Tribute for Mother Basilea
1 John 3:2 NIV

In Loving Memory of Mother Basilea 
(Dr. Klara Schlink) 1904–2001
Darmstadt, September 2001

Dear Friends,
With the passing of Mother Basilea, we have lost a beloved spiritual mother. As condolences poured in from all over the world, we caught a glimpse of what she has meant to you and many others. How we wish you could have all been with us in the Herald Chapel on July 28 for the memorial service. But you were with us in spirit.

Mother Basilea

White roses from Norway along with other floral arrangements, filled the Herald Chapel, while proteas, South Africa's national flower, adorned Mother Basilea's grave in the motherhouse prayer garden. The service was conducted by Professor Dr. Ulrich Wilckens, bishop emeritus, who was commissioned by the Council of the Evangelical (Protestant) Church in Germany to advise, assist and maintain links with Protestant communities. His warm words were a blessing and encouragement. (Click here to read Bishop Wilcken's sermon) His successor, Professor Dr. Christian Zippert, bishop emeritus, was also present.

Each testimony that followed showed a different facet of Mother Basilea's life and ministry, and all pointed to Jesus, which, as Sister Pista shared, was her fervent wish. ‘Please don't talk about me,' Mother Basilea had said six years earlier when the topic of her memorial service was raised. ‘More than anything I long for Jesus to receive much worship and for everyone to enter a deeper relationship with Him.' At that time she had prayed for those who would attend the service: ‘Lord Jesus, may You be tangibly present and draw everyone close to Your heart. And may all those who have not yet experienced the union of love with You, then discover it for themselves.' Judging by responses, many were blessed with a fresh encounter with the Lord. An atmosphere of peace, love and holiness lay over the entire day.

Speaking on behalf of our community, Sister Benedicta shared how the call to love Jesus as our Heavenly Bridegroom was central to Mother Basilea's life. ‘My all for Him' was her motto. It was her vision that our community would be founded on repentance, from which alone first love for Jesus flows. Mother Martyria, who knew her best, once wrote:

For me, what makes Mother Basilea so special is not her achievements, but rather her brokenness before the Lord. Every time I'm with her, I never fail to be struck by the contrition that marks her whole being.

Many of our sisters stationed abroad were able to come home for the occasion, among them Sister Adola from our branch in Brazil. She shared how hard she had found it as a young sister to follow the call of the Lord to another country. Then she was reminded how Mother Basilea had once revealed the secret of her life: ‘Never let God ask something of you twice.' Even so, she missed fellowship with our large family of sisters in the motherhouse.

Mother Basilea, understanding how homesick I was, would comfort me. Our friends in Brazil can hardly believe that Mother Basilea knew every single sister in our large family and corresponded regularly with us. The file I have of her letters is one of my most prized possessions. Whether we were in need of a word of comfort or caution, her letters always brought us help and led us back to Jesus, the Bridegroom of our souls.

Brother Sylvestro, senior member of the Canaan Franciscan Brothers, recalled how Mother Basilea often shared with them about their mentor, St. Francis of Assisi, with his burning love for Jesus. Like St. Francis, she too would withdraw from time to time to seek the face of the Lord. Attuned to His heart, she learnt to see everything from His perspective, sensing what grieved Him and what would bring Him joy. In her writings, particularly in our daily Three O'Clock Prayer commemorating the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, she captured the lament of God over a world that has turned its back on Him.

This sensitivity for the pain of God, born of a loving heart, had a lasting impact on my life. For love of Him she gave Him her all, including personal interests and prestige, demonstrating that a life of uncompromising discipleship is within reach of everyone, if love is the motivation.

Incidentally, Mother Basilea declined to accept Germany's prestigious Bundesverdienstkreuz (Order of Merit), granted in acknowledgement of political, economic or intellectual contributions to the reconstruction of Germany. For her, the crown of thorns motif on our seal was not just an emblem: it was a way of life. Had it not been for Mother Martyria, though, we would never have heard about the incident.

The Rev. Dr. Stefan Kunz of the Evangelical (Protestant) Church in Germany referred to the origin of Mother Basilea's spirituality as prayer and dedication to the triune God, expressed in the union of her will with His:

In a spirit of contrition, thanksgiving and love she met daily with Jesus as her Lord and Saviour, the Bridegroom of her soul. She knew that Jesus wants us to make room for Him in our hearts, dedicating our lives to Him unreservedly, and loving Him passionately. She once wrote:

What, then, could be more glorious 
Or sweeter than Your presence 
Within my heart, O Jesus Christ? 
Now all within is silence, 
That You may come to enter 
My soul, and make it ever Yours. 

These words are in keeping with the great and wonderful tradition of Christian mysticism, based on personal experience of a deep relationship with Christ and an expression of an ardent devotion to Him. Her experiences of the love of Jesus and His indwelling are reminiscent of what Paul once wrote: ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me' (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

Afterwards Dr. Kunz invited us all to sing another verse of Mother Basilea's song, in which Jesus asks the soul: 

Make ready your heart's chamber,
Put far all earthly clamour,
Silence all worldly longings now.
Upon you take My quietness, 
Eternity's own stillness,
And My approaching footsteps hear.

Pastor Hans-Jörg Dittmann, Second Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance in Darmstadt, related how as a 5 or 6-year-old he first heard Bible stories and learnt to pray in the bright blue bus our sisters drove as a mobile Sunday School to an impoverished area of Darmstadt. Though he never met Mother Basilea personally, two aspects of her spirituality had made a deep impression on him as a child through his contact with our sisters: ‘Preaching the Good News especially among the under-privileged, and the centrality of prayer in one's life.' Later in her writings he discovered two further aspects: ‘Tangible Christian unity through the work of the Holy Spirit, and healing of the past, or more specifically, of our crime against Israel – through repentance and forgiveness.'

These are elements the Sisters of Mary introduced to the Evangelical Alliance in Darmstadt … The spiritual unity enjoyed by the Evangelical Alliance here in Darmstadt, despite its diversity and versatility, is a fruit of the continual prayers of the sisters and above all of Mother Basilea, who supported the Evangelical Alliance, with which she had deep bonds. She longed for the Christians here in Darmstadt to grow together and become one in the Lord.

Benjamin Berger, a second-generation Holocaust survivor living in Israel, described how reluctant he and his brother Reuven were to meet Christians from Germany. However, having heard so much about our sisters on the Mount of Olives, they decided to visit them one day in 1971.

There we discovered a love and humility towards our people. This God used to open our hearts towards Germans and concerning the whole issue of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.

Some years later he and his brother were to meet Mother Basilea personally:

I sensed Mother Basilea's deep oneness with Jesus. When she spoke to us about the sufferings of Jesus, I sensed how she shared in His pain. And when she spoke of His joy, I sensed how she rejoiced with Jesus. I had never experienced anything like this before. It was an incentive to love Jesus as our Heavenly Bridegroom. Having lived 30 years in Israel now, I can say the spiritual blessings we received through her have accompanied us all this time.

Sister Maria Boss of the community Christusträger (Christ-bearers) shared her recollections of Mother Basilea:

She was on fire with love for Jesus, inspiring everyone around her to focus on Jesus and open their hearts to His love. Yet she must also have passed through times of spiritual dryness. How else did she learn to declare in faith, ‘My Father, I do not understand You, but I trust You'?

On behalf of the other Protestant communities in Germany I would like to share with you a comforting promise: ‘The Father himself loves you' (John 16:27 NIV). Your spiritual mothers have gone home to the Lord. But the Father is yours for ever. And He is faithful.

Our friendship with Horst-Klaus and Irmela Hofmann of the Reichenberg Fellowship stretches over a period of many years. For a while Horst-Klaus worked closely with us in Concern for Germany, a subsidiary ministry. He paid tribute to Mother Basilea's life-long commitment to uphold the sanctity of God's commandments even in the face of opposition. How his extended family community emerged at the height of the student riots in the late 1960s is a story in itself. ‘Everyone is talking about revolution – so do we' read the advertisement to their first student conference, hosted at Kanaan. It attracted earnest intellectuals in droves, among them long-haired, pot-smoking political agitators. 

After the first explosive sessions, when an unannounced group of activists from Berlin seized the platform and held forth on their political views, the Spirit of God stepped in dramatically, bringing conviction. Late into the night students were lining up to receive Jesus into their hearts. One belligerent student went on to become a pastor. Two further students, one an anarchist and the other a member of a Marxist commune, are also involved in full-time Christian ministry.

Many of you are aware that in 1968 our fellowship was born at this place. Here is where our first conferences for students were held and where revival broke out. This is why our Reichenberg Fellowship, a community of families and singles, will continue to maintain close links with Kanaan from one generation to the next.

In closing, Horst-Klaus Hofmann gave thanks for Mother Basilea's faithfulness in remembering their ministry in her prayers daily.

A Catholic friend, Gerhard Gabel, reflected on Mother Basilea's concern for Christian unity, in keeping with Jesus' request in John 17:21 ‘that they may all be one' (RSV):

She didn't think we all had to be identical. Her aim was not sameness but rather oneness in our love for Jesus as a powerful witness to the world. I once mentioned to a Sister of Mary that I was considering leaving the Catholic Church. Instead of encouraging me to take this step, as I had secretly hoped, she said, ‘I don't think Jesus wants you to leave your church. He put you there so that you will be a witness in your surroundings as light and salt.' Today, 25 years later, I see the wisdom of those words.

Dr. W. Günter Gassner, M.D., our family doctor of many years, shared how Mother Basilea had ministered to him:

What impressed me was that Mother Basilea never complained about her pains and ailments. She always put herself last. Concern for those entrusted to her dominated all the talks I had with Mother Basilea. Beyond that she also expressed concern for twentieth-century man's inability to believe. At a time when it was neither popular nor fashionable to speak up for Christian values, she argued knowledgeably and forcefully in all humility. I must add that she helped strengthen my faith, which had been shaken by harrowing war-time experiences.

Professor Dr. Inge Scharrer, M.D., also shared some personal insights from the last stretch of Mother Basilea's earthly life:

I had the privilege of advising and providing medical treatment for a remarkable patient during a long and difficult time of sickness, particularly from 1992-2001. It was an exceptionally rare and painful sickness, extremely resistant to therapy. Medically it was also unusual, for it did not follow the normal pattern. From time to time, in answer to prayer, the feared symptoms were delayed, or else they appeared to a lesser degree, or not precisely as described in the medical books. God intervened miraculously.

This is not to diminish her affliction, for Mother Basilea suffered intensely during her illness. Yet in her pain and illness she glorified Jesus. What was her secret? She exemplified the assurance of being a child of God. Her faith, her implicit trust in God, and her love for Father, Son and Spirit were inspiring and infectious. Even when in excruciating pain, she radiated a deep joy and cheerfulness. Peace exuded from her. Pain and sickness could not get the better of her. To the very end she sang hymns. I will never forget her declaration of love for the Holy Spirit, ‘Oh, how I love the Holy Spirit! What would I do without Him!' I often heard her say that, and to this declaration of love the Holy Spirit responded. You only have to think of all the writings, songs, praise plaques and everything else we now have as a legacy.

Shortly after Mother Basilea's death on March 21, a reporter from The Independent, a major British paper, called from England. ‘What was Mother Basilea like as a person?' he wanted to know. It is a question we are often asked. To those who knew her, she was caring and warm-hearted, with a deep appreciation for the wonders of God's creation and a delightful sense of humour. The erratic spelling and grammar of those of us from abroad intrigued her!
A mother in the truest sense of the word, she was never happier than when surrounded by her spiritual children. How she loved to arrange and celebrate special occasions! Opposed to dead formality and rigidity, she was capable of turning the procedure of a gathering upside down, in order to give more scope to the Spirit. She welcomed spontaneity and encouraged creativity.

A festival of heaven with her was an unforgettable experience. In the words of an Anglican clergyman:

‘To feast the Lord' is a special charisma He has given you at Kanaan … Joyous festivity is what makes heaven heaven, and as I have discovered, the greater the repentance, the greater the joy.

Corrie ten Boom, who used to visit our community since its earliest beginnings, once commented:

In heaven we will say, ‘Do you remember the time we celebrated a festival of heaven on earth with Mother Basilea?'

Knowing it would have been in keeping with Mother Basilea's wishes, we celebrated a festival of heaven after the memorial service. Even in the darkest stretches of her life, she never lost sight of the heavenly goal. Since youth it was her desire ‘to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead' (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV).

Though her presence is greatly missed, we are comforted by the assurance that she has joined the ‘cloud of witnesses' cheering us on. We can almost hear her repeating the scripture, ‘Blessed are those who are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb' (Revelation 19:9 NKJV) – the theme of the video Joy Everlasting, in which she shares: 

What a tremendous moment that will be when we see Jesus face to face! ‘We shall see him as he is.' Unbelievable! However, there is a condition. The Bible says we are to purify ourselves, so that we may be pure like Jesus … Jesus will celebrate the wedding with His bride, that is, with all those who love Him dearly, as a bride loves her bridegroom.

Towards the end of her life, as age restricted her movements, she was less and less among us at mealtimes and during evening meetings. But still singing hymns in her clear soprano, she would almost daily leave her room on the arm of a sister caring for her. From the office and laundry, the kitchen and reception, sisters would then cluster round, and the motherhouse would be filled with the sound of singing.

As a true mother in the Lord, she watched over our souls, taking a deep personal interest in each child. Even when our family had grown to over 200, she would pray for every one of us daily. A friend of many years, a mother herself, wrote from America:

Hardly a day goes by that I do not think of the impact of both the life and home-going of Mother Basilea …

Mother Basilea lived among you as a sacrificial mother. A sacrificial mother loves each child fiercely and beyond her own heart's capacity. Gladly she chose the piercing of her own heart to nourish her young … She strives to bring each unique one to wholeness under the care of the Holy Spirit … A sacrificial mother knows the eternal destiny of her family depends upon what they experience of the reality of God for themselves … A sacrificial mother does not plead to be excused from the Valley of Weeping. No, she digs wells so her daughters after her will be refreshed as they also pass through the valley. A sacrificial mother watches alertly, hourly, so that the intruder cannot enter her household. She knows upon whom she calls for help and as an intercessor receives blows that are intended to scatter and maim and silence … She demonstrates the humility of heart that invites each child, each daughter, to become to someone, a sacrificial mother.

Not only for us but for many others she was a spiritual mother. She often remarked that if we find the daily news bulletins distressing, how much more must God grieve, seeing that He made us all. Sharing His grief, she also longed to reach out to those trapped in misery. Having suffered herself, she could ‘weep with those who weep', and they responded. Her literature is in great demand in prisons and hospitals. Many have found help and healing through her words and prayers. A woman suffering from depression referred to Mother Basilea's Songs for Spiritual Warfare on tape as one of the lifelines that brought her relief when ‘I felt I was being suffocated by darkness.' ‘My Bible plus this tape were essential during the night.'

For half a century Mother Basilea lived for unity within the Body of Christ, the restoration of Israel, and the preparation of the Bride of Jesus for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Repentance, reconciliation, faith and bridal love for Jesus were the cornerstone of her ministry.

The Jerusalem 2001 Convention: Changing the Future by Confronting the Past in April has often been called the fruit of her life and ministry. The repentance service, now available on video, draws heavily on her book Israel, My Chosen People. Her work for reconciliation with Israel has been described as her most noted achievement in the Christian world. A prominent Israeli wrote of her: ‘An outstanding person who understood the pain inflicted upon the Jewish people, especially during the Shoah … Her passing away is a great loss for our people.'

Her ability to communicate with people of all backgrounds came from the closeness of her walk with God and her love of His Word. In her love for God she longed for everyone to know and love Him too. A Ghanaian friend commented, ‘What a legacy Mother Basilea has left us! May we be true to what she held dear and share it with others.' Similarly an Indian publisher wrote: ‘May the effect and fragrance of her life and ministry continue to spread throughout the world. May the Lord give each one of you special grace and wisdom to be true to the spiritual legacy that Mother has left behind and follow the Lord, even as she followed the Lamb wherever He went.'

With warmest greetings, 
The Sisters of Mary