Sometimes small steps of faith reverberate for centuries.
At the beginning of the 1700’s, in the small village of Ženklava in the Moravian part of the Czech Republic, a young carpenter named Christian David came to faith in Christ. The Catholic Hapsburgs ruled the land at the time, Bibles were outlawed for the common man, and becoming a protestant believer was punishable by death.
Somehow Christian David was still able to get his hands on a copy of Scripture and came to understand justification by faith in Jesus Christ.
Fired up by his newfound faith, and risking his very life, he began to preach the gospel in surrounding towns and villages. In the small village of Suchdol and Odrou revival broke out, and over 300 of the town’s 700 inhabitants came to faith in Christ.
Most of these new believers spent the next year in prison, paying with forced labor for their crime of belief. But still Christian David didn’t give up.
Finding that a young German count named Zinzendorf, living in Saxony, north of Prague, was offering space on his land for religious refugees, Christian led 280 “exiles” from Suchdol, and many others from the surrounding villages to form a new community on the count’s estate. They named it “Herrnhut”, meaning “under the Lord’s watch”.
Another revival a few years later (August 27, 1727) took this community even deeper in their faith, generating a 24-hour prayer watch and daily small groups to study the Scripture.
From this fervour grew a burden for the lost who had never heard, and in 1732 they sent the first missionaries to the West Indies, and then to Greenland. Soon almost twenty percent of the community was serving as missionaries.
In the next 20 years, Moravian missionaries took the gospel to Labrador, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, parts of Russia, South Africa, Ceylon, Tibet and even to America. They founded Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and evangelized a number of the American Indian tribes. This small community did more mission work in 20 years than the entire protestant church had accomplished in the 200 years preceding them.
It was at a Moravian Bible study in London that John Wesley came to faith in Christ. His preaching was used by God to launch the Great Awakening. Some would say that the evangelical movement in America is actually an extension of the Moravian revival.
And what became of the 24-hour prayer chain that began in August 1727? It lasted an unprecedented hundred years before it was broken!