John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are names you may not readily recognize. John was a potter and David a carpenter. Ordinary occupations. Extraordinary men. They are men who left the security of their jobs and families in Copenhagen to become the first Moravian missionaries in 1732.
John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are unsung heroes.These men were not going on a nice short term mission to the Caribbean, or even Africa or China but they sold themselves into slavery to answer the call ‘come and minister the gospel to us’. It gives new meaning to the phrase “sold out for Christ”. They became slaves in order to have the opportunity to reach the slaves of the West Indies for their Lord. Their life’s purpose was to follow the Lamb who had given His life for them and for all the souls of the world. Their mission statement was “Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him.”
One of the men left his wife and children begging on the wharf for him to reconsider and stay. But the call and heart of God for these slaves in the West Indies was even greater than the pull of home. As the ship pulled away from the docks the men lifted a cry, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering” which became the resonating heartbeat of the Moravian Missions movement.
The men felt their sacrifice paled in comparison to the sacrifice of their Saviour. They loved Jesus with everything they were and did, and desired to walk in obedience, knowing that the God who called them is the God who gives the courage, grace and anointing for the task. Even to spend a life of hard toil, with meager provisions and hardship. They experienced and modeled the truth of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The Moravian Movement, that sent out David and John, was founded by Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (born in 1720), in the early 1720’s. He initially founded it as a refuge for Christians in a papist Europe, but soon it attracted those with a desire for intimacy with God and a zeal for prayer and evangelism.
In May 1727, Count Zinzendorf and the leaders of the community felt God calling them to prayer at a deeper level. They committed themselves to praying round the clock, beginning a 24/7 prayer meeting that lasted over100 years involving not only the adults but the children of the movement. In August of that the minister at the Sunday morning service was “overwhelmed by the wonderful and irresistible power of the Lord.” A move of God broke out, with people testifying that “hardly knew whether they belonged to earth or had already gone to heaven. We saw the hand of God and were all baptized with his Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst.” Over 10 years later John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church visited the community where the revival was still taking place. He experienced a powerful encounter with God that was to shape his own personal relationship with God and his ministry.
It was in this environment and atmosphere that David and John grew in hunger of God, His Word and His Lost. They epitomized the Count’s personal life motto; “I have one passion: It is Jesus! Jesus Only!” They knew that the secret to been able to sell themselves into slavery in order to minister to their fellow slaves was to be totally in love with their Lord. With their eyes upon Him they could lay their lives down and carry the cross of slavery.
These two men birthed a missions movement, not by persuading men to “Go” via flashy display boards, brochures and messages, but David and John, and the men that followed their example, lived the message and just did it. They lived the “Go”. John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman inspired their generation, and generations to come to lay down their lives for The Lamb.