Fredrik Franson (17 June 1852 – 2 August 1908), founder of The Evangelical Alliance Mission, of Chicago, Illinois, was born in Pershyttan, Västmanland, Sweden. In 1869 he came to America to join two brothers, Frans and Eric. He was accompanied by his parents, a brother August, and a half-sister Anna. They settled in Saunders County, Nebraska, where the family established a home, later known as the Roland Nelson farm, three miles north of Mead.
In 1875, he united with a little Baptist Church near his home in Estina, Nebraska, and was baptised. He preached his first sermon in that school house where the Baptist Church held its services. The building still stands on a farm property and a marker placed on the spot where the church stood.
His next years were spent traveling to many countries teaching and preaching. Sensing the need for more training, Franson went to Chicago in 1876 hoping to meet the famous evangelist D.L. Moody. He became a part of the church founded by Moody and was trained by the evangelist as a counselor.
Franson eventually returned to Nebraska to minister to Scandinavian immigrants, but in 1879 he felt led to go to Utah Territory to minister to some 30,000 Swedish immigrants who had gone there for inexpensive land. Franson's evangelistic endeavors were broadened to include the Mormons who had recently settled in Utah Territory.
Two years later Franson left for his homeland. While carrying on an extensive ministry in Europe, he heard the well-known missionary statesman, Hudson Taylor, challenge people to go to China with the gospel. From that encounter, Franson got a vision to form missionary sending agencies in various European countries, and before he left the continent, six such organizations had come into being: Danish Mission Confederation, Swiss Alliance Mission, German Alliance Mission, Finnish Alliance Mission, Swedish Evangelical Mission in Japan, and Swedish Alliance Mission. All six agencies continue to send out missionaries to this day.
After arriving back in America, Franson continued to preach. His desire to motivate others for cross-cultural missions led him to form a training class in Brooklyn, New York. In 1890 he founded the Scandinavian Alliance Mission in Chicago, later known as The Evangelical Alliance Mission, also several missions in Sweden.
His first class on October 14, 1890, is recognized as the "birthday" of TEAM, although the early name for the agency was "The Scandinavian Alliance Mission." This name reflected Franson's vision to bring churches together into an alliance enabling even small congregations to have a part in sending out missionaries. Classes were also initiated in Chicago, Minneapolis and Omaha. Soon a formal board of directors came into being, and on January 17, 1891, the first band of 35 missionaries boarded a train for the West Coast and eventually China.
Photographs of these early missionaries depict a dedicated group of people who chose to live and dress as the Chinese did. Other groups soon joined the first recruits, and Franson fervently challenged still more to go. In order to get to China, the early missionaries had to pass through Japan, and that soon became a new field for the mission. In a similar manner, by 1892, a small group also went to Swaziland in southern Africa. In 1906 T.J. Bach and his wife left for Venezuela, South America. Bach would later become TEAM's third General Director. In 1908, following one of his lengthy trips to the fields, Franson took several days off to rest at the home of some friends in Idaho Springs, Colorado. One morning his host tried to wake him for breakfast, but he had died during the night.
Death and legacy
Fredrik Franson died August 2, 1908, in Idaho Springs, Colorado, where he had gone for some much needed rest. His age was 56. Services were held at the Presbyterian Church in Colon, Nebraska and burial was in Estina Cemetery, south of Leshara. His body was later moved to Chicago into the Franson Memorial Building.
His motto was "Forward 'Till Upward."
Franson left behind no family or estate. His legacy was a group of dedicated people whose desire was to take the gospel to all people. Franson's two passions-evangelism and church planting-continue to be the focus of TEAM's worldwide ministry.
- Edward P. Torjesen, Fredrik Franson, Pasadena:William Carey Library, 1983
- Works by Fredrik Franson at Project Gutenberg
- TEAM History
- Daniel Heinz (2000). "Franson, Frederick (auch: Fransson, Fedrick)". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 17. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 399–404. ISBN 3-88309-080-8.
- 1983 Saunders County History - Family Stories