The Mutambara Mission was established in 1905 by the Methodist Episcopal Church at the invitation of Chief Mutambara from whence the mission was named. The mission is located on a 3,700 acre farm 50 miles south of Mutare (Umtali), which the church acquired in 1907 using a government land credit obtained from swapping land connected with the original Old Umtali mission land grant.
The first missionaries, Reverend and Mrs. Abraham L. Buchwalter, arrived at Mutambara in April 1908. They quickly erected a tent “and the work of the mission began without delay.” Five weeks later “a dwelling of poles and mud with roof of grass and floors of beaten earth was completed and occupied.” The Buchwalters left in 1910 due to sickness and were replaced by a series of missionaries including T.A. O’Farrell, Rev. G. A. Roberts, Rev. (later Bishop) John M. Springer and Rev. M. J. Murphree.
In 1913 a substantial brick dwelling was erected and in 1914 a large brick church was built as well as dormitory buildings for boys.
Mutambara Mission Hospital
Medical work started at the mission in 1909 with the arrival of nurse Miss E.D. Nourse. The beginnings of the Mutambara Mission Hospital began in 1918 with construction of a one-room maternity hospital. By 1937, Reverend Roberts reported that the medical work of the mission had increased to such an extent that it had completely outgrown the mission Medical Department. From January to September 1937, over 11,000 outpatients and about 500 in-patients had been treated in its 18-bed facility. The hospital was remodeled and increased from 55 to 100 beds beginning in 1967 to address “woefully inadequate conditions” and “untold problems in delivering medicines and supplies.”
Mutambara Girls School
In June 1918 the Methodist Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) began work at Mutambara, laying the foundations of a girl’s school. Lula Tubbs and Sadie Rexrode were the first WFMS missionaries at Mutambara. They walked the fifty miles from Umtali to the mission in order to be able to visit the kraals along the way down – a journey that took them ten days.
Their work consisted of teaching in the Primary Department of the school and supervising the “industrial training” (sewing, etc.) of the girls. In May 1919 construction of a schoolhouse began, which for some months housed the WFMS workers and the boarding girl’s school. By 1922, total enrollment was 310 girls, with 72 in the boarding department (living at the mission).
Mutambara currently consists of a church, Primary school (grades 1-7) and 120-bed hospital.
- Missions in Rhodesia Under the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898 – 1934, Old Umtali – James Henry
- A History of Christian Missions In Zimbabwe, 1890-1939 – Chengetal Zvobgo
- Mark Loomis