David Day was an American Lutheran missionary in Liberia. Born in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Day fought in the Civil War at the age of 14. He grew up deeply troubled by poverty and injustice. He studied theology and medicine at the Missionary Institute at Susquehanna University and was ordained for service in Liberia by the Lutheran General Synod Mission Board in 1874. He sailed for Africa with his wife, Emily, arriving in Monrovia in June 1874, which was 14 years after the founding of the original Lutheran mission by Morris Officer. Of the original seven missionaries, three had died of disease, while the others were forced to abandon their posts in the “white man’s graveyard.” (The Days later buried three of their own children in Africa.) Finding only dilapidated buildings at Muhlenberg, the former mission site, Day began rebuilding the school, replanting the mission farm, securing more government land, and opening carpenter, blacksmith, and machine shops. He constructed the first side-wheeler steamboat to navigate the Saint Paul River. Emma Day, going on long bush walks, became known as Ma Day, teacher and friend of Liberians.
Never swerving from his purpose of devoting his entire career to the coming of God’s kingdom in Liberia, Day declined positions in the mission board home office and with the U.S. government. In failing health, he died aboard ship en route home.
James A. Scherer
George Drach, ed., Kingdom Pathfinders: Biographical Sketches of Foreign Missionaries (1942); L. B. Wolf, ed., Missionary Heroes of the Lutheran Church (1911).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.