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Work Among the Foreigners in the
THE story of the beginnings of the work among the Scandinavians in this country, under the labors of Elder J. G. Matteson, has been told in some detail in an earlier chapter. When Elder Matteson went to Denmark in 1877 to begin work in that country, the general oversight of the work among the Scandinavian Sabbath keepers in America was left in the hands of Elder O. A. Olsen, who, however, continued to devote the larger share of his time to work among the Americans. When he was called to Europe in the spring of 1886, the oversight of the work was left largely in the hands of Lewis Johnson, who was then laboring in Minnesota.
Elder Johnson had heard his first Seventh-day Adventist sermon in a schoolhouse in Iowa in 1875, he being then a licensed preacher among the Methodists. He observed the next Sab
1 This chapter has been allowed to remain as it was when O. A. Olsen, then secretary of the department, looked it over shortly before his death in 1915. Recent developments in this department will be given in a later chapter.
bath, and began at once to labor for his friends and associates, with the result that a Seventh-day Adventist church was organized at West Dayton, Iowa, of which he was chosen elder. A little later he gave himself to the ministry, and labored for some years among the Scandinavians of Iowa, Illinois, and Dakota. In 1880 he went to Minnesota, which continued to be his chief field of labor for the next eight or nine years. In 1889 he was called to succeed O. A. Olsen as superintendent of the work in Scandinavia.
During these years there .continued to be an encouraging growth among the Scandinavians in America, but there was a lack of qualified laborers. On Elder Olsen's return to America, in the spring of 1889, he saw the need of educational facilities for the training of foreign workers. Arrangements were accordingly made for the holding, in Battle Creek the following winter, of schools for the Scandinavians, the Germans, and the French. J. C. Ottosen, then a medical student in Denmark, was secured as principal and head teacher of the Scandinavian school, and Elder and Mrs. M. M. Olsen were placed in charge of the school home. There were others who assisted in the teaching. Thirty pupils presented themselves on the opening day, and the attendance later increased to fifty.
At the session of the General Conference in the winter of 1889-90, plans were laid for the erection of a college in the Middle West, with departments in German, Swedish, and Danish-Norwegian. The plans thus laid resulted in the building of Union College, at College View, Nebr.
At the close of the school year a number of the most promising Scandinavian pupils were sent to Copenhagen, Denmark, where they could pursue advanced studies under favorable conditions, Elder and Mrs. M. M. Olsen going with them to take charge of the school home. Among the students sent to Denmark for preparation, mention should be made of P. E. Berthelsen, who first taught in the Scandinavian Union School in Frederikshavn, Denmark, and later for a number of years was at the head of the Danish-Norwegian Department of Union College, near Lincoln, Nebr.
Work Among the Germans
The advent message first found its way to some German families in Dakota about 1875. These families learned of the Adventist views by reading a few tracts put in their hands by Danish and American believers in Dakota, and a few of them began to keep the Sabbath. No ministerial labor was put forth
on their behalf until the year 1881, when L. R. Conradi was sent to Dakota to labor especially for the Germans, and in course of time organized three German churches, as already recorded in a previous chapter. He followed up this work with labor on behalf of the Germans in various parts of the Middle West, and also raised up some churches in the East. When he was called to Europe at the beginning of 1886, the German Sabbath keepers in the United States numbered about 500. A good beginning had been made, and especially in the Middle West a substantial class of people had accepted the Adventist views.
On Elder Conradi's departure for Europe, the German interests in the United States were put in the care of Henry Shultz, who remained at the head of the work for sixteen years, until the organization of the field into union conferences put the oversight alike of the German and American work into the hands of the regular conference officers.
Elder Shultz first came in contact with Seventh-day Adventists in the summer of 1872, when Charles L. Boyd and J. S. Hart were holding a tent-meeting at Stromsburg, Nebr. Elder Shultz was then a class leader in the church of the United Brethren, and did not attend the meetings at the tent. But when the neighborhood became greatly stirred over the Adventist preaching, he was asked to make a public defense of Sunday keeping, and promised to do so.
He immediately set himself to what he considered would be an easy task of assembling an array of scriptures in favor of observing the first day of the week. For three weeks he searched his Bible, as he said, "night and day," and then he knew why the minister had said he could do nothing.
At first he was angry with the Bible because it did not back up his position; then, as the truth gradually came home to his heart, that not only were there no texts in favor of Sunday observance, but the Bible most clearly taught the sacredness of the seventh day, he found himself in the throes of a great mental struggle. When it seemed too hard for him, he cried unto God, and received the answer in a feeling of great calm in his soul and a flood of light which invested the Sabbath of creation with a beauty and sacredness that had never attached to the first day of the week.
On the following Sunday he stood up in his church to give the report of his investigations on Sunday keeping as taught in the New Testament. He told his fellow church members of his prolonged studies and of the struggle, and ended with the words: "You will do as you please, but I and my house have
decided to obey God by keeping His commandments." That evening twelve heads of families signed the covenant, and the following spring Elders R. M. Kilgore and C. L. Boyd organized a Seventh-day Adventist church at Stromsburg, and ordained Henry Shultz as elder. The little company met with much opposition, but seemed to thrive on it, so that at the end of two years there was a membership of nearly 200.
In 1874, Henry Shultz received a license to preach from the Iowa-Nebraska Conference, and two years later he was ordained to the ministry. For a time his labors were almost entirely among the Americans; but his heart was in the German work, and when the way opened for him to give his entire time to labor among his countrymen, he was glad to do so. During the sixteen years in which the work was under his leadership, there was a steady and rapid growth of German Sabbath keepers in the United States, chiefly in the West.
At the General Conference of 1905, G. F. Haffner was appointed to take the general oversight of the German Department in the United States, Henry Shultz taking up labor among the Germans in California, where he has been instrumental in raising up strong German churches. Under Elder Haffner's administration, the work continued to grow. There are at the present time about 4,000 German Sabbath keepers in the western portion of the United States and Canada. Of these, about 800 are in North Dakota, 700 in Oklahoma, and nearly 400 in Kansas. The believers are grouped in more than 100 churches, of which sixty have church buildings of their own. They have thirty-six ordained and licensed ministers and four Bible workers.
German Work in the East
German work in the East was begun by L. R. Conradi in the autumn of 1888, when he conducted a series of meetings in Fleetwood, Pa., resulting in the organization of a German church. Later he held meetings at Allentown, where a deep interest was manifested in the message preached, and a church of about forty members organized. When Elder Conradi departed for Europe, the German work in the East was left without a leader, and remained at a standstill for some years. In fact it hardly held its own, the Fleetwood church becoming in time incorporated with the English church at Reading, and the Allentown church also becoming largely English in membership.
The next distinctly German church to be organized was brought out in Brooklyn, N. Y., in February, 1899, with a mem