Johann Ludwig Krapf: His Life and Legacy

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Johann Ludwig Krapf: His Life and Legacy

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By Aaron Dunlop

Johann Ludwig Krapf (1810–1881) was a Lutheran pastor with the Church Missionary Society (CMS) of the Anglican Church, and a pioneering missionary explorer and linguist. After being expelled from Ethiopia, Krapf developed a ground-breaking strategy for the heart of Africa through the Swahili Coast—a path that later explorers would follow. Krapf was also a gifted linguist and his work with the Swahili language and other Bantu languages was seminal and foundational for future Swahili studies.

This biography provides an introduction to Krapf’s life. It details his early flirtation with Christian mysticism and the development of a practical and passionate heart for the unreached Oromo people of East Africa. It follows his strategic missionary maneuvering and his indomitable courage and fortitude in the face of repeated setbacks. The loss of his wife and infant daughter just months after their arrival in Mombasa, left him broken. But his letter to the CMS Committee revealed a profound faith in the sovereignty of God and the nature of His mission in the world.

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Available: July 5, 2022

“You can’t read this welcome account of the pioneer missionary in East Africa, Ludwig Krapf, and be unmoved. He relentlessly pursued the vision of the conversion of the world. No sacrifice was too great, no obstacle could make him let go. The account of the death of his first wife so soon after arriving in Mombasa will move you to tears. What realism! What faith! What grace of God! In many ways taking the gospel to the world is so much easier today. So where are the Krapfs of today? So much of the world is still unreached. May such an account stir the hearts of many of God’s people.”

Keith Underhill, Founding pastor at Trinity Baptist Church, Nairobi,now retired and living in England


“Like all good missionary biographies, Johann Ludwig Krapf: His Life and Legacy is well researched, magnifies the Saviour and demonstrates the lasting impact of a life of sacrifice, lived attempting great things for God and expecting great things from God.”

David Morrow, Area Director, UFM Worldwide (Ireland)


“Through many years and many trials on the mission field, my wife and I have always reminded each other, ‘The gospel costs—but it’s worth it!” This story of Ludwig Krapf beautifully illustrates that truth. I am inspired by the high cost he was willing to pay for the gospel, convinced of its beauty, value, and rescuing power. Krapf pursued the proclamation of the gospel in East Africa at great personal expense. I trust your heart will be stirred by his faith, courage, and passion for the gospel.”

Rob Trenckmann, Head of Operations, Newton House, Oxford; Former Country Lead for Josiah Venture, Hungary


“God’s Providence is often so unmistakable in hindsight. The story of Johann Ludwig Krapf, detailed by Aaron Dunlop, is blessed with moment-by-moment displays of God’s gracious hand over his servant. The Christian life is often one of struggle and hardship, yet the work is the Lord’s and his will is accomplished—the frailest vessels behold the choicest wine. As Krapf notes, “how mysterious and marvelous are the Lord’s ways”; so it is throughout so many missionary biographies as they reveal the honest conundrum of divine blessing and human failure. We are not for want of former saints but have need to read and explore the ways that God has worked through them—through those who would die on their knees in prayer and conviction. Dunlop’s retrieval of Krapf is more than just a detailed biography but a blooming promise of how the Great Shepherd would call his sheep from every nation, including the Oromo tribes. Every church would be wise to include this well-written, delightful, and invigorating biography in her library, surely there is room between the Judsons and the Livinstones.”

Christopher Ellis Osterbrock, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Wellsboro, PA; Author, What Is Saving Faith?


 

Contents

Foreword

Timeline

Introduction

Chapter 1 Childhood and Early Life

Chapter 2 Years of Severe and Painful Struggle

Chapter 3 Ethiopia and the Orthodox Church

Chapter 4 Ethiopia and the Struggle for the Oromo

Chapter 5 Fraülein Dietrich and the Search for the Oromo

Chapter 6 The Swahili Coast: A Fresh Start

Chapter 7 Triumphant in the Shadow of Death

Chapter 8 A Mission Station at Rabai Mpya

Chapter 9 In Pursuit of Unyamwezi

Chapter 10 On Furlough in Europe

Chapter 11 Back at Rabai

Chapter 12 A Trial of Faith

Chapter 13 Missionary Statesman and Linguist

Chapter 14 Death and Legacy

Appendix 1
The Deathbed Scene of Mrs. Rosine Krapf

Appendix 2
Travels of Krapf and Rebmann in East Africa (1847–1852)

Appendix 3
The Development of Krapf’s Missionary Strategy

Appendix 4
The Linguistic Influence of Ludwig Krapf on East Africa

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