May 9, 1935 – Letter to the Editor

This letter to the editor of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt was written by G. Birkmann on 4 May 1935 in a slightly different format than his other articles. It was translated by Ray Martens.

Hufsmith, Texas
May 4, 1935

Dear Mr. Proske,

            The last few weeks have brought a delightful change, and I would like to report about that. It is widely known that I injured myself severely by falling on my hip last fall, seven months ago. Two weeks before Easter, I was fit to take part in the worship service at the church in Rose Hill again (where the pastor is Paul G. Birkmann).

            I determined then to look up also my other children who live in this area and to spend a little time with them. First of all, my son Paul took me to daughter Alma, who has been married to Abe Hillegeist for nine years. Earlier he had lived in the oil field near Tomball, but, since he could sell his farm there for a good price, he moved to Fairbanks, not far from Houston, and acquired another place there in that area. I spent a week there then and practiced my English, for my son-in-law speaks only English. His grandfather, who immigrated from Germany eighty or ninety years ago, had four sons, and they soon became Americanized, and the Hillegeist family, which became large in the meantime, has become entirely English speaking, for the most part.

            My son-in-law, Abe, with his wife (my daughter) is a member of the congregation of Rev. Ulmer in Hufsmith.

            From his first marriage, he has five children, all of whom live in Houston, and, apart from one daughter, are all married. They often visit their parents, and they came from the city in their cars at night during my stay.

On the day before Palm Sunday, Abe took me to my son Karl in Houston. He has been living there for about twenty years (apart from the time when he had to serve in the naval reserve during the war). Karl has been married for ten years and has one son. He has his own home at 1015 Highland Ave. On Palm Sunday, he drove with me to the church of my son J. W. Behnken, where a German service was held already at 8:30 a.m. The sermon dealt with Jesus being anointed by Mary in Bethany. Afterward, the Bible Class gathered with 133 in attendance. Then followed the confirmation service in English, with twenty-five children and twenty-four adults being confirmed. The congregation gains a number of new members in this way annually. They now number over 800 members, maybe nearly 900. In the evening, as usual, there was another English service, in which confirmands from the last nine years took part, telling of their confirmation experiences.

The observance of Easter began with an early service on Easter Sunday at 6:00 a.m., with the celebration of Holy Communion at the same time. (The sacrament was celebrated often during these days, first on the evening of Maundy Thursday, then on Good Friday, then on Easter morning, including, finally the German service.)

On Easter I visited my son George, who had lived in Houston for some time working as a salesman. His wife was on the way to recovery again shortly after she had undergone surgery. The Lord had helped her wonderfully, for which may he be thanked.

Gertrude and Margaret, George’s two daughters, have good prospects for the positions that they have taken on and are the joy and stay of their parents. Karl also took me ro Will Behnken one evening. He has been in Houston for almost [illegible] years and belongs to the congregation in the Heights [Immanuel], to which he has belonged since its founding and has been its Sunday School superintendent for almost as long as it has existed. Both the congregation and the Sunday School grew strong under the leadership of faithful pastors (Rev. Meier is there now) as has the day school, which has two teachers (and doubtlessly assistants besides).

Will Behnken has three children, one son and two daughters. Mildred, the older of the two daughters, is a very capable musician and gives piano lessons (as is also true for Ruth, the oldest daughter of J. W. Behnken, who performs ably and teaches students.).

During the time about which I am telling these things, the ship Karlsruhe, a German cruiser, was in the harbor and was being visited by many. About fifty crew members came to Rev. Behnken’s church on the Sunday after Easter and listened attentively to the English sermon, and, later, Rev. Behnken delivered another sermon in German, for which the officer thanked him. My son Karl invited a number of the crew for dinner, and so I had opportunity to become acquainted with them and to learn from them a number of things about life on board and their voyages, as well as about present circumstances in Germany, as they too were interested in our American life and the customs of our country.

The captain of their cruiser, named Klueter, visited with Rev. Behnken while I happened to be there, and we had a very lively conversation about churchly matters, how they were at present in Germany, and also he learned much about our synod here in our country, all of which was new to him. I would like to say that, in spite of all the printed material about German events, a dreadfully large ignorance still exists, and, on the other hand, in Germany one seldom has a correct impression of America, at least about the life and institutions of the church.

I spent a number of days with my son J. W. Behnken and experienced with him, as with my other children, great friendliness and consideration, for which I am very grateful.

Now I will stay again a few days in Fairbanks with my daughter and then get back to living in my room in the parsonage in Rose Hill, Texas.

With respectful greetings, your friend,
G. Birkmann, pastor emer.