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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

29 Kurzer Abriss seines Lebens


Fliedner had a friend of her school-days and early youth, now a woman of experience and ability. She sent for her to come and visit them to see if she would become the superintendent of the refuge, but shortly after her arrival she was taken sick, and her friends sent letters of expostulation urging her to return. Just now, when affairs were in rather an untoward state, appeared the first inmate. Let Fliedner tell the story:

"We at first gave her lodging in my summer-house, and the necessity of attending to her did more good to the poor, distressed superintendent than all her quinine and mixtures. Countess Spee, the wife of our president, had prophesied that our inmates would never remain with us a month, they would certainly run away. So when the first month was over I marched over to Heltorf and triumphantly announced, 'Minna is yet there.' Minna was followed by another, and the garden-house became too small."

Finally Fliedner obtained possession of the house he had hired, after some delay on the part of the former tenants, and the asylum was opened. The number of inmates increased, and Fraeulein Goebel soon had more than she could manage. She must have an assistant. The need of trained Christian workers, who could care for these poor women, grew daily more apparent.

Fliedner's thoughts constantly dwelt on the subject; they gave him no rest. He had discovered with joyful

surprise in 1827 the traces of the apostolic deaconesses among the Mennonites, and two years later he wrote:

"Does not the experience of this our sister Church, do not the women societies in our last war, does not the holy activity of an Elizabeth Fry and her helpers in England, and the women's associations of Russia and Prussia formed after their model to care for the bodies and souls of women prisoners--do all these not show what great power God-fearing, pious women possess for the up-building of Christ's kingdom as soon as they have opportunity to develop it?"[29]

His practical experience with the work he had in hand brought him to the same conclusion; namely, that there must be training-schools where Christian women, especially set apart for such service, could have instruction and practice in the duties they had undertaken. As a consequence there were drawn up in May, 1836, and signed by Fliedner and a few friends, the statutes of the Rhenish-Westphalian Deaconess Society.

Fliedner had now reached the work that was henceforth to be his life mission; that is, the restoration of deaconesses to the Christian Church of the nineteenth century.

[25] _Denkschrift zur Jubelfeier_, J. Disselhoff, Kaiserswerth, 1886, p. 8. [26] Schaefer, _Die Weibliche Diakonie_, vol. ii, p. 86; _Denkschrift zur Jubelfeier_, p. 9. [27] T. Fliedner, _Kurzer Abriss seines Lebens_, p. 43. [28] T. Fliedner, _Kurzer Abriss seines Lebens_, p. 48. [29] _Kurzer Abriss seines Lebens_, p. 60.



Fliedner saw clearly that if the office of deaconess were to be planted in the Church there must be soil suitable to nourish it: in other words, there must be an institution founded which could furnish not only instruction, but practice in their duties, and a home for those who should offer their services for this office. "But," he says, "could our little Kaiserswerth be the right place for a Protestant deaconess house for the training of Protestant deaconesses--a village of scarcely eighteen hundred people where the large majority of the population were Roman Catholics, where sick people could not be expected in sufficient numbers for training purposes, and so poor that it could not help defray even the yearly expenses of such an institution? And were not older, more experienced pastors than I better adapted for this difficult undertaking? I went to my clerical brethren in Duesseldorf, Dinsberg, Mettmann, Elberfeld, and Barmen, and entreated them to start such an institution in their large societies, of which, indeed, there was pressing need. But all refused, and urged me to put my hand to the work. I had time, with my small congregation, and the quietness of retired Kaiserswerth was favorable to such a school. The useful experiences I had gained on my journeys had not been given me for naught, and God could send money, sick people, and nurses. So we discerned that it was his will that we should take the burden on our own shoulders, and we willingly stretched them forth to receive it. Quietly we looked around for a house for the hospital. Suddenly, the largest and finest house in Kaiserswerth was offered for sale. My wife begged me to buy it without delay. It is true it would cost twenty-three hundred thalers, and we had no money. Yet I bought it with good courage, April 20, 1836. At Martinmas the money must be paid."

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