Brethren in Christ Church: Matopo Mission

Brethren in Christ Church

Matopo Mission


Brethren in Christ Church (BIC) missionaries founded the Matopo (“Matoppo”) Mission near Bulawayo in July 1898.  Setting out for Matopo from South Africa with an 18- foot wagon and three tons of supplies drawn by 18 donkeys, a missionary party of 5 led by Bishop Jesse Engle arrived in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) at the site where Matopo Mission School is today.  The missionaries set up houses, planted a garden, started doing home visits and opened the first school on October 11, 1898, in a 16-foot by 16-foot tent.  There were 12 students on the first day.”

George Clifford Cress and his wife Sara joined the mission in 1899.  In keeping with BIC’s “emphasis on a plan lifestyle, one without extravagance of adornment,” his early mission photographs show the missionaries living in dwellings constructed with indigenous clay, log walls and thatched roofs.  Those were later replaced with Western style brick walls and tin roofs due to the high maintenance of traditional huts.

The Matopo Teacher Training Institute was begun in 1915 to train African leaders to teach and preach at the outstations and pastor churches.  A clinic was opened in 1924.  As of 1959, Matopo also consisted of “Central Primary,” ‘Lower Primary” and “Secondary” schools.



  • Missions in Southern Rhodesia – Paul King
  • The Brethren in Christ Church takes root in Zimbabwe: Gently, step by step, Courier (2003) – Doris Dube
  • They Brought a Kodak: The Earliest Photographs of Brethren in Christ Missionaries in Africa, Brethren in Christ History and Life – Dwight Thomas
  • Mark Loomis