My Pilgrimage in Mission

By Beyerhaus, Peter P. J. | International Bulletin of Missionary Research, October 2000 | Go to article overview

My Pilgrimage in Mission


Beyerhaus, Peter P. J., International Bulletin of Missionary Research


My passion for foreign missions appeared early in my childhood. Perhaps it was rooted in my genealogy. Although no overseas missionary appears in my ancestry, in 1890 my Swedish grandmother, Karolina Akesson, joined the American evangelist Fredrick Franson (1852-1908, founding father of the Evangelical Alliance Mission) on a tour through Scandinavia and down to Germany. Franson had asked her to participate in his musical team for a rally among the laboring class in an East Berlin district. The sponsor of that rally was the royal building architect Eduard Beyerhaus, who used to spend his spare time as a lay preacher. The young Karolina caught his eye and in a year's time they were a wedded couple. Their spiritual vision was taken up by my father, Siegfried Beyerhaus, who in his rural parsonage became the spokesperson for missionary support in the entire church district. Together with his wife, Fridel, he organized annual mission festivals in our large garden and invited missionaries of the Lutheran Berlin Mis sion to speak to his parishioners. My juvenile mind was fascinated by the adventures they reported among Chinese robbers and African witchdoctors. For a school essay, written when I was thirteen, I chose the theme "Why I Want to Become a Missionary." But through the Second World War and its aftermath, Germany was separated from its mission fields, and during my theological studies in German universities (1947-51) I did not encounter any missiological teaching. Thus there was little to keep up my missionary interest.

This situation changed decisively when I went to Sweden for a semester of study at the University of Uppsala. There I had my first encounter with the world-famous Swedish professor of missiology Bengt Sundkler. He conducted a highly stimulating course on ecumenical mission theology. I caught fire immediately. After finishing my basic theological education in Germany, I returned to Uppsala to engage in advanced studies for a doctorate in missiology under Sundkler's tutorship.

Uppsala was destined to shape my life in more ways than one. First, my degree work kindled my desire to become a missionary, and I took the concrete step of registering as a candidate in the service of the Lutheran Berlin Mission. Second, I was motivated additionally by my engagement to a Swedish fellow student, Ingegard Kalen, who independently of myself had felt a call for mission work in Africa. We found it appropriate to go to a field where German and Scandinavian Lutheran missions were involved in a close cooperation. This was the case in the South African province of Natal, where Lutheran bodies from Sweden, Norway, Germany, and the United States jointly sponsored a theological seminary seated originally in Oscarsberg and, since 1962 in Mapumulo, Zululand.

During the dissertation phase of my doctoral studies, I was invited by Dr. Walter Freytag (1899-1959) to serve as his assistant at the headquarters of the German Missionary Council in Hamburg. Freytag and Sundkler shared the heilsgeschichtlich (salvation-history) concept that was typical, especially since the 1930s, for evangelical mission theology on the European continent. This theological approach drew its exegetical support from the writings of the Swiss New Testament scholar Oscar Cullmann (1902-99). My own studies in Berlin and Heidelberg had been shaped by the same school of thought, and it became basic to my missiological orientation. According to the salvation-history perspective, world mission and evangelism is the chief commission of the church between Christ's Ascension and the Parousia. In addition to Freytag, a leading advocate of this concept was Karl Hartenstein (1895-1952). Freytag and Hartenstein fought for its recognition by the ecumenical movement in their contribution to several World Co uncil of Churches missionary conferences, especially from Madras (1938) to Willingen (1952). Freytag wanted me to substantiate this tradition by writing my doctoral thesis on the topic "The Kingdom of God in the History of the Protestant Missionary Movement. …

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