Journey to the Himba

Travel the Road's journal from our journey to the Himba.

Koakoveld region, Northern Namibia near the border of Angola: At the moments before first light, the rocky landscape of the Koakoveld region shows shades of indigo and purple as it sits in silence. By midday, the brilliant colors of the morning give way to the white, harsh rays of the sun that casts down heat upon the grassland valleys. Round earthen made homes of the Himba dot small patches of territory while cattle and goat herds graze on the dry vegetation. At night, the Milky Way shines so brightly, one can see the shimmering of colored stars across the center mass of the galaxy. There is no cell service, wifi or distractions of the modern world in the Koakoveld, only nature and the comfort of its silence.

“Tomorrow we should reach the far Himba,” Cleef states as we pop our rooftop tents near a dry riverbed. Cleef, our guide and translator, is a Himba himself and from the town of Opuwo. A young man with dreams of becoming a lawyer, Cleef, is first and foremost a servant of the Lord and joyful to join us on this expedition to the remote Himba. “How many hours do you think it will take tomorrow?” We ask, trying to gauge our fuel. Cleef rubs his chin and then says, “Maybe five to six hours, and the tracks are very difficult. Bigger mountains than today and very rocky.” We consult our maps and gps, but we are far off any listed track roads. Cleef, specifically knew of a few Himba villages near a hillside in a distant valley. These Himba were unreached and with little contact and this is where we were headed. We trusted tomorrow would bring a good day and tucked into our tents for a night's sleep.

The dawn was cold. We packed our kit into our Toyota Hilux and each ate a granola bar. Once on the move, the sand tracks shifted in color from red to white and back again to red. The mountain passes were set with small jagged rocks that were pointing upwards like sharp black teeth trying to pop our tires. Our 4x4 crept in first gear up and over the dry mountains, slamming down each rock in an awkward way like a refrigerator being moved up and down a flight of stairs. After five hours of hard driving we entered a valley of golden grass set between two mountains. It felt good to be driving on even ground again. “Here! It's here! Turn towards the mountain on the right,” Cleef joyfully reported pointing towards a small passage. A minute later, we rounded the mountain into an open grassland and saw the first of the Himba huts. A few homes blended into the landscape and more appeared in the distant horizon heatwaves. This was the place, we made it. Standing next to the huts where the incredible sight of the tribal Himba women. Their black skin made dark red from the ochre and butter they applied every day from head to toe; long, red clay covered hair, weaved into 30 or so locks, with calfskin Mohawks adorning the tops of their heads for the Himba women who were married. They were a sight of tribalism that is rarely seen in the modern world. “Morro (hello),” we said, greeting the first Himbas we encountered. Cleef, quickly sprung into action and began talking with everyone. Smiles and handshakes were exchanged, and soon, more and more Himba began to walk from their homes in the distance. The entire village was quickly gathered to see who arrived in the vehicle and we all congregated under a large shade tree. Cleef explained to the Himba why we had come and that we were Christians. When we introduced ourselves, the Himbas all slowly repeated our names. “Timoooothy...Williaaaam.” They repeated slowly in unison. We asked if any of them had heard of Jesus or have seen the symbol of the cross. Many shook their heads yes about the symbol, but that was all they knew of Christianity— the recognition of the cross. We told them we would explain what this symbol meant and what it meant for all the people of the world. So we began, and as we shared about the life of Jesus, the Himba shook their heads in amazement when they heard of the healings and raising of the dead that Jesus performed. Then we told of his trail and the punishment of the cross, the sacrifice he made for all the sins of the world at Calvary. But hearing of Jesus resurrecting from the dead, was again, amazing for them and they looked at each other with wide-eyes. We told them of the coming Kingdom of heaven and the salvation to all who believe in Jesus. Cleef look to me and said while translating, “This is good. They are really hearing this in their heart. I can see it in their faces.”

We told them that this message was from a place very far from our home and very far from their home as well. But God did not distinguish between tribes or people, all are one, all are His children. We told them this kingdom and seal of the Holy Spirit could be had in one moment, this moment, all they'd have to do is believe and confess with their mouths, and they would be saved. The entire village prayed with us and accepted Jesus. After this, we explained healing and laying on hands. Many came forward and when we prayed for them and the Lord gave us specific words of knowledge for certain people. When Cleef translated these words to the people, they shook their heads in yes motions taking the word to heart. Then they hurriedly pointed for us to pray for others and the children also, God was moving in this place. Spending all day with them we explained how they too can pray and how God listens always. One elderly Himba woman whom we had spoken a word over motioned to Cleef and repeated a saying over and over. Cleef said to us, “She is saying, 'please, please come again. We want these men who know the Spirit to come again. They know us and know things.” Later in the afternoon, we said our goodbyes and began our journey back to the other villages. Praise God for the harvest.

This is but one small excerpt of our time with the Himba. With Cleef, we delivered tracks and materials to other villages near Opuwo and continued on to reach more. When we left the region, Cleef said he is ready to have more people come and he and his pastor will help in the work ahead. Praise God!