In the summer of 1683, Ottoman General Mustafa Pasha was laying siege to Vienna, Austria, with 200,000 Muslim jihad warriors.
Sultan Mehmed IV sent the message to the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I: “We order You to await Us in Your residence city of Vienna so that We can decapitate you. … We will exterminate You and all Your followers. … Children and adults will be equally exposed to the most atrocious tortures before being finished off in the most ignominious way imaginable.”
The Muslim Ottoman warriors were defeated at the Battle of Vienna, Sept. 11, 1683.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Quaker Christian leader William Penn made a peace treaty with the Delaware Indians on June 23, 1683.
Along the Delaware River, Indians called themselves “Lenape,” meaning in Algonquin “the people,” and consisted of three clans: Turkey, Wolf and Turtle. Lenape “Turtle” clan Chief Tamanend met with William Penn, who they called “Miquon” meaning quill, under an elm tree in what became Philadelphia and made a peace treaty which lasted over 70 years.
Back in Europe, 100,000 Muslims invaded Serbia, but were defeated at the Battle of Zenta, Sept. 11, 1697.
In Pennsylvania, that same year, 1697, Chief Tamanend gave his last message before he died: “We and Christians of this river have always had a free roadway to one another, and though sometimes a tree has fallen cross the road, yet we have removed it again and kept the path clear.”
Chief Tamanend was held in such high respect that patriotic Americans in Philadelphia formed Tammany Societies. Chief Tamanend was the namesake of Tammany Hall, the New York Democrat political machine founded in 1786. During the Civil War, the New York 42nd Infantry was referred to as the Tammany Regiment.
In Europe, in the year 1700, Count Nikolaus Ludwig “Lewis” von Zinzendorf was born. He was a descendant of Maximillian I, who was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 to 1519. Zinzendorf’s father died when he was six weeks old, leaving him an estate in the area of Germany called Saxony.
Raised by his pietist Lutheran grandmother, Zinzendorf became friends with Lutheran Pastors Johann Andreas Rothe of Berthelsdorf and Melchior Schäffer of Görlitz. They, together with friend Friedrich von Watteville, sought to spread “pietism,” a religious revival movement similar that led by Jan Hus three centuries earlier.
In 1722, at the age of 22, Count Ludwig “Lewis” von Zinzendorf opened up his Berthelsdorf estate to be a place of refuge for persecuted Christians of Moravia and Bohemia (area of the Czech Republic) who were displaced after religious conflicts of the Thirty Years War.
On a corner of his estate, Zinsendorf helped them build a village called Herrnhut, meaning “The Lord’s watchful care.”
Disagreements and discord almost ended this experiment of Christian unity in 1727, but a communion prayer service was held on August 13th bringing forgiveness and reconciliation.
The prayer service continued, with believers taking turns praying, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, uninterrupted for over 100 years!
During this time, the small Moravian congregation sent out hundreds of Christian missionaries around the world, to places as far away as:
- Far East
- Central America’s Mosquito Coast
- South America
- North America
Moravians were the first Protestant denomination to minister to slaves.
Moravian missionaries first settled in Savannah, Georgia, in 1735, where they influenced John and Charles Wesley, and through them indirectly influenced Rev. George Whitefield, the famous preacher who spread the Great Awakening Revival across the American colonies.
Moravian missionaries settled Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1740. In 1741, Count Zinzendorf traveled to America and visited with leaders, including Ben Franklin. He spent seven weeks visiting Indian tribes in forests of Pennsylvania, being the first person of European nobility to meet with Indian chiefs.
Frederick C. Johnson wrote in the 1894 report, “Count Zinzendorf and The Moravian and Indian Occupancy of the Wyoming Valley” (Pennsylvania) 1742-1763: “The Delawares called themselves Lenni Lenape, signifying ‘original people.’ … While on the way from Philadelphia to Bethlehem, Zinzendorf had felt drawn by some irresistible influence to go to Tulpehocken (“land of the turtles” near Reading, PA), where dwelt his interpreter and guide, Conrad Weisser, who was to accompany him to the Susquehanna. … Here he met the deputies of the Six Nations, then on their return from their conference with Governor Thomas in regard to the Delawares remaining east of the Blue mountain. … The Count (Zinzendorf) became acquainted with the chiefs, gained their good will, and ratified a covenant with them in behalf of the (Moravian) Brethren as their representative; and a belt of wampum was given him as a token of their friendship, which was used ever afterwards in the dealings of the Moravians with the Iroquois. By this treaty the Count (Zinzendorf) believed the way would be opened for the spread of the gospel among the Northern Indians. … His hope of Christianizing the fierce warriors of the northern border was not realized, but the Moravians would never have been able to accomplish as much as they did among the Delawares and Mohicans if they had not secured by this interview the amity of those who held sway over the enfeebled clans near the sea coast.”
The diary of Moravian Brother John Martin recorded: “1744. April 13th … We immediately found the Chikasaw Indian, Chickasi, with whom we had been acquainted two years ago when Brother Lewis Zinzendorf was there. He was very friendly toward us and gave us something to eat. He asked where Brother Lewis (Zinzendorf) and his daughter were. I told him they were gone to Europe. He asked if they arrived safe there. I said yes. He was much rejoiced at that. He said he had thought much on him and his daughter.
We lodged with his cousin, who received us in much love and friendship and gave us of the best he had. … How often did I call to mind how Brother Lewis (Zinzendorf) said at that time: ‘The Shawanese Indians will all remove in a short time, and our Savior will bring another people here who shall be acquainted with His wounds, and they shall build a City of Grace there to the honor of the Lamb.’ How my heart rejoiceth now at the thoughts of it because I see that everything is preparing for it. …”
The account continued: “We visited carefully all the places where our tent had been pitched two years ago, and where so many tears had been shed. The Lamb has numbered them all and put them in His bottle. We stayed there four days. The Indians loved us. Our walk and behavior preached amongst them and showed that we loved them. They could heartily believe and realize that we had not come amongst them for our own advantage, but out of love to them. We visited them often. I asked the Indian with whom we were acquainted, if they would like a brother whom they loved much to come and live amongst them some time or other, and tell them sometimes of our great God who loved mankind so much? They answered yes, they should be very glad.”
The Lenape “Wolf” clan converted to Christianity, being called Christian Munsee.
The Moravian Historical Society has preserved records of many Moravian missionaries, such as David Zeisberger and Conrad Weisser. One account read: “‘Hungry savages,’ says Pearce, ‘in times of scarcity, flocked to Gnadenhutten (House of Grace), professing Christianity and filling themselves at the tables of the pious missionaries. When the season for hunting came, they would return to the wilderness in the pursuit of game, and with the profits of the chase would procure liquor from heartless traders. Some, however, were sincere in their professions and died in the faith. The Moravian missionaries were given Indian names, and proclaimed the Gospel on both branches of the Susquehanna, on the Lackawanna and throughout northeastern Pennsylvania wherever the smoke ascended from the rude bark wigwam.”
Another account read: “In October, 1748, Baron John de Watteville, a bishop of the Moravian Church, son-in-law and principal assistant of Count Zinzendorf, arrived from Europe on an official visit, and one of the first things he undertook was a visit to the Indian country. … ‘Exploring the lovely valley which opened to their view, they found the plain of Skehantowano, where Zinzendorf’s tent had first been pitched; the hill where God had delivered him from the fangs of the adder (snake), and the spot where the Shawanese had watched him with murderous design. The very tree was still standing on which he had graven the initials of his Indian name. Among the inhabitants, however, many changes had taken place. The majority of the Shawanese had gone to the Ohio, and but few natives of any other tribe remained, with the exception of Nanticokes. Watteville faithfully proclaimed the Gospel, and on the 7th of October was celebrated the Lord’s Supper, the first time the holy sacrament was administered in the Wyoming Valley (Pennsylvania). The hymns of the little company swelled solemnly through the night, while the Indians stood listening in silent awe at the doors of their wigwams. And when they heard the voice of the stranger lifted up in earliest intercession, as had been Zinzendorf’s voice in that same region six years before, they felt that the white man was praying that they might learn to know his God.'”
Moravian missionaries settled Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1752. In addition to founding missions among the Lenape in Pennsylvania, Moravians also founded missions with the Mohican Indians in New York, the Cherokee in Georgia.
Unfortunately native American Indians were entangled in larger political-military conflicts. During the French and Indian War, 1754-1763, the Lenape ‘Turkey’ clan was persuaded to side with the French in attacking English settlers. When the French lost the war, their Indian allies lost land.
Some tribes sided with the British during the Revolutionary War, 1776-1783, and when the British lost, their Indian allies lost more land.
Tragically, in 1782, near the end of the Revolutionary War, renegade vigilantes retaliated for hostile Indian attacks. They mistakenly blamed the peaceful Christian Munsee (Lenape “Wolf” clan) and mercilessly killed 96 of them.
Later, during the War of 1812, some tribes sided with the British, and when the British lost that war, their Indian allies again lost more land.
During the Revolutionary War, Lenape “Turtle” clan Chief Gelelemend signed the first written Indian treaty ever with the U.S. government in 1778, the Treaty of Fort Pitt, present-day Pittsburgh. Chief Gelelemend later converted to Christianity through the ministry of German Moravian missionaries.
On May 12, 1779, General George Washington was visited at his Middle Brook military encampment by the Chiefs of the Delaware Indian tribe. They had brought three youths to be trained in the American schools. Washington assured them: “Brothers: I am glad you have brought three of the Children of your principal Chiefs to be educated with us. I am sure Congress will open the Arms of love to them, and will look upon them as their own Children, and will have them educated accordingly. This is a great mark of your confidence and of your desire to preserve the friendship between the Two Nations to the end of time, and to become One people with your Brethren of the United States. … You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to loose it. … And I pray God He may make your Nation wise and strong.”
Due to encroachment on Indian lands, outbreaks of hostility, and the Indian Removal Act, some Christian Lenape fled to Canada, and from there migrated to Wisconsin, Kansas and finally to Oklahoma.
The great-grandson of the Christian Chief Gelelemend was John Henry Kilbuck, born in 1861 in Kansas. He became the first Lenape to be ordained as a Moravian minister. John Henry Kilbuck attended the Moravian Seminary. In 1884, John, and his wife Edith, became some of the first Christian missionaries to the Yupik Indians in Alaska, along the Kuskokwim River. They founded Bethel four hundred miles west of Anchorage. The Kilbuck Mountain range, as well as Kilbuck Elementary School in Bethel, Alaska, are named in their honor.
Thus, the influence of 22-year-old Count Ludwig von Zinzendorg and dedicated Moravian missionaries spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the humble community of Christians in Germany in 1722 to native populations across the world, even to Alaska.
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