Karl Alexandrovich Reifschneider was a pioneer missionary, pastor, and administrator who worked in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Russia.
Early Life and Baptism
Karl Alexandrovich Reifschneider was born in 1869 into a German family in Karras, near the city of Pyatigorsk, Russia. His mother was one of the first Adventists among the German settlements by the river Urup. In Eigenheim, not far from the city of Aleksandrodar, there was a small Baptist congregation whose members came to know the Sabbath message in 1885 from Adventist tracts received from the Crimea. Some of them accepted this message. In 1887 Konrad Laubgan made a visit to those brethren among whom Reifschneider was also present. Most of those present were taught Adventist doctrines and, as a result, an Adventist congregation of 47 members was established. In 1889 Reifschneider was baptized in Aleksandrodar.
Sometime later, around 1891, Reifschneider attended the Mission Training School at Hamburg, Germany. During his school years Reifschneider became an active missionary by distributing Adventist tracts among sailors.
Ministry Firsts, Ordination, and Marriage
On April 30, 1896, Reifschneider was sent1 to work as an evangelist in the Yekaterinoslav Governorate. In the autumn of 1899, he continued his ministry in Libava (Liepāja), Latvia. He continued serving in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Bessarabia until 1902.
Reifschneider married Tatyana Kuzmina, a pastor’s daughter. They had two children: Olga and Alexander. Olga became a famous Adventist poetess.2
In 1902 Reifschneider met K. S. Shamkov, a future Adventist minister, and encouraged him to accept Christ. In October 1903 Reifschneider was transferred to serve in Hungary where he was ordained as a pastor in 1905.3 Then, together with J. F. Ginter, he served in Transylvania (Romania). In 1907 Reifschneider returned to Russia.
Administrative Ministry, Later Years
In 1908 he took over the leadership of the Siberian Missionary Field from the city of Omsk.4 From 1909 to 1920, Reifschneider held a number of administrative positions. For example, he chaired the Caucasus Conference from 1912 to 1920.5 Between 1912 and 1920 he chaired the Azovsko-Chernomorskaya Conference, 1920--1923 saw him as president of the South Russian Union. He continued his work despite the typhus plague that hit Russia in 1922.6 From 1924 to 1928 Karl Reifschneider served in the Republic of the Volga Germans where he was president7 for some period of time in the Eastern Union and the Middle-Volga Conference.
In 1929 Reifschneider was struck down by apoplexy. He had to be moved to Kiev to be cared for by his daughter Olga Goncharova. Shortly after, he died.
After about seventy years of active service to the Adventist Church, Karl Reifschneider left a legacy of a pioneer missionary who helped in establishing Adventism in some cities of Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Bessarabia. As pastor and administrator, he contributed to the consolidation of Adventism wherever he served.
Conradi, L. R. “Good Tidings from the German Union Conference.” ARH, March 16, 1905.
Ising, W. K. “Our Medical Men Entering Russia.” Eastern Tidings, August 15, 1925.
Löbsack, H. J. Velikoye Adventistskoye dvizheniye i Adventisty Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii. Rostov-na-Donu: Altair, 2006.
Löbsack, H. J. “Through Revolution and Famine in Russia.” ARH, June 15, 1922.
Olsen, O. A. and Spicer, W. A. “Reports of the Russian Conference.” General Conference Bulletin, May 17, 1909.
Yunak D. O. Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (1886-2000). Chto slyshali, ne skroem ot detei (v dvukh tomakh). Zaokskyi: Istochnik Zhizni, 2002.
Yunak D. O. “Oblako svidetelei. Rukovoditeli Tserkvi ASD v Rossii ot organizatsii ejo pervoi obshchiny do zakrytiya Vsesoyuznogo Soyuza ASD.” Personal Archives, 2013.
After a session of the Russian Missionary Field, chaired by L.R. Konradi in Aleksandrodar.↩
She married a pastor A.I. Goncharov in 1926. After the death of her father, she migrated to the USA together with her husband, where she did translations and managed the Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence School for ethnic Russians.↩
Ludwig Richard Conradi, “Good Tidings from the German Union Conference,” ARH, March 16, 1905, 13.↩
See O. A. Olsen and W. A. Spicer, “Reports of the Russian Conference,” General Conference Bulletin, May 17, 1909, 34.↩
See H. J. Löbsack, “Through Revolution and Famine in Russia,” ARH, June 15, 1922, 5. In the article, it is reported that “Brother Dick died of dysentery, Brother Sittnech of cholera, while Brethren Borm and Schelesnikow, both Bible workers, died of typhus. Brethren Reifschneider, H. K. Löbsack, H. J. Löbsack, and a number of other workers with their families have been sorely stricken with this plague, but have been graciously spared to the cause by the blessing of the Lord.”↩
See mention by Walter K. Ising, “Our Medical Men Entering Russia,” Eastern Tidings, August 15, 1925, 4.↩