During the 1850s, the London Missionary Society were the pioneers of missionary enterprise. Their labours were met by fierce resistance and very few converts were gained. The Jesuits who followed in the late 1870s also met with little success. Others followed and the Salvation Army began its own attempt in November 1891. Captain and Mrs John Pascoe and their two children along with Captains Scott, Crook, Mahon, Cass and Lieutenant Seale arrived at Fort Salisbury. As was common amongst arriving missionary groups at the time, the Army were granted a farm. This was of 3,000 acres in the Mazowe Valley. Later, the Army moved to Nyachuru where they established the Howard Institute.
In 1928, Adjutant A. Battersby arrived at the Howard Institute. The Adjutant had been a certified midwife with considerable medical knowledge and was instrumental in establishing the Howard Hospital. The Hospital opened on 1 October 1928 with six beds and immediately proved a success. Thousands of people were treated over the following years.
In 1937, Colonel R. E. Chard, the Territorial Commander of Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Bechuanaland, noted in a report that Captain Dora Coleman succeed Captain Mabel Wilkinson as nurse to the dispensary at Howard Institute. In 1939, Ensign Isabel Sloeman started the three year training course for African nurses. The first intake consisted of two!
As far as recruits to the Army were concerned, all converts had to attend a weekly training course for twelve months before becoming soldiers. No alcohol was to be allowed to converts who were also expected to be monogamous. It was a much debated question however where a convert already had more than one wife. It was decided that the man and his wives could become Salvationists but could not hold offices of responsibility. They certainly could not become Army Officers however much they felt the Lord was calling. The Army, alongside all other denominations introduced to the country regarded many native customs as ‘heathen’. This was certainly the case with the lobola system which was seen as the buying and selling of women and was enough to have Salvationists removed from the ranks.