Anna Benigna Ettwein (1749-1834)
This translation is provided courtesy of the Moravian Archives.
The following is an excerpt from an account written in her own hand by Sister Anna Benigna Ettwein who died peacefully on July 16, 1834.
I am in truth one of the most wretched creatures whom the Saviour has called, and yet He shows mercy. Had He not drawn me to Himself, I by myself, perchance, would not have sought him, therefore He sought me in His mercy and enfolded me in His arms.
I was born on July 19, 1749 in Herrnhaag where my parents John and Johanetta Ettwein were in the service of the Brethren congregation. At the age of ten months my parents found it necessary to place me into the children's institution, inasmuch as they, following a call, went to England and then to America. In my third year I was transferred to the institution in Herrnhut, where I spent the years of my childhood in peace and happiness. I loved the Saviour tenderly and often prayed to Him in secret that He would receive me as His own. I have never forgotten the following circumstance dating back to my childhood years. On my seventh birthday it happened that we had our Sunday love feast. On that occasion Br. John asked me whether I had prayed to the Saviour today and I replied quite simply: No, because I do not know what I shall pray. "Well" he said "pray that He may bless you." This I did as soon as I came to my room and I experienced an inner peace after I had prayed for a good and obedient heart. I prayed to Him in tears that, if I should not be joy to Him, He would take me to Himself now in my tender youth. In my 12th year I became seriously ill, so that my end seemed to be approaching. But this high and precious good fortune was not to be mine so early in life, and instead of bringing my humble thanks to the Friend of children for my recovery, I bemoaned this circumstance with bitter tears. In the same year, on March 25th, with 32 other children I was received into the choir of older girls, and on June 15, 1762 I was received into the congregation together with a large number of girls. How blessed this experience was to me, I shall never forget. The time of waiting when as a member of the congregation I was to come to the Lord's Table, was a period of blessing. On February 12, 1763 I was the recipient of this exalted treasure for the first time and I was so deeply moved that I desired always to remain in this blessed state. However this prayer was not granted. First I had to come to a real and thorough recognition of the misery of my sin. In the year 1764 this necessary and salutary experience came to me. Various happenings had left such a deep impression on my soul that I had a dark and gloomy outlook on life. My faith in the loving Saviour wavered. The temptation to withdraw entirely from the leading of the Good Shepherd and to give ear to the perverse inclination of my sinful hear faced me; but the gracious Saviour had chosen means to save me from this miserable and dangerous situation. My room leader remarked that I was no longer the simple and loving child which I formerly had been and she egged me repeatedly to tell her the reason for this change. I did not want to do that. Finally she urged me not to resist her request any longer. I then disclosed the state of my heart to her. When she hear how hardened I had become in my innermost begin, she was quite startled and exclaimed: If you continue in this manner you will be lost eternally. These words shook me so vehemently that I had to leave the room immediately. I hurried upstairs and with trembling heart I packed my few belongings and decided to leave the choir house. Then I said to myself: Where shall I go? I cannot go to my parents, they are too far away. I lad my belongings down again and felt myself forsaken by God and man. Then a voice came to me: If you have as much faith as a grain of mustard seed, then you can find help. Even if everyone forsakes you, I will never leave you. Come to me! I could not believe that this was the voice of God until it was repeated three times with the addition: Come as you are and I will receive you and be your father. From that moment on peach came to my soul. I fell on my face and with abundant tears of a repentant sinner I vowed eternal faithfulness and childlike obedience to Him. With gratitude and praise to Him I confess that the vow that I had made in my youth was constantly before me, yes, that it was the anchor to which my faith could cling when trials were to be my lot.
On May 4, 1768 I was received into the choir of sisters. Upon entrance therein I renewed the promise to live for Jesus alone. Often I had the wish that I might be useful to the Friend who had loved me even to His death. But my poverty and frailty were the obstacles which I recognized as barring the way to the fulfillment of this wish. The Holy Spirit however clarified this verse to me to my satisfaction: It is your concern quite calmly to bear in mind what belongs to the Lord and how you may please Him now and always.
On January 1, 1790 we reached the goal of our journey. Here in Bethlehem I soon felt at home and very happily lived with my father. Later I moved to the sisters' house and my stay there was one of blessing. On January 2, 1802 the great sorrow came to me, to loose my father for this life. I rejoiced at his good fortune, but the Saviour alone knows how He had to comfort me. My fervent prayer to Him was He would enfold me in His keeping and grant me the grace henceforth to be contented and happy in my choir house. This prayer the Friend of all poor and need souls granted to me and he permitted me to experience the tender love of my sisters, although I tried their patience with my many shortcomings. Now I wait with yearning heart until it pleases Him to take me, His poor, weak child, to Himself.
Thus far her account.
The departed suffered much and frequently because of physical frailties. This was the case especially a few years ago when she had to undergo a painful and serious breast operation. She withstood the operation well and it was possible for her physician (who attended her faithfully during this time and until her death) with God's help to affect complete healing. However from that time on she had to spend much of her time in the sick-room. Since the beginning of this year she was confined to her bed almost entirely, but she bore her long suffering with exemplary patience. She expressed deep gratitude to her nurse who look after her with loving care and unceasing devotion, and she expressed the wish that the rewarder of every good dead would reward her, inasmuch as it was not possible for her to do so. With a yearning soul she awaited her end and she looked forward to the time when it would be her privilege to meet her Redeemer face to face. This happy consummation came to her on July 16, in the forenoon at 10.30 o'clock, one hour after she had received the final blessing.
She attained the age of 85 years, 1 month, less 3 days.