Most of you probably have never heard of the name Gerhard Groote, but now you will know. He was an early Protestant reformer before Martin Luther.
Groote was born in the Netherlands in 1340 to a wealthy family. When he was only ten years old the black plague swept over his small town, killing many people including his parents. After his parents’ death he inherited all of his father’s wealth.
He was very wealthy at a very young age. These riches made him grow up into a spoiled brattish young man, he wasted his life and wealth on partying and traveling. But he was very educated since he went to the best schools.
His Conversion to Christanity
Groote changed through; during one of his travels he came across an Augustinian Monk, who was preaching the bible. He stopped and listened to the preaching and his life was changed forever. He converted to Christianity that very day. His change of character from the spoiled rich guy to a man of faith was quite remarkable.
After his Conversion
He went home, and began reading through his huge library. For months he read these books extensively, doing nothing except reading. He tried to go to church many times but was disgusted by all the misteachings, heresy, and over, all corruption of the church, so he decided to stay at home and plunge into the work of God that way.
His Schools and Preaching
Around the time of his conversion, the black plague spread through his town again, he luckily did not become ill. He noticed the many now parentless boys on the streets in his town; he wanted to help them. He brought several of these boys to his home, and gave them food, water, and a roof over their heads, while doing this he kept them busy by teaching them how to read, write, and taught them the Gospel.
Groote bought the house next door, and turned that into a similar school but for girls, he taught them the same way he did with the boys.
His schools were known as great schools of learning. Thanks to his wealth he was able to start several more schools, like his first two, he got some of his first students to help him run the new schools, he was never short of teachers because of this. His schools were somewhat unnoticed.
This is because many other events such as the Hundred Years War were going on during this time, the schools were just know, as places of learning for orphaned children
He began preaching, and traveled, gaining a large number of followers.
Another wave of the Black Plague went through his town again in 1384. Groote wasn’t so lucky this time and died from the illness.
Groot’s schools did not disappear right after his death, thanks to his mission, his schools lasted for another hundred and fifty years, thanks to his system, where the older students would teach the new group of students.
Many of his students became future reformers. Men such as Martin Luther, Thomas a Kempis, Martin Bucier, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, and John Calvin all went to Groot’s schools.