History of Colportage

The first colporters

When we go to historical records to see the meaning of Colporter, they send us back to XII century, when appeared in France, a successful man named Peter Waldo, who had many vendors to distribute his products. One day, reading the Scriptures, he turned to the Lord decidedly, and experienced a radical change. Waldo came to love the Lord and His Word. However, because of the rigor of the regime and relentless persecution of Christians, people could only read the Bible in secret. He used to think that the Word should be open to everyone, not just for a privileged minority. The more he read and enjoyed it, the more he desired to spread it.

He decided to hire people to copy manuscripts from the Bible since in those times there were no press. He would give these manuscripts to his sellers to disseminate them. As some of them were genuine Christians who sought God with great dedication, he encouraged them to take portions of the Word to their customers and to those they would meet on the way. For this purpose, he fabricated a shoulder bag, which was hanged on the neck; in it they would take copies of small portions of the Bible, and to hide them, they wore a coat on top. So while approaching people, they would give to those interested small portions of the Word. From this initiative of Peter Waldo was born the expression Colportor which in French means taking, carrying on neck. In that way Pedro Waldo saw his desire fulfilled in spreading the Word of God.

The influence of the Colporter in Christian history

This movement grew to influence the whole Christianity at the time and in future generations. Much of the success of the Reformation was due to the work of colporters. Those who followed the example of Waldo, of taking portions of the Word of God to people, became known as “the Waldenses”.

In Christian history, there are several people who did this. Dora Yu, for example, was a great evangelist who used the principle of colportage to spread the Word of God. When she lived in Korea, she promoted the gospel intensely in the country and others also embraced the same burden. However, the way they acted was not spreading the word in printed form, but they went as missionaries to preach the gospel verbally to people.