Born on November 7, 1904, in Hamburg, Germany, a businessman's daughter, the third of five girls, she came to a living faith in Jesus at the age of 15 while being prepared by her Lutheran pastor for confirmation. In 1923 she went to Kassel to train as a kindergarten teacher and there she met Klara Schlink, with whom she was later to found the sisterhood. From 1924 to 1926 she continued her studies in Berlin at the Women's College for Social Welfare Training. Her career as a social worker took her to London, Berlin, and finally Hamburg.
In 1935, in answer to a clear call of God, she gave up her job as a social worker and accompanied Dr. Klara Schlink to Darmstadt in order to start a Christian ministry. Twelve seemingly futile years followed. Early during her time in Darmstadt, however, she was invited to take over the local Girls' Bible Study Group. Under her leadership it grew within two years from 6 to 100 girls, although such Christian youth work was almost impossible in the politically sinister climate of Hitler's Germany. From this group came the founding members of the sisterhood, which sprang out of a revival at the end of World War II. Founded in 1947, the sisterhood is now an interdenominational community with approximately 250 members from 20 nations, including an affiliated group for men, the Canaan Franciscan Brothers.
As a community we give thanks for what Mother Martyria meant to us personally and collectively. Grounding us firmly in the Word of God, she led us deeper into our calling: love for Jesus, born of daily repentance and the experience of His forgiveness. Few could communicate so effectively the meaning of justification by faith, dedication to God, and the victorious Christian living described in Paul's Letter to the Romans, the wholesome diet on which she fed us. Her practical and spiritual insights, encapsulated in her book Grund meiner Freude, translated into English under the title Turning Defeat into Victory: Discipleship in the Light of Romans, nourished our faith and laid the foundations for our calling.
Throughout her life Mother Martyria pointed to Jesus. In old age the more frail her body became, the more the Lord shone out of her, so powerfully that even strangers commented. Now she can see face to face the One whom she loved and served for nearly eight decades.
It is our prayer that we might uphold her spiritual legacy and that the blessing of her life will continue to touch many lives. The words of 2 Corinthians 2:14 perhaps best sum up Mother Martyria's life and her ministry of encouragement, as well as our deep sense of gratitude:
‘Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him' (NIV).