"The memory of the just is blessed"

Peter Millward

Caucaia, Brazil

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The memory of the just is blessed – Proverbs 10:7

January 21st 1868 – 2018 – 150 yrs

Charlotte Reihlen

Co-founder of the Deaconess Institution Stuttgart

She wasn’t a person to just stand there and do nothing! She was a woman of action! And when she saw people in need – acted immediately! She lived modestly to help others. Thanks to their initiative, the Protestant Deaconess of Stuttgart commenced..

Charlotte Reihlen was born on March 26, 1805. From the age of twelve she took care of her seriously ill mother and took over most of the family household.

At the age of 18 she married the merchant Friedrich Reihlen. The happiness of the couple was initially great: they were young, in love, lived carefree in a wealthy entrepreneurial family and soon got their first child.

But a deep wound in the life of the young mother was the death of her second son. Two-year-old Julius contracted tracheal inflammation and died painfully. Charlotte Reihlen fell into a severe depression. She reproached herself and believed that God wanted to punish her for her unbelief. In her distress she visited in 1830 a service of Rev. Christian Adam Dann in the Stuttgart Leonhard Church. It struck her as though the sun had broken through the clouds, telling her about the Word of God. Charlotte had met with God in a powerful way and her life was never the same afterwards! She dedicated her life to following Christ and His Gospel.

Charlotte Reihlen was especially committed to the well-being, education and education of children. She had hired a tutor for her daughters. Friedrich Weidle earned a prestigious position. Soon, other families sent their daughters to class at Haus Reihlen. The search for larger premises gave Charlotte Reihlen the idea of ​​founding a denominational school for girls. From this idea, the Weidle’sche Daughter Institute, today’s Protestant Mörike -Gymnasium emerged. In 1856, 500 pupils were already studying in their own school building on Tübinger Straße. Likewise, Charlotte Reihlen initiated a “servant school” to enable girls to leave school after leaving primary school at the age of 14.

Charlotte Reihlen always lived sparingly and simply to be able to use as much means for good purposes. It is known that visitors considered her the maid of the house rather than the landlady because of her simple clothes. Wherever Charlotte Reihlen was, she immediately grasped the needs of people and had to act. So for people who could not afford a hymn book, she initiated a charitable organization that published a “Poor Sanguine Book” or founded a bible association that offered Bibles door to door at affordable prices.

In the 1840s, Charlotte Reihlen learned of the opening of a deaconess institute in Kaiserswerth near Düsseldorf. The thought did not let her go, she wanted to establish such a facility in Stuttgart. At first she met resistance, the project could not be financed, but was able to assert itself later with great support from the Stuttgart Stiftskirche preacher Sixt Karl Kapff. They formed a founding committee in 1853 and searched for deaconesses through the newspaper. One year later, the first sisters were committed.

Kapff is also said to have helped her in portraying Jesus’ words, which are so popular in Pietism, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7: 13-14). The words were often portrayed in “two-way pictures”: the broad path that many choose leads to damnation; the narrow one to paradise. She designed a picture, commissioned the artist Conrad Schacher and added corresponding texts. She gave it the title “The Broad and the Narrow Way” and had it printed. It is still one of the best known representations of the motif. Reihlen wanted to animate people to follow Jesus.

Since her youth, Charlotte Reihlen has been plagued by illness. Gastric weakness, severe attacks of migraine, insomnia and later heart disease weakened her. On January 21, 1868, her fragile body could no longer withstand a cold. And she went to be with the Lord. At the Stuttgart Fangelsbach Cemetery one can still find Charlotte Reihlen honoured grave.

Even though Charlotte passed away, her picture went on to become a visual aid for open air evangelism throughout the English speaking world cheifly through the influence Gawin Kirkham the secretary of the Open-Air Mission who upon a visit to the city of Amsterdam. He was so taken with the picture he brought a Dutch edition of the picture back to Britain and had larger copies painted to be able to preach in Public. Mr Kirkham regarded it his call ing from the Lord to expound the picture in public which he did well over a 1,000 times! Charlotte also produced an explanation in German to accompany the picture, which Mr Kirkham had translated for distribution with an English version of the picture. He had a number of editions printed and so popular the picture became it is estimated to be well over 100,000 have been printed and have gone throughout the four corners of the earth.

Today, the pictures power and popularity has not diminished. it is still impacting lives around the world, hanging in hallways, corridors, living rooms, youth clubs, Churches etc. Even though it is 150 years ago when the designer passed from this life – the picture has the timeless message of eterntiy.

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