cycle of poverty in which their parents were caught. This has become the ongoing mission of the Themba Trust. My parents moved to Dirkiesdorp from 1986 to 1993 to commit themselves full-time to supporting the work of the Themba Trust. My father designed and handled the building construction of all the facilities that the Themba Trust needed during this period. My mother taught gardening and handcraft skills to the recovering alcoholics and also taught any subject at Sinethemba Secondary School, as and when the need arose. These were wonderful years and Themba Trust grew from strength to strength, especialy through the financial and moral support of the Themba Support Group (Themba Förderverein) in Germany. Themba grew very close to our family’s hearts. My sister, Karola, and her husband, Johan Pelser, also moved to Dirkiesdorp for a few years during this time, with Johan helping to get farming and maintenance operations at Themba Trust off the ground. At the end of 1993 my dear father was diagnosed with lung cancer and my parents had to stop their work in Dirkiesdorp. They moved back to our house on the farm Rondekopje in order to focus on restoring my father’s health and spent quite a bit of time with me in Pretoria, while my father was undergoing treatment. Eighteen months after the diagnosis, on my uncle Stillfried’s birthday, on 7 June 1995, my father passed away quietly in his sleep, at the age of 59. His funeral was on my mother’s 55 th  birthday, on 9 June 1995. This was the same year in which the Siyathemba Secondary School for Girls was founded at Themba Trust. After his death, my sister Helga, a teacher, and her husband, Hans-Heinrich, responded to a call for help from my uncle, to serve as the principal of the Sinethemba school, a few months after my father had passed away. My fathers’ younger brother, Reginald Niebuhr, had bought our farm Rondekopje and an older brother of my father, Adelbert Niebuhr, had taken over the Trusteeship and work of my father at Themba Trust. This freed my mother to take some time in order to at last fulfil her personal life’s dream, namely to embark on academic studies. I was living in Johannesburg during this time and she came to live with me. She registered for a Certificate Course in Christian Counselling at the University of Johannesburg, and also enrolled for art classes at a private art school for one year. At the end of 1996 my mom bought a house in Wakkerstroom, a lovely little village in the Mpumalanga mountains, about half an hour’s drive away from Dirkiesdorp, while still completing her studies in Gauteng during the next year. Then in early 1997 our family experienced a new tragedy: my brother-in-law Hans-Heinrich was diagnosed with a brain tumour in early 1997! I moved to Pretoria, so that Hans-Heinrich could stay with my mom and myself during his oncology therapy. In mid-1997 my mom moved to Wakkerstroom and started operating a guesthouse, ‘Haus Bergfrieden’.  She became an active member of the Wakkerstroom community, singing in a local choir and joining the Wakkerstroom Tourism Association. She also started teaching part-time at the Sinethemba Secondary School again, in order to support Hans-Heinrich and Helga, who were still teaching at the school. The next five years were very challenging for my mom. My sister Karola and her husband Johan had moved far away to Colesberg, in the Northern Cape, where Johan’s family is based. This was quite heartbreaking for my mother, who missed her daughter and grandchildren very much. My sister Helga and her husband Hans-Heinrich were struggling to cope with his fight against cancer, and moved back to Vryheid, because he could no longer serve as the Principal at Sinethemba School. In 2000 the family moved to Pretoria, in order to make it easier for Hans-Heinrich to receive treatment for his brain tumour. My mother was often needed to support Helga and Hans-Heinrich, and so could no longer assist at the Sinethemba School either. While she loved her house in Wakkerstroom and was slowly, but surely growing the guesthouse business, it was not easy for her to live alone in a big house, with all her children far away. I hope that the fact that I had met my future husband, Nico den Oudsten, during the year that she lived with me in Johannesburg, and that I was blessed to have a successful career, at least provided some relief in the overall family drama! Then, in 2002, more life-changing events came about. The year had started on a cheerful note, with Nico and my wedding in January. But then tragedy struck again. In April 2002 my uncle Stillfried Niebuhr, Founding Missionary of Themba Trust, rather suddenly fell seriously ill and had to end his work in Dirkiesdorp practically overnight. In September 2002 my brother-in-law, Hans Heinrich Hambrock, succumbed to the brain tumour and passed away. At the time, I was extremely busy running a consulting company, and supporting my sister, so I hardly took note of what was going on at Themba, believing it to continue ‘as usual’, because at the time the organisation had already successfully existed for 18 years. In 2003 Nico and I were happy to be able to invite my mom to accompany us on a trip to Europe, in order to introduce her to Nico’s mother in the Netherlands, and to visit some old friends in Germany. My mother had one dream she wanted to fulfil during this visit: to travel to Hermannsburg in order to see the village where her ancestors decided to leave Germany behind and travel on the Candace ship to reach out to the people of Africa with the Gospel of Christ. This visit to Hermannsburg made a deep impression on me, and I came back to South Africa with my mother with a new understanding of my own reason for living in Africa: to share God’s Word and express the love of Christ through everything I did. At the end of 2003 I accepted a nomination to serve as a Trustee of the Themba Trust, with the understanding that I wanted to help make sure that the important work started by my uncle Stillfried Niebuhr, and supported for so many years by my parents, should continue. In early 2004 my mother started teaching Religious Education at the Siyathemba Secondary School for Girls in Dirkiesdorp again. I was now actively involved as a member of the Board of Trustees, while continuing to run my consulting business in Pretoria. Together with Nico, my mom and I worked hard to organise the 150-Year Anniversary Celebration Event to commemorate the arrival of the ship, Candace, in South Africa in 1884 – the Hermannsburg Mission story that started the story of our lives. Nico and I took two week’s leave from work in Pretoria to prepare for this event and we stayed in Dirkiesdorp with my mother during this time. I realised that Themba Trust was struggling with a leadership crisis after the departure of my uncle, but also realised that the work at the organisation required a full-time commitment, which I felt I could not give, because of my heavy work-load running a communication consulting company.  The 150-Year Anniversary Celebration from 24-26 September 2004, was a historic event, with over 1000 people from all the four Lutheran churches – German-speaking and Zulu- and Setswana-speaking – represented, celebrating the fruit of the original Hermannsburg Mission in South Africa. My uncle, Missionary Stillfried Niebuhr, who had been recovering slowly from his illness, made a special effort to address the visitors at the event. My uncle Adelbert Niebuhr, who had been ‘carrying the baton’, firstly after my father became ill and died and then, after Themba Trust’s founder, Stillfried Niebuhr, became ill, came to say good-bye to me after the event with tears in his eyes, saying: “This was the most beautiful day of my life – seeing black and white Lutheran Christians celebrating together.” Nico and I left for Pretoria that afternoon, with very mixed feelings. We could see that Themba Trust desperately needed help, because of the major leadership vaccuum that had been created, not only because of Stillfried Niebuhr’s illness, but also because two other long-standing management team members had both died in quick succession in 2002, and the long-standing financial manager had resigned at the end of 2003, because of her husband falling ill. The Monday after the 150 Year Anniversary Celebration of the start of the Hermannsburg Mission in South Africa was my 40 th  Birthday. I was exhausted from the hard work for the event, and had caught a flu, so I stayed in bed the whole day, with my cellphone switched off. I only switched it on the next morning, to call my uncle Adelbert Niebuhr in order to let him know that I had decided to resign as a Trustee of Themba Trust, because I simply could not in good conscience be part of an organisation which was at such high risk, because of its leadership issues. My work as a consultant was too demanding and I would not be able to handle both. Before I made the call I decided to listen to my voicemail messages. There was only one message. It was from my mother: ”Uncle Adelbert passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon. Please call me.” I realised that God had taken the one person away, who was still carrying forward the responsibility of Themba Trust. And that it was now impossible to resign as a Trustee! I simply had to commit to helping Themba Trust. When Nico came home from work, I told him what had happened. He simply said: “I’ll resign from work so that we can move to Themba.” My mother was overjoyed when she heard the news. Her heart was beating for Themba Trust and she had been praying for ‘someone’ to help place the organisation on a stronger footing again. Now she also started working at Themba in January 2005. Nico and I moved to Dirkiesdorp in July 2005. The next decade would become a roller-coaster ride on the wings of faith, that are worth a whole book, but – praise God! – the work of Themba Trust is still continuing, despite all set-backs! My mother, who at the age of 65 took on the full responsibility of Housekeeping and Gardening Management Services after the Catering Supervisor retired in early 2005, was an absolute ‘rock’ during this period. She was a ‘servant leader’, always working in the background to make sure everything was ‘OK’, while I was more at the forefront of juggling the issues that Themba Trust has to handle every day – donor relations, church relations, community relations, employee relations, government relations, volunteer relations, political relations and the eternal cashflow question and financial accountability reports. My mother made sure that the rooms were clean, that the laundry was washed and counted, that the vegetables were planted, that the food for 200-500 learners was ordered and cooked every day, that guesthouse accommodation was ready for volunteers and visitors, that there were fresh flowers at reception. She also spent time teaching Bible classes to staff, teaching religious education classes at school and met once a week with the local ‘Gogos’ (Granny Club), to teach crafts and tell Bible stories. All this had to be done under constant cashflow constraints, often with roads muddy from rainstorms, goats from the ‘community’ ruining the flower and vegetable gardens, old cars breaking, electricity outages, water shortages, and always working with highly volatile teenagers, who threaten to ‘toyi-toyi’ if they don’t like the food, their television set got struck by lightning or they feel that a teacher has treated them unfairly. She also made sure that the Morning Devotions started punctually at 07:30 every morning, and – as far as possible - that everyone working at Themba, was at their post, especially during the many times when Nico and I had to be away to resolve Themba issues in Nelspruit or Pretoria or Standerton or Pietermaritzburg, and the times we were travelling to Germany or America in order to report back to our donors. There are many photos of Nico and me, working at Themba, usually taken when overseas visitors came. There are only two photos of my mother. One, which a German volunteer took, showing my mom with the group of Themba Trust staff on the day she handed each one a Certificate after completing the Lutheran Hour Bible Study Programme, which she patiently worked through with them every week. The other is the only photograph of my mother working at Themba, which I took during this time. I took this photograph in the week before she suddenly died. She is wearing an apron, which had just been given to her by a woman who was visiting from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It is very symbolic for me: ‘A true Servant Leader’.  My mother’s life was characterised by a deep desire to help share the Gospel through a practical expression of love. From her, I learnt that LOVE is a CHOICE. HOPE is an ACT. And FAITH is a GIFT: you can never force it on anyone, only share it. And if you want it, you have to ask for it. The fact that she was living in South Africa for only ONE reason: namely to continue the spiritual calling of her ancestors to share the Gospel of Christ with her black fellow South Africans, guided my mother’s whole life. For me, even the manner in which her life ended, was a ‘final sermon’ to emphasise what she had been saying her whole life: “We must LOVE Africa’s children and share our FAITH in Jesus Christ with them, and make sure they have the education they need in order to fulfil their human potential, otherwise there is no HOPE for their future, or for ours.” The young man who broke into her home to steal some food and used a knife from her own kitchen to take her life that night on 9 February 2012 was one of Africa’s children who had grown up without a mother - without love, without faith and without hope. His life is ruined: he is serving the rest of his life in prison! I can only pray that my mother’s life story inspires other women to do what they can to prevent another child going through the same horrific experience. And if you are reading this, but are too far away to personally reach out to Africa’s neglected and lonely children, please find it in your heart to make a financial contribution so that the people now working at Themba Trust can continue doing what they can, to share FAITH, HOPE and LOVE, in Christ, with the children in their care, on your behalf.
The Life Story of Ingrid Niebuhr,  geb. Wichmann