George Adam Benke
[Bahai World, Volume 5, p. 416]
George Adam Benke was born on a flourishing and prosperous farm in Fredericksfelt, Southern Russia [sic: they were Crimean Germans], of Godfearing parents in the year 1878.
When but a small boy of nine he had an attack of smallpox. Taking a severe cold after this, he lay at death’s door for four years. The doctors had little hope of a recovery. When his mother heard this, she fell on her knees at his little cot, beseeching God to restore her boy to health, promising that if he recovered, his life should be dedicated to God’s service as a missionary.
Very shortly after this a peasant woman was found who declared she could effect a cure. She proceeded to administer doses of sarsaparilla brewed from an herb, and fed the boy only on unleavened bread. At the end of two weeks there was a marked improvement, so the child was allowed to have his regular food for a time, and then to go back again to her treatment. In a very short time Adam was up and about.
When the time drew near for his higher education, a great famine and pestilence fell on the land. The crops failed. Barely enough grain was saved for the families’ nourishment, while twenty-six of the best horses and cattle died. All thought of educating Adam as a missionary had to be abandoned, and instead he became a schoolmaster.
Nevertheless his mother’s great desire for him filled his thoughts, and while unable to go forth to foreign fields, or become a university student, still he could and did live a life of love for God. And when, in 1901, he married Miss Lina Wolf from Carlsruhe, Baden, they together searched long and lovingly for truth.
Then came the world’s war, after which German soldiers came to the Crimea. Life soon became very hazardous, and it seemed better to escape with the soldiers. They then settled in Liepzig, and having had to leave all their worldly possessions behind them, they had to begin all over again.
Some twelve or more months later, while they were still investigating reality through the Theosophical Society, they had the joy of meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Ober and Miss Alma Knoblock, who gave to them the glorious message of Bahá’u’lláh. They then knew that they had found what they had long sought, The Pearl of Great Price, and thereafter they gave all attention to the study of the Sacred utterances.
To Mr. Benke’s delight, he found in the University Library of Liepzig the Russian writings by Thomansky and Rosenberg translations from Bahá’u’lláh. These he proceeded to put into German and, in order to enable himself to further enrich the German Bahá’í Library, he set himself the task of studying English, since a good number of these precious words had already been translated into English.
In June, 1931, Mr. Benke was called to help Mrs. Jack in Sofia, where his knowledge of Russian was of great benefit, since that language is now taught in the high schools. He worked arduously in this city nearly three months, leaving no stone unturned in his
efforts to find the ready souL. He was sent during the month of August to the Esperanto Congress at Starazagora, and meeting the Bulgarian President on the train, who became much attracted to him, he was elected honorary vice-president of the Congress.
He was again called to Sofia the following year, and remained until his passing in November.
During those months Mr. Benke worked night and day. Nothing could divert his attention from the work in hand. When nothing else offered he studied Bulgarian, English, and Esperanto. His ambition to become an efficient teacher of the Cause and a servant of whom his beloved Guardian would be proud was very great. His devotion to the Great Head of the Baha’i Administration was very touching. He wanted to obey not only to the letter, but to the spirit, and studied earnestly every letter from the Great Guardian, and every word of the Administration in order that he might become absolutely efficient in this important matter, and such an obedient servant that he would be above reproach. His longing was that all believers should be firmly centered in the One chosen for us by our Heavenly Beloved Abdu’l-Baha to guard and guide us after His ascension.
The second year in Sofia he was again elected as vice-president of the Esperanto Congress, this time held in that city. Later he was invited to Varna on the Black Sea. Here he spoke twice under the auspices of the Esperanto Society to groups of enquirers. On his return journey he stopped over in Starazagora to renew his acquaintance with the Esperanto friends and refresh their knowledge of the teachings. Likewise he looked up his friend Dr. Tchervenkof in Plovdiv to meet those interested by him in that city.
Up to the very hour of his death Mr.
Benke was in harness and in the evening he taught a Russian lady, and later, until after midnight, he was giving counsel and advice to a young Bulgarian brother. He had no illness at the last, only a short half-hour of discomfort during which time he turned in prayer to Bahá’u’lláh for relief, and sweetly passed with the “Remover of difficulties” on his lips, into the great beyond, to join the noble army of martyrs in the Supreme Concourse, and at last to see face to face the Adored One whom he had never met in life except frequently in the happy hours of dreams.
His body was laid to rest in the Sofia cemetery.
All who knew him in Sofia and elsewhere testified to the beauty of his life and character. Many and many a one felt that when he went they had lost a dear friend and brother and one whose interest in them was of immense spiritual help, for he longed for their heavenly welfare as well as for the peace, unity and concord of all humanity. His example in living the life spoke even more loudly than his eloquent words.
[Bahai World, Volume 5, pp. 416-418]
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