This article by G. Birkmann, pastor em., first appeared in German in the 30 September 1937 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt. It is translated by Ray Martens.
It was on September 28, 1876, that I first arrived in Fedor, where I was to live and serve in my congregation for such a long time. It was a Thursday, and on Sunday I was to be installed. But already the day after my arrival was a festival day, the Feast of St. Michael, on September 29, and I was told that there would be a reading service. The first “norther” [Texas expression for a cold front] arrived during the night, and, although I had just come from the north, the Texas climate during these days seemed to me to be cool enough. The heaters had not yet been set up.
Many members of the congregation appeared for the reading service, and, already on that day, I learned to know many of them as they welcomed me in a friendly way. Celebrating this day was rather new to me. This feast was celebrated neither in Fort Wayne nor in St. Louis, where I had studied, nor at my home out in the country in Illinois. But Walther included a sermon for this day in his Sermons on the Gospels. On that basis, I believe that he had observed this feast at earlier times in his congregation in St. Louis, as also festivals honoring the Virgin Mary and St. John. That is the way it was done in their former home in Saxony, as was true also for our Wendish congregations which owed their existence to Serbin, Texas, and their founder, the Rev. Joh. Kilian, with whom they came from Saxony. They all observed all the days mentioned with a worship service. In Serbin, they also observed the feast days of the Apostles, and, if I am correct, they still do. There are hymns for all of these days in our hymnal and also, in the back of the hymnal, the appointed Gospel and Epistle lessons.
The reader on that Feast of St. Michael in Fedor was Mr. Karl Dube, an excellent, knowledgeable, and well educated man, who, sadly, was snatched away in death from our congregation and his large family already in 1890. He read so ably that the congregation could really enjoy the wonderful sermon out of the book of sermons and grow in their understanding. The glorious hymns appointed for the Feast of St. Michael resounded loud and happy, hymns which speak of the holy angels, how powerful and friendly they are, how they always praise God, carry out his commands, and protect his people.
That was a wonderful worship service for me and for the congregation, still before I was installed. We were able to rejoice and take comfort in the fact that God gives his angels charge over us to keep us in all our ways so that we do not strike our foot against a stone.
And God has kept his promise to us. In how many times of trouble has our gracious God not spread his wings over us, sheltered us through the nights with the protection of his angels, and they have accompanied us by day on our ways. Yes, often on all our ways without our knowing it or thinking about it.
Here I wish to share in all modesty some experiences which come to mind. Many of my readers may not even attribute much importance to what I am sharing, but to me they were memorable proofs of God’s gracious protection.
It was now about fifty years since I preached again at the Zieschangs on Brushy Creek. I drove home on Monday. The next day was a Feast Day, and I had a service to conduct in Fedor. When I had completed about half the trip, during which it was raining hard, I came to a creek or a “run” which was out of its banks, maybe the upper course of the Middle Yegua. The current was strong, and it was not without hesitation that I drove in. The water then rose above the seat, and I could see only the heads of my horses. I do not know whether they were swimming, but I strongly suspect that they were. In spite of everything, they brought me safely on my way on the other bank. I do not understand how they managed to do that through the current. They seemed to me to take on an unusual zeal and steadfastness. Had the current carried the buggy just several feet, we would not have gotten through and could not have landed on the road on the other side, for there was a steep bank immediately to the left of the road. All my things in the buggy had floated away. So, I stopped when I arrived on the other side and hurried to where the creek made a bend and, with the help of a limb that I found there, retrieved my things one after the other, everything soaked through and through, to be sure. I too had been soaked up to my chest and still had about twelve miles to go. This was not a warm summer day, but one at the beginning of February. It all came out well, as is said. I preached the next day, and also later I felt no bad results from the experience.
Another time I was driving home from Lexington after I held a service there. On the whole, I always came through such journeys well, but his time a thunderstorm arose while I was still in the woods four miles away from my home. It rained in streams along with altogether frightening lightning and thunder. The lightning repeatedly struck in the trees beside the road. My horses stayed calm through all of this, moving forward as well as they could, step by step on their way into the rain and the storm. We then also arrived home safe and sound.
At times, I had to drive in the dark of night, not able to see the horses in front of me, and whoever knows what the roads often were like and the fact that there were no bridges must wonder how one got through safely as a rule. We find the explanation in the Word of God, “He will give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.”
It is especially comforting that Christian parents can be assured by the divine promises with regard to their children. Our school children in Fedor, in large part, had a rather long walk to school, and in all kinds of weather and conditions—this was the situation also elsewhere—and, yet, I know of no instance in my congregation when children on their way to school met with an incident. The Bible is speaking precisely about the angels of the children when it says, “Their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” One time I saw in Giddings that horses had run away with a buggy in which were some children but no driver. The people who saw this were very startled, and, yet, a woman said very calmly, “God will protect them. One almost never hears that children meet with an accident in this way.” She was right. Soon thereafter we heard that the runaway horses were stopped in time, and a misfortune was averted. These were the little children of Dr. Geyer, who lived in Giddings at the time, and later was in Taylor.
Certainly, one must say too that also Christians and their children, just like other people, experience all kinds of things in life which are called bad and unfortunate. Naturally, that is the fatherly rod of discipline of our God, which is intended to serve our best interest. Along with that, what the Psalmist says is also true, “No evil will befall you, no plague come near your dwelling.” And as Luther sings:
He will always nourish us and preserve us, body and soul,
He will defend us from all harm so that nothing hurtful come to us.
He cares for us, guides, and watches; everything is within his power
[This translation reflects none of the poetic character of the hymn stanza cited. The translator could not locate the hymn from which it comes in German or in English.]