Faithful Heroes: Ludwig Nommensen, Missionary to Batak


Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen was a Luthern missionary to the Batak in Sumatra.

He was born in the Nordstrand peninsula on February 6, 1834.

Ludwig Nommensen

In 1846, a horse cart rolled over his legs and crushed them. The doctors said he would never walk again, but he prayed for recovery and three years later he was able to walk again.

He enrolled at Rhenish Missionary Society seminary at Wuppertal-Barmen in 1857.

In 1862, he was sent as a missionary to Sumatra. He focused on the Batak people, a cannibal nation. His earliest converts had to leave their villages and come live with him in what became known as the Village of Peace.

He became friends with the chief, Pontas Lumbantobing, who also suported his mission.

In 1868, he and his wife lost a child while in Indonesia. Another child would die four years later.

In 1878, he completed the first translation of the New Testament into the Batak language.

He served as an interpreter and cultural consultant when war broke out between a Batak priest king and the Dutch occupants. He was later seen as one who could protect them from Dutch influence.

Ludwig Nommensen grave

In 1885, he moved north and pioneered the Lake Toba region. His work expanded and he helped to advance schools, hospitals and a theological seminary.

His wife died in 1887, leaving him with four children. He would remarry in 1892.

In 1901, his son, Christian, was murdered in Sumatra. In 1909, his second wife died and he lost a son during World War I.

The University of Bonn awarded him an honorary doctorate of theology. In 1911, he was made an officer of the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau.

He was a leading missionary of the Batak for fifty-four years and became known as the Apostle of the Batak. He published multiple works in the Batak language. He transformed many aspects of the Batak culture with the Christian faith.

He died on May 23, 1918.

The Batak Christian University at Medan and Pematang Siantar was named Nommensen University in 1954.

He is regarded by historians as “one of the most powerful missionaries to ever preach the gospel”.

The Lutheran Church commemorates him on their Calendar of Saints on November 7.


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