Norwegian missionaries who emigrated to the US are an important part of our emigration history and the topic of a recently published book on Ventura Publishing. The book is published in both Norwegian and English language and is named «To the Ends of the Earth. 1000 Norwegian-American Missionaries.»

Torbjørn Greipsland with the two versions of the book on the Norwegian American missionaries. Greipsland has previously written four books on emigration. Photo: Kari Undeland.

Norwegians Worldwide have spoken to editor Torbjørn Greipsland about the exciting tales.

What is unique about this book compared to other books on Norwegian missionaries in the US and the world?

– What’s unique is first and foremost that it’s the only book gathering the stories of more than a thousand Norwegian-American missionaries, and it goes into detail with 30 of them. The high number of missionaries from Norway, has surprised readers both in the US and in Norway, said Greipsland.

Why is there one version written in Norwegian and one in English?

– Ventura Publishing has published two versions, one for Norwegians and another one especially for Norwegian-Americans. As they don’t necessarily read Norwegian any longer, one version had to be in English.

The book tells about the dramatic effort many of them put in. Could you give some examples?

Elisabeth Tou’s life was saved under dramatic events. Photo from the book.

– One example is when Ella Rølvåg Brune was disembarking on the island Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait. The eskimos had to drag her up with a rope along the mountain side. Another example is cottar daughter Ellen Fredriksen from Land, who as a new missionary in China, experienced that a young man wanted to kill her. After a while he gave up, and he became her best co-worker. Missionary doctor Casper Skinsnes is another interesting person. He was sentenced to death twice in China. But the sentences were never carried out. When he returned to China in 1946, 10-15 000 people welcomed him. On Madagascar, as in China, there were tumultuous decades before and after 1900. Married couple Erik and Elisabeth Tou found themselves in many dangerous situations. Elisabeth was home alone when 200 insurgents came. She managed to get outside to the top of the roof. It saved her life, because the tribe of insurgents wouldn’t rape or kill a woman who was outside. Elisabeth knew this. Both sorrow and joy are important ingredients of the book.

 

Why should we read this book?

– Because it is the only book providing an overview of the missionaries and these stories. The missionaries, many of them quite young, sacrificed life and health to convey the Christian message to other people in different cultures and countries, and by building congregations, schools and hospitals. These missionaries are an important part of our emigration history and deserve a book. This topic is unfortunately not very present in central books on the Norwegian America. It should also be mentioned that critics and readers have given the book very good reviews.

Where can we buy it?

– All bookstores should be able to get it if they don’t have it in store already. If someone lives far from a bookstore, they can contact me at torgrei@online.no, and I’ll mail it to them. In the US, Jim Olson sells the English version. His e-mail address is jimolson@midco.net.

More information about To the Ends of the Earth. 1000 Norwegian-American Missionaries is available at www.emigrantforlaget.no and www.norwegianheritage.org.