Hans Egede Apostle of Greenland

This is the day that … Hans Egede arrived in Greenland in 1721. He was 35 years of age.

Accompanying him was his wife Gertrude (13 years his senior) and their little son, Paul, who was later destined to play a major role in reaching the pagan Eskimos with the gospel.

At the age of 21 Hans Egede had pastored a Lutheran church in Vaagen, Norway, and to him had come – like a Macedonian call – the spiritual need of Greenland.

Now, after untold obstacles, including the initial opposition of his wife, Hans Egede set foot on this “barren and dead” land.

The Eskimos “were slaves of repulsive habits, their priests and wizards tried to kill the missionary. Sometimes there was no food to be had …” (Torchbearers of the Faith, by A. Smellie, page 221).

Some years later a smallpox epidemic slew 3000 people, including his beloved wife (in 1736).

Moravian missionaries arrived and saw conversions. “Bitter with envy and resentment,” writes Ruth Tucker, “Egede accused them of ‘reaping what I have ploughed’” (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, page 79).

Was there ever a sadder text chosen by a missionary as he left the field: “I have laboured in vain…” (Isaiah 49:4).

Hans Egede returned to Norway with his two sons, Paul and Niels. And here it was Paul translated the New Testament into the Eskimo language (1766) and, with his father’s help, drew up a doctrinal guide for the converts in Greenland.

Hans Egede’s labour was not in vain in the Lord, even though he may have felt that way when he preached his farewell sermon.

He died on 5 November, 1758, at the age of 72, and is remembered as the “Apostle of Greenland”.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.