Frans Lion Cachet (1835–1899) – Jewish emissary for Christ

Frans Lion Cachet was born to a Jewish merchant family in Amsterdam in 1835. He met his Messiah in 1849 after his parents converted to Christianity. Sometime after this he came into contact with Pastor Witteveen of Ermelo in the Netherlands. Witteveen ran a charitable home for the “weary and heavy laden” and his humble life and anointed teaching inspired many in his small congregation to venture into the mission fields. Witteveen evidently had a profound influence on Frans and awakened him to the same call.

Frans received his theological training at the Scottish Seminary in Amsterdam. In 1858, he left as a missionary to South Africa with the blessing and support of the Ermelo congregation. He served initially among the Cape Malays and in the Cape “Ebenezer Congregation”. In 1861 he departed at the invitation of a Reverend Huet to Natal and served in Ladysmith until 1865, and then at Utrecht. During his fifteen years in South Africa, he founded eight new congregations and the Transvaal chapter of the Netherlands Reformed Church was established under his leadership. A bible presented to a satellite of the Ladysmith community was donated by Witteveen’s congregation in the Netherlands and bears the inscription in Lion Cachet’s handwriting: ‘in thankful remembrance to the spiritual breeding-ground of pastors’. (The Bible is currently preserved in the Pietermaritzburg archive of the Netherlands Reformed Church). The satellite station in KwaZulu-Natal was accordingly named “Ermelo” after its Dutch benefactors.

In 1873, Frans returned to the Netherlands. In 1875 he published some memoires under the title “Fifteen Years in South Africa”. A year later he returned to South Africa and became the Pastor at Villiersdorp. But his passion for mission would not dissipate. In the same year, he convinced the Cape synod to establish a mission to the Jews and then travelled extensively through the Cape, Natal and Orange Free State to promote this work. During this time he also published a newspaper, “Zuid-Afrkiaanische Stem voor en tot Israel”. His frequent absence from the Villiersdorp congregation led to dissatisfaction and he finally left South Africa in 1880 to take up an appointment in Rotterdam. Even then he could not settle down in the pastor’s role, and undertook a further mission to Ceylon, Sumatra and Java.

Also in this time, he published a history entitled ‘The Struggles of the Transvaalers – an account for the people of the Netherlands’. When the Anglo-Boer war broke out in 1899, he wrote much in protest and did much to solicit support in the Netherlands against the injustice against the Boers. On one such mission to Bergen-op-Zoom, he collapsed and died in the arms of the local pastor. He was buried in Rotterdam on 1 December 1899. Ermelo (South Africa) was burnt to the ground during the war. The church building he inaugurated was one of two that survived.

A. Bernstein, Jewish Witnesses for Christ, Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Jerusalem, 1999.
E. A. Venter, Vier-honderd Leiers in Suid-Afrika oor vier eeue, Potchefstroom, 1980.
Netherlands Reformed Church, KZN synod, archive records.
Dr. F. Kriel, unpublished dissertation, ‘Die Lewe van Frans Lion Cachet, met besondere toespitsing op sy betekenis vir die Sending.’