A Moravian Christmas in 1773

achristmaspromise_medA Christmas Promise

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.

When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.

Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

“Revel in the spirit of a Colonial Christmas with this achingly tender love story that will warm both your heart and your faith. With rich historical detail and characters who live and breathe on the page, Tamera Lynn Kraft has penned a haunting tale of Moravian missionaries who selflessly bring the promise of Christ to the Lenape Indians. A beautiful way to set your season aglow, A Christmas Promise is truly a promise kept for a heartwarming holiday tale.” – Julie Lessman

A Moravian Christmas in 1773

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

img_1022In the wilderness of Ohio in 1773, a small band of missionaries and Lenape Indians celebrated Christmas at Schoenbrunn Village, the first settlement in Ohio. They’d come to this wilderness and started the village a year earlier to preach the Gospel to the Lenape, also known as the Deleware.

The missionaries, both white and native families moved from a town in Pennsylvania called Bethlehem. Moravians had come to Bethlehem years earlier when a preacher named John Wesley had donated the land to them. But the Lenape had been forced west as more white men had moved into the area, so the Moravians decided to move west with them.

Life was hard in Schoenbrunn. Cabins were quickly made and community gardens were planted that included beans, corn, and squash. Most villages also planted potatoes and turnips next to their cabins. The rest of their food came from hunting. But the real danger came from the many Indian tribes surrounding the village, some of them hostile.

img_1023They didn’t have time to build a fence to keep out varments and the first Ohio church until Spring, 1773, but they did manage to build a school, the first built in Ohio. The school taught both boys and girls, a first for the colonies, how to read the Scripture in their native language and in English. The Moravians printed a Bible in the Lenape language.

The village council was led by David Zeisberger and including white Moravians and Lenape converts. The rules for the village were established by the Lenape Christians. These missionaries did not consider the native converts to be beneath them but instead brothers in Christ.

vector-christmas-candle_f1gwjyl__lAfter a year and a half in Schoenbrunn, the villagers were excited to celebrate their first Christmas. They had many traditions that we still use today. They would have a candlelight Christmas Eve service called a Lovefeast. During this service, they sang Christmas hymns, shared sweet rolls and coffee together, and prayed for each other. The service concluded when they gave each child a bleached beeswax candle and a scripture to hang on their trees at home. The white candle symbolized the purity of Christ and the flame showed that Jesus is the light of the world. A red ribbon would be wrapped around the candle to symbolize how Jesus shed His blood for a lost world.

schoenbrunn-cabinIn every home in Schoenbrunn, families decorated artificial Christmas trees with candles and papers with scriptures written on them. The trees were made by putting together a wood frame and decorating it with real pine branches. The family would also make a putz, a nativity village that included the nativity scene, the wise men, and other Biblical scenes and place it under the tree. Most Moravians gave small gifts at Christmas, but resources were so limited that the children in Schoenbrunn were happy with their candles they received at the church. After a Christmas feast, the family would read the verses hung on the tree and talk about God’s blessings at Christmas.

Schoenbrunn Village has been restored and is open to tourists. Find out more at this link (http://www.ohiosfirstvillage.com) .


Do You Really Want Revival?

Flaming Cross Christian ArtWe hear it all the time. “A revival is coming to America.” “We are praying for revival.” “Only revival will save America.” Everywhere you look, there are prophecies about the coming revival. But sometimes I wonder if most American Christians really want revival, or if they just want a religious experience that makes the feel good.

American Christians are comfortable. Even the poorest American is richer and safer than most people in the world. True revival would make them uncomfortable. True revival will mess you up.It will challenge you. It will change your perspective and your life. It will humble you when God moves on you in unexpected ways. It will explode your theology and understanding. It will put you at odds with the culture – even the modern Christian pop culture. So the question is do we really want revival? Here are some of the ways revival manifested itself in the book of Acts and throughout history.

Praying African Americn boyIntense unified prayer proceeds a move of God. In Acts 2:1, the disciples were all praying in one place and one accord. Before the First Great Awakening, the Moravians started a prayer meeting in 1727 that lasted one hundred years. The Great Awakening was said to be in its greatest intensity between 1727 and 1757. If we truly want revival, we will pray for a spirit of revival prayer to sweep through the church.

Man in waterSigns and Wonders Accompany Revival. This is hard for some to accept. When revival comes, it is messy. God moves in strange and unusual ways. I’ve heard some say the Holy Spirit is not weird. That doesn’t ring true when we look at historical results of revival.

Acts 2:2-3 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

The early Christian revival in Acts wasn’t the only one that had strange signs and wonders accompany it. Trypho said in the second century, “For the prophetical gifts remain with us even to the present time.”  Sarah Edwards, wife of Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edwards described an experience that incapacitated her for days which she described as “being swallowed up in God.” In the Cane Ridge revival in 1801, it was described this way. “20,000 people swirled about the grounds—watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.”

Laughing, crying, being slain in the Spirit, groaning, and other manifestations make make the modern church uncomfortable. Many have scorned Christians and churches where unusual signs and wonders occur, but if we truly want revival, we’ll have to accept the unusual and jump into the river of God.

Generosity and Self-Sacrifice accompany revival. Acts 2:45 says, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” In the Moravian revival, two men were willing to sell themselves in slavery to share the Gospel.

Cute african girlA spirit of holiness and repentance is always present in revival. In the book of Acts, Peter preached, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God for lying to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19, new Christians brought their occult materials and burned them.

Throughout history repentance and holiness have also been a major part. During the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and people held on to the church posts in fear of the judgement of God. During the Jesus revival in the 1970s, young men and women brought their drug to the altar and left them there. During the Welsh Revival, Reverend Hertford said this.

“I found the poor children whom Mr. A kept at school were increased to about thirty boys and girls. I went in immediately to the girls. As soon as I began to speak, some of them burst into tears, and their emotion rose higher and higher. But it was kept within bounds until I began to pray. A cry then arose, which spread from one to another, till almost all cried aloud for mercy, and would not be comforted.”

True revival will cause us to speak out about the sins of our culture and grieve over our own sins.

Earth SunriseMissions and evangelism accompany revival. 3,000 were saved on the day of Pentecost. People accused the disciples of “turning the world upside down”. The Moravian movement sent out 300 missionaries and started the modern missionary movement. Charles Finney, during the Second Great Awakening, was president of Oberlin College when it sent missionaries all over the world.

If we really want God to move, we will yield to whatever God wants to do. Revival will mess up our church structure and services. It will change our lives and cause us to be willing to obey God no matter how it makes us look to others in the Christian world. God is too big to fit in your comfortable revival box. Let God move the way He chooses and let the River of God overflow.

10 Quotes from Great Awakening Preachers

featherThe United States of America was born out of the Great Awakening that took place in the 1700s. Men like the John and Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield preached as America turned to God. Revivals and Awakenings have happened a number of times sense then. America is at a crossroads. It needs another Great Awakening like never before. Here are 10 quotes from some of the preachers of that first revival in America.

“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” — George Whitefield

“The care of the soul is ‘a matter of the highest importance;’ beyond anything which can be brought into comparison with it.” — George Whitefield

“If you are going to walk with Jesus Christ, you are going to be opposed … In our days, to be a true Christian is really to become a scandal.” — George Whitefield

“God’s purpose for my life was that I have a passion for God’s glory and that I have a passion for my joy in that glory, and that these two are one passion.” — Jonathan Edwards

“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” — Jonathan Edwards

“Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.” — Jonathan Edwards

“To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.” — Jonathan Edwards

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth. — John Wesley

“Catch on fire, and people will come for miles to see you burn.” — John Wesley

“Once more, Never think that you can live to God by your own power or strength; but always look to and rely on him for assistance, yea, for all strength and grace.” — David Brainerd

How a Native American Brought a Great Awakening to the Indians

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Samson Occom was born in a wigwam in 1723, part of the the Mohegan tribe near New London, Connecticut. His parents were Joshua and Sarah Ockham. He was a direct descendant of Uncas, a famous Mohegan chief. The Mohegan lived as nomads and traveled often.

At the age of 16, Occom heard his first sermon during the Great Awakening. His mother Sarah was one of the first Mohegan converts. Samson was stirred by what he heard and began to study English so he could read the Bible for himself. A year later he became a Christian under the preaching of James Davenport. He started going to a school for Indians and white boys started by evangelist Eleazar Wheelock. He spent four years at Wheelock’s school and was a gifted student, but poor eyesight prevented him from going to college.

He taught school and ministered to the Montauk Indians for eleven years. He used many creative methods including singing and card games as teaching devices. When Azariah Horton, the white Presbyterian minister to the Montauk, retired, Samson took his place as pastor. Samson married Mary Fowler in 1751, and they had ten children.

Samson was paid by the church but received a much smaller salary than the white men doing the same job. To make ends meet, he bound books and carved spoons, pails, and gunstocks for his white neighbors. Despite the prejudice he faced, Samson was ordained in 1759 by the Presbyterian Church, one of the first Native Americans to be ordained.

His passion was to share the Gospel with other Native Americans and was commission by the Scotch Society of Missions to preach to the Cherokee in Georgia and Tennessee. Fighting among the Cherokee and white settles put those plans on hold, so instead Samson went to New York to preach among the Oneida.

In 1765 Samson traveled with George Whitefield, Great Awakening preacher, during his sixth preaching tour in the colonies. Later that year, he traveled to England with Nathaniel Whitaker to raise money for Wheelock’s Indian Charity School. Over the next two years, he preached over 200 sermons in England and was well received. He raised over 11,000 pounds, the most ever raised for a ministry in the colonies. While in England Samson visited with John Newton, writer of Amazing Grace, and received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh which he politely declined.

When he returned to America in 1768, Samson found that Wheelock had failed to care for his wife and children as Wheelock had promised. Samson’s family was living in poverty. The rift widened when he learned Wheelock had used the money he’d raised to move the school to New Hampshire and decided to exclude Indians. Wheelock renamed the school Dartmouth.

Samson was a prolific writer throughout his lifetime. He kept a diary from 1743 to 1790 about his work that became an historic document. In 1772, Samson preached a temperance sermon at the execution of a Native American who murdered a man while he was drunk. That sermon became a best seller. He also wrote and published hymns. He is recognized as the first Native American to become published.

When Samson became a defender of land claims of the Montauk and Oneida against speculators, false rumors were spread that he was a heavy drinker and not even a Mohegan. Although these reports were untrue, he lost the support of his denomination and several missionary societies. He wrote an autobiography to defend himself, but it did little good.

Throughout the 1770s and 1780s, Samson preached among the Mohegan and other tribes in new England. After the Revolutionary War, he settled in Brothertown, New York on a reservation for New England Indians where he establish the first Indian Presbyterian Church. In 1791, he died while gathering wood to finish the new church building.

His legacy continued after his death through his children, students, and converts who also ministered to Native Americans. Two of his students also became authors. Besides being the first Native American who was published, Samson fought for Native American rights, spread the Gospel to New England tribes, and promoted education for Native Americans.

Mary Madeline – The First Woman Preacher

Mary Magdalene (1st Century)

Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. She ran to tell His disciples the Good News. By this act, she became the first preacher of the Good News and the first woman preacher. Although you can read her story in the Bible, much of her life has been distorted and rewritten to support the positions of those who told her story.

What we know about Mary Magdalene:

We don’t know when Mary was born or when she died, but we do know she was mentioned in the Bible 12 times as a follower of Jesus and numerous times in other documents.

There were other Marys in the Bible, but this Mary was always referred to as Mary Magdalene, probably because she was from Magdala on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Because some Talmudic passages refer to her as Miriam “hamegadela se’ar nasha” or “Miriam, the plaiter of women’s hair”, she might have been a hair dresser, not a prostitute.

Luke 8:1-3 and Mark 16:9 states that Jesus delivered Mary from seven demons. In Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25 mention that Mary was at the crucifixion of Christ along with Jesus’ mother Mary.

We also know in Matthew 27:61, Matthew 28:1, and Mark 16:1 that Mary went to the tomb with some other woman to anoint Jesus body early Sunday morning. John 20:1 shows that Mary saw the stone rolled away. She was a witness to the resurrection. In Mark 16:9, Jesus appeared first to Mary.  In Luke 24, Mary ran to the disciples and told them what she saw, making her the first person to share the good news.

False Rumors about Mary:

Mary’s name is often linked to an unnamed sinner in Luke 7:36-50, but there is no evidence they were the same person. Mary is also linked to the woman of ill repute who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair in Matthew 7. Again, this woman was unnamed, and it’s very unlikely it was Mary since she was often named when other women weren’t. Many times, Mary is also confused with other Marys such as Martha’s sister. It makes things confusing because there were so many Marys, but Mary is referred to as Mary Madeline so often that other references to Mary are likely not that Mary.

The theory of Mary being a prostitute was started in the Middle Ages when priests wanted to refute women in ministry, but all historical accounts from that time period show that the male disciples considered Mary an apostle in the early church. The other false story that Mary was Jesus’ secret wife has no credible historical evidence. Some try to point to a document written 200 years after Jesus that speculates about it but offers no proof and goes against other documents of that time period.

Mary Madeline was a remarkable woman who followed Jesus to His crucifixion, was present at His resurrection, and was the first person to share the Good News. Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed.

Lucy Farrow – the Woman who Ignited the Spark at the Azuza Street Revival

The Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California is known as a catalyst for the modern Pentecostal movement to burn all over the world. William Seymour, a black half blind preacher, was credited for the revival fire at Azusa Street, but Lucy Farrow, an old black woman born in slavery, was the spark that ignited the flame.

Lucy Farrow was born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1851. Her uncle was famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass. We don’t know much about her past, but she was married and living in Mississippi in 1871. By 1890, she had moved to Houston, Texas, was a widow who had borne seven children of which only two survived. There is only one known photograph of her with a group of people.

In Houston, Lucy pastored a small mission-church in 1905. A young black man attended her church named William Seymour. During this times, Reverend Charles Fox Parham began holding crusades in downtown Houston and preaching about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. He had started a Bible college in Kansas where many of his students received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Lucy decided to move to Kansas for two months and left her church in the hands of William Seymour. There, she attended Parham’s school and work as a governess for his children.

When Lucy returned to Houston, she shared her experiences with Seymour. As short time later, Parham opened a new Bible school in Houston, and Farrow convinced Seymour to enroll. After attending the college, Seymour moved to Los Angeles to preach the Gospel and about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Seymour had not yet received the baptism. Seymour and those in his ministry collected an offering to send for Lucy. She preached and taught there, and through the laying on of hands, many received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues including Seymour. Word spread and Seymour moved to a building on Azusa Street to accommodate the seekers, both white and black at a time when segregation was a major part of church life. Revival spread throughout the nation and the world.

Lucy didn’t stay in California for long during the revival. In August, 1906, she traveled to Norfolk, Virginia. On her way, she stopped and preached Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement camp meeting where many received the power of the Spirit, spoke in tongues. In Virginia, she held a series of meetings in Portsmouth for several weeks where 150 received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and about 200 were saved.

By December, 1906, Lucy decided God was calling her to be a missionary in Liberia. She sent word to Azusa for someone to take her place and minister in Portsmouth. Then she met others in New York who also felt the call to Africa and traveled to Liberia with the support of the church at Azusa. Many under her ministry were saved, sanctified, and healed, and 20 received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In late 1907, Lucy returned to the United States preaching throughout the South on her way to Azusa. There, she ministered from what she called her “faith cottage back of the mission.” Many received healing and a greater filling of the Holy Spirit there. Later, she returned to Texas to live with her son. In 1911, at the age of 60, she contracted tuberculosis and died.

Lucy Farrow was known for operating by the leading of the Holy Spirit. She would only lay hands on and pray for people as prompted by the Holy Spirit. Her legacy of a Spirit filled life and ministry live on in Pentecostal churches today.

Ida B. Robinson – The Woman Preacher who Ordained Women

Ida B. Robinson (1891-1946)

There are still some who don’t believe in women preachers, but it was even more true for a black Pentecostal woman in the early 1900s. Ida B. Robinson was that woman. She not only paved the way for Pentecostal woman to preach, she was the first African American woman to start a denomination to ordain women.

Ida was born in Hazelhurst, Georgia on August 3, 1891 as the seventh child of 12 children. Her parents moved to Pensacola, Florida soon after that, and Ida grew up there. When Ida was 17 years old, a Pentecostal holiness preacher came to her town, and Ida heard the Gospel for the first time. She gave her life to Christ. Ida began having prayer meetings in her home and preaching on street corners where she would warn, “Prepare to meet thy God.”

In 1910, Ida married Oliver Robinson. They never had children, but they adopted Ida’s niece, Ida Bell, when her parents died. In 1917, the couple moved to Philadelphia where they joined a small Pentecostal holiness congregation at Seventeenth and South Streets pastored by Elder Benjamin Smith. Ida often would preach for Elder Smith, and the congregation grew because of her preaching style. This caused conflict and she ended up leaving the church. She joined the United Holy Church of America where she was consecrated to the ministry through ordination.

In 1919, she became the pastor of a small church where she preached holiness as a divine requirement, holiness as a work of the Holy Ghost, and holiness as a condition to seeing God. The church grew, but Ida felt she was held back because she was a woman.

In 1924, after hearing that God often talks to His people through visions and dreams, Ida fasted and prayed for 10 days. She received a revelation from God that she relayed to the members of her church saying, “The Holy Ghost spoke and said, ‘Come out on Mount Sinai’, and ‘I will use you to loose women.'”

On May 20, 1924, she received a charter for a new denominational organization called Mount Sinai Holy Church. The church started with nine officers, six of whom were women. The denomination grew, and Elder Robinson was consecrated as bishop at the organization’s first Holy Convocation in 1925 with the blessing of her former denomination, the United Holy Church of America, which she considered a parent organization. Many from the former denomination attended her convocation.

Through the years, the Mount Sinai Holy Church was dedicated to ordaining women and had women and leadership positions in the denomination. Four bishops, all women have proceeded Ida in leadership. The denomination now has 117 churches, mostly pastored by women.

Amy Stevens, the current presiding bishop remembers a time in 1946 that Ida had a flat tire in a deserted area. Ida got out her tambourine and started singing. When a crowd gathered, she began to preach. Ida was convinced the flat tire was allowed by God to give her an opportunity to share the Gospel.

On April 6, 1946, Ida Robinson left Philadelphia to visit some of the organization’s churches in Florida. When she arrived in Winter Haven, she becamed very sick and died.  Bishop Robinson is not one of the names we thing of when we remember, but she left a legacy of more than 160 ordained ministers, 125 of which were women and a denomination that is continuing to grow.