The first missionaries were sent by Stamford Raffles in 1824, at which time Sumatra was under temporary British rule. They observed that the Batak seemed receptive to new religious thought, and were likely to fall to the first mission, either Islamic or Christian, to attempt conversion.
A second mission that in 1834 of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions met with a brutal end when its two missionaries were killed by Batak resistant to outside interference in their traditional adat.
The first Christian community in North Sumatra was established in Sipirok, a community of (Batak) Angkola people. Three missionaries from an independent church in Ermelo, Netherlands arrived in 1857, and on 7 October 1861 one of the Ermelo missionaries united with the Rhenish Missionary Society, which had been recently expelled from Kalimantan as a result of the Banjarmasin War.
The mission was immensely successful, being well supported financially from Germany, and adopted effective evangelistic strategies led by Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen, who spent most of his life from 1862 until his death in 1918 in North Sumatra, successfully converting many among the Simalungun and Batak Toba as well as a minority of Angkola.