Frederick William Baedeker - Missionary to Russia
Over half of F.W. Baedeker’s life had passed before he became a Christian. His early years were spent in business, the army and in much travelling.
Transformed by Christ
In 1866, in his early forties, he became a Christian. “I went into the meeting a proud rebellious infidel and came out a humble believing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Along with his remarkable spiritual transformation came a corresponding improvement in his health. His previous ill health had led many people to predict an early grave for him. But now, from his conversion, he began to undertake such strenuous journeys that would have depleted the energy of much younger and healthier men.
Consecrated and Commissioned
In Bristol, George Müller (who provided - by faith - food and housing to thousands of orphans) laid hands on him and “separated him to the special ministry to the banished brethren.” Like Baedeker, Müller was also German born.
Russia for Christ
In 1877, he left his home in England and moved with his wife and adopted daughter to Russia. His pattern was to approach the governor of a city and introduce himself as an evangelist from England, who would like to hold meetings in his town. “If you will arrange for a meeting in your drawing room, I am willing to conduct it and deliver an address.” This novel approach was generally greeted positively by the officials.
Nor did he allow obstacles to prevent him from proclaiming the Gospel. On one occasion, when he was forbidden to preach because it was an illegal activity, he asked if he might lecture instead and was given permission. Posters were printed advertising his lecture. The subject was “Sin and Salvation”! These tactics he repeated all over Russia and was heard by many thousands. Baedecker had a deep yearning to compensate for the lost time and wasted opportunities of the early part of his life.
A Time of Trouble
The Czar was assassinated by terrorists. The Russian Orthodox Church was firmly in the grip of the State, and evangelicals, such as Baptists, were being stamped out and banished to Siberia. Baedecker felt an irresistible call to minister to these persecuted believers, exiles and prisoners in Siberia.
From Sea to Sea
In 1890, he travelled across the full length of Russia, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. His mammoth journey began at St. Petersburg. Then to Moscow, to Perm, and crossing the Ural Mountains to Tobolsk down to Tomsk, along the Chinese border, all the way to the island of Sakhalin, which harboured “the most hardened cut-throats of the most remorseless penal settlement” of them all. Baedeker wrote: “To visit the prisons and to minister to the poor souls who are under the awful power of sin and darkness, is better to me than angels’ food.”
Remember the Prisoners
In four months he had covered 7000 miles, distributed 12 000 copies of Scriptures and preached to 40 000 prisoners. Any injustice he encountered was brought to the notice of the prison governor, and more than one sufferer had cause to thank God for his keen eye and courage.
Respected in all Circles
Baedecker moved as freely amongst the rich nobles, barons and counts, as he did amongst the prisoners and exiles. Amongst others, Baedecker had fellowship with Count Leo Tolstoy, Baroness von Wrede, (a most committed worker amongst the prisoners), the Queen of Sweden and Princess Lieven in St. Petersburg. Dr. Baedecker was vigorously involved in supporting the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Evangelical Alliance and the Protestant Alliance.
Redeeming the Time
Even in the last year of his life, at age 83, he made four missionary trips to the Continent. After recognising how much of his life had been wasted, he refused to compound the error by spending yet more time in regretting that loss. Instead, he determined that what remained to him of his life should be spent in seeking to fulfil the Great Commission of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
“Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
This article was adapted from the first chapter of The Greatest Century of Missions book (224 pages with 200 photographs, pictures, charts and maps), available from: Christian Liberty Books, PO Box 358 Howard Place 7450 Cape Town South Africa Tel: 021-689-7478, Fax: 086-551-7490, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.christianlibertybooks.co.za.
The Greatest Century of Missions
The Greatest Century of Reformation
Victorious Christians – Who Changed the World
How the Greatest Century of Missions was Derailed into the Worst Century of Persecution