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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Fliedner took great interest in the instruction of children


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is not possible to give here in detail the occurrences by which loans were made, and the money that was needed obtained at the required time. God gave friends for the cause, and through them provided the means. The house was furnished with a little second-hand furniture which had been given him, and October, 1836, was opened as a hospital and training school for Christian women. Services of praise and thanksgiving consecrated this deaconess home yet without deaconesses, this hospital without patients. Both, however, soon became inmates of the building. The first deaconess was Gertrude Reichardt, the daughter of a physician. She had assisted her father in the care of the sick, and had become experienced in looking after the welfare of the poor and the destitute. She was an invaluable helper in the new enterprise, and shared with the doctor the duty of giving instruction in nursing and hospital duties. Fliedner's wife was the superintendent. She had the oversight of the house, gave the deaconesses practical direction in housekeeping, and in their early visits to the sick and poor accompanied them from house to house. Fliedner was the director, and took upon himself the religious instruction of the sisters. Every effort was taken to make the house a home in which a cheerful, loving spirit should prevail. Nearly every evening Fliedner or his wife would go over to the home, and read to the sisters, or tell them interesting facts outside their lives. When he went away on his journeys
he would write in full every thing pertaining to the interests of the common cause, and the letters would be read aloud. This was to be a home in every sense of the word, in which the members were to feel themselves belonging to one great family, bound together by the common tie of unselfish devotion to others "for Christ's sake." The spirit of the founder has permeated the institution even to the present time. Those who know any thing of Kaiserswerth testify to the strong affection for the common home, the "mother-house," as they beautifully term it, felt by all its children. Every pains is taken to preserve it. There is correspondence, frequent and regular, from here to every sister. No matter in what distant land she may be, her birthday is remembered, and she is taught to look to this as a waiting refuge for the days of trouble, sickness, and old age.

There was soon arranged a series of house regulations and instructions for work which became the basis for after regulations in nearly all existing institutions.

Almost contemporary with the mother-house arose the normal school for infant-school teachers. It had first started as a child's school, and afterward young women who had taste for the care of children were received to be taught their duties. Fliedner took great interest in the instruction of children. He devised little games for them, and arranged stories to be told. His simplicity and his child-like nature led him to disregard formalities, and to think solely of the end he had in view. On one occasion, when picturing the combat of David and Goliath, reaching that point in the narrative when the young shepherd lad slings the stone that brings the giant to the ground, he cast himself headlong, to the great delight and amazement of his little audience, who enjoyed to the full this object-lesson that made the story so vivid to them.

Then he took special pains that his teachers should learn to tell the stories of the Bible so as to make them clear and interesting to the youngest child. Every day a story was told in school, and each evening the teacher whose turn it was to relate the story the following day came to Fliedner and rehearsed it to him as though he were a child, afterward receiving his suggestions as to how the narrative could be improved. The work went along quietly, ever growing, ever advancing. "Among all others, and more than all others, was Fliedner's wife his best help. Her keen glance, made pure and holy by her Christian faith, preserved him from mistakes. With the household virtues of cleanliness, order, simplicity, and economy she united large-hearted compassion toward those needing help of any kind, yet knowing withal how, with virile sense and energy, to prevent the misuse of ministering love. She became a model for the deaconesses, as well as a mother to them, and her name deserves to be mentioned with honor, as one who had an important part in the Protestant renewal of the diaconate of women."[30]


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