Malla Moe, a young single woman originally from Norway, was part of one of the first missionary teams to enter South Africa and work among the Zulu tribe. Despite having minimal education and no formal missionary training, TEAM founder Fredrik Franson recruited Moe in Chicago because of her great passion for the gospel.
When she protested his call to go to Africa, explaining that perhaps she should attend Moody Bible Institute for two years before going to the field, Franson replied, “God says go, and the heathen says come. You must go now.”
In 1892, after a short two-week training class led by Franson, Moe and her group of eight missionaries sailed for South Africa. The first year was tough. They endured harsh living conditions, the death of four team members, and met strong resistance from the Zulu people to the gospel. Discouraged, Moe was at loose ends as to where she fit with the team. The other missionaries had obvious practical skills such as nursing and vast Bible knowledge to share with the Zulu people. Moe did not.
When the team moved to Swaziland, Moe decided to do something drastic, something that she thought only she could do: She left the mission station to live with the Zulu people for a month.
Moe stayed in a kraal, a large grass-roofed hut, with the young women of the tribe. She loved being part of day-to-day village life, praying and sharing Bible stories while learning the culture and customs of the tribe. She returned to the mission station with a renewed sense of purpose, knowing that God had found her a place to belong.
When her teammates expressed concern about a young, white woman living alone among the black tribes people, Moe said, “God brings me here. He takes cares of me. I must be one with them. I live with them, so they listen.”
Moe spent the next 30 years living in various villages across Swaziland, sleeping in kraals and sharing the love of Jesus. “She sits with us in the huts,” the villagers said. “She eats our food, she knows our names, she never forgets us. She brings light into our dark huts.”
At the age of 65, Moe decided she needed to reach the more remote people groups in the area, so she built a “Gospel Wagon,” a small house on wheels where she would live and work. For the next 15 years, Moe traveled to some of the least-reached parts of Tongaland, Swaziland, and Zululand. She endured malaria outbreaks, droughts, and food shortages. People flocked to Moe and her wagon when it rolled into a village. She handed out small gifts, served tea, and talked about Jesus.
Finally, at the age of 80, Moe settled down at the Bethel mission station and became the unofficial hostess, welcoming new missionaries to the field with a proper African meal. Ten years later, Moe died while surrounded by African believers. Her lifetime of service brought many to Lord, and she helped establish a thriving TEAM ministry in Africa that exists to this day.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger