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Memoir of Johan Valentine Frey

The widowed Brethren, Valentine Frey, who fell blessedly asleep in Hope, North Carolina on September 13, 1798, was born on May 9, 1721 in Wingen, Palatinate [now Wingen, Bas-Rhin, France] and was brought up in the Lutheran faith. His childhood passed according to his own confessions without much thought about himself or the salvation of his soul. In his thirteenth year, his parents and their children moved to America, settling first on the Barrawage in the state of Pennsylvania. About this time, the Spirit of God began to work mightily in his heart, but he did not understand what was happening, yet never the less he lived an honorable Christian life, attending preaching frequently and once took communion in the Lutheran Church. Somewhat later, he moved with his parents to Muddy Creek, Pa. [actually Moden Creek, Lancaster Co., PA, now East Cocalico Twp., Lancaster Co., PA] where he first learned to know the Brethren who were beginning a Society there of preaching and of the other services, brought good to his disturbed heart so he decided to unite himself with their Society. About this time, he married the widow, Barbara Meyer, maiden name Binckele, with whom he had 13 children, from whom he has lived to see 102 grandchildren and 49 great-grandchildren. His wife died peacefully in the year 1791. At the place of their residence, the organization of a congregation of the Brethren failed to materialize, so in the course of time they moved to Heidelberg, Pa., and as he had already been received into the Unity, he partook for the first time of the Holy communion with the Heidelberg congregation. In June 1765, his parents and brothers moved to North Carolina and he came with them, attending the Holy Communion at Bethabara, until the congregation of Friedberg was organized, when he became one of the first members. In the course of some years, he moved to the neighborhood of Hope, N.C. During this period he turned into various by-paths which interrupted his fellowship with us. Although under these circumstances he was often reminded of what he had formerly felt in his heart, and although he often attended our meeting he did not experience the desired change of heart, until finally the Savior brought him to knowledge of himself, melted his heart, and led him to realize that he was a poor sinner. He at once related his experience, testifying that he had received Grace and forgiveness of his sins, through the Savior and now earnestly wishes again to partake of the Holy Communion with the congregation, which request was granted.

When in later days, he spoke of this time, he wept bitter tears, saying: "Oh how faithfully the Savior had dealt with me, and how He has gone with me all the way." In the course of time, he returned to Friedberg, but in 1794 went back to Hope to the home of one of his daughters, who cared for him faithfully to the end, of which he spoke with gratitude. We can bear witness of him, that he, especially in the later days of his life, stood in close communion with the Savior. He was not easily prevented from attending the Sunday services, although on account of his age it was often hard for him to come. Sometimes he bemoaned his outward circumstances and regretted that there was no one near him who felt as he did, but usually ended by saying: "Why should I complain? I have something that once I did not have. My Savior is my best friend; to Him I tell all my circumstances and, oh!, that refreshes and comforts me indescribably."

The salvation of his children lay close to his heart, and he affirmed that he prayed constantly for them to the Savior. He often spoke with much regret of the fact that his children did not belong to the Brethren's Church which he liked so much. "Some", he said, "are too far away and others, who lived nearby have neglected it." The Holy Communion was his firm, true sustenance and a strengthening for his soul. Each time, his preceding declaration concerning his need of Grace, which the Savior showed to his heart, was edifying. On one occasion as he lay on his death bed, he said, "Oh, the Holy Communion is a great thing--he who has once partaken of it with the Brethren has something which he can never lose, even if he wanders from the path, and it brings him back. I have myself experienced that."

On the 2nd of this month, (September) he was here in the meeting house for the funeral of a single woman, Sarah Taylor, but he was already so weak that he could not go to the graveyard and remarked to several Brethren, "I will be next". On reaching home he was obliged to go to bed. Each visit found him in a blessed condition of faith. "The Savior is near me," he said, "I do not know whether this is the end, or not, but if it is, His Will I am ready and glad", and he testified that nothing hindered him for appearing joyfully before the Savior. When verses were sung for him, he said several times that they expressed the feelings of his heart and joined in the singing of them. Having brought all his material affairs into order he waited in quiet confidence for his last hour, which came in the evening of the 13th of this month (September) and he softly and blessedly fell asleep--his age being 77 years, 4 months and 4 days.

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