Photo: Photo courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives

Adventist Women of the Past (6)

Women's History Month

Adventist Women of the Past (6)

Often the contribution of Adventist women is hidden in the biography of her husband. Information about the life of a missionary wife is often scarce, although she participated in their joint mission.

Ising, Walter Konrad Wilhelm (1881–1950) and Frieda (1884–1966)

By Chigemezi Nnadozie Wogu (short version - for the full version go to|ising)

Walter and Frieda Ising were German Adventist missionaries to the Middle East.
Early Life and Marriage
Walter Konrad Wilhelm Ising was born March 30, 1881, in Danzig, Germany. At the age of eight, he was sent by his mother together with his sister to the United States, where he attended a Lutheran school in St. Joseph, Missouri. Six years later he returned to Germany. In the summer of 1903, after he participated in a camp meeting and had a personal conversation with William Spicer, he decided to become a pastor. At the beginning of 1904 he was baptized by Emil Frauchiger in Berlin. Immediately afterwards he began studying at the Mission Seminary in Friedensau.
Frieda Schlegel was born January 29, 1884, in Vohwinkel, Germany. She was the third of nine children born to Swiss Adventist parents. After learning French at the French Worker’s Training school at Gland, she became a governess to a family in Leipzig, Germany. She then went to Friedensau Missionary Seminary to become a nurse. It was here that she met Walter. In 1904 Walter proposed to marry Frieda by asking the school band to serenade her. When she concluded her studies, Frieda began working as a Bible worker, and in August 1907 she and Walter were married.
From Military Service to Church Service
At the end of 1904 Walter was enlisted into military service in the Imperial Guard of the Kaiser. He refused to serve on the Sabbath. After repeated interrogation, he was released from military service. Immediately after this he was appointed as Ludwig R. Conradi’s personal secretary.
From 1905 to 1908 Walter was secretary of the German Union, which also covered Russia, Austria, Hungary, and the Eastern Balkan states. Around the end of 1905 he began serving as editor of the Adventist German church paper Zions-Wächter
 Missionary Work in the Middle East
In April 1908 Walter Ising, who had just turned 27, was sent with his wife, Frieda, and their baby daughter to the Levant Union Mission (covering Greece, Crete, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, parts of Northern Africa, and Persia). Its headquarters was in Beirut, Lebanon, where the Isings settled and began to lead the Adventist mission in the Middle East. At that time the Adventist presence in the Arabic countries was minimal. Ising himself reports that work had started in Beirut, Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem, with a membership of “only about twenty, including the workers themselves.”
Things turned out quite difficult for the missionary couple. According to David Trim, “Hardly had Walter and Frieda arrived when both contracted typhoid fever. At the advice of other Westerners, they were moved out of Beirut into the hills. Left prostrate, Walter could no longer dream about how to transform the work; instead he devoted himself to prayer and reflection. He earnestly asked God to help them ‘find His people among the inhabitants of this land.’”
With a conviction to do God’s work, he moved back to Beirut and started offering Bible classes. “In 1909, he baptized a group of men. Several were from the Ottoman province of Mesopotamia—today’s country of Iraq.” Upon getting to Beirut, he labored to study Arabic and enrolled in the Syrian Protestant College. Then he began Bible studies at his home specially geared towards the students at the college.
Soon afterwards Ising began mission strategizing. He approached the work in three ways. First, he began working by building on what was already done by the workers there. In this vein, it is reported that he traveled widely over his field, in Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Mesopotamia, reaching isolated brethren and opening the fields for workers. Through all the dangers and discomforts of Oriental travel in that time—on foot, on horseback and camelback, on coastwise trading vessels, and crude native river boats, and even in the first few automobiles to appear in the East, he made himself familiar with the conditions and the prospects for the gospel through this wide area.
Second, Ising focused on German communities. He did this because he found that he was not knowledgeable of the culture, language, and people of the Arab world. When Ising first arrived in Beirut, he was forced to rely on the German community there. Unfortunately, he found limited interest. In Haifa, he visited Mrs. Müller, an Adventist German nurse, who was working among the German settlers and colonists. Third, aside from studying Arabic, which he pursued earnestly, he labored for the transition of the mission to indigenous leadership. However, plans for this were only realized beginning in 1928.
Around 1913, when the territory of Egypt was divided, Ising became the superintendent of the mission in Lower Egypt with a combined membership of 50 people. Soon after Ising decided to make a trip to Iraq. The aim of the trip, which lasted about a year, was to organize the Adventist work there. While he was in Iraq, Frieda Ising and her little daughter went to London, where she studied midwifery. In 1914, when World War I broke out, Frieda took care of wounded English soldiers, while her husband, who at the time was living in Egypt, a British territory, was interned throughout the war. As a German citizen, he was sent to a concentration camp on the Island of Malta, where he spent 61 months without sufficient food or water.  After the Armistice on November 11, 1918, Frieda went back to Friedensau to work as a midwife. A year later the family was finally reunited when Ising came back to Europe.  He taught temporarily at the Mission Seminary in Friedensau, and for six months he directed the Home Missionary and Sabbath School departments of the West German Union Conference.
Following the War, the mission in Europe was reorganized. In July 1920, Ising was elected secretary of the European Division. His family spent two years in Denmark and six years in Berne, Switzerland. In December 1928 the Isings were called back to the Middle East Mission.
Later Life
It was in the Middle East that Walter and Frieda Ising’s son Konrad was born after they had waited for another child for 20 years. In 1937 the Isings returned to Europe. Ising became the secretary of the Central European Division. In 1938 he began working at the General Conference as associate secretary in charge of the Sabbath School department. The family moved to Takoma Park. He retired in 1950. His wife Frieda was involved with Dorcas work, was an avid gardener, and was a life member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) She won a ribbon from the Horticultural Club Takoma Park and received a plaque from the Red Cross as a result of her humanitarian activities. On September 23, 1950, Walter Ising died. Soon after her husband’s death Frieda’s health deteriorated. She died July 11, 1966.
Walter and Frieda Ising’s lives were a vivid portrayal of sacrifice, dedication, and zeal for the denomination where they found the gospel. As a pioneer missionary, Walter Ising’s dynamic leadership led to establishing Adventism in parts of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Jerusalem. He encouraged the missionaries there to let indigenous leaders take up the affairs of the church. As an administrator and mission strategist, he ensured that policies that favored the mission efforts of the denomination were carried out. He also surveyed the mission fields to that effect as a GC field secretary.