by Barb Mazarakos
Missionaries have long faced challenges in their efforts to spread the Word of God to all nations, but perhaps none faced the struggles that the first overseas missionaries of the Lutheran Church-Missouri synod, Rev. Theodore Naether and Rev. Franz Mohn, did.
Commissioned at what now is the site of Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Missouri on October 14, 1894, the two men and their families began the long journey to the Krishnagiri region (Krishnagiri means “the mountain of Krishna,” a Hindu deity) of India.The work was often difficult, and work days would begin between 2:30 and 4am, depending on how far the villages they were trying to reach were located. Returning in the late morning for breakfast, prayers, and devotional time, Naether in particular would work on sermons for the next day before heading to a school where accounts show he taught catechism, religion, and Bible history. After school ended, he would go out to try and reach nearby heathen if his strength and energy allowed.
Naether continued working in this way for 10 years, until he died of the plague in 1904. His brother in- law, Georg Naumann, continued his work, and it goes on to this day. In a country that as of a 2011 census was 79.8% Hindu (with 6% of the population following “other” religions such as Christianity- the 3rd largest religion in India- Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism), India Evangelical Lutheran Church, which has its seed planted by those original missionaries, now numbers approximately 125,000 members. Yet another extraordinary example of how God works through us to spread the Good News through the world.