ON 11th January 2000, Mrs Ester Mpofu, better known as Ma Donsa, of Ingwenya, Zimbabwe, passed away to her eternal rest, we believe. She was born in the early 1900s. It appears that she was young when she was converted. She became a member of Ingwenya Free Presbyterian congregation in its early years.
She was well known not only among the Africans but also to the many visitors to the Mission over the years. Very tall and imposing with an outgoing personality, and able to speak English fluently, she was always ready to greet and speak to visitors, several of whom visited her at her home which was not very far from Ingwenya Mission. There she cultivated her maize and vegetables and tended her goats and hens.
Ma Donsa had an interesting background. She was the granddaughter of Ma Mlotshwa, one of the wives of King Lobengula, the last king of the Matabele, who had many wives scattered here and there for political reasons. (An account of Ma Mlotshwas conversion appeared in the May 1998 issue of The Free Presbyterian Magazine. Readers may remember how she was converted at Libeni, and how she gave up beer drinking and other heathenish habits, and became a blessing among her own people).
Ma Donsa was one of the first girls in the Ingwenya Boarding School of the early days. She recalled that because the school did not have an experienced boarding mistress at that time, the Rev John Tallach (who was missionary at Ingwenya from 1924) would frequently visit the school kitchen at mealtimes, and stir up the cooking pot containing the relish or isitshebo (which was eaten with the thick mealie-porridge or isitshwala), to make sure that it had the correct ingredients of meat and vegetables.
The way from Ma Donsas home to the house of God was well-trodden. Her place was never empty in the church at Ingwenya on Sabbaths and at prayer meetings. Indeed , she continued walking to church when she was not fit to do so sometimes she was picked up. On one occasion she remarked to one of the Mission staff who gave her a lift, “I was hungry today.” On enquiry being made, she added, “I was hungry for the Word of God.”
She delighted to attend communion seasons also. Some years ago it was customary for the Mission lorry to take visiting Church members from various congregations to stay at the centre where a communion was held. Ma Donsa was often there. She used to go among the people between the services, enquiring as to what they had heard in the preaching and explaining some of it to the young Christians among them.
She would often comment on texts preached on by the ministers from the past years, mentioning the minister who had preached on that text. A friend from Bulawayo writes, “She even remembers some of sermons of the late Rev J. B. Radasi [who died in 1924], and told me that towards the end of his ministry he spoke on two or three occasions on Acts 2:38-39.” [Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.]
Latterly due to old age, she became so frail that her daughter Ellen took her to live with her in Bulawayo. Ellen is a former Assistant Matron of Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo, and was good to her mother. When Ma Donsa was able, she attended the Free Presbyterian Church at Lobengula in Bulawayo, where she always received a warm welcome and enjoyed the preaching.
Some time ago a friend from Bulawayo wrote in a letter, “Not long ago there was a communion at Lobengula Church. Ma Donsa was taken to the service and was delighted to hear her former minister, Rev. A. B. Ndebele preach. He greeted her warmly. Ma Donsa said: I was thirsting for the Word. You taught me for many years at Ingwenya.”
The letter continues, “Her body is weak but she can still read her Bible, which is a great blessing. Her faith in the Lord Jesus is wonderful. I enjoy every minute with her. She speaks of Jesus and His saving power, quoting, None perish that Him trust (Ps 34:22).”
Though frail in body, Ma Donsa returned to Ingwenya to attend the communion services in March 1999, and much enjoyed the fellowship. Less than a year later she passed away to enjoy the fellowship of the saints in heaven, and to have the full enjoying of God to all eternity.
Ma Donsa truly was, as the friend from Bulawayo said in his letter, “a light set on a hill which cannot be hid”.