Leonard Dober wondered if Jesus had thought the cross too much; then he remembered Jesus’ prayer in the garden ended, “Not my will, but yours, Father.” Leonard’s task seemed impossible, but he was pursuing God’s will and not his own.
Leonard Dober determined that God’s call to him was to reach slaves in the Virgin Islands. He planned to reach these men and women by selling himself as a slave and working alongside others each day while sharing Jesus’ love with them. The thought of being a slave frightened and sickened him. He dreaded the treatment he would receive. “But Christ was willing to die on the cross for me,” he thought. “No price is too high to serve him.”
It wasn’t the slave masters who were Dober’s harshest persecutors, but rather fellow Christians. They questioned his call to minister to slaves and ridiculed him as a fool for his plan. But Dober would not be dissuaded. He arrived in the Virgin Islands late in the 1730s.
When he became a servant in the governor’s house, he feared that this position was too far removed from the slaves to whom he had come to minister. So he left and moved from the governor’s house to a mud hut where he could work one-on-one with slaves.
In just three years, Dober’s ministry included more than thirteen thousand new converts.
Jesus freaks. That’s what the world calls those whose faith seems a bit radical. Odd. Extreme. Dober was an eighteenth century “Jesus freak”—a free man who chose to live as a slave in order to win them to Jesus. He was willing to do whatever it took to squeeze the last ounce of devotion from his heart in service to Christ. For Dober, that meant a specific plan that made sense to no one but him. Have you been written off because of your freakish refusal to go along with the majority rule? If God has called you to do something radical for him in your family, church, or community, you must obey. Let others call you crazy, but may Jesus find you committed.
Since it is desired of me to make known my reason, I can say that my disposition was never to travel during this time, but only to ground myself more steadfastly in my Savior; that when the gracious count came back from his trip to Denmark and told me about the slaves, it gripped me so that I could not get free of it. I vowed to myself that if one other brother would go with me, I would become a slave, and would tell him so, and what I had experienced from our Savior: that the word of the cross in its lowliness shows a special strength to souls. As for me, I thought: even if helpful to no one in it I could still give witness through it of obedience to our Savior! I leave it to the good judgment of the congregation and have no other ground than this I thought: that on the island there still are souls who cannot believe because they have not heard.