During the first half of the 18th century, the Lord brought spiritual enlightenment to Sweden, creating a polarizing effect in that country. While many souls were saved, even more became incensed, defending their Lutheran religion by persecuting the new converts to Christ. This forced some believing Swedes to immigrate to America, many of whom settled in the Midwest.
One group, in 1867, pushed their oxen and prairie schooners out of Moline, Illinois, ferrying across the Missouri River, and riding through Omaha before going out onto the Great Plains, where they settled in Saunders County, Nebraska. They found that the prairie was not willing to surrender to their plans, fighting back with wild fires, blizzards and plagues of grasshoppers. But the settlers remained unmoved, enjoying their religious freedom and believing that they were in God’s will.
On this day, in 1878, a little group of Nebraska settlers formed the Hordville Baptist Church. At its peak the membership reached just over a hundred souls, but it was often much smaller than that. Nevertheless, being missionary-minded that congregation helped to start churches in other villages, supplying them with members, evangelists and pastors. One of those little daughter-churches, the First Baptist Church of Oakland, produced missionary Ola Hanson, who became known as the “Apostle to the Kachins,” a tribe of people in the hills of Burma. When he arrived on the mission field in 1890, he found very few believers, but after twenty-five years of joyful labor, he saw a great many people come to Christ. He also translated the Bible into their language and helped to establish a number of Baptist churches.
It has been noted by some historians that the most powerful pioneer missionaries often came from small, “struggling” churches back home. Here is another example, reminding us all that we, too, can be useful in bringing glory to the Lord.