In 1927 the Cape Town Mission in South Africa had been receiving tithing from a Brother Ratcliff, who lived in Karibib, a tiny town northwest of Windhoek, the capitol of South West Africa, later to become Namibia. The Church was not established in South West Africa, and the Cape Town Mission wanted to know more about this member who kept sending tithing money. Finally, President Samuel Martin took the four-day train ride from Cape Town to Karibib to visit with this member and his family.
They met together and shared testimonies, and Brother Ratcliff explained that he had never been ordained to any priesthood office, but he felt impelled to pay his tithing. The mission president ordained him to the priesthood and asked him to hold cottage meetings in his home. Then he left Brother Ratcliff and his family on their own again.
In the Cumorah Monthly Bulletin of August, 1927, President Martin reported, “I feel that my first visit to the Karibib was under the direction of the Spirit of the Lord and that July 24th, 1927 will denominate another 'Pioneer Day' in the valley of the Karibib mountains, South West Africa, with which the name of Ratcliff will always be lovingly associated by having been called to conduct the work of the Lord in those parts.”
In his 1928 quarterly report to the mission, Brother Ratcliff recorded the baptism of Brother Lange, who was seventy years old when he ran across a newly-converted member, Brother Marcus, who was digging a well near Brother Lange’s ranch. Brother Marcus had given Brother Lange a lot of reading material about the Church.
A week later, Brother Lange walked eighteen miles into town to tell Brother Ratcliff that he was “ready to be baptized!” He had obtained his own animal watering tank and filled it with water from the very well Brother Marcus had been digging, which didn't actually produce much water at all--just enough for a baptism. He just needed someone with authority to come and baptize him.
Brother Ratcliff went out to the ranch and performed the ordinance, and remarked, “It all seems to be the work of the Lord that Brother Marcus should be there to sink the well and that Brother Lange would go to this spot seeking the Lord and then find Brother Marcus there with a Gospel message.
“Water is so incredibly scarce in this country that we have great difficulty in finding a place to baptize. In this case, the well turned out to be a failure because there was only a little water in it. It looks as though the Lord had provided just enough water for Brother Lange’s baptism” (Quarterly Report, 1928:35).
Excerpted from a history collected by Clive Nicholls.