In the 1700s, a small group of Protestant exiles lived secretly in Moravia, a historic region of the Czech Republic. They had survived the Catholic requirement of the Habsburg Empire as an illegal underground remnant for nearly 100 years. The exiles fled to Germany and established a new village called Herrnhut. In its first five years of existence, the Herrnhut settlement showed little spiritual vibrancy. By the beginning of 1727, the community of 300 was plagued by dissension and bickering.
But their leader, Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, committed himself to believing for unity and revival. And in May 1727, the Holy Spirit fell on Herrnhut, and revival transformed the town. The community began a round-the-clock “prayer watch” that continued nonstop for over a hundred years. By 1791, the tiny Moravian community had sent about 300 missionaries to the Caribbean, North America, South America, the Arctic, Africa and eastern Asia. Moravian missionaries were among the first large-scale Christian missionary movements in the world. They were the first to send laypeople (who were not members of the clergy) as missionaries, the first Protestants to witness to slaves and the first Protestants in many countries.
In 1732, Moravian Brethren Johann Leonhard Dober and David Nitschmann felt God call them to minister to African slaves on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix in the West Indies. Reportedly, when Johann and David were told they could not go, they sold themselves into slavery and boarded a ship bound for the West Indies. As the ship left the docks, it is said that they called out to their loved ones on shore, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”