Church History
The Branch Family
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The Branch Family

On December 23, 1917, George Smith, a 21-year-old who was interested in the Church, went to Johannes and Elizabeth Brummer’s farm to attend a baptismal service. Many of the Brummers’ relatives and neighbors joined branch members for the special occasion. Johannes, who had joined the Church two years before, was now welcoming his brother Andries and his family into the Church, uniting an extended family in a new faith.

Although George longed to join the Church, his situation was different. His father, who was opposed to his interest in the Church, had mocked ward members and missionaries from the window as George left for the baptism. Soon afterward, he even asked friends in the police department to monitor the hall where the branch met to dissuade George from attending.

To avoid conflict at home, George chose not to attend Church meetings, but he refused to give up his connection to the Church. Over the next month, branch members from Afrikaner, British, and mixed-race backgrounds alike opened their businesses and homes to George so that he could continue to meet with missionaries. He learned about the gospel over dinners at a restaurant run by a Church member named Paul Harris or while stopping by an auto repair shop run by a member named Judge Ward. He soon told the missionaries he didn’t want to put off his baptism any longer over his family’s prejudice, and on January 31, 1918, George was baptized under the shade of a willow tree in the handmade, brick-lined font at the Brummers’.

After George’s baptism, his parents’ opposition intensified. They threatened violence against the missionaries. Frustrated, George confided in Paul Harris and the missionaries that he was planning “to leave home so that he might worship as he thought best.” Instead, the missionaries agreed to meet with George’s parents and the family’s ministers. Through the discussion, the Lord softened the Smiths’ hearts. After that experience, George was free to attend Church without interference and even hosted missionaries in his home. Although George’s parents never joined the Church, he remained active in the branch that had welcomed him so warmly. He married a fellow convert, Kate Baker, and they raised their two children in the Church.