*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 25th of June 2021 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Today we remember Ingwer Ludwig Nommensen on the anniversary of his first arrival, on this the 25th of June in 1862, on the island of Sumatra where he would become, according to one modern bishop, “one of the greatest missionaries of all time”.

Nommensen was born in 1834 Schleswig-Holstein, today a German territory that was then under Danish rule. After a childhood accident in which he lost the use of his legs he seemingly miraculously regained use of them and determined to serve God now as a mobile servant. He studied at the Rhenish Mission Society in what was then Prussia. He would sail to Sumatra to then work with the Dutch mission.

(It’s worth noting, if this makes any sense, that the Metternich system actually made a mess of partitioning off Europe and the great wars to come are, in part, due to this).

So, what makes Nommensen so noteworthy?

  1. He was one of the first Christians to encounter the Batak people of Sumatra.
  2. His work in translation and in supporting natives against the Dutch Empire (when possible) gained the trust of the locals who soon would convert en masse.
  3. He refused to import Germanic/Danish or Dutch church orders preferring instead to contextualize Christianity with an order of service and ecclesiology fit for the island Batak people.
  4. By the time of his death in 1918 the Sumatran church had over 30 indigenous pastors, hundreds of local preachers, and some 180,000 local Sumatrans joined a local church
  5. When the tumultuous 20th century led to the removal of western missionaries the church continued, and continues to thrive, with the native Batak and Sumatran population.

Missionary work is a noble calling, but it has been used as a tool of the state for too long. Missionaries with ulterior motives, or guided by institutions with ulterior motives have becomes far too common over the last 200 years.

I tend to look for the figures who live amongst the people, work in their language and with their customs. If they build a colonial church, great for the colonists! But when they can build an indigenous church to share the hope of Jesus with the natives I think we can all appreciate such non-politically motivated baptisms.

It is worth noting that Nommensen did all of this despite personal tragedy. His first wife died as did his second. 4 of his 9 children died young, one murdered and another killed in WW1. Born in 1834, arriving in Sumatra on this day in 1862 Ingwer Ludwig Nommensen died in 1918 at the age of 84.

The last word for today is from Romans chapter 10:

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by the proprietor of gillespie.coffee who doesn’t currently have a Sumatran SO on the menu, but has in the past and has plenty of delicious coffee choices for you- he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a former barista and coffee roaster Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.