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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

I used often to see Sister Myrtha

St. Gall is one of the newer stations, but from the beginning it has been a work of promise. In this old center of missionary operations, where Irish missionaries founded one of the most famous monasteries of mediaeval times, is now to be erected a hospital under the care of Methodist deaconesses, who have already begun to collect means for this purpose. In Scheffel's famous story of _Ekkehard_ the only way in which the Duchess Hadwig could enter the monastery of St. Gall (as there was a law that no woman should set her foot upon the threshold) was by the ingenious device of a young monk, who lifted her over in his arms. These peaceful women of Methodism are finding no obstacle now as did Hadwig of old; they do not need even figuratively to be lifted over the entering threshold; they are gladly welcomed, and are introducing a new element into the life of the old city.

In Zuerich seven deaconesses are at work under the protection, and with the sympathetic co-operation, of the pastor and the church. I saw something of the deaconesses and their duties in this place. The inspector, Rev. Fr. Eilers, came with the first deaconesses and introduced them to their new field when I was a resident of the city. On Sunday morning he occupied the pulpit, preaching from Rom. xvi, 1, commending the deaconesses to the kindness and helpful aid of the members of the church. I used often to see Sister Myrtha, who was the head sister, hastening hither and thither on her errands of mercy. In her plain black dress and round shoulder-cape to match, and broad white collar and white cap, she was a pleasant and attractive figure. She was always happy and contented, ready to answer the many questions with which I plied her in my desire to look through the eyes of a deaconess, and to obtain her views of the office to which she belonged. She had a great love for her work, and believed that she was doing service for Christ in a true missionary field. Her simple uniform was a distinguishing mark that insured her respect and attention wherever she went, and she regarded it as a garb of honor that marked her as belonging to the daughters of the great King. You could not call such a life an austere or unnatural one. It was too thoroughly filled with thoughts of love to others to be either morbid or introspective. I obtained my first favorable impressions of the usefulness of deaconesses and their importance to the Church from the cheerful, contented labors of Sister Myrtha and her associates among the poor and sick of Zuerich--quiet women, of no particular prominence in the social world, and not learned or accomplished; "_nur einfache Maedchen_" (only simple maidens, quiet, ordinary women, as we might translate Sister Myrtha's own phrase), but living "not to be ministered unto, but to minister," commending their creed by their deeds, and winning sympathy by the loving, self-denying spirit that they manifest.

During the last year a house of rest has been opened similar to the house Salem at Kaiserswerth. This is called by the beautiful name "_Gottestreue_," or "God's Fidelity." The report says that they have named it God's Fidelity in recollection of this: "That the Lord has so faithfully led us and has cared for us in all storms which, especially at the beginning of the work, threatened to overwhelm it, has watched over us and upheld us, and has so richly blessed us." The acquisition of this house came through the work of the sisters. One of them was caring for an aged widow, whose sympathies were so won that she offered to give her property, amounting to about ten thousand marks, to the deaconess society, asking only that she be cared for for the remainder of her life. This sum enabled the house to be built, and last summer it was opened for use. It lies upon a mountain, has a pleasant outlook to the south, and a beautiful view over the valley of the Main and off to the distant forests. Near at hand is a grove of chestnut trees, and farther removed are extensive pine forests with pleasant walks. The house is in the charge of one of the older sisters.

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