Quips and Quotes
"We do not earn or merit anything by taking refuge in God. Hiding in something makes no contribution to the hiding place. All it does is show that we regard ourselves as helpless and the hiding place as a place of rescue." John Piper

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Franciska - Chapter Two

When we left Franciska she had become a recipient of God’s goodness. She was a teenager when God saved her. Having been born into a Catholic family, she now faced new challenges. Because she was a serious disciple of Christ, her grandparents, with whom she’d enjoyed a close relationship, now disinherited her, giving her portion of their wealth to the Catholic church.

In her adolescence, she had already experienced the cost of following Christ. Because she had tasted of His rich mercies and grace she was willing to give up family relationships and temporal comforts. Earthly riches paled in comparison to God’s love for her. Difficult as it must have been, she accepted her grandparent’s severe judgment rather than deny her Lord the right to rule her heart. She knew the power of the risen Lord which enabled her to commit to this heartbreak. She also knew the empowering of the Spirit of God who was working in her both to will and to do His good pleasure. I wonder, did she sing Be Thou My Vision because she certainly lived it:

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart;
High King of Heaven, my treasure, Thou art.

When Franciska was 20 years old, she married a man named Hermann Gustave Meyer. There were 2 ceremonies, the first of which the state required, performed by a state official. But in another ceremony on May 29th, 1882, shortly after the state ceremony, Hermann and Franciska recited their vows again to their pastor in the presence of their church family and loved ones. This was done because of their desire to honor the Lord in their marriage – making Him central from the onset. They considered May 29th their wedding anniversary.

For awhile the couple lived with Hermann’s mother, Anna, and cared for her before she died. Then because they wanted to spare their children the cruelties of German life with its wars, the couple immigrated to the U.S. in 1886 with their only surviving child, Helmuth, who was 3 years old. Two other children, both girls, Hedwig, age one, and Hermine aged two, died shortly before Franciska and Hermann left for America.

The story behind their daughter’s deaths is mysterious. It seems that as the couple was preparing to leave for America, a woman with whom they were acquainted, having no children of her own, approached Hermann and Franciska asking that they give their daughters over to her rather than take them on the arduous trip. They, of course, refused. The woman, at that point, angrily predicted that the girls would never make the trip, that they would, in fact, die before the Meyers departed.

How this unkind prediction became reality is not known. The details were not recorded or verbally passed down to subsequent generations. But it certainly makes one wonder if the angry woman had a part in the sad outcome. It is not known. What is obvious, however, is that the enemy of Franciska's soul was certainly at work trying to instill unfounded fears in her. But overall, God was working out His sovereign plan for her and her husband.

Though she was no stranger to calamity, Franciska now desperately needed to cling to the truth that God was still good and even this circumstance was wrought out of His love for her. “Though He slay me,” Job said in his affliction, “yet will I trust Him.” Though she undoubtedly struggled, Franciska ultimately consented to God’s sovereign hand molding her, remembering His goodness displayed to her through Christ’s sufferings for her. We know she submitted because of her lifelong testimony of love for her Savior. Bitterness was not a part of her life.

Regardless of this sad turn of events, the Meyers did leave for America as scheduled on a passenger ship called the S.S. Donau in the summer of 1886. Of course they traveled in steerage, the lower-most part of the ship, like most other immigrants. The trip itself was grueling and long. Steerage offered no fresh air and the atmosphere was heavy with darkness, dampness and foul odors. Along with all of the other immigrants, the Meyers slept in narrow bunks stacked three high. Food was served in one enormous kettle from which each family portioned out their share into a bucket. From this common bucket the family ate. There were not even simple amenities such as tables or bathing facilities. Chamber pots served as the "indoor toilets" and of course added to the stench of the crowded hold. For weeks this was the lot of Hermann and Franciska and their little three year old boy, Helmuth, as the ship tossed and turned over storm-impacted waters.

With all this unpleasantness I am sure dry land - any dry land - would have been perceived as blessed relief. But what really awaited them in America? They believed they were destined to arrive in a land of promise and opportunity, but the facts will reveal quite a different scene. The information from which they derived their plan, which was to homestead in Nebraska, was flawed. Land developers in the U.S., at that time, were advertising extensively, even in Germany, praising Nebraska as a wonderland, although Americans knew it as the “Great American Dessert”. Because of these glowing reports, by the time the Meyer’s disembarked the ship in the U.S., they were determined to settle there. So upon their arrival in Baltimore, after a bit of a respite, they began making arrangements to move on to Nebraska to homestead.

Chapter three will unfold the story of Franciska and Hermann's American advernture.
 

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