On this day in 1776, the first Eskimo was baptized in the area of Labrador, one of the northern Canadian Providences.

Labrador was the vast, rich frozen home to thousands of Eskimos.  As explorers continued to discover the “New World”, they began to realizes just how many natives lived in these Northern snow lands.  One of these explores was named John Christian Ehrhardt.  John was a member of the Moravian church and an expert sailor.  When he returned from his trading trips to Northern Canada, he went before his church can strongly urged them to begin mission work among the Eskimos.

The Moravians, by this time, had become quite efficient at starting missions.  They had already done so in Greenland, the West Indies, and among the Native Americans of the colonies. After much discussion and planning, Ehrhardt and four other men were sent out to start the mission.  The year was 1752.  Prepared with plenty of supplies and resources, the men  set sail for Canada.  Their goal was to establish contact with the Eskimos, learn their language, and open a door for more missionaries to follow,  But when they arrived, Ehrhardt led a small delegation ashore with presents for the Eskimos,  For days, those aboard the ship waited for their return.  But they never came back.  The group, now void of their leader, had to return to Europe.  The first mission had been a failure.

But Ehrhardt’s work of faith was not altogether wasted. The death of the brave sailor, whose warm love for the Saviour had compelled him to go forth with the Gospel news to the wild natives of Labrador, excited deep interest and sympathy in the Church at home, and doubtless stimulated much  fervent prayers on behalf of these savage heathen. Jens Haven, a carpenter, decided to take up Ehrhardt’s work.

For nearly fifteen years, Jen would prepare to start the mission.  He worked hard learning the language.  He made multiple trips to Canada, meeting Eskimos and learning their way of life.  Finally, in 1771, a large ship loaded with supplies arrived at Labrador.  After a prayer of dedication, the work began to build the mission.

The work was slow and the climate was very difficult.  But at last, one of the Eskimos, Kinminguse, came forward to be baptized.  For four years, Kinminguse had faithfully attended the church service with his wife and children.  His baptism sparked excitement throughout the other Eskimos and on the day of his baptism, so many Eskimos showed up that the mission house couldn’t hold them all.

This baptism would only be the beginning of the fruit saw among the Eskimos.  Within the following years, hundreds of Eskimos would follow Christ and a total of five Mission stations would be opened across Labrador.


The History of the Mission in Labrador


On this day in 1812, a ship named the Caravan set sail from Salem, Massachusetts.  Its destination: Calcutta, India.  Its Cargo: the first Americans to ever be sent out as foreign missionaries.

The years of dreaming and months of planning by the five young men (Judson, Newell, Nott, Rice, and Hall) was finally being put into action.  Two of the missionary couples, the Judsons and the Newells, were aboard the Caravan (the others would set sail in another boat soon).  In the days before the ship departed, friends poured in with gifts for the young missionaries to bring with them.  Livestock was brought aboard so the missionaries would have plenty of good food during the voyage.

The night before the missionaries were loaded aboard the ship, a farewell party was thrown for them at the home of Mr. Kimball.  Friends and family poured in to see the missionaries off.  Adoniram, never a fan of big parties, saw all the people at the house and stealthily slipped out the back door and went aboard the ship to wait for Ann.  When it was discovered that he was gone, there was a lot of disappointed suprise.  But Ann and the Newells bid their friends farewell and then joined Judson on the Caravan.

Once aboard the ship, the missionaries gathered for a time of singing, praying, and conversing, which they described later as being  “cheerfulness and even joy!”  But in her diary, Ann recorded some of the pain and fear she felt inside facing this voyage:

Took leave of my friends and native land and embarked on board the brig Caravan for India. Had so long anticipated the trying scene of parting that I found it more tolerable than I had feared. Still my heart bleeds O America, my native land, must I leave thee. Must I leave my parents, my sisters, and brother, my friends, beloved, and all the scenes of my early youth. Must I leave thee Bradford, my dear native town where I spent the pleasant years of childhood, where I learnt to lisp the name of my mother, where my infant mind first began to expand, where I entered the field of science, where I learnt the endearments of friendship and tasted of all the happiness this world can afford, where I learnt also to value a Saviour’s blood and to count all things but loss in comparison with the knowledge of him. Yes! I must leave you all For a heathen land, an uncongenial clime Farewell, happy happy scenes but never, no never, to be forgotten.


To the Golden Shore

Check out bcwe.org

Leave a comment