On this day in 1918, Alexander Merensky, missionary to Transvaal, South Africa, died in Berlin.

Alexander was born in Panten, Germany, but was orphaned at a very young age.  He began to move among relatives, living from house to house.  In this uncertain life, the young man found a source of certainty and strength in the Word of God and fell in love with his Lord.  He enrolled in seminary to become a missionary and was sent out by the Berlin Missionary Society to South Africa.  He arrived in 1860.

Once in South Africa, Alexander pioneered into the northern part of the Vaal River.  No other missionary with the BMS had gone up there before.  He started several churches and mission stations in the area and several other missionaries came to the area to help him work.  After five years in this area, severe persecution broke out against the new churches.  Several of the Christians were killed and Alexander, fearing for the safety of his family, fled to the Transvaal Republic.  With his own money, he built a home for his family and a mission station to serve as a refuge for the persecuted Christians.  He named his new station Botshabelo, meaning place of refuge.  He stayed in the Transvaal Republic until 1883.  He then returned to Germany to serve as a leader in the Berlin Missionary Society.

After seven years as one of the director of the society, his heart began to long for the land he had once loved and served in.  So he returned to South Africa at the age of fifty-three and started two more churches. He spent several more years in South Africa before returning to Germany, where he died at age of 81.

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Alexander Merensky

On this day in 1869, Jonas King, missionary in Syria and Greece, died.

Jonas attended Williams College and Andover Theological Seminary.  He was then sent out by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to start a Palestinian Mission.  Working closely with Pliny Fisk, they visited Egypt, Jerusalem, and Lebanon.  They settled in Lebanon, where they worked diligently to learn Arabic and familiarize themselves with the culture.

After studying the the language and culture, the men began to work in Syria, starting churches and teaching the new Christians.  The men would also travel to other areas in the region, such as Jerusalem and Egypt, to help settle new missionaries into their post.  In 1825, Jonas returned to America for three years, during which time he traveled to several churches and colleges, promoting the work of the Palestinian Mission and raising funds and men for the work.

When he returned in 1828, he settled in Athens, Greece, where he started several churches.  He had gone to Greece with the hope of reforming the old Orthodox churches back to the teachings of the Bible.  But his efforts were met by severe opposition. Realizing the impossibility of his dream, he left the old, decaying churches and started several new ones where the Bible was clearly taught.

In his memoirs, King summarizes his own life and ministry, a ministry founded upon God’s word and the power from God:

In all my missionary labors, I have ever sought wisdom and direction from on high, feeling that I could not trust to my own wisdom and understanding. In many trying scenes and difficult circumstances, the hand of God has been most manifest in my deliverance. I have been endeavoring to declare those great truths contained in the word of God necessary for men to know and believe in order to be saved.

In my missionary labors in my native country, in France, in Palestine and Syria, and in Greece, my great object has been to build up the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. To this I have sacrificed my own private interests and my personal reputation and comfort, and God has been faithful to his promise and has provided for me… ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,’ he has said, ‘and all these things shall be added unto you.’

With a constitution naturally feeble, and with frequent bodily infirmities, I have been enabled to perform more labors than I could at first have thought possible. God strengthened me, he supported me, he healed my diseases, he delivered me in times of danger; he who led Israel through the deep as on dry land, and fed them in the wilderness, and cast out their enemies, and gave them possession of the promised land—he who sent his angel and saved Daniel from the mouth of the lions, and the three children from the power of the heat in the fiery furnace—has stood by me, and in him alone has been my hope. If I have done anything in his cause, to him I ascribe the glory.

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Jonas King, Missionary to Syria and Greece

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