“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?

22 thoughts on “Skrefsrud”

  1. 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

    • 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.


  2. 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.

      • Michael, I am working on a “Skrefsrud Reunion” for next summer probably at the Lion’s Shelter in West Salem since it’s large enough in case I find enough people to invite. Which one of the Freng’s are you descended from? My great-grandmother was Oline, sister of Elisa’s.

        • I just saw this while looking up Lars Skrefsrud. My GGmother was Lar’s sister. I also live in Wisconsin, near La Crosse. I am wondering if you ever had a Skrefsrud Reunion? If not, I would be interested in coming. I know many others that are related to him as well.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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,


  7. 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: if you are interested and wish to view it. Kind regards ~David

    • Dear Mr Helberg

      Might you be able to put me in touch with whoever obtained “Stromme af Naade” from you?

      My interest is to see if an English translation of the book is available and, if not, to encourage that to be made.

      Regretfully, very little has been published on Skrefsrud’s life and work.

      Kind regards and many thanks

      Prabhu Guptara

      • Professor Guptara, I am happy to learn that our General Director has been able to assist you with your inquiry. May the Living Lord bless your research and scholarship so that many people might be inspired to follow in the footsteps of dear brother Lars.

  8. 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.

  9. This is fantastic! I’m also related to Lars. My great, great, great grandfather, Mathias, was his half-brother. They shared the same father, but different mothers, as Lars’ mother had died. I have a picture of Johannes but didn’t know about a sister. Mathias emigrated to the US in 1881 and changed his last name to Nelson. He married Hilda Skaaje (Skoy) in Wisconsin then they moved to Oregon.

    I love learning about our family history and am in the process of compiling a narrative with as much information as I can find – memoirs, pictures, family lines – anything. If you can add to the story, PLEASE e-mail me at: I would love to have copies that can fill in the gaps, as well as share anything I have with you!


  10. Hi, is this site still active? Lars was my grandfather’s great uncle.

    Lars’ brother Neils (or Nels) –> Oliver Normand Olson –> Lynn Stevens Olson –> Clarke King Olson –> me, Kathryn King Olson.

    • Hi there, Kathy!

      Yes, indeed, our site is still active — and so is our dynamic inheritance from your great great uncle, Lars!

      I, too, am so pleased that Skrefsrud’s “saint day” remains in the cycle of our Lutheran lectionary. He is one of my personal heroes. And as you must know, the World Mission Prayer League counts Lars Olsen Skrefsrud as the founder of our organization.

      Skrefsrud was the founder, of course, of the Norwegian Santal Mission (now Normisjonen), the Danish Santal Mission (now Danmission), and the American Board of the Santal Mission (now World Mission Prayer League.)

      The American Board was founded in Minneapolis in 1891. It merged with the World Mission Prayer League in 1972. It is an inheritance that remains active around the world…

      Blessings on your day! A blessed Christmas and Epiphany season to your and yours.


  11. PS. I love that Lars Skrefsrud’s festival is still listed in our green Lutheran Book of Worship on Dec. 11. My brother, Chester Pearce, was born on Dec 11, and he was the last male of our Olson line. (see my previous comment for the genealogical connection)

  12. Hi Charles …
    Sorry this has taken me so long to respond ,
    I was searching for Info on Lars Skrefsrud to share with My Granddaughters who are 8 an 5 years old as they have to research a Missionary for their Awana Club at Church !
    Was pleasantly surprised to come upon
    this an see I responded along with Michael an Marilyn who I know are cousins of mine !
    I took My Family Tree Book out an found a picture of Lars Skrefsrud whom my cousin Bob Winger ( Harland ) had sent me along with many other pictures of their trip to Norway !
    My parents ( Hjalmer an Elsie Anderson )
    had the picture of Lars in the dining room for years !!!
    Thankyou for sharing your experience also as it gives so much more meaning to understanding what Lars did along with many others !!! God surely had a plan !!!
    Hope this finds you well , Have A Blessed
    Day in The Lord ??✝️???
    Luv in Christ

    Oline ( Olena ) Skrefsrud was My Dad’s Mom
    married Elling Anderson

    Elisa Skrefsrud was My Mom’s Dad’s Mom
    married Peder Freng


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.