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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Fliedner well called them his light skirmishing troops


In 1842 a new building was erected for the normal school for infant-school teachers. The publishing house of the institution was also started, which issues religious books and tracts. The first work sent forth was a volume of sermons, presented to the new enterprise by the late Professor Lange, which went through several editions.

The same year the _Kaiserswerth Almanac_ appeared and a large picture Bible for schools was published. In 1848 the magazine _Der Armen und Kranken Freund_ was sent forth as an organ for the deaconess cause, not only for Kaiserswerth, but for all the institutions that are represented at the triennial Conferences. The publishing house is an important source of income, as the institution has little in the way of endowment beside the produce of the garden land attached to it. At present about three fourths of the expense are met by the sale of publications and the fees of patients; the remaining sum is given by friends.

The financial story of Fliedner's life could form a tale of thrilling interest, if it were separated from other facts and told by itself. He constantly went forward, purchased houses, added lands, and erected new homes when he had no money in reserve, but unfailingly when the time came for payments to be made the sum was obtained in some way or other to meet them. "We have no endowment," he once said, "but the Lord is our endowment."

The same year, 1842, the orphan asylum was opened. For a very moderate sum this receives children who are both fatherless and motherless, and who belong to the educated middle class, having fathers who were pastors or professors, or the like. Fliedner hoped not only to provide a home for these girls befitting their station in life, but to develop among them those who should make a vocation of the care of children and the sick, and in this hope he was not disappointed.

In the midst of these successes the hand of God often lay heavily on Fliedner's family. Brethren and children passed away, and, sorest affliction of all to him, his wife, who had so closely and sympathetically shared all his labors, died April 22, 1842. "She was the first of the deaconesses to die," writes Fliedner. "As she, their mother, had always led the way for her spiritual daughters in life, so she was their leader into the valley of the shadow of death."[31] Not long after this a normal school for female teachers in the public schools was started, for this practical believer in woman's work was one of the first to advocate the introduction of women teachers in the public schools of Germany, against which there then existed a strong prejudice. The Board of Education looked favorably on his project, and afterward sent a government commissioner to attend the examinations and award the certificates at Kaiserswerth. At a later period provision was made for teachers of girls' high schools, as also for those who desired to become teachers but were too young to enter the normal school. Over two thousand teachers have gone forth from these schools, carrying with them a love for the institution which has brought back to it many returns in money and service. Fliedner well called them his "light skirmishing troops."

In 1849 he resigned his pastorate, and henceforth, with singleness of purpose, devoted himself to his one calling. From time to time new buildings were added to meet new needs. In 1852 an insane asylum for Protestant women was founded, as sisters were often called upon to nurse patients of this class. The building set apart for the purpose was formerly used as military barracks and was given to Fliedner by King Frederick William IV. In 1881 this, as with so many others of the original buildings at Kaiserswerth, became too small for the increase in numbers, and a new building took its place. It stands on an eminence just outside of the village, and is provided with every modern appliance. Fliedner's practical good sense and administrative ability led him to care for all the minor details that were needed for the success of so great an undertaking. He added a dispensary to the hospital, where a sister who had passed a regular examination before the government medical board made up the medicines required for the hospital. Many deaconesses have been trained to the same knowledge, which has been an especially valuable acquisition in the hospitals situated in Eastern countries. Little by little he secured land for farming operations, until there were one hundred and eighty acres in garden and meadow land, generally lying close about the various buildings, and affording means of recreation as well to the inmates. Nearly all of the vegetable and dairy products that are needed are so provided. A bakery, bath-houses, homes for laborers and officials, were added, and bakers, shoemakers, carpenters, and blacksmiths formed part of the staff of the great establishment.


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