On this day in 1838, Charles Rhenius, the first missionary with the Church Missionary Society, was born in Germany.

At the age of six, Charles was sent to live with his very wealthy uncle when his father died.  His uncle, who had no children of his own, gladly took Charles and raised him as his own son.  The two developed a close bond and his Uncle, in his will, left everything he owned to Charles.  But Charles’ uncle was also a major supporter of the new Mission movement among the churches and his house was filled with articles and magazines about the work being done around the world.  Charles would spend long, rainy days inside his Uncle’s home, devouring the information found within these articles.  Soon, a desire began to form on his young heart to one day be a missionary.

When Charles announced his intentions, he was met by much opposition from his family.  While his uncle accepted his decision, his aunt, mother, and siblings all begged him not to go.  One evening, while he was with his mother, she again desperately begged him not to leave.  His response to her, before leaving, was “Dear mother, what am I to do if the Lord should so order it?”.  At the age of 24, he set sail for India.

During the first five months he was in India, he studied the Tamil language and culture.  He was then sent to Madras to start a mission.  As he worked among the people, he began to discover that very few of Indians were able to understand the Bible translation created by the earlier missionaries.  So he set about making a new translation that used the language and grammar of the people.  It soon became Charles vision and passion that every Indian would own a copy of the Bible that they could read and understand.  When he moved to the area of Tirunelveli, he worked tirelessly to see this dream fulfilled.

The last fifteen years of his life was spent in Tirunelveli.  During his time here, he started over 350 churches.  He also formed several Bible societies that distributed and taught the Bible throughout the towns and villages of Tirunelveli. He died in Tirunelveli, among the people he loved and gave his life for.


Charles Theophilus Ewald Rhenius

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