Fraser, Donald (1870-1933)
Missionary to Africa and international mission statesman and strategist
Fraser was born in Scotland at Lochgilphead, Argyllshire, the son of a Free Church minister. As a young man, he helped found the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) in Britain and became its traveling secretary in 1892. He was also involved with John R. Mott in discussions leading to the formation of the World’s Student Christian Federation in 1896. Before beginning missionary service in Malawi with the Free Church of Scotland, Fraser toured both Europe and South Africa in 1896 to encourage the SVM. In Malawi Fraser was assigned to the Ngoni people, with whom he became closely identified. He encouraged huge sacramental conventions which soon attracted thousands. These were modeled after nineteenth-century Scottish Highland gatherings, but in Africa included both baptism and Communion. He was much more open to African culture than were most of his Scottish colleagues. He encouraged indigenous church music by organizing annual hymn-writing competitions and encouraged local leadership in the church, including the leadership of women through an unofficial order of women elders, long before such initiatives were officially recognized in either Scotland or Malawi. He also spent a very high proportion of his time itinerating around the huge area for which he was responsible. At such times his wife Agnes (Robson), herself a medical doctor, carried on the administration of the mission station at Loudon (Embangweni). In 1925 his considerable international reputation was recognized when he was asked to chair the international conference at Le Zoute on the topic “The Christian Mission in Africa.” After his death, Fraser’s ashes were returned to Malawi and buried at Embangweni, among the people he had served so well.
Thompson, T. Jack, “Fraser, Donald,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 224.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Fraser, Donald. Winning a Primitive People Sixteen Years’ Work Among the Warlike Tribe of the Ngoni and the Senga and Tumbuka Peoples of Central Africa. London: Seeley, Service & Co., Ltd., 1914.
____________. The Future of Africa. London: Young People’s Missionary Movement, 1911.
Fraser, Donald. African Idylls. London: Seeley, Service & Co., Ltd., 1923.
_____. The Autobiography of an African, Retold in Biographical Form & in the Wild African Setting of the Life of Daniel Mtusu. London: Seeley, Service & Co., Ltd., 1925.
_____. The New Africa. New York: Missionary education movement of the United States and Canada, 1928.
Fraser, Agnes Renton (Robson). Donald Fraser of Livingstonia. London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1934.
Thompson, T. Jack. Christianity in Northern Malaãwi : Donald Fraser’s Missionary Methods and Ngoni Culture. Studies in Christian Mission, v. 15. Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1995.
_____. “Donald Fraser,” in Gerald H. Anderson et al., eds., Mission Legacies (1994), pp. 166-172.
A lecture delivered by T. Jack Thompson on the Occasion of the Centenary of Loudon Station, November 2002:
Biography of Donald Fraser, Dictionary of African Christian Biography:
Painting: “Donald Fraser” by W. Pratt, oils, c. 1934. Church of Scotland Offices, Edinburgh.
Photo: “Donald Fraser” in Tissington Tatlow, The Story of The Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland, London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1933.