In the 1830s, two American Baptist missionaries set out to minister in a part of Indonesia known as Batak, on the island of Sumatra. The Batak people were known for being savage cannibals. The two American missionaries studied the people and language before beginning their preaching ministry to the Batak people.
In 1834, shortly after sending the reports from their study of the Bataks back home, the missionaries were brutally cannibalized.
Although the missionaries died, God did not let their dream die. That very same year a man named Ludwig Nommensen was born.
Decades later, Ludwig Nommensen would serve as a German Lutheran missionary in Batak. Nommensen learned from the research of the cannibalized American Baptists and chose to go to the Batak cannibals with a new approach crafted in light of the missionaries’ data. He learned the customs of the Batak people and transformed many aspects of Batak culture with the Christian faith.
Over the course of many years, God worked powerfully through the ministry of Ludwig Nommensen to reach the Batak people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and establish churches under the name Batak Protestant Christian Community.
Here are some results of Nommensen’s ministry:
- By 1876 there were 2,000 Batak believers.
- By 1878 he had finished translating the New Testament into Batak with the help of fellow missionary Peter Johanssen.
- By Nommensen’s death in 1918, there were 180,000 Batak believers, 34 Batak pastors and 788 teacher-preachers.
- Although World War II drove all missionaries out of Sumatra, Batak leaders were already well established.
- There are now over half a million Batak believers!
Was the work of the American missionaries in vain? No, and as 1 Corinthians 15:58 says:
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
The American missionaries’ work played an important role in reaching over a half million people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God used the data they mined from the Batak people for His glory to be a launching point for Ludwig Nommensen in his ministry.
To pay tribute for the labors of the two American missionaries, there is now a large monument on their graves to recognize their help in preparing the way for the Gospel in this part of Indonesia. This also serves as a reminder that God does not let our work for Him go to waste.
Praise the Lord for His faithfulness!