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Journeys of Faith: Artifacts from the Mission Field

In 1739, David Brainerd experienced a religious conversion and, aspiring to become a minister, entered Yale College.

Illustration of David Brainerd on horseback. From Jesse Pages’s, David Brainerd: The Apostle to the North American Indians (New York: Fleming H. Revel, 1891). Click for full image. [Image ID: 2873]

He was appointed a missionary by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge in 1742 and was ordained by the Presbytery of New York in 1744. Though he began mission work in 1743 among Native Americans in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, his ministry was not successful until he began work among the Delaware Indians near Trenton, New Jersey, from 1745 to 1746.

Members of the David Brainerd Society of Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, standing beside the monument erected in 1884 to commemorate the site of David Brainerd’s cabin. View image record on Pearl. [Image ID: 4737]

In this letter, written by David Brainerd to fellow Yale student and Congregational minister Joseph Bellamy, Brainerd confesses to feelings of immense spiritual distress and uncertainty in the face of his theretofore failed ministry to the Indians. Brainerd writes,

“My soul has undergone inexpressible anguish … and the greatness of my work lies like mountains of lead upon me … O therefore pray for me and tell your dear Christians to do the same, that God would go with me and help me, for at present I can’t desire the Indians should be converted and yet I can’t but go among ‘em.”

Letter from David Brainerd to Joseph Bellamy, February 4, 1742/3. Read the full letter on Pearl.


David Brainerd’s journal covers the one-year period he spent among the Delaware Indians in Pennsylvania and New Jersey from 1745 to 1746.