Can you imagine singing 100 hymns in one evening? One church did, with history-shattering results.

Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, born in 1700, grew up in an atmosphere of Bible reading and hymn-singing. He married a Christian countess, and the two began allowing Protestant refugees to camp on their German estate. A Moravian community named Herrnhut ( “Under the Lord’s Watch”) soon developed.

One day a potter named Leonard Dober arrived to establish artistic pottery as a profitable product for Herrnhut. Not long thereafter, Zinzendorf returned from a trip to Copenhagen with reports of slaves in the West Indies having no one to tell them of Christ. Dober spent a sleepless night. “I could not get free of it,” he said. “I vowed to myself that if one other brother would go with me, I would become a slave.”

He found his brother in David Nitschmann, a carpenter.

On August 18, 1732, in an extraordinary, emotion-packed service, the two were commissioned. One hundred hymns were sung that night as the congregation bade them good-bye and Godspeed.

The two sailed from Copenhagen on October 8, sustained by Numbers 23:19: God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises.

They arrived on St. Thomas in December, and a planter named Lorenzen took them in. Their first Sunday saw them beginning their search for souls, preaching to a small group of slaves, several of whom soon followed Christ. Dober ministered to those suffering from malaria, at one point nearly dying of the fever himself. On another occasion, he almost starved. But reinforcements began arriving from Herrnhut in 1734. Though many died, the Moravian tide of missionaries continued—to Greenland, to Lapland and Georgia, to Suriname, to Guinea, to South Africa, to Algeria, to North American Indians, to Ceylon and Romania and Constantinople. From 1732 to 1742, more than 70 Moravian missionaries were sent from Herrnhut, a community of 600.

It has been called “The Golden Decade.” It was the dawn of Protestant missions.

Tell every nation on earth, “The Lord is wonderful and does marvelous things!” (Psalm 96:3)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). August 18.

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