God Seeks Those Who Will Pray – A Chapel Out of Nothing!
In Darmstadt, on State Highway 3 between Frankfurt and Heidelberg [Germany], stands a small chapel. It looks no different than many other chapels. And yet it is different. Why?
At the side of the driveway leading to the chapel billows a large flag on which are written these words: “Built alone through the help of the Lord, who made heaven and earth, through faith in Jesus Christ.” This chapel, you see, was built in the name of the Lord – who is called “Wonderful!” It was not built in the usual human way of professional contracting and clearly stipulated financing. It was built, rather, according to the ways of faith and prayer. It happened this way:
In May 1949 the Lord gave me the inner guidance that a chapel should be built – a chapel to His glory in which He would be worshiped and adored. What a strange idea! Shouldn’t I first be thinking about some way in which the Mary Sisterhood might obtain a house? At the time, twenty-six Sisters were living in the one-family dwelling of my parents – together with my parents and several renters who had been bombed out of their homes. Every square foot of floor space including the attic was being used for straw sacks and mattresses. It was impossible to accept any new Sisters for sheer lack of space. But the Lord had not said, “Because of your cramped quarters and seemingly impossible situation, I will help you build a Mother House.” No, the talk was not of our house, but of His House. He burned into my heart the ache in His own Heart – that so few truly worshiped and adored Him.
A little later the thought of building a chapel was posed from another quarter. Mother Martyria and I asked for a Scripture-Word as confirmation. We have a collection of about a thousand Bible passages printed on small cards. After a time of prayer, we each drew out a card.* These are the verses which we found written on the cards:
Take heed now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.(1 Chronicles 28:10)
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.(Exodus 25:8)
*In this and similar ways, Scripture repeatedly gave us the clear guidance as to the path we were to follow—somewhat similar to the practice followed in the Herrnhut Brotherhood, whose Losungen (Daily Scripture Selections) are well known.
So God had clearly confirmed our commission to build the chapel. But the desire to bring true worship and adoration to the Lord burned but faintly in our Sisterhood. This was painfully apparent at Christmas, 1949. Christmas is surely the time when hearts should be inflamed and tongues loosed to join the shepherds and the wise men in bringing endless adoration to the Child in the manger. But it was a sad Christmas. The Baby Jesus waited in vain for adoration.
Afterward a great grief swept over the Sisters. How apathetic they had been in the presence of the Christ Child’s love! And then, out of the ashes of repentance, flamed up the petition, “Let the chapel be built.”
With the fire burning in all our hearts, we began to pray in great earnest about the chapel. Our first object of prayer was that the Lord would give us the land where the chapel should be built. We prayed for the most part as a group – prayed that we would get a piece of land, though we had no prospects whatever. The more impossible the situation seemed, the harder we prayed.
Then one forenoon the gong rang out through the house. Mother Martyria and I had returned from a walk and our daughters stood around us. The sun streamed into the room, glancing off the large iron key which I was gaily swinging in my hand.
“A key – a key for what?”
One of the girls burst out, “For a piece of land!” “
Yes, our piece of land!” I went on to tell them, “It’s on State Highway 3, by a stretch of wooded land. It’s close to the city, but has meadows and fields near-by. It covers about one and three-quarter acres – and it’s been given to us! The land isn’t under cultivation. We can do some planting. And it already has some fruit trees, and even a garden house. Where did it come from? The father of one of our Sisters put it at our disposal.”
After weeks of petition, the answer had come. The piece of land was there. It seemed that God had waited until we were aflame with the desire to build Him a chapel where He would be worshipped and adored. Our lukewarm hearts had to burn with a desire for His Kingdom before our prayer could be “earnest and effectual.” We stood there together, overcome – overcome to realize that God had hearkened to our petition and guided the heart of that father to give us the land where we could build the chapel. Overjoyed, we broke into song:
Now, thank we all our God, With heart and hand and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, In Whom this world rejoices!
Then I prayed to the Father in heaven. If He had given us this land as a promise that we could build upon it – without money, and without subsidy from any foreseeable source – would He now give us a word from Scripture as confirmation? That would be solid ground under our feet, a promissory note, which we could take to Him in every need, and which He must redeem. I drew out this verse:
“Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth”.(Psalm 124:8)
At this we broke out in a new song of joy and praise. With this Scripture God had truly given us a promise that included everything. It was worth far more than money. Would it be harder for God to bring our chapel and then a Mother House into being, than to create heaven and earth? Surely not! In that moment, the assurance struck deep into our hearts – how easy it must be for such an almighty God, a God who made the heaven and the earth, to bring to completion this building! To us it might seem big, but for Him, how little!
Indeed this encouragement from His word so strengthened us in that hour that we scarcely gave a thought to the state of our treasury – which at that time contained only 30 marks!
With this unforeseen gift of a piece of land, we learned that God hears believing prayer, when it is prayed in earnest.
GOD ANSWERS PERSEVERING PRAYER
2. Words of Scripture Fulfilled Today
Our Sisterhood was small. We had been in existence barely three years. Most of the Sisters were quite young. We had already encountered opposition from various quarters. We had no influential contacts. We had no money. We had no construction experience. We had no legal advice. We had few friends. Were these the kind of qualifications that would bring the chapel into existence?
We stood before a mountain of questions, uncertainties and impossibilities. Further, the cofounder and spiritual father of our Sisterhood had passed away several weeks earlier. Would the Father in heaven now prove Himself to be a God of the “widows and orphans?” Would He give His children clear guidance? Would He speak to us, and, if so, how?
One of the first hurdles was the Building Authority. We had to apply for a permit to build on this piece of land. Result: “Under no circumstances can you be issued a permit to build a chapel and living quarters [our Mother House] on this lot. The land is not ready for building. There is no sewage system available to it, and a dug-in drainage system can’t be used in that kind of soil. However, there is a partially bombed out lot within the city limits which is comparable to yours and could be traded. In fact, an old house could probably be included in the trade, with about 38 square feet of living space per Sister.”
True it is, “with God nothing is impossible.” But should Christians yield right away? Should they let themselves be redirected? Should they renounce what they have begun? Should we persevere with the prayer of faith until the decision of the Building Authority be reversed? Or should we offer to trade this land – this land which we had described in the diary of our Sisterhood as “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful?”
Had not God given us this land directly in answer to our prayers? Was it not like an inner certainty in our hearts, “This is to be the land”?
We called upon the Lord. If this inner certainty were from Him, He could confirm it. His Word could enlighten us in this situation. And He gave this word:
O Naphtali, satisfied with favour,… possess thou the west and the south.(Deuteronomy 33:23 KJV)
We went to the window. “Our” land lay directly to the southwest. The land they had offered to trade us lay in exactly the opposite direction. With this word began an earnest week of prayer among all the Sisters. Our heavenly Father already knew that He would need more than one and three-quarter acres for us. Eventually, He would need ten times that much – the whole of “Canaan.” So here He was not waiting for His children to renounce their plan and be redirected. Here He waited for their faith, which would battle toward a promised goal.
But all our petitions appeared hopeless. The Building Authority was flooded with building applications, and especially with petitions for new sewers. Every request, every application, every telephone call proved in vain. We could not get in to speak with the building director himself. Our petitions got no further than the outside office, where they received the standard reply – we would never get a building permit for this piece of land.
God’s hand lay heavy upon us. We couldn’t go forward, but neither could we go backward. His promises obligated us to stand firm. God wanted to test our faith and train us in persevering prayer. But finally the day came when the Lord devised a plan to answer our prayer. It was the end of March, 1950, when the miraculous happened. Mother Martyria tells it:
“I planned to go to the Building Authority yet another time. I prepared myself with much prayer that morning, praying that God would intervene. And then I drew out this Word of Scripture: ‘(Christ) is the head of all rule and authority’” (Colossians 2:10b). I shared this with the Sisters during morning devotions, and added: “It must be that the Lord is going to put a high city official in my pathway today. And then He can prove that Jesus is the Head and Lord of all authorities. Jesus will turn the heart of this official to see our petition as a request for His Kingdom.
“It was a good 45-minute walk from the old Mother House on Steinberg Way to the office of the Building Authority. As I was walking along Steinberg Way, brakes screeched behind me – a motorcycle almost caused an accident. A car came to a stop beside me. The gentleman at the wheel kindly offered me a ride, as it was still quite a distance into the city. It flashed across my mind, This man is the ‘high official’ of our city, that the Scripture word spoke about. And he was, in fact, none other than the mayor! During the five-minute ride I was able to tell him about our request.
“This time, when I came to the office of the building authority, my visit didn’t end with hopeless waiting in the outer office. The Chief Building Director interrupted a meeting on my account – he had already learned of our situation from the mayor. The mayor had more than fulfilled his promise to ‘mention it to the Building Director when the occasion arises.’ He had interrupted his many duties and telephoned at once. And what happened? What had been impossible became suddenly possible. The mountains of difficulties melted like wax before God, the Lord of lords. I could scarcely believe my ears. Then and there the Chief Building Director assured us that we would receive permission to build on the plot of land that had been given to us.
“When I returned to the house, I found a letter from the Building Authority in the mailbox. It had been mailed the day before. It was another official No.
“But Christ had changed that No into a Yes! On this day of rejoicing, He indelibly inscribed upon our hearts that He is indeed ‘the head of all rule and authority.’ In our day also, He has power to change a written No of the highest authorities. Such a No was meant to test our faith. In the face of it God meant for us not to withdraw in fright, but to hold on in faith. For when His hour came, He acted decisively, and with power.”
This article is excerpted from Realities of Faith, Chapters 1 and 2, by Mother Basilea Schlink, Copyright © Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, 1995. The book was first published in German in 1962, and the first American edition was published in 1963.
The book can be purchased from the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary branch in Phoenix, Arizona USA at the following website: https://www.canaaninthedesert.com/product/realities-of-faith/
Top photo: Sisterhood of Mary, Darmstadt, Germany
Brief bio on Mother Basilea Schlink (1904-2001)
Mother Basiliea Schlink was the co-founder and spiritual leader for half a century of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, a community dedicated to a Christian literature and radio ministry. She was herself a prolific writer, her devotional books, pamphlets and hymns being translated into more than 60 languages.
The Sisterhood of Mary, initially Lutheran but now interdenominational, numbers more than 200 women from 20 countries, with 14 men in the affiliated Canaan Franciscan Brothers. It has branched out from its centre in Germany, at Darmstadt near Frankfurt, to Australia, Israel and the United States, and has one community at Radlett in Hertfordshire. The Sisterhood publishes tracts in 90 languages and distributes them on all five continents, while its radio and television programmes are broadcast in 23 languages.
Perhaps Mother Basilea’s most noted contribution to religious life was her work for reconciliation between Germans and Jews. As a young woman she had learnt with horror of the Nazi extermination of the Jewish communities of her homeland and much of Europe, and dedicated her life to seeking forgiveness and overcoming the legacy of this mutual bitterness.
As national president of the Women’s Division of the German Student Christian Movement from 1933 to 1935, Schlink refused to comply with Nazi edicts barring Jewish Christians from meetings.
It was not until March 1947 that Schlink and Madauss were eventually able to fulfil their vision of establishing the Sisterhood.
Mother Basilea died in Darmstadt on 21 March 2001.
Sources for bio and history: https://womenofchristianity.com/single-women/basilea-schlink/And https://kanaan.org/ueber-uns/entstehungsgeschichte/