Martin Luther and Mother Buschbeck

In a corner of my desk at Shorter University, I have this old, red New Testament that, because it is small, is easy to carry around. The red color of its hardcover makes me cheerful because it reminds me of Jesus’s kind, welcoming, wise, healing, and transforming words in my very first Bible, which was the King James Version.

I have had this New Testament for at least twenty-five years, even losing it once and having it returned to me by some kind soul who tracked me down. Its text is set in Fraktur font, with the long elegant s (ſ) and with the upper-case S that reminds me of the Ouroboros.

This New Testament was published in 1966 in London by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and I wish I could remember how it came to belong to me. Did I buy it? I have no idea. I’ve looked in it for possible clues and found none.

This New Testament does carry marks of my life journey, however. My University of Georgia graduate school address is in it from the mid-80’s, when I was single and lonesome and living at 608 Lyons Apts., 1050 S. Lumpkin St., Athens, GA 30605, and my old phone number is also scrawled inside the front hardcover in black ink as (404) 546-7648. That was in pre-cell-phone days. Across from that old address, I also wrote in black ink the address for the tiny apartment in Austin, Texas, where my husband and I lived in 1992, two years after our marriage: Aspenwood Apartments A209, 4539 Guadalupe, and our phone number: (512) 451-0335, also a land-line.

On one of this testament’s first pages I also drew the different Fraktur fonts by hand, along with what they signify, as a reference, to help me read this Bible. I was once quite good at deciphering Fraktur font. An eighty-year-old German widow taught me how in 1983, when I was a student at Ruprecht-Karls Universität in Heidelberg, and our paths crossed in God’s grace. Her own large and imposing black Bible, printed in the early part of the twentieth century, in Germany, featured this swirly font as a matter of course.

Maybe, in fact, Mother Buschbeck gave me this Bible. She could have. She was my guardian angel when I was a student at Heidelberg University, only twenty-two then and abroad for the very first time. I was so homesick then for America and my familiar old life, thrust instead into a new and confusing language, a new and baffling culture, a new way of eating, a new diet, a new frozen climate, and all new friends.

How I came to meet Frau Sophie Buschbeck was providential. The Dean of my undergraduate college met Sophie Buschbeck during World War II, when she was a middle-aged German refugee living in Silesia with eight children and married to a Lutheran minister then an army chaplain, who was imprisoned in Russia for what would be five long war-fractured years.

Nuns took care of her and hers, and so did some Baptists from Mississippi, who sent Sophie and her family shoes and food, only to receive in return the priceless gift of a life-long friendship that became more like an integrated family of Americans and Germans.

So when I received a Rotary International Graduate scholarship to study in Heidelberg, my dean said, “Here is Mrs. Sophie Buschbeck’s number. Look her up.” I did, and we soon became companions and fast friends. She gave me wool sweaters, warm and delicious home-cooked food, long-lasting conversations, and lessons in growing up.

I watched the joy of Mother Buschbeck’s long, war- and grief-torn life and saw that it depended entirely on her friendship with Jesus. I knew that she had had serious hardships and loss, and yet here she was at eighty, joyful, loving, alive, learning, listening, and vibrant in every way. We had daily devotionals together, at her invitation. That is where I was asked to read the huge, black Gothic-print Bible to her in German. And we sang at devotional time. Mother Buschbeck belonged to the Let-Us-Thank-God-for-Every-Blessing-and-Love-Others school of Christian discipleship.

If Mother Buschbeck did give me this handy red hardcover Bible or if some other kind soul gifted me with this treasure, in my heart I deeply thank the long-forgotten presenter, whoever he or she was, because this New Testament is, I just noticed, “nach der deutschen Übersetzung D. Martin Luthers,” a copy of the Luther translation of the New Testament.

I probably knew that salient information once upon a time, but I had forgotten it until today, when I was searching for clues of origin, and that is saying something because I am an enthusiastic student of Luther; so this memory lapse says more about my being fifty than anything else can.

The reason I suspect Mother Bushbeck gave this red Luther New Testament to me is because I found as the sole bookmark in it my typed-up version of something Mother Bushbeck wrote to me in air-mailed blue ink that I was afraid I would lose (or forget), so I typed it up. I don’t know when I typed it up, but I’m glad I did; I also don’t know now whether I even saved the document or if this was during word-processing days and this is my only remaining copy. I put this quotation from wise Mother Buschbeck here in cyberspace to share with others who might find its light helpful.

So here it is again, a reminder that even the fragility of my human memory for dates and people and events cannot erase the memory of the profound, life-changing love that Mother Buschbeck gave me in 1983 and for nine years afterwards, through regular letters, calls, and a visit.

A kind and wise friend of mine once told me, “We may forget what someone else taught us or did for us, but we never forget how someone made us feel.”

Mother Buschbeck made me feel loved. She made me feel like a child of God. Here are some of her nourishing words from 1983, sent from Germany to Georgia:

Wenn wir in der Bibel lessen, um mit dem Wort Gottes zu leben, hören wir immer wieder, wie Gott den Propheten und seinem Volk seinen Willen kund getan hat. Jesus hat uns vorgelebt, den Willen des Vaters anzunehmen auch wenn es schwer war. Vor allem hat er uns die Liebe des Vaters zu uns kund getan, dass er uns unendlich gut mit uns meint. Wenn wir dafür immer wieder true danken, bleibt unser Herz offen für das, was Gott für uns will, wo wir ihm dienen und nahe sein können. Der heilige Geist ist uns also Tröster und Helfer gegeben und hilft zum rechten Hören und Verstehen.

When we read and study the Bible in order to live out God’s Word, over and over again we hear how God revealed His will to the prophets and to His people. Jesus lived out God’s will before us, showing us how to accept the Father’s will, even when it was hard. Most of all, He showed us the Father’s love, how God always and forever wants what’s best for us. When we remain faithful in thanking God for His love, our hearts stay open for all that He wants for us, so that we can serve Him and stay near Him. The Holy Spirit is given to us as our Comforter and Partner, helping us hear right and understand.

About Carmen

I teach English at Shorter College in beautiful Rome, Georgia.
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