German-based movement follows the way of love.
by Charles Gardner.
DONCASTER, January 10, 2024 – Witnessing the worldwide frenzy of hatred for Jews stirred up by the war in Gaza has left many of us feeling sickened and distraught. But a holiday read has provided me with a sweet antidote, which I shall explain.
I was particularly disgusted to hear that a Reuters news agency reporter had witnessed Hamas barbarity with apparent glee as it happened, suggesting he knew all about the October 7th attack in advance and that he was biased in favour of the Palestinian terrorists1.
At the dawn of my journalistic career, back in the late 1970s, I was based in Fleet Street as a correspondent for the South African Press Association, an associate of Reuters and committed, like them, to impartial reporting of the facts.
As a South African citizen still, I am equally appalled by our government’s ridiculous move in taking Israel to the International Court of Justice for alleged war crimes in Gaza. For what it’s worth, so are all those South African friends with whom I keep in touch.
So, back to the antidote I mentioned. Reading the newly updated autobiography of Mother Basilea Schlink over the holidays has cast fresh light on why the extraordinary movement she founded attracted so much hostility.
For though Basilea herself (1904-2001) understood that total devotion to Jesus would always lead to persecution – Jesus promised that true followers would suffer as he did – she clearly underestimated the negative reaction to their stand for Israel.
The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary suffered much libellous defamation from fellow Christians over the years, being accused of Catholic tendencies, charismatic fanaticism and even of being demonically inspired. But they refused to hit back in their determination to bless, and not curse, as they prayed and worked for the unity of all believers.
However, their strong support for the Jewish people – so foundational to their ethos – was clearly behind much of the ferocious opposition stirred up, from my reading of Basilea’s story.
Now an international ministry still based in Darmstadt, Germany, the sisterhood was birthed in a revival that broke out in a girls’ Bible class after what amounted to the city’s 9/11 when, on the night of September 11, 1944, RAF bombers sent from my hometown of Doncaster left thousands dead or homeless.
The young ladies, led by Basilea and her friend Mother Martyria, did not see themselves as victims, but recognised the judgment of God on their nation for their mass murder of the Jewish people in the Holocaust.
For this they were led by the Holy Spirit into deep repentance for their personal sins as well as their national guilt.
They subsequently established a centre in Jerusalem where nurses offered their services free as part of the debt they felt they owed for Germany’s war crimes.
Love for Israel was forever afterwards a key focus of their ministry, also built around seeking the unity of Christians and the furtherance of the gospel through extensive literature campaigns.
Spreading the love of Jesus, however, is at the heart of all they do. I know some of them personally and can testify that this love exudes from every pore of their being and demeanour through acts of kindness and generosity as they joyfully speak of the Lord to whom they are totally devoted.
With branches in many countries, their Darmstadt base is known as ‘Canaan’, “a signpost pointing to the God who is alive and active today, answering prayer and working miracles…a place where people taste something of the kingdom of heaven here on earth,” as Basilea explains in her memoirs. A ‘foretaste of heaven’, in other words, the original title of her book.
As such, it is beautifully landscaped with its own Sea of Galilee and Mount of Beatitudes helping to sharpen their focus.
Basilea experienced many trials and tribulations as she sought to follow the Lord’s will for her life, but she came to see that sharing in Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10, 2 Timothy 2:10, Colossians 1:24) was a key to the heart of God. It was all about surrendering our will to His. Hence the new title, I Found the Key to the Heart of God, a revised English language edition published by the Sisters in 2023.
After an encounter with God at Mt Sinai in 1963, when she “shook and trembled”, Basilea foresaw a great falling away from the Ten Commandments among the nations and warned of a coming world disaster preceded by persecution of Christians, which we are evidently witnessing today.
“Depending on its attitude towards God’s laws, a nation will either stand or fall,” she wrote.
It was with the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s, when she was much younger, that she realised it was a time to stand up and be counted – she was twice reported to the Gestapo and interrogated for hours because of her challenge to follow Jesus. (I believe the same applies to the days in which we are now living when such vile hatred is being spewed out against the Jewish people once again.)
When she went behind the Iron Curtain to visit Czechoslovakia after the war, she was haunted day and night by mass graves, monuments and eye-witness accounts from Holocaust survivors.
Her deep love for Israel reflected both God’s pain at rejection by his people and the realisation “that we Christians bore a large part of the blame, especially those of us in Germany… As a nation we had committed unspeakable atrocities against them instead of showing them the love and respect due to God’s chosen people… We dared to mock and degrade them, subjecting them to inhuman suffering in concentration camps and brutally murdering millions. Our guilt as a nation is immeasurable.”
Although suffering a series of health scares, she lived on until old age, fulfilling a word she received from the Lord on the isle of Patmos in 1975. And her headstone quotes the words of St Paul: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
1World Israel News, quoting Honest Reporting, January 8, 2024