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Robert Moffat

1795-1883. Scottish missionary to Africa. Born in East Lothian, he had scanty education, but after conversion he was, after some hesitation, accepted by the London Missionary Society for work in Africa. There he went in 1816, and in 1825 settled at Kuruman, Bechuanaland, which became the headquarters of all his activities for forty-five years.

Moffat saw his work as fourfold. (1) Evangelization, which he strongly believed must always precede civilization. Acting on this he made Kuruman a center from which Christian influence radiated over a wide area. When he left in 1870, a whole region had been Christianized and civilized, and many African Christian congregations, ministered to by trained African ministers, had been formed; (2) Exploration, in order to extend missionary work. In 1816 only the relatively small Cape Colony was known. The Orange River was the northern limit of partially known territory; the Kuruman River, on which Moffat's headquarters were established, was beyond that. By 1870 Africa was largely explored as far as and beyond the Zambesi, much of it by Moffat and his son-in-law David Livingstone*; (3) Literature. Through his complete mastery of Sechuana, he translated the whole Bible, composed hymns, and wrote books, providing the Bechuana Africans with a basis for education, tools for worship and study, and the beginnings of a literature; (4) Civilization, especially in agriculture. He introduced irrigation, the use of natural fertilizers, forest preservation, and new crops. In this as in other ways his work was largely preparing the way for others.

Complete consecration, perfect disinterestedness, shrewdness, simplicity of character, and unwavering faith in the power of the Gospel-these were some of the qualities which made Moffat a man of God and an outstanding Christian leader. Failing health forced him to leave Africa in 1870; he died in Kent, England, thirteen years later.

See his Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa (1842), and biographies by J.S. Moffat (1885) and W.C. Northcott (1961).