On this day in 1733, the first Moravian missionaries to Greenland departed from Herrnhut, the Moravian sanctuary founded upon the land of Count Zinzendorf. Three young men made up this missionary expedition: Christian David, Matthäus Stach, and his cousin Christian Stach. Christian David, a Moravian, was the man who was instrumental in the founding of Herrnhut and had been a right hand to Zinzendorf in many ways. When he met the count, he saw a man who loved the Lord and would offer protection to those suffering persecution for the Lord’s name. So he sent a letter to all his friends in Moravia, telling them to come to the Count’s estate. So they came, and Herrnhut, one of the great missionary hubs of its day, was founded.
When Count Zinzendorf was attending the coronation of the the king of Denmark, he meant three men who would change his life and the community of Herrnhut forever. The first man was a slave from the island of St. Thomas and the other two men were Eskimos from Greenland. Each man told the Count of the lack of truth in their country and their deep wish to see the Gospel taken to their people. When the count returned to his estate, he vowed to reach, not only these two lands, but the world with the Gospel.
The fire in Zinzendorf ‘s heart soon spread throughout the settlement and several volunteered money, supplies, or themselves to the task of reaching those who never heard. As the three young men prepared for their voyage, they received some extra clothing and a little bit of money. Matthäus Stach later wrote:
“Neither could anyone give us much information about things, or many instructions how we should manage; for the congregation [in Herrnhut] had as yet no experience in the affair of missions, and we were but the second who were commissioned to try whether the heathen would embrace the message of peace concerning their Creator and Redeemer. Therefore it was left to us to act in all circumstances, as the Lord and His Spirit should lead us.”
The first couple years were hard on the new missionaries as they learned the language and tried to get settled in this strange, new land. But they continued to cling to the Lord and trust in Him. Soon, they were able to successfully establish their first mission, then another, then another. Other Moravians arrived to help the men and the work grew. By the end of the century, over 32 missions and 33 schools had been started across the island.
On this day in 1852, the British warship, the H.M.S. Dido, found the shipwreck of the Pioneer and the bodies of Allen Gardiner and four other missionaries. These men had been on a mission to reach the Indians of Tierra del Fuego, a group of islands at the southern tip of South America.
As a young man, Allen Gardiner was a naval captain for the British navy and a rejecter of Jesus Christ. But as he traveled the seas, he saw a wide range of people and people all every faith. But regardless of the person, he saw in them an empty miserable life. And all he could think about was the truths he had been taught as a young boy by his mother. He realized that Christ was the only one who could offer the fulfillment he so desperately desired. After this, he began to see the people he sailed among as lost souls who needed hope.
When his naval career was over, he began the life of a missionary. He would travel to different countries, preaching and handing out literature. Once, he backpacked over a 1000 miles in Chile, handing out tracts and Bibles. But his heart always went back to the Indians he had seen at Tierra del Fuego. Soon, he gathered together an expedition to reach this tribe. Outwardly, it seemed hopeless. Charles Darwin had described these Indians as living in absolute savagery and squalor, without any hope of being taught anything. But Gardiner wouldn’t give up.
His plan was to find an Indian he had met before who had lived quite some in England as a slave and could serve as a translator. But every time their boats would get close to landing, the Indians would attack them and run them off. As they continued along the coast looking for a safe harbor, one of their ships was wrecked. Realizing that they were losing supplies and room, they made large distress signals and put them out with their location, hoping a passing ship would find them. But when they were found, it was too late. Among their belongs was found Gardiner’s diary with this entry:
“If a wish was given to me for the good of my neighbor it would be that the Mission in Tierra Del Fuego be pursued with vigor. But the Lord will direct and do everything because time and reason are His your hearts
are in His hands…”.
The writings, information, and lives of these men inspired the South American Mission Society to take up the work, where they saw great success.