Masai teacher, evangelist, pastor, and church administrator.
Laiser was a Mwarusha, an offshoot of the Masai people of Tanganyika Territory (now Tanzania). Given the name Lazarus at his baptism (1911), he was educated at a Lutheran school in Arusha, at the Marangu teacher Training School, and in the Lutheran Pastors’ Course at Machame, Moshi. He was ordained in 1943. With the internment of German missionaries of the Leipzig Mission during World War II, Laiser emerged as the local leader for the work, becoming vice-president of the Lutheran Church of Northern Tanganyika (1948-1956), with most of its members in the areas around Meru and Kilimanjaro Mountains. He played a decisive role in getting his church to start mission work among the Sonjo, a Bantu people to the west of Lake Natron in the Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa, near the border with Kenya. He had persistently urged his colleagues to start such work and had made a personal visit in 1928 to familiarize himself with the country and its people; finally the church was able to send missionaries in 1949.
Concern for health and education were basic to Laiser’s mission strategy. He also sought to affirm the cultural values of his people in the context of the Christian faith, thus becoming an early pioneer of indigenization/ inculturation. The work was supported entirely by local contributions. Laiser never formally retired after leaving his leadership position in the church in 1956, but continued to supervise and consolidate the mission work. He died in a car accident near the Ngorongoro Crater, Monduli district, while on one of his regular visits to the new mission field.
Max Patzig, Laiser, Lazaros: Ein Leben fur junge Kirchen in Ostafrica (1959); UMOJA (monthly newsletter of the Lutheran Church of Northern Tanganyika), 10 (September 1958): 125 (obit.).
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.