This article by Rev. G. Birkmann, em., and translated by Ray Martens, first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 6 June 1935. It is allegedly the 9th continuation.
Last time I reported something about the conference held with Rev. J. H. Sieck in 1897, but I did overlook an important item on that occasion, namely the ordination of Rev. Huebotter, which took place at this conference. He was called by the mission board at the time as our first missionary for El Paso. Rev. Hermann Kilian, then vice-president of the Southern District and chairman of the board, preached the ordination sermon one evening and conducted the festive rite of ordination, with the assistance of the writer of these lines, who back then also belonged to the mission board.
Earlier, El Paso was visited often by our missionaries, first by Joh. Barthel, later by Rev. Emil Moerbe. But Huebotter then was the first appointed expressly for the mission in El Paso. During his time (1897 to 1906), the first church building of our congregation there was built, certainly not from their own resources alone, but chiefly with the aid of the district’s building fund, or also by way of collections in our congregations in Texas. This first building was shaped in such a way and stood so hidden (as one might say) between other buildings that one could pass it by without knowing that one had passed a church. At least, that was often said. Rev. Huebotter had a house of his own built on the church’s plot of ground, the place in which then he lived. There were a number of enthusiastic and willing members in the congregation who would not let the work in El Paso come to a standstill, but, on the whole, it progressed only quite slowly.
Rev. G. W. Fischer followed Rev. Huebotter from 1907 to 1909; O. Bahr, 1910 and 1911; Paul G. Birkmann, 1912 to 1916; then others. The congregation now has a building different from the one mentioned, also in another part of the city, and, under the presently active Rev. Evers, who has served there already for years. They are well cared for.
Conference in Warda, August, 1898
Who would not like to go to Rev. Buchschacher and to Warda, where both the pastor and the congregation are so generous and hospitable? To stay with Buchschacher was always considered a special favor, for he and his wife were exemplary hosts.
Yet, I looked toward the days of the conference with a moderate amount, better, with a more than moderate amount, of reluctance. I felt ill and depressed and did not rightly know what to do. Then brother Waech drove here with his horse and buggy, and the dear brother smiled at me in such a friendly way that I said, “From where have you come so suddenly?” Waech said, “I am just now arriving from my congregation at Brushy Creek near Taylor. You often drove there yourself and know what a long and sandy drive it is. I got underway early and drove probably for six to seven hours.” Then I said, “You probably intend to go the conference in Warda.” Waech said, “Certainly, and I am taking you with me.” That was all new to me, and I answered him, “Dear Waech, today, naturally, you are staying with me, and only next after that the trip to Warda.”
And that is what happened. The next morning we got up early, and, at about the time the first session was to begin, we were with Buchschacher, having covered twenty-three miles, an achievement at the time. Today with a car one probably could drive a hundred miles in the same time.
I remember only a little of what was dealt with at the conference. I know that Rev. R. Oertel read a treatise which he had composed about one of the lodges which at the time was trying to win members from our congregations. The ritual of the lodge in question showed that they dealt with religion, had a chaplain, and more, but the religion did not confess that Christ the crucified was the only Savior of the world.
I remember well two events at the conference. On the Sunday of the conference, the Warda congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding. Rev. F. Wunderlich delivered the sermon, after which all of the members of the conference, and then the church council of the congregation, and then the entire gathered crowd formed a procession outside and went into the church two by two.
Since then, the congregation observed its 50th anniversary in 1923, and since then another twelve years have elapsed. During the fall of 1927, their Rev. Buchschacher experienced the joy of the congregation celebrating his fifty-year-long ministry, and then he was permitted to serve them almost three more years. He died on August 17, 1930.
The elderly Simon Suess was also present at this conference in Warda in 1898. He had been a missionary in West Africa for ten years in service to the Basel [Switzerland] mission, then a year in Liberia in Africa, after which he came to this country and first served in the Illinois Synod. After he underwent a colloquy examination in the Missouri Synod, he served in Illinois and then, since 1877, in Texas in the congregation at Freyburg (now Engle). In this congregation, as also always since, Suess was satisfied with a very small salary, or, to be exact, he really received no fixed salary. His congregation remitted to him only what they had gathered at Christmas, and no one but Suess (and, naturally, those who gathered it) knew how much that was.
The conference certainly knew nothing about these details, except it was common knowledge that he had a meager income, and, when it was learned that he had served in the ministry for fifty years already, it was decided, without his knowledge, to take up a collection for him from the members of the conference. One of the brothers was authorized to hand over to him what was gathered, along with a brief message of congratulations. If I am not mistaken, the person in question offered these congratulations to Rev. Suess in Buchschacher’s home. Then Suess said, “I have not yet reached fifty years as a pastor, only forty-nine.” But the well-wisher did not admit to a mistake and handed him the bag with the gift, and Suess put it in his satchel, received the money with thanks, and, no doubt, it came to good use.
Suess resigned a couple of years later because of advanced age and died in 1901 at the age of almost eighty-three.
On my trip back to Fedor, Rev. F. Wunderlich, who wished to visit me for several days, accompanied me. At the Lincoln train station, we picked up my son, John Behnken, who at the time already had completed one year at the college in Winfield [Kansas]. When we arrived home, Rev. Waech soon arrived with his horse and buggy, and he had Rev. Deffner with him. They spent the night with us, and almost certainly the next day as well, for I remember that we had a so-called “after-conference” and spent the day in conversation, playing a few games, etc. I do not know whether the others still remember, whether John Behnken, for example, remembers that he played dominoes with Waech and Deffner, and perhaps beat them.
One might think here that I am talking about unimportant things, but our existence is composed of details, and I remember such earlier times fondly.
Conference in Anderson, Texas, August, 1899, with Rev. Imm. Eckhardt
I could not be there and, for that reason, have nothing more to report, except that I was told that this conference, among other things, dealt with whether the law of Moses was also binding for Christians in the New Testament, and the answer was no. And then I was told that there was much discussion at that conference with a Rev. H. Kupfernagel about catechetical questions.
He was pastor of our congregation in Lexington, Texas, for a time, and so it will not be inappropriate to report something about him. He was born, or, at least, he grew up in South Africa as the son of a missionary from Berlin. Then he came to this country and first served Presbyterians, then in the so-called United [Lutheran] Synod (also called the Evangelical [Lutheran] Synod). In West Texas, he gave up his service to an Evangelical congregation and came to Rev. Wunderlich in Riesel. Wunderlich knew the man, had put up his family not long before, and he sent him to Giddings, in the vicinity of which a number of congregations of our synod were to be found. Then Kupfernagel looked for employment in Giddings or the area around it, but found nothing [ ? ]. So he visited this conference with Rev. Eckhardt to become acquainted with the pastors. Then he came to the convention in New Orleans in 1900, where he submitted to a colloquy examination by the president of the synod, F. Pieper, and passed it to some extent, and then was called to the congregation at Lexington. There, however, he did not prove a success, and, already in the next year, he was removed from his ministry and soon moved on to the Texas Synod, which gave him a place in west Texas. Then he conducted school in a number of places, including Wharton and Brenham, and perhaps also served congregations.
On a Sunday evening when I was in the church of Rev. Manz in Austin in the fall of 1915, I heard him announce that on the next day the funeral of the former Rev. Kupfernagel, who died in the hospital there, would be held. Rev. Manz told me later that Kupfernagel had been brought to Austin because of cancer, that he had asked for Manz to visit, and that Kupfernagel had departed this life penitent and confessing our Savior.
Conference in Walburg with the Rev. J. H. Sieck, August, 1900
So we have another conference in Walburg after only three years. Rev. Gans had one of the papers, the others have escaped me. I was asked to tell about a visitation that I made in Wharton and the other large territory served by Rev. Lienhardt. Mission festival was observed in Walburg during the conference.