OF SR. ANNA ELIZABETH KOHLMEISTER, FOR THIRTY YEARS A MISSIONARY IN
LABRADOR, WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE AT NEUSALTZ, OCT. 7TH, 1838. [Written in part by herself.] (From: PERIODICAL ACCOUNTS 15(October 1839), 401-6)
[Written in part by herself.]
(From: PERIODICAL ACCOUNTS 15(October 1839), 401-6)
"I was born at Barby, near Magdeburg, June 17th, 1762. A short illness deprived me of my father, in my fifth year. I was inconsolable for his loss, till some one told me, that I should soon go to our Saviour, and meet him there again; on which, I dried my tears. Indeed, my delicate state of health led every body to think, that I should speedily follow him into eternity. In September, 1766, I removed with my mother and younger sister, to Herrnhut, where I was immediately sent to school. This was a joyful event to me, and I was soon at home with my companions. It was a season of great spiritual blessing in this institution, and I shall never forget what I then enjoyed. We conversed together very frequently about our Saviour, and He was very near to us; so that nothing but sight was wanting. Even in my sleep, methought I saw Him smiling upon us, and blessing us, and showing us His wounded hands and side.
"Early in the year following, I was seized with a dangerous illness, and hoped that my best Friend would take me to Himself: it was His pleasure, however, that I should recover. In 1769, the number of pupils was reduced, and I was sent home to my mother. This occasioned me great distress, and I shed many bitter tears; nor could I reconcile myself to the change for some time, notwithstanding my mother's affectionate admonitions. At length, during a discourse of Br. Gottfried Clemens, to the children, the Lord manifested Himself to my heart in such a manner, that I could scarcely refrain from weeping aloud. As soon as the meeting was over, I sought a retired spot, and, pouring out my soul in prayer to Him, gave myself up to Him as His eternal property. On my 11th birthday, in this same year, was the jubilee celebration of the commencement of Herrnhut 50 years before; and I had my full share in the distinguished blessings of that day.
"In 1774 a new school of experience opened, and the innate corruption of my nature gradually developed itself. My first enjoyment of the Lord's Supper, in October, 1777, was a time of unspeakable blessing to me; but it was not long before I again fell into a cold and lifeless state of heart. In this mood, all the experiences which I had made of Divine things from my very childhood, seemed to me unreal and delusive. At length, the power to pray returned, and my spirit revived.
"In 1778 my mother gave up housekeeping, and removed into the Widows' House; my sister and myself, at the same time, entering the Sisters' House as inmates. She had struggled hard to provide for her three children, and her fervent prayers for our temporal and eternal welfare, have left an indelible impression on my mind. Once, during a time of great scarcity, when having no more bread in the house, she was laying her distress in prayer before the Lord, there was a knock at the door, and a sister left word, that I was to go for bread /402/ to her house; promising, that as long as the scarcity continued, I should receive a large loaf every week. We could never learn the name of the kind donor, whom the Lord thus raised up for the help of the widow and the fatherless in their affliction. After a while, there was a scarcity of work in the choir-house. I turned to the Lord in my distress, and the same hour, Lady Von Schachmann sent for me, and gave me work for several weeks at her house. Ashamed of my unbelief, I shed tears of joy and gratitude; and, from that time, I had never to complain of want of work. I was now comfortably situated with respect to temporals, but my heart was not satisfied. I longed for a full assurance of my salvation; yet every day I had repeated evidence of my sinfulness; and, after many vain endeavours to help myself, I took my refuge to the Friend of the weary and heavy-laden, who comforted and revived me in the most gracious manner."
This was probably the time when our late sister, as she often mentioned with deep emotion, had a striking visitation of grace from the Lord, at a celebration of the Holy Communion with her choir. Previous to its participation, she had expressed to her spiritual adviser her feeling of her utter unworthiness to draw near the Lord's Table; on which she received for answer, "Just so are you welcome to our Saviour; to just such souls will He impart His grace." Thus encouraged, she ventured to the house of God; and, choosing the remotest corner, lifted up her soul to the Lord, imploring Him to have compassion upon her. She then felt, as though her Saviour stood before her in His suffering form, and said to her, "Thou shalt live! thou art mine!"
"On the 4th of May, 1780," she continues, "I was admitted, with 17 others, into the choir of single sisters; on which occasion, I anew devoted myself to the Lord. But I was often, subsequently, made aware, that if He had not held his hand over me, I should but too readily have fallen away from Him. I was often employed in the care of little children; and, in 1781, I was engaged for this purpose in the family of Br. and Sr. Zetzchwitz. The employment was just what I liked; I was exceedingly fond of the children, and enjoyed in return, their affection, and the confidence of the parents.
"In March, 1793, I received a proposal to enter into the service of the Labrador Mission. It came upon me quite unexpectedly, and the sense of my unfitness for such a post made me resolve to decline it. But on opening my text-book, the words met my eyes, "The Lord said unto Abram, `Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, unto a land that I will show thee.'" Courage and confidence now filled my heart; I followed the call with alacrity, and, under all the difficulties of the journey, looked up, to my faithful heavenly Guide. I set out, April 8th, in company of Br. and Sr. Morhardt, for London; whence, after a voyage of eight weeks, we reached Hopedale in safety, July 27th, and, Sept. 13th, I arrived at Okkak, the place of my destination; where I was united in marriage to my dear husband, Br. Benjamin Kohlmeister. We promised our adorable Saviour to live for Him alone; and, in as far as He should by grace enable us, to dedicate soul and body to His service."
Thus far, her own narrative extends. Her surviving partner adds the following: -- /403/ "My late happily departed wife told me, that after she had accepted the call to Labrador, several of her friends assured her, that her delicate frame would never stand the climate of that country; which occasioned her no little anxiety, till she was comforted by the conviction, that the Lord would perfect His strength in her weakness. She entered upon the service eleven years prior to the remarkable awakening amongst our Esquimaux; and she often with tears, implored the Lord to pour out His Spirit on these people, dead in sins and trespasses. Her joy was indescribable on witnessing, at length, that universal emotion in the hearts of the Esquimaux, which proved the commencement of a new and brighter era in the history of the mission.
"She had a severe trial in the loss of her only brother, who came out as Missionary to Labrador four years after herself. Hopedale being assigned him as his sphere of labour, she saw him only for a short time, as he passed through Okkak. In 1800 we were called to Hopedale; but circumstances prevented our removal at the time. Shortly after, her brother perished in a violent snowstorm; and notwithstanding every possible search, no trace of him could ever be discovered. In 1802 we removed to Hopedale; and when we had been there about a month, I was also overtaken by a similar storm, in the same neighbourhood where my brother-in-law had been lost, and wandered about for two days, till one of our Esquimaux found me, nearly three leagues from the settlement. The anxiety and distress of my dear wife, in the interval, may be imagined.
"In 1806 we paid a visit to Europe, and spent the winter very agreeably in London. In December of the following year, our only daughter, whom we had shortly before left in the Girls' School at Kleinwelke, departed this life. Our youngest son had been called into eternity a year before, at the same place. Besides these, we had still two sons, who were spared to grow up to manhood, but who likewise preceded us into the eternal state. It was a consolation to us under those bereavements, to feel assured that the Lord had taken our dear children into His own security.
"After being much refreshed by visits in several German congregations, we returned to England by way of Denmark and Sweden; the direct route by the Continent being at that time closed. Having spent five months in Christiansfeld and a year in England, we again embarked with renewed vigour for Labrador, and arrived amongst our beloved Esquimaux at Hopedale, July 22nd, 1810.
"On leaving Herrnhut, I received a commission from the Mission-Board, to undertake as soon as possible after my return, an exploratory visit to the heathen living in the opening of Hudson's Bay. With this object in view, we proceeded with the ship to Okkak, in order to be ready for setting out in the ensuing spring. As it was evident, however, that this long boat-voyage on an unknown coast would necessarily be connected with considerable hardship and some danger, I could not venture to take my wife along with me. Accompanied by a single brother, I set out, June 24th, 1811, and we reached home again in safety on October 4th. During this long absence of fourteen weeks, my wife could receive no tidings of us whatever, and her faith and /404/ patience were put to a severe trial.[NOTE: A circumstantial account of this voyage was published in the year 1814. -- Ed.] She had to make a similar experience in 1814, when I was commissioned to undertake an exploratory voyage to Cape Chudleigh, in order to fix upon a suitable site for a fourth settlement. The time occupied in this expedition was, indeed, much less than on the former one, being only 15 days, but it was more hazardous, being undertaken in a small ship's boat. Our party consisted of Br. Sturman, Captain Fraser and myself, besides our rowers. We were driven out to sea by a furious storm, and spent a whole night in imminent danger, being incessantly employed in bailing out the water which dashed into our boat, till we were quite exhausted.
"A still severer trial of her faith and confidence in the Lord awaited her the year 1816. Having another journey in contemplation in the following spring, I proceeded with the Labrador ship from Okkak to Nain to concert the requisite preparations for this purpose, with Br. Schreiber, the superintendent of the mission. Owing to the stormy weather and the unusual quantity of drift ice, this passage was a very long and tedious one. October 1st, I set out on my return, accompanied by the Brn. Lundberg and Stock, and two Esquimaux families. With a fair wind, the voyage is often made in a day and a half, but it took us seventeen days, during three of which we expected every hour to go to the bottom, and were at last obliged to cut away both our masts. During this long absence, the anxiety of my wife for my safety was extreme. On the 17th of the month, a baptized Esquimaux entered her room and accosted her: -- `Elizabeth, we have been talking about you; you will see your Benjamin no more; for in the gales which have been blowing, it is impossible that they could double Kiglapeit; they are certainly all buried in the sea.' My wife, who called to mind my preservation on that day fourteen years before, replied with confidence, `I shall see him this very day.' The Esquimaux shook his head and left her. Evening now came on; she went out from time to time to see whether there was any appearance of a boat; -- it grew night, and yet none came. Her anxiety was now wound up to the highest pitch, for a calm had set in, and the sea was everywhere covered with a coat of ice. Bursting into a flood of tears, she turned in prayer to Him who is the only refuge in time of need, and begged that, for the honour of His name, He would not suffer her to be put to shame before the Esquimaux. Presently she heard a musket-shot followed by the joyful cry `The boat is coming!' The Esquimaux again made his appearance, exclaiming, `Elizabeth, great is your faith; your Benjamin comes; forgive me for the anxiety I have caused you!' After much exertion to break through the newly formed ice, we at length reached home, at ten o'clock, filled with thankfulness to the Lord for His gracious preservation.
"In 1818 we were called to Nain, where I succeeded Br. Schreiber in the superintendence of the Mission. But being unable, as old age came on, to bear the severity of the climate, I was obliged to request leave to retire. This was delayed, however, by circumstances till 1824; when, after a mournfully affecting farewell, we left our beloved Labrador for ever. But to her end, my late wife fully participated in the interest which I felt for that Mission; and her prayers /405/ were constantly joined with mine for its prosperity. On our passage home, we had again the pleasure to become acquainted with many sincere disciples of Christ in our own and other churches, with whom she kept up a correspondence by letter, till her end.
"January, 1825, we arrived at Herrnhut, a place dear to her heart, on account of the many blessings which she had enjoyed there from her early childhood, till called to Labrador. Shortly after our arrival, we were appointed to visit the numerous members of the Society in that neighbourhood; an occupation in which she rejoiced, as it supplied the loss of her wonted activity amongst the Esquimaux; and she was never weary of accompanying me in my pedestrian circuits through the surrounding villages.
"On our being called, after the Synod of 1825, to the spiritual charge of the married choir in the congregation at Neusaltz, she at once acquiesced in it, much as she would have liked to remain at Herrnhut, and pursue the avocations just described. She faithfully assisted me in this office likewise, till, in 1836, after eleven years' service, we were permitted to retire, at our own request.
"She cordially rejoiced with me, on the awakening which took place at Sagan and Grunberg, in this vicinity; and was particularly pleased, when we were requested, last spring, to take charge of the society formed in those places. After our return, in September 1838, from a visit of several days in Sagan and Sorau, she noted down in her journal, an indisposition which confined me for a short time to the house, little imagining that her own end was so near. She was seized, soon after, with great lassitude and weakness; and remarked, that this illness was not improbably the forerunner of her dissolution. Oct. 1st, she was confined to her bed by a paralytic affection; which, on the following day, deprived her of the power of speech. Her end evidently approaching, the blessing of the Lord was imparted to her, and her soul commended to His hands in fervent prayer. After continuing a few days longer in a slumbering state, her ransomed spirit was permitted on Oct. 7th, to enter into the joy of her Lord, after a pilgrimage of 76 years.
"Thanks be to Him who gave her to me, and spared her for 45 years, to be the faithful partner of my pilgrimage, and of my humble service in His house! And thanks, heartfelt thanks, be brought Him for all the blessings which He has conferred on us during this lengthened period! He was with us, therefore we lacked no good thing. His patience and long-suffering were our salvation. May He support and comfort me during the solitary remnant of my journey here below; and grant in mercy, that when my last hour shall come, I may experience a translation as gentle and happy as was hers!"
The congregation at Neusaltz join in bearing the same testimony to her character and worth. "She was," they say, "a genuine follower of Jesus, who made it her first concern to love Him, who had become her salvation, with her whole heart and soul; and thus to enjoy the virtue of His merits, the comfort of His death, and the happiness of uninterrupted fellowship with Him. She was a living evidence of the truth, that there is no holier or happier being than a pardoned sinner. It was her delight, to direct others to that fountain of happiness and everlasting consolation, where she herself had found comfort. Nor did she consider there was any merit in so doing; it was from the impulse /406/ of her heart, from pure love to the Saviour, and to His dear- bought souls. During the 13 years, that she had been engaged in the service of this congregation, we can truly say, that she was a faithful, cheerful, and unwearied servant of the Lord. To do good to souls was her delight, and she forgot herself and the infirmities of age, in this blessed employment. No wonder, therefore, that she was universally beloved. Her memory will long remain with us in blessing. And He, whom she confessed before men, will confess her before His holy angels; and admit her, clothed in his righteousness, to stand before Him, and serve Him in His heavenly temple."