13 November 1881, Rev JD Kestell takes up his ministry at Dutoitspan.
Pictured is JD Kestell as a young minister and the NGK building in Dutoitspan that opened officially for worship in December 1881.
“Vader” Kestell begins his ministry at Dutoitspan
Dr John Daniel Kestell, better known to his flock as “Vader”, was a diamond digger in Kimberley before he became a minister.
Kestell was born in Pietermaritzburg on 15 February 1854, son of Charles and Dorothea Kestell, and grandson of 1820 Settlers Charles and Grace Kestell from Devonshire England who had come to South Africa with Morgan’s group. His father, a firm Christian, had settled in the Zuurveld in 1845 and joined the Dutch Reformed Church in Maritzburg where he became a deacon and later an elder. This would be the grounding for John Kestell’s later vocation as a minister and man of God.
Kestell’s parents Charles and Dorothea Louisa (nee Meyer) were married on 31 October 1831. Dorothea died in 1854 with Kestell then marrying Johanna Susanna (nee van den Berg) in August 1859.
In 1871, when John Kestell was 17 years of age he travelled with his father to Kimberley where they searched for diamonds in the recently discovered mines, leaving the diamond fields in 1873 to study at the Stellenbosch Gymnasium and then the Theological Seminary. In 1880 he travelled to Utrecht in the Netherlands to further his theological studies, returning in 1881 where he was appointed the assistant minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Dutoitspan.
He married Anna Geertruida (nee Hofmeyr) on 28 February 1882.
It was in Kimberley where he established the first refuge for homeless children, this being the Newton Home in 1891.
His next station after Kimberley was in Harrismith as from January 1894.
His life from this time on is well documented, becoming one of the truly great sons of Afrikanerdom, being a Bible translator, writer, cultural leader of the Volk, serving with the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, and founding the chain of Kestell Children’s Home.
He died in Bloemfontein on 9 February 1941 and is buried at the Women’s Memorial.