Believe it or not, an 18th-century Danish missionary was trending on Reddit today for his creativity in sharing Christ with the indigenous peoples of Greenland:
Yep, you read that right. Hans Egede was a Lutheran missionary who contextualized the Lord's prayer to the Inuit because they didn't have any word or concept for "bread" in their language!
That's not the only thing Egede did in his missionary work, however. This man went to extraordinary lengths in order to share the Gospel and show true love to the people he served.
In today's day and age, it's not acceptable to talk about such men. A white Danish missionary in 2021 is immediately deemed a patriarchal colonial oppressor. This is why, in the wake of the BLM riots last summer, a statue of Egede in Greenland's capital of Nuuk was vandalized.
For an extremely detailed and lengthy look at Egede, check out this reprint of a 1919 biography on his life. It's worth the read.
Egede was first interested in Greenland because he sought to reestablish contact with any lost Norwegian or Danish settlements that had once been on the massive island. The Vikings had set up colonies along the shore in the 900s, and after Christianity spread through their culture, the settlements even sent offerings to Rome. With the arrival of the Bubonic Plague, however, contact had been lost, and many people believed the Inuit tribes had killed many of the settlers.
Spurred by the desire to find any lost settlements and share the Gospel again with them, Egede found a commission from the Danish king to go to the island. Like many missionary ventures, it was tied up in political and business interests, but Egede was dead set on Christ to the exclusion of all other affairs.
In 1721, Egede took his wife and four children and sailed for the frozen Arctic. Think about that.
The next time you feel uncomfortable sharing your faith or opinions with a stranger, ponder packing up your family and sailing toward the North Pole on a wooden ship. That's conviction.
Egede didn't find any of the Old Norse descendants, but he found many Inuit tribes and began to learn their language. Even when most of the Danish colonists left due to scurvy, he stayed – for over 15 years – continuing to minister as many as he could. Here's a preview of what his daily life looked like:
"Summer and winter Egede was on his travels between Sundays, sometimes in the trader's boat, more often the only white man with one or two Eskimo companions, seeking out the people. When night surprised him with no native hut in sight, he pulled the boat on some desert shore and, commending his soul to God, slept under it. Once he and his son found an empty hut, and slept there in the darkness. Not until day came again did they know that they had made their bed on the frozen bodies of dead men who had once been the occupants of the house, and had died they never knew how. Peril was everywhere. Again and again his little craft was wrecked. Once the house blew down over their heads in one of the dreadful winter storms that ravage those high latitudes. Often he had to sit on the rail of his boat and let his numbed feet hang into the sea to restore feeling in them. On land he some times waded waist-deep in snow, climbed mountains and slid down into valleys, having but the haziest notion of where he would land. At home his brave wife sat alone, praying for his safety and listening to every sound that might herald his return. Tremble and doubt they did, Egede owns, but they never ﬂinched. Their work was before them, and neither thought of turning back."
On one occasion, Egede was reportedly approached by a blind man who wanted to be healed as Jesus had done. Egede told him that he didn't have the power to do so, but that if the man believed in Christ, "He has the power and can do it."
He then reportedly rubbed the man's eyes with cognac – more as a sanitary measure than anything else. Egede didn't see the man for 13 years, and when he did, he learned the man's sight had indeed been restored!
To any who would call men like Egede oppressors, consider that he rightly decried the behavior of some of the Danish soldiers who were sent by the king a number of years after his arrival.
"It is a pity that while we sleep secure among the heathen savages, with so-called Christian people our lives are not safe," he wrote.