The missionary, Robert Moffat (1795-1885) was born at Ormiston, Scotland. He had a very poor education, and when he left school he was apprenticed as a gardener. While a teenager, Robert heard the gospel of Christ and became a true believer. Then he attended a missionary meeting and decided to go overseas as a missionary. Because of his poor education, the London Missionary Society was unwilling to accept him for a time. However in 1816 he set sail for South Africa. Two years later he married Mary Smith, his former employer’s daughter. She became his faithful helper for the next fifty years.
For a time Moffat worked in the Cape Town area, then he announced that he would move north and work among the Hottentot tribes people. (Hottentot was the name given these people by the early Dutch settlers) The Chief of these people was a savage leader named Africaner. He had been ill-treated by white men and so was filled with hatred and revenge. He killed his white boss and his wife and sought to shoot every white person he met. He not only killed people but made drum-heads out of their skins and drinking bowls out of their skulls.
At last the South African Government offered a reward of $500 for his capture, dead or alive - a great sum in those days.
When Moffat announced that he would go and preach to the Hottentots, his friends tried to plead with him not to go. Some even wept, saying that he would certainly be killed, but no one could convince him not to go.
Moffat set off without a bodyguard, guns or even a knife. He went to Africaner’s house and showed him love and told him of the great love of Christ towards lost sinners. In return Africaner learned to love Robert Moffat. He built him a grass hut next to his own. This savage chief came to know Christ as his Saviour. His heart was changed and he became as gentle and teachable as a child.
Africaner became Moffat’s best friend. At one time Moffat was alone and became very sick, but Africaner nursed him and provided him with the best food and milk he could find. When Moffat found it necessary to move to another part of the country, Africaner went with him and built him a new house in that area.
One day Robert Moffat told the chief that he was going to return to Cape Town, the capital, and asked him to go with him. Africaner was very troubled and alarmed. He had been a murderer, an outlaw, a thief, and a price was placed on his head. If he appeared among white men, they would kill him; but he decided to go.
The people in Cape Town believed that Moffat was dead, having been murdered by Africaner. One man claimed that he had seen Moffat’s bones. Then, to everyone’s amazement, one day Moffat returned, and Africaner was with him; now a Christian and civilized! A man whose uncle had been killed by the savage chief, looked closely at his face and said, “Yes, it is him. Lord, what cannot Thy grace do.
What a miracle?”
In the city of Cape Town Africaner created a great stir among the people. Everyone wanted to see him. The Governor sent for him, and after hearing his testimony, the money that had been offered for his capture was spent in buying things that he needed. Africaner was now a new creature in Christ and everyone marvelled at what they saw of the grace of God in him.
The last thing Africaner did was to help Moffat settle into his new home, and he himself prepared to settle beside his friend and teacher, but before he could move, the Lord called
Africaner to Himself. He died, peacefully falling asleep in Jesus Christ his Saviour.