John Heyer, 7 November 1873
(From the Lutheran Kalendar)
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photograph of John Heyer

John Christian Frederick Heyer was the first missionary sent out by Lutherans in America. He was born in Germany in 1793, and after his confirmation in 1897 his parents sent him to relatives in America (Napoleon was then active in Europe). He studied theology in Philadelphia, and in 1814 went back to Germany, to the University of Goettingen. Back in America, he was licensed as a lay preacher (a home missionary) and preached in Pennsylvania, Missouria, and intermediate points. In 1819 he married, in 1820 he was ordained, and for twenty years he preached, established Sunday schools, and taught at Gettysburg College and Seminary.

After 20 years of marriage, his wife died. Heyer decided to become a foreign missionary. He learned a little Sanskrit and a little medicine, and sailed for India, where there were already Lutheran missions at Tinnevelly, Tranquebar, and Madras (See Ziegenbalg on 23 February). He spent fifteen years (1842-1837) founding missions in the region of Andhra, with time out to obtain an M.D. degree from what was later Johns Hopkins University. His health failed and he returned to organize churches in America, particularly Minnesota. In 1869 he returned to Andhra for two years, where his personal example renewed the spirit of the mission. He returned to Philadelphia to serve as chaplain of the new Lutheran seminary there, until his death on 7 November 1873.

written by James Kiefer


God of grace and might, we praise you for your servant John Christian Frederick Heyer, whom you called to preach the Gospel in the United States and in India. Raise up, we pray, in this and every land, heralds and evangelists of your kingdom, that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.