Daniel Crawford was a Scottish missionary to Zaire. Born in Gourock, Scotland, he left school at 14 to work as a bookkeeper. His was a devout Church of Scotland family, and he taught in the local Sunday school. Despite this, he was converted at a Brethren meeting in 1887 and received adult baptism. He gave up work and became a freelance preacher, relying on God to provide for his sustenance, which was to be his way for the rest of his life.
At that time he influenced many who later became his base of support. Feeling called to Africa, in March 1889 Crawford set off as an independent missionary associated with the Plymouth Brethren of Scotland and England and spent the rest of his life in Katanga (modern Shaba, in southeast Zaire).
After some months working with others, he struck out alone and settled among the Nyamwezi. With headquarters on Lake Mweru, he itinerated constantly, preaching and setting up local schools, aiming simply at literacy in the local language. He married Grace Tilsley in 1896.
Crawford’s only absence from Africa occurred from mid-1911 to mid-1915, two years of which were spent pleading the cause of African missions in Europe and the United States. He was a brilliant linguist and by 1926 had completed the translation of the whole Bible into Luba. This and other languages he learned by living as the sole European among Africans, thus learning to “think black,” an attitude that made him something of an exception among missionaries of that era.
- James Gavin