The First Christian Convert in Greenland

15 August 2022 by Wes Bredenhof

The first Moravian missionaries went to Greenland to preach the gospel in about 1720. They taught the Greenlandic Inuit about God and his laws, but no one was converted to Christ.

One day in the late 1730s, a group of Inuit visited the missionary compound. The leader of the people was a savage warrior named Kajarnack. They entered into the hut where missionary John Beck (1706-1777) was busy translating the Gospel of John into Inuit. He had just reached chapters 18-19, the section describing the sufferings and death of Christ.

Kajarnack was curious as to what the missionary was doing. He’d never seen writing before. John Beck told Kajarnack that he was ‘writing.’ “What is writing?” asked Kajarnack. The missionary explained that when a person could read and looked at the black marks on the page, they could know the thoughts of the person who wrote them.

Kajarnack was incredulous. But Beck asked him and his friends to sit down and he would tell them the thoughts that were in the apostle John’s mind, even though he had written these things 1700 years before. The group all sat down, and the missionary read to them the account of Christ’s agony and prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and how he was betrayed, beaten, spat upon, crowned with thorns, scourged, and crucified on the cross.

As Beck read these things, Kajarnack became interested and, standing up, inquired, “Why did they treat the man so? What had he done?”

The missionary answered, “This man had done nothing wrong, but Kajarnack has done many things wrong. Kajarnack has murdered his wife and filled the land with wickedness. This man was bearing Kajarnack’s punishment so he might saved.” Then John Beck went on to explain the message of the gospel. Tears were now running down Kajarnack’s cheeks, and coming close to the missionary he cried out, “O tell me that all over again, for I would like to be saved.”

The missionary carefully explained the message of Christ’s love and grace, and the Holy Spirit made it known to Kajarnack and he left the hut a converted man. His desire now was to tell his people about Christ. On March 30, 1739 he and his family were baptized. He preached the gospel to his fellow Inuit until his death in 1752. His last words were reportedly, “I am very glad that I shall soon go to our Saviour. I love him exceedingly.” He began singing a hymn, but was soon unable to go on. His friends, gathered around his deathbed, carried on singing and, as they finished the verse, Kajarnack’s soul was ushered into glory.

Up until Kajarnack’s conversion, the missionaries had taught the Inuit about the existence of God, the creation of the world, God’s laws, the immortality of the soul, and other Christian doctrines, but no one was saved. Now they realized the need to tell the Greenlanders about Christ and salvation through him alone, in order that they might be saved.

(Adapted from R. Cameron Smith, Strange Events in the Lonely Cabin and Forty-Six Other Stories)