A century ago, when the Danish authorities were administering the Nicobar Islands, East Indies, they found great difficulty in keeping civil officers in charge, owing to the deadly climate. On this account they asked John Haensel, a Moravian missionary in the islands, to act as official resident on the island of Nancowry, knowing that the Moravian missionaries always held to their posts to the last extremity.

The native islanders were friendly, but Malay robbers from the coast often raided and robbed along the islands. Suffering the want of many things, and in peril by robbers, the missionaries, Haensel says, cast themselves upon God and felt His special protection round about them.

On one occasion a Malay robber chief, with canoes filled with savage warriors, had stolen property of the Danish government at Nancowry; and Haensel had told him he would have to report it if the property was not returned. The chief, or nicata, became violently angry, and gave it out that dead men made no reports.

Haensel says:

“The natives assured me that it was his intention to kill me, but that they would stay with me for my defense. I replied that though I thanked them for their kindness, yet they, as well as we, were much too weak to withstand the diabolical influence which actuated these murderous people; but that our hope and trust was in God our Saviour, who was infinitely more powerful than the devil.”

Late that night Haensel heard a call from without, and opened his door. He continues:

“I was not a little alarmed to see a great number of Malays surrounding the entrance. I cried silently to the Lord to protect us against their evil designs; but though my fears were great, I assumed an authoritative air, keeping my station in the doorway, as if determined not to let them enter. The foremost, however, pushed in; and now the nicata himself came up. He treacherously held out his hand; but on my offering him mine, he grasped it firmly and dragged me with him into the house. The Malays immediately filled all the chairs, and I stood before them.

“I had no other hope but in the mercy of God, to whom I sighed for help in this trying moment . . Though I preserved a firm and undaunted appearance, I cannot describe my feelings; for I expected immediately to be sacrificed to their fury . . Some of them even drew their daggers and showed how they were tipped with poison. They looked, indeed, more like a host of devils than a company of human creatures.

“On a sudden they all jumped up and seemed to rush upon me. I commended my soul to the Lord, and called upon Him for deliverance, awaiting the issue in silence, when, to my surprise, they quitted the room, one by one, and left me standing alone, in astonishment at their conduct. I shall never forget the dreadful scene, and think of it at this moment with shuddering. As soon as they were all gone and I found myself in safety, and fell on my knees, I with tears gave thanks to God my Saviour, who had heard my prayers and rescued me out of the hands of these savages.”—


Next morning the nicata’s canoes were at Trincut, miles away. “The people [of Trincut] told us afterward,” wrote Haensel, “that the nicata said that the Danish resident at Nancowry was ‘a very great sorcerer; for he had tied their hands and they could do nothing with him.’ It was not I who tied their hands, but God.




Letters On The Nicobar Islands.