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Good-bye to Frank Laubach, Apostle of Literacy

Good-bye to Frank Laubach, Apostle of Literacy

Deep in the Congo, black tribesmen had a name for Frank Laubach. "Mender of Old Baskets," they called him. An old leaky basket can be patched so that it can carry grain without dribbling it on the ground. In the same way, an old, leaky mind can be taught new ideas. It can be taught to read.

Frank Laubach died at 85 on this day, June 11, 1970, having given his life to service for mankind. This especially took the form of teaching them how to read. He had become aware of the importance of literacy while serving as a missionary among Maranao Moro Muslims in the Philippines. Poverty and injustice crushed their lives. Much of it could be remedied, he decided, if only the people could read.

Educated himself at Princeton, Columbia and Union Theological Seminary, Laubach conceived simple instructional primers and charts that allowed even these poor people to learn to read. Laubach also founded a community newspaper for them. Gradually he realized that he could enlist the newly-literate to teach their neighbors and friends. "Each one teach one," became his slogan.

After they were adapted for world-wide use, his methods are credited with equipping over one hundred million people with the ability to read, relieving mental and spiritual poverty.

In spiritual matters, most of us are poorer than we need to be. Laubach tried to call the attention of Christians to this fact. Any one of us can spend his day in Christ's presence, he observed. And yet we do not. He urged us to think to Christ instead of thinking to ourselves. And he suggested turning to Christ constantly for advice on what to do next:

"All during the day, in the chinks of time between the things we find ourselves obliged to do, there are the moments when our minds ask: 'What next?' In these chinks of time, ask Him: 'Lord, think Thy thoughts in my mind. What is on Thy mind for me to do now?' When we ask Christ, 'What next?' we tune in and give Him a chance to pour His ideas through our enkindled imagination. If we persist, it becomes a habit."

Laubach insisted that the most mediocre mind praising Christ could do more good for mankind "than all the cunning schemes of diplomats or the fine-spun guesses of philosophers who leave Jesus out."

The "Apostle of Literacy" and his wife Effa are buried in Benton, Pennsylvania under a tombstone that reads "World Missionaries."


  1. "Dr. Frank Laubach." North Bay Literacy Council. http://www.northbayliteracycouncil.ca/Dr_Frank.htm
  2. "Dr. Frank Laubach." Laubach Literacy Ontario. http://www.laubach-on.ca/laubachchronology.htm
  3. Medary, Marjorie. Each one teach one: Frank Laubach friend to millions. New York: David McKay, 1966, 1954.
Last updated May, 2007.

Originally published April 28, 2010.

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