The Beginnings of Moravian Mission

The first tradesmen settled around Count Zinzendorf's castle in the adjacent hamlet of Bertelsdorf. The estate still exists and is under restoration. The community of settlers rapidly increased in number to more than a thousand brothers and sisters. They worked, helped each other and practiced their religion together. Thus, for the first time in history, a self-supporting religious community was established at Herrnhut. And self-sufficiency became a distinctive feature of the Moravian settlements in many places. The customs of those days are still deeply rooted at Herrnhut and in other places in the world where the Unitas Fratrum has settled. Missionary zeal is also one of the major characteristics of the Moravian Church.

In 1731, two brothers from Herrnhut wrote a letter to Count Zinzendorf asking him to support their plan to travel to the Caribbean to preach God's Word among the slaves. The two brothers,  Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann, had to wait a full year before the congregation granted them permission to go. This was done  in a rather unusual way. Slips of paper with 'yes' or 'no' quotations from the Bible were put in a box. Leonard reached into the box, opened the slip he had drawn and read aloud: 'let the lad go, for the Lord is with him; evidently a 'yes' quotation. Thus, a scriptural Passage decided the fate of the first Moravian missionaries.

Since 13 December of the year 1732, the day when Dober and Nitschmann first discerned the coastline of St. Thomas, a long line of missionaries has followed in their footsteps. Moreover, as they had to be self-supporting they took their trades with them to their mission post. In this way, bakers, tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters and merchants provided not only hundreds of thousands of products, but also the Gospel.

In 1754 Ralph and Dehne, two German Brothers from Herrnhut, were commissioned to travel to Suriname and convert the native Indians. Actually, these two Brothers, tailors by profession, are the Founding Fathers of the Moravian Church Foundation for they started a trading company that still is one of the MCF's operational companies.

The amount of business activities has increased considerably during the recent years, so further professionalization was highly desirable.
Therefore, as of January 1st 2004, all MCF participations have been transferred to a participation company: MCF Business Enterprises B.V. Consequently there is an even stricter separation of ecclesiastical and secular matters.

Nowadays, the company of C. Kersten en Co NV, at Paramaribo is a vital and dynamic large enterprise with several operational companies. As is the case at the Antilles: Jolley Holding Aruba and Jolley Holding Curaçao.

« back