Skrefsrud

“And we want each one of you to show the same diligence…imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11,12).

I have today visited the grave of Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, in Benagaria, India, away in Santal Parganas. Skrefsrud died on December 11, 1910; I visited a week earlier and almost a century later.

By all accounts, this man was a saint. Converted at an early age, Skrefsrud was thoroughly gripped by the gospel of God. And the gospel impelled him to dedicate his life to sharing its amazing love. From 1863-1865, he served in the fellowship of the Gossner Mission in India. For a short while, he served with the British Baptist Mission. But in 1865, together with H.P. Borresen of Denmark, he founded the Santal Mission – committed to holistic gospel ministry among the Santal people of northern India.

Some years ago, I visited Skrefsrud’s boyhood home in Lillehammer, Norway. Now I have seen the bungalow he built in Benagaria. I took tea at a table that might have served him, long ago. I was shown his room and sat for a while on his bed. I visited the “Ebenezer stone” Skrefsrud raised on the property, and the church that he built for the earliest company of Santal believers. And just outside the church itself, lies Skrefsrud’s grave.

The World Mission Prayer League was founded, in a way, by this man. Skrefsrud visited Minneapolis more than 100 years ago, in 1894-1895. The result of his vision was the American Board of the Santal Mission – which merged in 1972 with the World Mission Prayer League. Since then, Skrefsrud’s history is our history. We are direct beneficiaries and heirs to this man’s passionate vision.

I felt many things while standing at his graveside. On the one hand, I felt, simply, very much impressed with his sacrifice, his single-minded dedication and resolve. I felt impressed with the wonderful result of his ministry – a Santal church that numbers today some 85,000 souls in India, and thousands more in Bangladesh. I felt a debtor. And I felt a steward, somehow, of Skrefsrud’s enduring legacy.

Skrefsrud was a man ahead of his time, in many ways. Long before modern conversations about “contextualization,” Skrefsrud opined: “It is the [unbelief] that we want to get rid of, not the national character. We will distinguish between Christianity and European forms of civilization; the first we will give them in their own vessels, and the second we will leave in Europe.” As Skrefsrud’s heirs, we have inherited a similar responsibility: to “get rid of” unbelief by the sacrificial sharing of the gospel; to “leave behind” our heavy European (and American) baggage; to aim at the creative expression of Christian allegiance in the cultural “vessels” and “national character” of the people we are called to serve.

You are a steward of this vision, too. If ever you have joined our fellowship in prayer, if you have cared for the extension of the gospel, if you have yearned for the peoples of India (or perhaps some other land), you are a steward of this same legacy. You may not have made your way to Benagaria. But you carry the legacy nevertheless.

Skrefsrud, of course, remains there in Benagaria. But the legacy continues. Where will it lead us next? Where will it lead you?

Fellowship Online • Join the Conversation

  • I am just amazed at what I read about Lars Skrefsrud ~ he is an ancestor of mine thru My Father’s Mom ~ I can’t remember exactly how it goes right now ~ It’s wonderful how God used this man to help others, even if he had some bad times in his Life. What a priviledge we all have if only we listen when God calls us. Praise The Lord

    Love in Christ
    Kathy

    • Thank you, Kathy, for stopping by our site — and adding your input regarding Skrefsrud.

      By all accounts, he was an amazing fellow.

      How were you related? He doesn’t have so very many relatives, I think, in the United States.

      Chuck

  • I, too, am a relative of Lars Skrefsrud. My great great grandfather was Johannes Skrefsrud who was the brother of Lars. Lars also had a sister named Elisa Skrefsrud. They settled near Bangor Wisconsin.Johannes died with his son while digging a cistern in 1895 and I am told that Lars happened to be in America at the time and presided at the funeral. There are only a few descendants of Johannes that live in the US. There are a few more of the descendants of Elisa that are in the US, most I believe still live in Wisconsin.

    • I,m sorry but I need to correct one thing in my prior post. Elisa Skrefsrud was the daughter of Johannes Skrefsrud, who then married Peter Freng, also from Lillehammer. There are many of the Freng family still living in Wisconsin.

  • Wow, I didn’t know this site was available. I belong to the WMPL and copied this article, giving a copy to many of Lars’ descendants. I’m afraid to tell you that La Crossse Couny, Wisconsin and other places in the US have many descendants of Lars Skrefsrud. The Peter Freng family is huge, but there are a lot of us descended from Johannas (John Olson) Skrefsrud whose daughter Oline married Elling Anderson, parents of Hjalmer Anderson & Elsie Freng who are Kathy Whitacre’s parents. Hjalmer’s sister, Emma married Art Pierce (my grandparents). Do you know of descendants living in Norway?? I would be very interested in corresponding! When I stopped at the WMPL headquarters in 1983, I had the pleasure of meeting Char Valvik but unfortunately I never got back to Mpls to visit further. My grandmother (Emma Pierce) had a letter dated 12 Oct 1967 from Einar Samuelsen, Mgr of the Skrefsrud Cottage in Lillehammer. Seems Rev. Joh. Nyhagen was working on the archieves of the Norwegian Santal Mission. I had written to him but he couldn’t understand my request for the Skrefsrud family tree from Norway. Emma & Ole Freng & August Kronberg had compiled the family tree of those living in the US.

  • I am also a descendant of Lars Skrefsrud. My great grandmother Kristina Skrefsrud was a sister to Lars Skrefsrud. Do you know where I could get the family tree that Emma & Ole Freng & August Kronberg had compiled of those living in the U.S. ? There were many of my grandfathers family that settled in the Wiota, Wis. area. I live at Monroe,Wis.

  • Wow..I recently came across some information on Lars that belonged to my (now deceased) grandfather. I also am a descendant of Lars. According to my grandfather’s notes, my great grandmother was Clara Peterson, born 1879, daughter of Christina Skresfrud and Martinus Peterson. Christina and Lars were siblings. Lillian, that would make you and I distant relatives. Clara Peterson married Ole Ostby in Norway and came to this country in 1905. Clara Ostby lived in Argyle Wisconsin. Hey son Clayton was my maternal grandfather. I would be more than happy to share with you what notes I have on the family, altho what I have may not be current or accurate. I’ve always been extremely interested updating this family tree.

  • I am a missionary working among the Santal People in Jharkhand state 3 hours from Benagria mission where Lars grave sleeps. It was his vision to see the Santal people reached with the gospel. I carry upon me his vision to see the Santal people hear the gospel. he was my inspiration when i came into ministry. It was his vision of a Santalistan, a contextual church, and the SMNC. That is why we call our church”Santal church In India”. I am looking for friends who can join me in completing his vision,

    Daniel

  • Greetings, I am a book dealer in St. Paul, MN, and I have found a 558 pp. book entitled “Stromme af Naade.” This book deals with the missionary lives of Skrefsrud and Borresen – and shows numerous photos of them, their family members, and churches with congregants. Also Skrefsrud in a Buffalo coat for winter, and another fishing with Prof. Blegen. It was printed in Norwegian in 1897 in Minneapolis. It is available for trade of anything you have of value to me. I belive this rare volume should be with his decendents. Contact: dthelberg@yahoo.com if you are interested and wish to view it. Kind regards ~David

  • I am also related! Neils, Lars’ brother, who changed his last name to Olson was my great, great great grandfather (thru his son Edward). There is a website for the open air museum that houses the Skrefsrud family home.