Chapter X

Orphanage and Widows' Assistance, Old People's Homes, Girls' Home and Deaconess Institute


1. Orphanage and Widows' Assistance.

The movement to found an orphanage was in the minds of some of our people as early as 1851. It first found concrete expression, however, in a society which was organized in Louisville, Ky., in 1871 and called "Der Bethesda-Verein." Andreas Henrich, at the time pastor of the Louisville church, was the prime mover in the new under-taking. Himself left an orphan, he had suffered much from early treatment among strangers into whose keeping he had been given. The beginnings of the "Bethesda" were small indeed: J. T. Burghardt a merchant and a member of the German church, offered to pay the rent for a suitable house for a term of years and to pay the sum of $5OO toward the running expenses. A number of other men and women followed with smaller sums and the project was launched. A few half-orphans were immediately admitted and the orphanage was established. It was in the minds of the founders that the "Bethesda" should be a "Glaubensanstalt," an institution like that of George Mueller in Bristol, depending on faith in God to supply the needs, and such it was in the early years. But the policy was changed and assistance was sought, through the "Sendbote," of the German churches. Meanwhile the Orphanage continued to remain an institution under private control. As time went by the General Conference was appealed to, to accept the orphanage, but it refused until 1904, when the transfer was finally made, the Conference combining the work for orphans with an older strictly denominational undertaking-the provisions made for widows. The orphanage was removed in 1916 to St. Joseph, Mich., where, in 1919, a splendidly equipped modern building was erected on a five-acre plot of ground. It is not the policy of the Directors to keep the orphans, entrusted in their care, in the Home until they are of age, but rather to place them in Christian families and surround them with the advantage of family life as speedily as that can be done.


2. Old People's Homes.

There are three Homes for the Aged, under local direction, founded by German Baptist people-in Chicago, Ill., Philadelphia, Pa., and Portland, Ore. As is usually the case in such philanthropic enterprises, they are dependent upon groups of warm-hearted, Christian people who not only found them, but see to it that they are sustained. When the expenses for their upkeep get burdensome, each Home appeals to the nearest local Conference for help.


3. Girls' Home.

A Christian Home for girls, known locally by its German name, "Madchenheim," was founded in New York City, in 1895. The need for a temporary home for girls, in the New York churches and outside of them, while out of employment in the great eastern Metropolis, was the motive which prompted a number of good women in the various German churches to undertake this laudable enterprise. They started modestly with a few rented rooms and furnished them, but soon finding these overtaxed they rented an entire house, and this in turn made way for the present Home on East 62nd Street.

It need scarcely be said that the beneficial influences of this center of Christian love and protection have been exceedingly great upon the thousand or more girls who have from time to time found a temporary home there. Such plantings are not as we sometimes think, a byproduct of the churches, but are rather the concrete evidences that the spirit of the divine Master is at work in the hearts of Christian women.


4. The Deaconess Institute.

The Deaconess Home in Chicago is but one of the philanthropic institutions which the erstwhile busy pastor of the First German church of that city, Jacob Meier, has called into being. He saw the need for such Christian service in that city of crowded dwelling houses and pitiful misery, and he also knew that Christian young women could be found in our churches who would enter upon that apostolic mission, if only they could secure the requisite training for it. He succeeded in bringing both together, and the splendidly equipped Deaconess Home on Cortland Street has made possible a service the fruits of which reach out into eternity. Carl A. Daniel, widely known among our churches as a successful pastor and the man "with a big heart," is at present at the head of this institute.