1813) Sophie the Scrubwoman

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By Patty McGarvey posted at www.alliance.org


     “I vas called to scrub und preach.  I vas a borned preacher, und as I vas poor, I learned to vork.  I do good vork, so people vants me; but if they haf me, they must haf the preaching also.  I scrub as unto the Lord, und preach to all in the house.”

–Sophie Lichtenfels  (1843-1919)

     A rare character of German descent, Sophie Lichtenfels lived in a one-room apartment only a block away from her beloved church, the Gospel Tabernacle in New York City.  Born four days apart from her pastor, the then famous A. B. Simpson, she loved and prayed for her pastor and gave of her meager income to support the missionary outreach he initiated.  Although she was uneducated, she wanted desperately to be a missionary herself.

     “For 12 years I prayed, ‘Oh, Father, make me a foreign mishener.  I vant to go to foreign lands and preach.’  Und Father say, ‘Sophie, stop.  Where were you borned?’  ‘Germany, Father.’ ‘ Where are you now?’  ‘In America.’  ‘Well, ain’t you a foreign mishener already?  And who lives on the floor above you?’  ‘A family of Svedes.’  ‘Und on the floor above them?’  ‘Why, some Svitzers.’  ‘Und in the rear house are Italians, und in a block away some Chinese.  Do you think I will send you a thousand miles away to the foreigner heathen, when you got them all around, und you nefer care enough about them to speak vit them about their soul?’

     “I had some money saved up; und I learnt if I give a few dollars, I could send a boy to school in Japan.  I do it, and now he is mishener among his own people.  One day I hear about the people down South.  ‘Vell,’ Father said, ‘Sophie, you can give to that sure’; but I vas stingy-like.  I felt bad, und Father seemed to say, ‘All you haf I gif you, und you won’t gif a little back.’  I feel worser until I gif enough to send a woman to teach.  Und now I haf a woman teaching for me down South.  So I was in Japan, down South, und here in New York—preaching in three places, like as though I vas triplets!”

     When Sophie died almost every mission of New York and a number from Philadelphia were represented at her memorial service.  Many told of the great blessing she had been and of the number of souls she had won to Christ.


Colossians 3:23  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Matthew 28:18-19a  —  Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”

Acts 20:24  —   I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.


Merciful Father, your kindness caused the light of the Gospel to shine among us.  Extend your mercy now, we pray to all the people of the world who do not have hope in Jesus Christ, that your salvation may be made known to them also and that all hearts would turn to you.  

Lutheran Book of Worship, Prayer #191, Augsburg, 1978.