The Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA) is a global church project that will produce a brand-new reference work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In my research for ESDA, I have learned of the contributions of many missionaries who, until now, remained largely unknown. A few of those missionaries are Elisabeth Redelstein and Karl and Clärle F. Noltze.
Elisabeth Redelstein was born on December 8, 1891, in Germany. She was one of the most influential missionary nurses the Seventh-day Adventist Church has ever had. Her leadership roles in China and Taiwan helped raise and maintain new Adventist hospitals in both countries. These hospitals were harbingers of health innovation at a time when health care was considered a luxury in those regions.
Redelstein even ministered to the Chinese ruling family. From 1928 on, she was acquainted with Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese first lady. She accompanied the first lady and the Generalissimo on several trips in China around mid-1935. She also accompanied Madame Chang Hsueh-liang (whose name was Yu Fengzhi), wife of the famed “Young Marshal” of China, to Europe in 1936. Her relationship with the Chinese ruling class put the Adventist denomination in the limelight while fostering cordial relations between the Chinese government and Adventists.
Sometime later, Redelstein worked as a translator for the United States Army in Germany during the Nuremberg trials of October 1945. In 1970, she was among 10 nurses voted into the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Nurses’ (ASDAN) hall of fame. In 1975, the year designated by the United Nations as the International Women’s year, she was among the women honored by the General Conference in session during a special service on July 15.
In 1978, when Redelstein was 86, the Israeli Health Department set up a scholarship fund in her name for young Israeli postgraduate nurses to continue their education in the United States. The fund was the result of an unexpected friendship between Redelstein and Olga Hoffmann, a Jewish lawyer from Tel Aviv. They met in Germany during the Nuremberg trials where Hoffmann served as a legal representative. “The Jew and the German developed a lasting friendship,” writes Yvonne Hanson, “and 32 years later Mrs. Hoffmann explains her action in a letter dated December 1977: ‘To find a diamond in the sand is nothing compared to finding a person so straight, upright, dependable, and ready to help as you are.’ ” Elisabeth Redelstein died on August 15, 1987, at the age of 95.
Karl and Clärle F. Noltze
Karl F. Noltze was born on September 14, 1903, in Tübingen, Germany, and served 45 years as a missionary, a pastor, and an administrator for the Adventist Church. As a pioneer missionary and church administrator, he worked to establish and strengthen the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Liberia. Noltze’s 14 years of service saw the building of three mission stations as well as schools. In addition to providing a quality education, the schools taught new believers a variety of skills, greatly increasing their opportunities for employment. Noltze’s wife, Clärle, who was at the forefront of their medical mission activities, contributed to a sustainable livelihood for the people to whom her husband preached the gospel.
Noltze was an ardent writer, and his reports contributed to the expanding knowledge of Liberia. Noltze also translated many songs and stories into Kpelle, one of the local Liberian languages. With his knowledge of the Kpelle language, he helped Diedrich Westermann, a professor from Berlin, Germany, publish a practical orthography of African languages and a monumental work on the languages of West Africa. Noltze became one of the few early Adventist Africanists. He died of a heart attack at the age of 88 on February 22, 1992.
1 See Redelstein’s articles for the Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, “My Year With China’s First Lady,” parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, November 4, 11, 18, 25, 1943.
2 ASDAN is a professional Adventist organization of registered and vocational nurses started in 1967 in the United States. Norma Eldridge, “ASDAN’s Third Annual Meeting,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, June 8, 1970, 12.
3 “Honored Women of the Church,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 7–14, 1975, 26.
4 Yvonne J. Hanson, “Israeli Scholarship Honors Adventist,” Adventist Review, April 6, 1978, 27.
5 See Karl Noltze, “Die Liberia Mission,” Der Adventbote, December 15, 1929, 381–383.
6 See, for example, Diedrich Westermann, The Languages of West Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952).
7 Others were Ernst Kotz and Rudolf Reider.
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