They sailed on the ship Sophia Hedewig on November 29, 1705, arriving on July 9, 1706 -- their journey taking approximately six months.
Upon arrival, Bartholomaus made the decision to live among the locals rather than in the much more familiar and comfortable surroundings of the Dutch colonists. This was the first act of his that made him different from many of his peers at the time.
Batholomaus was keen to learn the local language, Tamil. However, to learn Tamil he first had to learn Portuguese. It only took him a few months to obtain enough mastery of Porttguese to proceed with his study of Tamil. Here is the second instance where we see how different Batholomaus was from your typical missionary: he arranged to attend Tamil classes with the local schoolchildren. The school teacher soon moved the classes to Batholomaus ' residence, where he sat on the ground alongside the children, practicing his letters in the sand as the Indian people had done for centuries.
He spent hours reading and studying the language, and when his eyes were too tired to read, he had someone read to him. Within three months, he was able to converse in Tamil. His initial attempts at speaking Tamil were not always as successful as he would like, with some of the locals dubbing him a crazy man. Within a short time, though, he was able to freely converse in the language.
Another facet of Bartholomaus' approach that stands out his how he truly wanted to know about the culture of the people he was trying to reach. He lived among them, attended their school, read all of their writings that he could lay his hands on, appreciated their culture, and even tried to understand their religion.
In this, Bartholomaus was far ahead of his time, becoming what may be the very first missionary to discard the idea of trying to Europeanize his converts. Their culture, as much as it did not come in conflict with the Bible, could remain, in his understanding as part of their life after salvation.
Because of this respect for them, he convinced those in the Tamil Christian community to use their gifts of music and poetry to write their own hymns, thus introducing the singing of Tamil lyrics to Indian melodies in church. He also translated many of his own beloved German hymns into Tamil, retaining the original meters and tunes.
This appreciation of the people and their culture could well be why he has been referred to as "The Missionary that India Never Forgot."
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.