The Blasphemous Family of South Dakota
In the near neighborhood of one of my preaching stations, there lived a German family, a father and mother and five children. They never attended services. I had invited them through members, but all in vain.
Frank Kiess continues,
I said, the next time I come I will go there myself. The members told me it was no use to get him to come, he never was a churchman in Germany, he had thrown the minister out of his home in Germany. That did not prevent me from driving to his place. He never knew me nor did I know him. When I came to his place, I told him who I was, that quick he got mad and red in his face and ordered me from his place with the words, “Pastoren und Narren fahren auf einem Karren.” (Pastors and fools ride in one cart) His wife came to the door, I asked her if I could speak to her, at first she hesitated, but when her husband went growling to the barn, she invited me into the house. She was no more willing to come to services than he. She talked as blasphemously concerning religion as her husband did. The children, ranging from 1 year to 16 were shy and seemed to be afraid of me. I noticed the oldest girl was sickly, the cause I could not learn. None of the children were baptized; the wife made fun of baptism, and expressed that she would rather have her children die than be baptized. Here was a house under the control of Satan. With a heavy heart I left. “Don’t come any more.” was their goodbye. Almost a year thereafter that oldest daughter was sick and dying. She begged one of my members, without her parents hearing it, to tell me that I should come. I went. I talked to her kindly and prayed with her. I had her say the little Bible verse repeatedly, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Shortly after that, she passed away, constantly repeating that little verse. The ice was broken. Satan had to depart. I was called to preach the funeral sermon and to officiate at the funeral. In my own estimation, I must say, I believe that I never preached a better funeral sermon. I avoided every sentence that might be taken as an insult. I still have that sermon in my desk. The next time I held services there, who was present? To my surprise and to the surprise of all the members, that blasphemous man, his wife and four children. They wanted their four children baptized. I did. From then on they were regular in service and paid well towards my salary. I was told after I had left South Dakota that that member was the biggest contributor towards their new church. How true the words of St. Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is a power unto salvation unto every one that believeth.” That power of the Gospel, manifested itself here, and at how many other places? Glory be to God alone. There in the mission field I learned to make sermons.
– Kiess, Frank. My experiences in the mission field of South Dakota during the years 1892-1897. Originally published 1932. Lutheran Library edition forthcoming