Henry Novotny was born in 1846. The place was Resetov, Czechoslovakia. At that time the official religion was Roman Catholic, but there were still a few Protestants meeting in various secret places. Somehow, young Henry visited one of those illegal meetings where he picked up a copy of the forbidden Bible. The Lord began to speak to his heart through the written word and through the lessons the believers shared with one another. When one of the attendees died, not wanting a Catholic funeral, the leaderless group asked Henry to handle the service. After considerable hesitation, he consented, and his message was so stirring that he was asked to become their pastor. But Henry at this point was still a member of the Catholic denomination. He knew that if he agreed to his friends’ request, he would have to make a public denial of Catholicism, accepting all the problems and the persecution it would bring. After much soul-searching, that is what he did.
Soon Henry Novotny’s religious responsibilities convinced him that he needed more education, so he went to Switzerland and then eventually to Edinburgh to study. Upon graduation he became a Congregational missionary with plans to work in Prague, Czechoslovakia. It was there he met a Baptist from Bavaria. The two became friends, and over time Henry came to understand that he was trying to do the work of the Lord in a non-Biblical way. On this day in 1885, in the Russian controlled Polish city of Lodz, he was immersed. Shortly thereafter he was ordained, beginning a Baptist missionary ministry in Bohemia. He and those he led to Christ had to overcome the hatred and persecution of not only the Catholics but the Protestants as well. Nevertheless, Henry Novotny went on to greatly bless that country with the message of God’s saving grace, earning the nick-name “The Bohemian Judson,” after the American missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson.