I have been studying some mission history over the last couple months and one story stood out more than the rest. My entire life is in a weird turmoil because of the following story. I hope it wrecks you just like it is me: Enjoy, Ryan
“Two young Moravians heard of an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2000 to 3000 slaves. And the owner had said, ‘No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he’s ship wrecked we’ll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he’s never going to talk to any of us about God. I’m through with all that nonsense.’
Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic, there to live and die without hearing of Christ.
Two young Moravians heard about it. They sold themselves to the British planter and used the money they received from their sale, for he paid no more than he would for any slave, to pay their passage out to his island for he wouldn’t even transport them.
As the ship left its pier in the river at Hamburg and was going out into the North Sea carried with the tide, the Moravians had come from Herrenhut to see these two lads, in their early twenties, off. Never to return again, for this wasn’t a four year term, they sold themselves into lifetime slavery.
The families were there weeping, for they knew they would never see them again. And they wondered why they were going and questioned the wisdom of it. As the gap widened and the housings had been cast off and were being curled up there on the pier, and the young boys saw the widening gap, one lad with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow, raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were heard from them, they were these,
‘MAY THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING!’”See too,
The world was not worthy of them and neither is the church
John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are names you may not readily recognize. John was a potter and David a carpenter. Ordinary occupations. Extraordinary men. They are men who left the security of their jobs and families in Copenhagen to become the first Moravian missionaries in 1732.John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are unsung heroes.
These men were not going on a nice short term mission to the Caribbean, or even Africa or China but they sold themselves into slavery to answer the call ‘come and minister the gospel to us’. It gives new meaning to the phrase “sold out for Christ”.
They became slaves in order to have the opportunity to reach the slaves of the West Indies for their Lord. Their life’s purpose was to follow the Lamb who had given His life for them and for all the souls of the world. Their mission statement was “Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him.”
One of the men left his wife and children begging on the wharf for him to reconsider and stay. But the call and heart of God for these slaves in the West Indies was even greater than the pull of home. As the ship pulled away from the docks the men lifted a cry, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering” which became the resonating heartbeat of the Moravian Missions movement.
The men felt their sacrifice paled in comparison to the sacrifice of their Saviour. They loved Jesus with everything they were and did, and desired to walk in obedience, knowing that the God who called them is the God who gives the courage, grace and anointing for the task. Even to spend a life of hard toil, with meager provisions and hardship. They experienced and modeled the truth of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The Moravian Movement, that sent out David and John, was founded by Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (born in 1720), in the early 1720’s. He initially founded it as a refuge for Christians in a papist Europe, but soon it attracted those with a desire for intimacy with God and a zeal for prayer and evangelism.
In May 1727, Count Zinzendorf and the leaders of the community felt God calling them to prayer at a deeper level. They committed themselves to praying round the clock, beginning a 24/7 prayer meeting that lasted over 100 years involving not only the adults but the children of the movement. In August of that the minister at the Sunday morning service was “overwhelmed by the wonderful and irresistible power of the Lord.” A move of God broke out, with people testifying that “hardly knew whether they belonged to earth or had already gone to heaven. We saw the hand of God and were all baptized with his Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst.”
Over 10 years later John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church visited the community where the revival was still taking place. He experienced a powerful encounter with God that was to shape his own personal relationship with God and his ministry.
It was in this environment and atmosphere that David and John grew in hunger of God, His Word and His Lost. They epitomized the Count’s personal life motto; “I have one passion: It is Jesus! Jesus Only!” They knew that the secret to been able to sell themselves into slavery in order to minister to their fellow slaves was to be totally in love with their Lord. With their eyes upon Him they could lay their lives down and carry the cross of slavery.
These two men birthed a missions movement, not by persuading men to “Go” via flashy display boards, brochures and messages, but David and John, and the men that followed their example, lived the message and just did it. They lived the “Go”.
John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman inspired their generation, and generations to come to lay down their lives for The Lamb.”