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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Not a Waste: the Short Life of Bartholemew Ziegenbalg

   Bartholemew Ziegenbalg is not a household name. Born in Germany in 1682, he spent more than one-third of his life in India among the Tamil people.  He was recruited by, of all people, the king of Denmark because he was eager for people in his colony to be taught the Christian gospel.
   The postage stamp (right) was issued in India on the 300th anniversary of the missionary's arrival. This nation recognizes that Ziegenbalg's mission work was anything but self-serving or imperialistic. He eagerly learned the Tamil language and read its literature. He even produced an annotated bibliography of 161 pieces of Tamil literature.  The capacity for printing, which had been lost in this region for 38 years, was revived by Ziegenbalg in 1712 (see this website for more).  He translated the New Testament into Tamil by 1715, and when he died four years later the first eight books of the Old Testament were also completed.  He and the missions organization that backed him were interested in encouraging an indigenous Christian church, not one which simply imitated European cultural patterns.
   By relying on the rich resources of God available through prayer, he dealt with opposition from colonial officials and local Hindus as well as facing imprisonment for four months.  When Ziegenbalg died at the age of 35, it was evident that he had used the knowledge, gifts and grace entrusted to him for the glory of his Lord.  To see a photo of the church building constructed in 1718 and still in use today, go here.

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