The Moravian Slaves, a popular story about Christian Missions…

Two young Moravians heard of an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2000 to 3000 slaves. The owner had said, “No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he’s shipwrecked, we’ll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he’s never going to talk to any of us about God. I’m through with all that nonsense.” Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic, there to live and die without hearing of Christ.

Two young Germans in their 20’s from the Moravian sect heard about their plight. They sold themselves to the British planter for the standard price for a male slave and used the money they received from their sale to purchase passage to the West Indies. The miserly atheist planter would not even transport them.

The Moravian community from Herrnhut came to see the two lads off, who would never return again, having freely sold themselves into a lifetime of slavery. As members of the slave community they would witness as Christians to the love of God.

Family members were emotional, weeping. Was this extreme sacrifice wise? Was it necessary? As the ship slipped away with the tide and the gap widened, the housings had been cast off and were curled up on the pier. The young men saw the widening gap. They linked arms, raised their hands and shouted across the spreading gap, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”

This became the call of Moravian missions. And this is our only reason for being…that the Lamb that was slain may receive the reward of His suffering!


One of these two men is David Nitschmann, the Moravian leader whose strong faith in the midst of a storm that filled Wesley with fear made such a dramatic impression on John Wesley on the voyage across the Atlantic to Georgia. Who in your life had had a similar deep commitment to Jesus Christ?

If someone with such a strong faith, willing even to be sold into slavery to serve Christ on the mission field, how might your faith and life be different?


This is an excerpt from the sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” by Paris Reidhead; biographical information is here: It is a colorful and dramatic retelling – and not terribly accurate in terms of how it turned out – of the decision of two young Moravian missionaries to sell themselves into slavery in order to reach the lost.

It is available from numerous sources online, and a recording of Paris Reidhead’s voice is here:

For more historical information, please consult:

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