Basel Mission to Hebich Technical Training Institute
German Missionary Society (subsequently became the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society) came into being as a result of a pledge taken by few dedicated Christians at Basel(Switzerland) in the face of a military threat. It was the year 1815 when Napoleon had escaped from the Island of Elba (where he was a prisoner), and landed in France. The War continued in Europe. The City of Basel was very close to the borders of Germany and France. The French General Barbanege threatened to blow up Basel. A group of pious Christians, both Clergy and Laymen, belonging to the Reformed Church of Basel and the Lutheran Church of Wurtenberg pledged to start a seminary for the training of Missionaries, if God would spare their city.
The Tartars and Calmucs marched through Basel to invade France with the Russian Army, made these people feel even more convinced regarding their seminary. The French General capitulated and Napoleon met his doom at Waterloo. In the same year, on 26th September 1815, six Christian men, a Professor of Philosophy, three Clergymen, a Merchant and a Notary, gathered in the Rectory of St. martin in Basel under the Presidency of Rev. Nikolaus von Brunn, constituted themselves as the Evangelical Missionary Society of Basel. They applied to the Government for permission to start an Institution for training Missionaries. On 26th August 1816, this Institution was opened with seven students with Rev. C.C. Blumhardt in charge.
The Institution did not have plans at that time to do direct Missionary work, and only set about training people from the British and Dutch Mission Societies that were already engaged in evangelistic work. The largest numbers of trainees were supplied to the Church Missionary Society and were sent to India to serve at their Stations. This met with a lot of trouble as the East India Company did not permit non-British Missions to work in the territory occupied by them. But a revision of the Charter of 1833 removed this obstacle and non-British Missionary Societies were allowed to function. Much before this in 1821, the Basel
Rev. Samuel Hebich
Mission Society began to establish centers of its own, in Western Russia and then the Gold Coast in West Africa.
Having set up may Churches in Europe, the financial position of the Basel Mission Society decided to set up Institutions in areas of India that had not experienced Protestant Missionaries. So on 12th February 1834, three Missionaries were sent to India to establish Basel Mission Stations. They became the first Continental Society other than the Tranqueba Mission to take up work in India.
Shanthi Church 150 years Estd:11.12.1862
The three Missionaries were Johan Christopher Lehner, Christian Lenhard Greiner, and Samuel Hebich who set out on 31st March 1834 and landed in Calicut on 21st August 1834. They came to Mangalore on 30th October 1834, where they were joined by four more Missionaries. The Missionaries felt that the best way to fellowship with the people was to keep them well occupied in some productive work; hence they got involved in the Industrial Sector in Mangalore (South Kanara).
The original Commission with which the Missionaries were sent to India was to establish schools and also institutions for training future catechists. The mission of educating was considered important. So wherever there was to be a congregation, there had to be an elementary Christian teacher. Besides elementary education they also began to train people to be catechists as early as 1840. The field experience soon made the Missionaries feel that they needed to involve themselves in creating some remunerative jobs rather than just educating people. An important problem the Missionaries had to face was the economic backwardness of a large portion of their congregation. The Basel Mission was thus faced with the problem of handling this situation. The traditional professions were considered not adequate or not acceptable to the new religion. So alternate jobs had to be found and the Missionaries tried to provide them.
As early as 1840 the Mission did some experiments to rehabilitate people. That year the Mission was presented with a piece of land near Mangalore by the Collector H.M. Blair. Rev. Samuel Hebich tried coffee plantation but had to give it up soon as it did not prove successful. Meanwhile, there was an attempt to make sugar out of toddy. But that also proved not profitable venture because of the expense of fuel which was too great. The Missionaries then thought of farming as many of the Missionaries came out of farming families and were greatly interested in agriculture. On 21st December 1842, Mr. Supper wrote to the Home Board at Basel for help to start agriculture in South Kanara. This request was followed by another made by Mr. Greiner. The Board with some hesitation approved this as a temporary measure. To implement this Mission bought land and gave it on lease for cultivation. However, the
agriculture settlements proved a partial failure since very few took interest in cultivating the lands as their own lands. There agriculture Mission was finally discarded in 1880. After the failure of the agriculture mission, the Missionaries conceived of an Industrial Establishment as a better alternative for creating jobs.