A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
MISSOURI EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN INDIA MISSION (MELIM)
During the 19th century The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) was indirectly involved in mission work in India by supporting the Leipzig Lutheran Mission (LLM).
K. G. T. Naether and T. F. Mohn, who were working in the southeast part of Tamil Nadu broke away from the LLM due to doctrinal differences. These two missionaries then petitioned the LCMS for direct support of their work in India. The Missouri Synod agreed to their request and in 1895 Naether and Mohn moved to Krishnagiri and Ambur in northern Tamil Nadu to begin a new mission there. Their mission work was carried out under the banner of Missouri Evangelical Lutheran India Mission (MELIM).
Naether continued to sow the seeds of the Gospel until he contracted the plague and died in 1904. Mohn continued missionary work for a few more years.
The outreach of Naether and Mohn was continued by groups of missionaries sent from the LCMS. A number of churches, schools and healthcare clinics in the Ambur-Krishnagiri region were established and expanded.
In 1907 MELIM missionaries received a “Macedonian call” from Christians in Nagercoil in the princely state of Travancore to establish a MELIM station there. The LCMS sent missionaries to work in Nagercoil in south Travancore in 1911. Concordia Theological Seminary was established in 1924.
MELIM missionaries began work in Trivandrum (present day Kerala) in 1912. These missionaries in Travancore and Ambur, along with local pastors and teachers formed congregations, schools and hospitals for new Tamil and Malayalam-speaking believers in the Gospel. Subsequently, the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC) was established in 1958.
The MELIM missionaries, together with IELC pastors, teachers, and lay-workers continued with theological training, strengthening congregations, primary and secondary school instruction, and medical missions. Outreach expanded to Muslims, those in urban settings, women and other socially marginalized groups, literacy and music programs began as opportunities to share the Christian Gospel.
However, by the one hundredth anniversary of MELIM in 1995, most missionaries had left MELIM and India. The IELC continues to minister, teach and serve tens of thousands of Christians in hundreds of congregations throughout Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Sri Lanka.
Click here to see photos of some of these early missionaries to India. The page is from LCMS World Missions.
Click here to obtain a brochure on Concordia Historical Institute’s MELIM project.