Two boxes of Low German books shipped to a bookstore in Seminole, Texas – home to a group of Low German speakers who migrated north from Mexico. As well as those living in Texas, people from Low German communities in Mexico often travel into Texas to shop or pick up mail. For those from very conservative communities, cross-border shopping is a convenient way to purchase things that may be discouraged by colony leaders in Mexico; even things like hymn books, Bibles and other Low German books.
We regularly send Low German resources to Latin American countries. In fact, a large number of Irene’s books are currently part of a shipping container going Bolivia via Paraguay. But this is the first shipment of Low German resources we’ve sent to the community in Texas.
Irene Marsch, author of some of the books, is amazed at how God orchestrates the distribution of the books she writes. Says Irene, “I do not know where next the Lord will take this Low German Christian book ministry, but I’m humbled and grateful to be part of it.”
In addition to the books authored by Irene, the shipment includes hymnbooks translated into Low German by John C. Klassen.
John and Bertha (Pauls) Klassen began their music ministry with Square One (then Gospel Light Hour) as courting singles in the 1950s. Until their retirement in 1999, they recorded, travelled, and performed live with a variety of choirs and ensembles: Bertha as a pianist and John as a vocalist.
Gospel Light Hour began as one English language radio program, but by 1959, programs were also being produced in Russian, German and Low German. Since there was very little music available in Low German, John began translating familiar hymns so they could be recorded for the Low German programs.
Traditional Low German communities worship in High German, a language that is more formal but less familiar. John wanted people to be able to sing in the language they understood. Along with J.J. Neufeld, the Low German producer from 1959 to 1987, John compiled an early booklet of Low German songs (Plautdietsche Leeda) in the 1960s. John continued the work, even after retirement, and published two volumes of 250 hymns each. Plautdietsche Eewanjeelische Leeda ("Low German Evangelical Songs") was published in 2012, with Book 2 following in 2014.
John passed away in 2016, but he and Bertha gifted the printing rights for the hymnbooks to Square One. The books continue to be published and distributed in small batches several times a year.
John and Bertha Klassen played and taught a variety of instruments,
but Bertha is best known as a pianist and John as a symphony violinist.
Shown here in a 1960s photo: Bertha at the piano with the Gospel
Light Hour Men’s Choir; and John, front, 4th from the left.