CBM Founder and the Beginning of Our Story
While the CBM name is no longer an acronym, it is a reminder of our beginnings. Formerly known as Christoffel-Blindenmission (“Christian Blind Mission”), today the CBM name pays tribute to our German founder Ernst J. Christoffel.
Timeline of CBM's history
Pastor Ernst J. Christoffel, born in 1876 in Rheydt/Rhineland, Germany, was CBM’s founder and director for many years. Ernst Christoffel laid the foundations for CBM as a modern organisation working together with Partners to serve persons with disabilities.
The Beginning: Turkey
In 1908, Christoffel set out for Turkey and founded a home in Malatia for blind and otherwise disabled and orphaned children, with the support of only a handful of friends. The mission societies to which he had applied before saw no commission for helping the blind in the Orient.
World War I
Christoffel’s work came to an end when the First World War broke out. In 1919, he was expelled and Turkey remained closed to him, as to all Germans.
From Turkey to Iran
As soon as the ban was lifted, Christoffel set out for Turkey again, but the house in Malatia was lost. Attempts to start again in Constantinople (later Istanbul) resulted in renewed prohibition, so Christoffel went to Iran. In 1925 and 1928, two homes were set up in Tabriz and Isfahan, respectively, for blind and otherwise disabled young people.
Persecution during World War II
The Second World War destroyed everything, and the threat of deportation was imminent. Christoffel did not want to leave his charges on their own. In 1943, he was arrested and spent three years behind barbed wire, but his will remained unbroken.
Return to Iran
As soon as he had access in 1951, Christoffel returned to Isfahan. Despite the fact that he was ailing and 70 years of age, he went on helping the disabled, poor, and abandoned in the name of Jesus Christ. Pastor Christoffel died on 23 April 1955. His tombstone in Isfahan names him the "Father of the Blind, Deaf-Mute, Physically Disabled and Orphans".
The commitment of Pastor Ernst Jakob Christoffel to the education and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities laid the foundation for an organisation that is today one of the leading international development organisations for persons with disabilities worldwide.
Over time, CBM’s policy has widened from serving blind people to giving all persons with disabilities access to basic healthcare services. There are one billion persons with disabilities in the world. Most of them live in developing countries. About 2.5% of these people are covered by CBM’s programmes.