The Destinies and Adventures of the Stephanists who emigrated from Saxony to America - pages 14 - 18

no shortage of collected works and small treatises while others occupied themselves in more or less worldly activities. That was going to change. After a vote it was decided that all lower deck passengers would be prepared to participate in a communal devotional service at 8 o'clock in the morning.

On Sunday, December 23rd the turbulent pitching of the ship prevented church services from being held. Instead they had to be held in the evening. — That same day the emigrants saw their first flying fish (Exocoetus volans.) They flew and fluttered en masse around the ship. This only happened when they were pursued by predators and as soon as their pectoral fins dried they fell back into the sea. Schools of porpoises (also called sea pigs or dolphins [Delphinus delphis]) also passed by the Olbers.

There was very warm weather on Tuesday, December 25th, the first day of Christmas celebrations. While in the old homeland the cold of winter might paint frost flowers on the windows, here on the Olbers the sultry winds of summer prevailed. Oh, but many an emigrant would have preferred the icy cold to the pleasant warmth if only he could have returned to his former abode.

The sermon for this important ceremony was delivered by Pastor Stephan and the song of the Stephanists glided over the peaceful waves of the sea

like a greeting coming from the familiar homeland:

         Now sing, all glory to God on high!
         Thy Christians are here on the sea,
         Singing our praise with the heavenly host
         For the time of our Savior is nigh.

         As Noah rejoiced on the mountain peak
         After forty days in the ark,
         The dove of peace returned to him
         With an olive branch in its beak.

         Unto the Lord let our voices reach
         At Christmas time here on the sea,
         May the angel descend upon us now
         and bring us this symbol of peace.

         To God the Creator all honor
         Father of sky and land and sea,
         A son now sleeps in a manger
         His godhood imparted by Thee.

         O Lord Jesus, O holy child,
         Let this ship be your cradle mild,
         In your divinity come to stay
         As we celebrate Christmas day.

         Think of us in your tiny berth,
         Be our guide upon this earth.
         A cradle for Christ, let us abide,
         May power and wisdom here preside.

         In joy we remain poor and few
         So, dear child, we can be with you;
         In your godhood you rule us all
         Not from a palace, but a stall.

         Deliver us from war and strife,
         In your godhood we find life,
         When the deluge recedes at last
         May our ship come to Ararat.

         After forty days endless rain
         Let our ship forever remain,
         Let Noah's dove come to the peak
         With the sign of peace in its beak.

         When comes the final Judgment Day
         Let the rainbow show us the way,
         Grant, O Lord, we may see your face
         And stand upon the side of grace.

But the eye of many a father was damp when he thought about the homeland and how the children jubilantly jumped around as Christmas gifts were distributed, even if they were modest gifts. — That was all over now. Here there was no Christmas tree to delight the poor children, who sadly pressed themselves up against parents lost in their own thoughts. — For them it was a melancholy Christmas night!


The second day of Christmas was unhappy for one of the passengers, Lakai Klemm. In the afternoon he decided to go from the dining hall to the cabins. He tried to make his way over a bench, stepped into a hole, which had recently been opened and fell into the lower ship's room. He was examined by a physician who found that the unfortunate man had broken two ribs and was in need of medical attention. The presence of Dr. Schnabel

was indeed fortuitous. Pastor Walther took the opportunity during the evening prayer service to make the tragic accident an object of communal contemplation.

On Sunday, December 30th a significant intake of water in the ship's keel gave rise to much turmoil. Noisy sailors had to listen to many comments concerning the desecration of the Sabbath but of course they could not be halted from performing their tasks.

On Monday, Sylvester Eve [New Year's Eve] Pastor Walther conducted evening prayers with special attention to the ending of this year and the hope that on the first day of the new year there might be sightings of the promised land. This reinvigorated the moods of the emigrants. But the next day a dark veil still covered the horizon and many had sweet dreams of rapture in New Canaan, where milk and honey flowed, while they gnawed on dry ship's biscuits. — Once most the deck passengers had gone to their tiny quarters for their nightly repose and only a few remain on open deck, the leaders of the true flock gathered in the summer salon. — Here they sat with their lord and master in the middle. The full moon reflected in the punchbowl and filled glasses were passed from one hand to another. For them it was a joyous celebration of the old year. The new year would establish their reign in the New World.

In the future they would learn that they too had miscalculated.

On Wednesday, January 2nd there was an extraordinary calming of the winds. On this day the ship's carpenter harpooned a porpoise. It was a performance which attracted the attention of all the passengers. — On January 3rd the weather turned violent with teeming rains. — On the 4th from afar one could see the island of Puerto Rico but could not make out any of the objects on shore. Around midnight the weather again turned violent, this time accompanied by a storm. The sight of a storm at sea is indeed magnificent even though it fills those in harm's way with fear. Even so, this wondrous drama of nature also raises in men a respect for the Lord of heaven and earth, at whose command the tides flow. Once the storm died down, the peaceful current billowed with gentle waves. A thousand twinkling stars brightened the night and reflected on the mirrored surface of the water when scarcely a few hours before it had perhaps claimed many lives and commended them to their dark graves.

On Sunday, January 6th at 2 in the morning the Olbers approached the coast of Santo Domingo. The storm hindered church services on that day. The ship came so close to land that the passengers could see the trees. All feasted their eyes on the long awaited sighting of solid ground. An unfavorable wind forced the captain to veer in closer to the coast for three days, so everyone had

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Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825

Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks