We reproduce this true story for the sake of the many hundreds of young Christians now fitting themselves for missionary work at home and abroad, to whom it is not familiar
Hermannsburg is a quiet German village lying upon the bosom of the wide, wild Luneburg Heath, whose long swelling lines of summer bloom roll away unbroken for miles until lost in a wood, or shut in by an oak-crowned hill or a reach of bright green meadow
In 1848 Louis Harms became, by the death of his father, the sole pastor of the parish. He had been born and brought up there, and he loved the Heath and the village "with body and soul." He was a great reader, an original thinker, and an eloquent speaker ; and had besides an overflowing humor and shrewd common sense. And though he had had a thorough university education, he lived among the simple people as one of themselves, like a father or a brother. His deep and constant communion with the Lord Jesus and the indwelling life of the divine Spirit made him a power with God and with men. Under the impulse of his faith and fervor the people awakened to a new life
Hermannsburg was soon a Christian village indeed. Every house had family worship, and no one was absent from church except from sickness. The laborers had prayers in the fields, and their country ballads were exchanged for the grand old German hymns. Poverty and drunkenness disappeared and a great joy filled the place
Now came the natural result of a quickened spiritual life. Faith and self-surrender asked for work to do, and love reached out in pity for the lost, and in obedience to Christ's command, a mission to the heathen was proposed in 1849. Twelve villagers offered themselves. A house was set apart for their training, and Mr. Harms' brother, also a clergyman, took charge of them. The course of instruction extended over four years, and meanwhile the candidates worked daily, "partly for health, partly that they might do something for their own support, and partly that they might remain humble." As to the spirit in which they were to study, Mr. Harms exhorted them to pray diligently. "I do not mean your common prayers only," he said, "but diligently in your own room, daily, daily for the Holy Spirit. Remember Luther's saying: 'Well-prayed is half-learned."'
The wish of some young sailors to join this mission band as colonists, suggested to the Hermannsburg peasants that they might themselves go out in a colony. And now came the money question. "Then," said Harms: "I knocked diligently on the dear God in prayer." One of the sailors said: "Why not build a ship and you can send as often as you will?" But the money! "I prayed fervently to the Lord," said Harms, "and as I rose up at midnight from my knees, I said, with a voice that almost startled me in the quiet room: Forward now in God's name."
Mr. Harms now sent a brief report of his plans to two country newspapers, and money came in from all quarters. A brig was built at Harburg and the colonists were made ready. There were eight of them and eight missionaries. Smiths, tailors, carpenters, shoemakers, coopers, were fitting out their ship. The women and girls knitted with marvelous swiftness. The farmers brought in their loads of buckwheat and rye, and stripped their orchards for the vessel; while hens and pigs accumulated as if for a show. The very Heath paid tribute in brooms. When all was ready a farewell service was held, at which the sixteen stood up and sung together the hero-psalm, Einfeste Burg ist unset Gott. And on the twenty-eighth of October, 1853, their mission ship Candace sailed for Africa. Three weeks afterward twelve new candidates took their places in the training house, to be ready for the next voyage
The Candace carried her passengers to Port Natal, or Durban, in Southeastern Africa, the same port at which all our American missionaries, among the Zulus, land. In the interior of the colony of Natal, which is under British rule, the Hermannsburgers bought 6,000 acres of land not far from Pieter Maritzburg, built permanent dwellings, and called the settlement New Hermannsburg. The English government soon became friendly, giving them 3,000 more acres, and offering 6,000 to any new mission station. The missionaries held all in common and soon settled to their work among the Zulus
On her second voyage, in 1856, the Candace landed fifteen more colonists in Natal, and in 1857 no less than forty-four persons, twelve of them missionaries, left the Old Hermannsburg for the New
At the end of seven years there were one hundred of these settlers at eight stations in the eastern part of Natal, and fifty heathen had been baptized. Pastor Harms died in 1865, but his work was carried on by his brother until 1885, and since then by his nephew, Egmont Harms. In 1885 their South African mission, which had spread into Basutoland, numbered 51 stations, 60 missionaries, and 10,336 converts!
The Hermannsburgers had also undertaken a mission in India, where, in 1885, they had ten stations, eleven missionaries, twenty-seven helpers, and over 800 baptized pastors. They have more recently begun work in New Zealand and Australia. They have given up the plan of sending out colonies, and of a community of goods among missionaries and of a missionary ship. But their pastor is still sole director, and their work is still carried on by peasants trained in their own village and is supported by their labor, faith, and prayer. Each of the 11,000 Hermannsburg communicants lays annually a gift on the communion table. Plain yeomen have handed in 500 crowns, and some have given their all
In addition to these sources of supply, Pastor Harms began in 1854 to publish a missionary magazine which has had great success. It was a quaint, informal exchange of letters between Old and New Hermannsburg, keeping them in full sympathy and acquaintanceship in the most easy and friendly way. This has also proved an efficient method of arousing the interest and keeping up the gifts of others who feel the impulse of this living faith and work
Such glorious things can Christians do, such results may be expected, when a whole church has " a mind to work."
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, The Missionary Herald, Volume 83