Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen

Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen

Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen (1834 – May 23, 1918) was a German Lutheran missionary to Sumatra who also translated the New Testament into the native Batak language. Stephen Neill, a historian of missions, considered Nommensen one of the greatest missionaries of all time. He is commemorated as a missionary on November 7 in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church with John Christian Frederick Heyer and Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg.

Nommensen was born in the Nordstrand peninsula in 1834, when the area was within Denmark. In 1846, a horse cart rolled over his legs, crushing them. The initial prognosis was that he would be unlikely to walk again. After praying for recovery, some three years later, he was able to walk again.

An interest in Christian missionary work led to his enrolment at the Rhenish Missionary Society seminary at Wuppertal-Barmen in 1857. He was sent as a missionary to Sumatra in 1862. He focused his attention on the Batak people of the interior of Sumatra, who at that time were substantially isolate from contact with either Islam or Christianity. His first mission station was at the village of Silindung. He experienced initial difficulties, but later succeeded in converting several local chiefs and their followers to Christianity. By 1865 he reported that 2000 Batak had converted to Christianity. At first most converts had to leave their villages, and came to live with Nommensen in his "Huta dame" (Village of Peace). In 1878 he completed the first translation of the New Testament into the Batak language.

In 1890 he moved north to the village of Sigumpar. The area had greater Islamic influences, but Nommensen remained successful in building an indigenous Batak church. He had already instituted a church order and hierarchy, over seen by a Batak "ephorus". By the time of his death the church numbered 180,000 members, with 34 Batak pastors and 788 teacher-preachers. Today most Toba Batak Christians belong to the "Huria Kristen Batak Protesten" (HKBP) church, one of the largest church denominations in Asia.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology by the University of Bonn, and in 1911 he was made an officer of the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau. The Batak Christian University at Medan and Pematang Siantar was named Nommensen University in 1954.


* [ Ludwig Nommensen Missionary to Sumatra]
* Scott W. Sunquist, ed., "Dictionary of Asian Christianity" (Grand Rapids, 2001), p. 608
* Gustav Menzel, "Ein Reiskorn auf der Strasse: Ludwig I. Nommensen, "Apostel der Batak", (1984)

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