April 25, 2010


Ten years after the first emigrants arrived in Herrnhut the mission work of the Moravian Church began. The congregation had been preparing for several years and an opportunity presented itself in this way. In 1731 Count Zinzendorf was invited to attend the coronation of King Christian VI of Denmark. Whilst there he met Anthony, a slave from the West Indies and valet to Count Laurwig, from whom he learned the conditions under which the slaves lived and their lack of any Christian teaching. Returning to Herrnhut he told of his experience and shortly afterwards Anthony himself came to Herrnhut and was introduced to the congregation.


Twenty six young men had already consecrated themselves to answer the call to service when it came. Leonard Dober and his friend Tobias Leopold offered themselves in July 1731, but the decision of the lot in 1732 was that Leonard Dober a potter, and David Nitschmann, a carpenter, both exiles from Moravia, should go as the first missionaries to St. Thomas. They had no idea how they would get there, and even thought they might have to become slaves themselves if they were to minister to the slaves, but nothing could dampen their enthusiasm and on August 21st 1732 they left Herrnhut to walk to Copenhagen where they hoped to get a boat to take them to their destination. They arrived in St.Thomas on December 13th, the first two in a long line of missionary workers.

In 1733 the Count met two Greenland boys at the Danish court. They had been baptized by a Danish missionary, Hans Egede, who had worked there for ten years with so little result that the Danish College of Missions decided to withdraw its support. Egede however, decided to stay on. The Brethren took up the challenge to maintain the mission and Matthew Stach, his cousin Christian and Christian David the carpenter were sent as assistants to Egede who remained for a further two years but then, completely worn out, returned home. Christian David and Christian Stach were replaced by Frederick Bohnisch and John Beck. It was not until 1738 that the breakthrough came and John Beck was successful in getting the Gospel message across to the Greenlanders. By the end of the 19th century when almost all the people along the coast were Christian, the Moravians felt their work was completed and, at the 1899 General Synod, following due consultation, the decision was taken to hand the work back to the Danish State Church.