Missionaries Alexander Merensky and Heinrich Grützner started work in the north eastern part of the South African Republic in 1860. There were unsuccessful early attempts to evangelise the Swazi and in Sekhukhuneland. Merensky sought refuge amongst his Christian converts in the Middelburg district and founded the station at Botshabelo, which means,"city of refuge”. This soon became the most important station of the Berlin Society in South Africa. Here were established a school, seminary, workshops, mill and printing press; and from here the Berlin Missionary Society's influence spread throughout the Transvaal. By 1900 there were more than thirty six stations and nearly 30,000 converts in the region. The Berlin missionaries in South Africa, particularly Merensky, Knothe, Trümpelmann, Schwellnus and Eiselen, contributed to the study of African languages, producing Bible translations and hymnals. It was at Botshabelo that the missionary R.F Güstav Trümpelmann, with the invaluable assistance of his student, Abraham Serote, translated the bible in Sepedi or North Sotho. The publication in 1904 by the British and Foreign Bible Society of this combined effort was the first complete Bible in an indigenous language. Their work was interrupted by the Anglo Boer War and, even more so, the World Wars when access to funding became severely limited. Moreover, after World War II the society's Berlin headquarters fell within the Soviet occupation zone. In 1961 the Berlin Missionary Society established a branch in West Berlin, which remained in contact with its only remaining missionary field, namely in South Africa, for the next 28 years. However, from 1962 it began granting independence to its mission churches which, in time, became amalgamated with other Lutheran mission churches in the region forming the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. In 1979, the apartheid government of South Africa set up a township in the 'place of refuge'. Botshabelo is 45 km east of Bloemfontein and has a population now, of 177 971 people!