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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

To Fliedner it seemed a very important matter


a journey to collect money to

form a permanent endowment for his church. A journey over sixty years ago, to a young German of quiet habits, was a very different matter from a similar trip taken in this day of railroads and steamboats. To Fliedner it seemed a very important matter; and so it was in its results, which reached far beyond the little congregation he served. With great hesitation he began at Elberfeld, a town near at hand. A pastor of the city, to encourage him, accompanied him to friends, and on parting gave him a friendly suggestion that, in addition to trust in God, such work required "patience, impudence, and a ready tongue." Before starting on the longer journey to Holland and England he returned to his congregation and encouraged them by the sum of nine hundred dollars that he had so far secured. He was now absent for nine months, and during that time obtained an amount sufficient to put the little church in a position where a certain, if modest, annual allowance was assured. The pastor had also, in serving others, greatly strengthened and broadened his own faith. As he says, "In both these Protestant countries I became acquainted with a multitude of charitable institutions for the benefit both of body and soul. I saw schools and other educational organizations, alms-houses, orphanages, hospitals, prisons, and societies for the reformation of prisoners, Bible and missionary societies, etc., and at the same time I observed that it was a living faith in Christ which had called almost every one
of these institutions and societies into life, and still preserved them in activity. This evidence of the practical power, and fertility of such a principle had a most powerful influence in strengthening my own faith, as yet weak." It was while in Holland that he wrote to Kloenne concerning the deaconesses, whose duties he had observed among the Mennonites. After his return he applied himself with zeal and success to his pastoral duties. Work was a delight to him, and his energy and force of character were constantly seeking new ways by which to make his church services more attractive, and to increase his influence over each member of his congregation. "He never asked himself what he _must_ do, but always what he _might_ do."[27] But, work as industriously as he would, his small society left him time for other activities. While in London he had been profoundly impressed by the noble labors of Elizabeth Fry in the prisons of England. It was this woman's hand that pointed out the way for Fliedner in Germany. The prisons in his own land had remained untouched by any spirit of reform. The convicts were crowded together in small, filthy cells, and often in damp cellars without light or air; boys, who had thoughtlessly committed some trifling misdemeanor, with gray-headed, corrupt sinners; young girls with the most vicious old women. There was no attempt at classification of prisoners. Some of them might be innocent people waiting for trial. Neither was there oversight, save to keep the prisoners from escaping. No work was provided, and as for schools, where the larger number of convicts could neither read nor write, no one thought of such a thing.[28] That such idleness, the beginning of all vice, was here especially pernicious and corrupting can be readily seen. But few knew of this state of things, and those few left it for the government to provide a remedy.


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