Sunday, January 21, 2007

John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman

Two posts ago I mentioned hearing a story about two men who sold themselves into slavery so they could bring Christ’s message of freedom to slaves. With some patience and research, I found out who they were:

John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman

The world was not worthy of them and neither is the church. They inspire me. Below is an article I found about them on:

One Passion, One Devotion, Passionate about Jesus, Devoted to Him

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.

Well almost. Their final words as they departed on their mission are now lyrics in a powerful new Cindy Ruakere song; “Receive”.

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.


  1. Their passion and love for Christ puts me to shame. They probably didn't see themselves as courgeous, but just men who had to do what God was calling them to do regardless of the personal sacrifice. N

  2. That is really good stuff, Tom. Thanks for posting it - may we all live with such abandon.

  3. How can one read of such passion and not be moved? I am overwhelmed at the willingness of these men, and the others who followed them, to lay aside all the world had to offer them to be literal slaves to Christ.

    Sometimes God asks for such a little from us and we resist. May we remember these men and their love for Jesus and may we love Him enough to do whatever He calls us to do.

    Thanks for doing the research and posting their story Tom. What a blessing!

  4. Maybe there's more to the story than I am aware of here...

    I'm moved by their passion for Christ, but it strikes me as unbiblical for a man to sell himself into slavery if it means voluntarily leaving his wife and children.

    As I understand scripture and the traditions of faithfully following Jesus, ministry priorities look like this:

    1) God
    2) Spouse
    3) Children (if any)
    4) Everyone else

    Scripture is replete with examples of times when God should be followed even if it means going against the opinion of a spouse, (Adam/Eve, Abraham/Sarah, Moses/Zipporah, Abigail/Nabal, Ananias/Saphira, etc).

    ...but if I ever believe I am called to break my marriage vows by leaving my wife (knowing full well I'll probably never come back) then my call should be in question.

    God is faithful to redeem any mistakes I make along the way, but that is not the same as holding me up as a hero because I "followed God".

    ~ Keith

  5. Hi Keith:

    Thanks for reading and caring enough to comment. Have you considered Peter & Jesus’ conversation in Luke 18:28-30?

    Peter said, "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed you." And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." (NASB)

    John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are examples of men who lived their faith to the extreme. I admire that quality in people. I’m inspired by their radical love for God and for the lost. I’m challenged by their willingness to sacrifice their freedom so others can be free. Now, I’m not advocating that men abandon their families and I agree with the ministry priorities you state. However, sometimes, as with Peter, God can call people to do outrageous, unconventional and unusual things.


  6. hmmm... I think you're both right.

    I got the same check in my spirit as Keith did when I read that post. Then again, I realize the Peter and Jesus story exists too. I guess I always thought that was more of a metaphorical statement than a physical statement.

    Makes me wonder about war, the crusades, and other times when call trumps family.

    Things that make you go... hmmm...

  7. hmm.. so this is not a comment on your blog.. but rather a comment on the war of words happening on my blog. It seems as though there is a fight for steven's life. I'm finding it amusing. So far your threats are being overturned by the women. These are the kinds of things God does to make my life funny. i love you tom!!

  8. Anonymous8:40 PM

    hi - claire from One Passion here... i got a shock when i found this - i was doing a search for Cindy Ruakere and found this and thought taht sounds familiar... GOOD shock though...! is strange and fun to read something you've written on someone elses blog!

    ps there is a follow up to the missionaries on there...

  9. Anonymous9:27 PM

    here is the link with updated info that i got from a moravian reverand in america...

    that talks about their experiences...

    plus more about them here that i gathered for research sake...

    really enjoying your blog... is it okay to add it to my blogroll...

  10. Anonymous7:49 AM

    Well said.

  11. Tom,

    I too was moved by this story and wanted to find out more information. To my amazement, I found out this story is not completely true. Althought a great story nonetheless, the way it has been going around the internet and in sermons is simply inaccurate and a shame since it's a great example of faith without the embellishment.

    Check out this links for the true story....

    Just thought you'd want to know the truth.

    Take care,

  12. I really appreciate this article and link on the Moravian Brothers! I have been looking for more info on them. May the Lord of all truth bless you in your blog! Feel free to check my sites out as well: and

    God bless,
    Jeremy Strang
    Urgency to Rise - a call to the American 'church'

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. A movie was made back in 1982 about these men called "First Fruits". Not the finest cinematography, but it does tell the story and reminds us that the Moravians were ahead of the game both in the sending of missionaries and the understanding of the incarnational approach to missions. This is a generation before William Carey! They sure weren't holed up in a missionary compound!

  15. Anonymous3:43 PM

    You might want to remove the comment that is written in the oriental is something about pornography

  16. Oh thank you, thank you for sharing this story.

  17. Anonymous11:26 PM

    Wonderful! I love this story! I've been "google"-ing it for awhile and I came across your blog.
    God Bless!
    ~Heather Joy

  18. SHAME! Would our Lord summon a man to abandon his Holy Covenant of marriage and responsibility as father to the children the Lord blessed him with??? No, not at all! This story is wrought with flaws. More over, at that time in history, it was impossible for white skinned men to be enslaved. Yes, Dober and Nitschman made great sacrifices and founded the Moravian Missionary movement when they followed the Lord's Call to the East Indies. However, let's not lead astray husbands and fathers to abandon their Divine Call to their primary mission field, their family, in promoting this flawed and most inaccurate account.
    RE: Luke 18:28-30
    See: 1 Corinthians 7:13-15
    Let's be led by the Spirit and not dogma and religiosity.

  19. Anita - thank you for sharing this story. I was baptized a Moravian in Bethlehem, PA and yes... the story as told in your blog is not factually accurate. imho, that's totally OK because you've inspired others to look further. Dobler and Nitschmann were the first of MANY Moravian Missionaries - the sacrifices ALL made in service were incredibly important. God Bless You :-)