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Global Ministries

“A Hill of Holy Fire”

By December 9, 2021January 14th, 2022No Comments14 min read

The following is an address given by Mr. Kamphausen at the 1947 Mission Day at Liebenzell USA headquarters.

The Liebenzell Mission was founded on the 13th of November 1899, and is the offspring, on the one hand of the Christian Fellowship Movement of faithful believers from all churches in Germany, and on the other of the stimulus received from Mr. Hudson Taylor’s work and visits to Germany. The Christian Fellowship Movement was born out of the Revival in Wales, when many German Christian leaders were present at the meetings and returned to Germany with the earnest desire that there also should be such a revival. And the Lord granted revivals in some parts of the country. Then the many converted church members had the earnest desire to come together for meetings besides the services in the churches-gatherings for prayer, singing, reading and hearing the Word of God, and to have more fellowship with one another. A special hymnbook was printed with many translated hymns from the revival movement in England, and I still remember how those hymns were sung, and touched the hearts of hundreds and thousands. Not long after the beginning of these movements, the earnest desire arose to do something for those who had never heard the Gospel, and to send men and women, who had experienced a thorough conversion, and received new life from the Lord, to some mission fields.

This Christian Fellowship Movement, with the latent power of its spiritual fires, was by God’s ordering to be joined with the work done previously by God’s Spirit in the heart of Pastor Coerper, through the ministry of Mr. Hudson Taylor.

It was in the year 1891 that Pastor Coerper had read the German translation of Mr. Hudson Taylor’s life and work at the Student Volunteer Conference at Frankfurt, the result being that Mr. Hudson Taylor was invited to go to a similar conference in 1893. Other meetings were addressed by Mr. Taylor at that time. Subsequently, after Pastor Coerper had accepted a call to be pastor at Essen in Rhenish Prussia, he again invited Mr. Hudson Taylor who came in 1896, after visiting the Christian Alliance Conference at Blankenburg, the German Keswick.

Although Pastor Coerper earnestly desired with others to devote himself to the service of China, his way was closed at that time, but a beginning was made at Kiel at the end of 1897. In 1899 it was found necessary to make a change both in the administration and location of this work, and so another branch of the C.I.M.(China Inland Mission) came to be founded on the 13th of November, 1899, in Hamburg, with Pastor Coerper as leader.

When Pastor Coerper had taken over the responsibility of this new mission, he received some candidates in a rented compound. It was a very small beginning and at first no large organization was necessary. They lived together like one family, and the contributions that came in were put in a small wooden box, and from that box all expenses were paid. But they were able to send out the first missionaries, Mrs. Kampmann, Mrs. Wolleber, Mrs. Schoppe, Miss Trojahn, Mr. Grohmann, and Mr. Heinrich Witt, our first superintendent. But suddenly the landlord of the house ordered them to leave and they could not find another suitable place in Hamburg. That was the first big difficulty which the Mission met in those early days, but the Lord, Who in fact was the founder of the Mission, knew how to help them.

In the southwest of Germany is the small town of Liebenzell in the Black Forest. It is said that this name came from the niece of the great Apostle to the heathen, Bonifatius, named “Lioba,” who lived and worked there as a nun. So the place was called “Liobazell” — nunnery of the Lioba, which was later changed into Liebenzell. There lived a deaconesses from the Stuttgart Deaconess Institution, in a small castle called Schlayerburg, which was a legacy from a minister von Schlayer, as a home of rest and recreation for sick and overworked deaconess. This Sister Lina Stahl used to stand at times on the small tower of the Castle, looking around, and the Lord laid it on her heart to pray, “O God, make this hill a hill of holy fire.” On the hill just above was a big house called Villa Lioba, in memory of the niece of Bonifatius, and when the owner of this villa died, it was decided that the house was to become an hotel, for the use of visitors to the health resort of Liebenzell. Sister Lina Stahl hearing of this, prayed more earnestly that the Lord would prevent the house and place from coming to such a worldly use.

O God, make this hill a hill of holy fire.

At that time she heard of the need of the China Inland Mission’s branch in Hamburg, and wrote to Pastor Coerper to come quickly to Liebenzell, as there was an empty house just waiting. But there was at first no response from Pastor Coerper, because he thought that the Mission must be in a big city, and better near the coast, and not so far away in such a small place, hidden in the Black Forest.

Left: Lina Stahl; Right: Madame von Diest

At the same time, a Madame von Diest (wife of a general), who was converted at Strasburg, when Pastor Coerper was there in charge of the Deaconess Institute, also heard of the need and embarrassment of the Mission. She went to Hamburg and, together with Pastor Coerper traveled to Liebenzell to see Sister Lina Stahl and to inspect the Villa Lioba. Well, it was a very nice building, but Pastor Coerper thought it would not be suitable for a mission house, as the rooms were too big and too fine for candidates. But Sister Lina Stahl assured them that it was the Lord’s will to come, and told them how long she had been praying for them to come. Finally, Madame von Diest bought the house with the park belonging to the villa, and gave it as a donation to the Mission, on condition that only the Lord’s work should be done there. Thereupon the China Inland Mission moved from Hamburg to Liebenzell in 1902, and started mission work in the Villa Lioba, and when Mr. D. E. Hoste, the General Director; and Mr. W. B. Sloan were present, in April, 1906, at the Council Meetings of the Mission, it was decided that this branch of the C.I.M. should in future be known as the “Liebenzell Mission,” associated with the China Inland Mission. The province of Hunan was decided as the special sphere of the Mission’s operations, and the Mission began to receive candidates for another mission field too, namely, the South Sea Islands, which at that time were German Colonies. I still remember how the first booklets published concerning this mission field moved the hearts of young people, and many received the call to enter the Mission Seminary. But by this time the house became very crowded, and the need for more room arose. They had no big hall. Meetings were held in the dining room, and the annual conference with the ordination and valedictory services were held in the open air, on the meadows of the hill.

Left, middle: 1930 Missions Conference in Germany; Right: Brothers and sisters of the German mission home

Thereupon Madame von Diest, who made the Castle Schlayerburg her own residence, bought more ground in the neighborhood, and a big new mission house was built, with more small rooms for candidates, with classrooms, and a service hall seating three hundred. But the money was not ready for the whole building, so it could only be done gradually. They began to build in 1905, and continued to pray, and the money came in just when it was earnestly needed, and in 1907 the building was completed without debt, and dedicated to the service of God. Then the Mission was able to receive more candidates, not only for China, but also for the South Sea Islands, even for the dark place of Manus, an island of cannibals.

The policy of the Mission was not to engage many servants, but for the work in the houses and on the farm, as much as possible, to be done by the candidates themselves, besides their studies. There are many funny stories about this. As a means of transportation the Mission bought a donkey, with a small four-wheeled carriage, but it took a lot of patience to deal with that donkey, because it was so terribly stubborn. It did not like its stable and preferred to stay outside at night. But that could not be, it had to go in, and so one day there was no help for it — the candidates had to carry the donkey into the stable, as all beating was in vain! Later we got a horse as an improvement, and by-and-by we had two or three horses because the Mission family grew more and more, and the farm was enlarged. Later we added a truck to move things more quickly out and in. In the meantime a few more buildings were erected, a small house for the bookshop, and a big house for the many guests who liked to come for recreation of body and soul. The Mission thus found many new friends and supporters. This guest house had two motor cars in use. The work which the candidates had to do, according to their abilities, was very interesting, but sometimes city people also had to do farm work. That was a very useful substitute for exercise after study. In the beginning, one man, Mr. Shoppe, was ordered to help in the garden, and he came with his black suit, white collar and necktie. But Sister Lina Stahl, who was also present, said to him, “My, Mr. Schoppe, here is nothing to preach, but to dig — you quickly change your clothing!” But the difficulty was that he had not brought such clothing with him to the Seminary.

Another day the Director, Pastor Coerper, came himself in a blue apron to help in the washing of the stockings because he had heard that some of the candidates did not like this work. Never again did they make any similar objection after receiving this lesson.

All the guests who visited the Mission Compound marveled at the cleanness of the houses from top to bottom, and about the finely cultivated park, gardens and fields. Mr. Hoste and Mr. Martin visited us in the year 1925 or 1926, and a Miss Thompson from England was our English teacher after the first world war. Most of the candidates for China, however, had an opportunity to stay for a certain length of time in England for language study and a good number have been in the C.I.M. Home in London. Furthermore, the Mission got a home for the missionaries’ children, whom their parents had to leave in the homeland, when traveling again to the mission fields.

The way to the mission field was cut off.

Just at this time of gradual growth of the Mission, the work got a heavy shock by the breaking out of World War I, and most of the candidates had to join the Army. The way to the mission field was cut off, and the whole work came to a standstill as there was no possibility of sending workers out. Some ladies and a few men were therefore trained for work in the homeland. Now we have a big staff of workers in various branches of mission work at home. According to our last Prayer List, of 1940–1941, there were then 293 workers, men and women, in the homeland, and on the mission-field in the same year altogether 89 workers, 62 in China, and 27 in the South Sea Islands and in Japan, besides 84 missionaries on furlough or in home service.

Twice a year our big mission tent was erected on a meadow in front of the Mission House, and thousands of visitors came by railway, motor cars, trucks, bicycles, or on foot to attend the meetings, especially the ordination and valedictory services for the missionaries. Sometimes the tent could not hold all the visitors, and there were simultaneous meetings held in the hall of the Mission House and in the town church, and a loudspeaker enabled the people to hear, who had to sit outside.

At the Farewell Meeting in 1935, (when I was sent out the second time), the trucks and motor cars, which brought the people to the meetings, besides the special trains, were so many, the town had never seen the like before in her history. The people almost filled all the streets! Those meetings are unforgettable to all of us. Hundreds surrendered their lives to the Lord, and many received fresh blessings. Hymns of praise and thanksgiving resounded in the Nagold Valley when the buses, trucks and trains were taking the people back to their homes.

In this way the Lord answered the prayers of Sister Lina Stahl, who died so long ago, and made that hillside to be a hill where holy fire burns. And streams of blessing flowed especially into the southwest of Germany, and beyond into the whole Country.

The last news we had from home told us that Madame von Diest was still alive but very weak. She saw the Mission work beginning like a mustard seed, and growing to become a big tree. In 1934 Pastor Coerper had to lay down his heavy responsibilities because of sickness, and his cousin-in-law, Pastor Buddeberg, a gifted preacher and devoted servant of Christ, took up the work and the present Director is Pastor P. G. Moelle. […]

We, as German missionaries, thank God for the true Christian spirit we have met here in Chungking, and that there exists a Christian fellowship and a union in Christ Jesus in the hearts of so many. That is indeed natural, but is still a cause for praising God. May all the children of God be ONE in Christ Jesus to hasten His second advent! Amen.

E. G. Kamphausen

E. G. Kamphausen was a missionary to China who later served as Candidate Secretary for Liebenzell USA.