- Carl Althaus
- Hometown (Last School)
- Louisville, KY (Manual)
- April 20, 1921
Carl was born into a Christian family in 1921 in Louisville, Kentucky. The family home backed up to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary grounds, where he and his brothers played. Carl always talked about his mom’s cooking – soup, stuffed cabbage, and Sunday morning “kuchen” (German coffee cake) – and how hard his dad worked. The family attended Market Street Methodist Church, where his mom taught Sunday school. His mom loved to hear people talk about the Bible and she would invite preachers and young students for dinner, which on one occasion included young Billy Graham.
Carl’s athletic experience was remarkable. He earned letters in 5 sports in high school, played football on a 1938 National Championship team, and played college basketball under a multi-awarded coach Adolph Rupp at University of Kentucky. During World War II he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served as a B-24 bomber pilot from 1943 to 1945. After the war, he returned to work in his father’s business, Althaus Plumbing.
Carl’s parents and aunt, Beta Scheirich, were very influential in his life, from their prayer for him to their example in living a life for the Lord’s interest. Aunt Beta was a missionary when she met Watchman Nee in China. She wrote home to Carl’s parents regarding the speaking from Brother Nee’s ministry. She gave up her missionary work to participate with him in establishing churches based on the ground of oneness of the believers. She returned to Louisville in 1948 due to the communist takeover. Once back in the United States she was burdened to pray diligently for the Lord’s recovery and for His move in this country. After praying some time she asked the Lord to give her someone to pray with. Carl’s mother began to pray with Beta and from this Carl realized the importance of the practical oneness of the believers. A few families dropped their denominational ties and began to meet in Carl’s parents’ home on this basis in the early 1950’s. They also stayed in fellowship with other Christians in New York and other parts of the country. In his spiritual seeking Carl also traveled to England to attend a conference with T. Austin Sparks, a renowned inner-life Christian author and speaker. Carl remained faithful to the heavenly vision regarding the experience of Christ and the oneness of the believers for the rest of his life.
The critical turning point of Carl’s life came during his twenties when he resolved to seek first the kingdom of God at any cost. He came to desire to have a Christian marriage and an open home like his parents. In the church meetings he found and fell in love with Phoebe Baker, and they married in 1960. Together they created a warm and vibrant home to raise their children, host church members for meals and have church meetings. When Witness Lee, Watchman Nee’s coworker, began to visit families in the United States, he stayed in their home several times.
In 1969 the Lord was calling to gather seeking believers across the U.S. Carl and Phoebe responded with the desire to move to either Atlanta or Los Angeles. At a conference in Erie, Pennsylvania, Carl and Phoebe asked Witness Lee what he thought. He responded only with, “The informal training in Los Angeles starts in February.” They were clear what they needed to do and made arrangements for the handling of the family business, packed the home they had finally finished remodeling after ten years, gathered their 3 children at that time, and moved across the country. They arrived in Los Angeles for the start of the training in 1970 and never looked back.
Through the years they moved two more times to follow the Lord without counting the cost. Each time, Carl restarted a new business, first Brothers’ Plumbing and then Carl’s Plumbing. While continuing to support his family, Carl unreservedly volunteered much of his time in serving the church and building meeting halls, often putting in a full day’s work in his business and then driving to another location to work until midnight.
He was an early riser, consistently reading the Bible in the morning and then making eggs for breakfast, every morning. He was a wonderful father, gentle and good humored, but a firm disciplinarian with high expectations of his children. His children recall his bedtime stories, where he invented the fictional Giggleheimer family and which always contained a moral lesson. He was a man of few words, but what he spoke, you needed to hear.
Through the years, many from all over the world enjoyed specific times with Carl and Phoebe around their dinner table. Their boundless hospitality became a pattern to all. As the number of guests kept increasing (at one point more than 30 saints), Carl would always say, “When the heart is big enough, the walls will stretch.”
In 1998, Carl lost his wife of 38 years and was forced to retire at age 76, with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. For these last ten years he was often physically unable to participate in the church life. Yet he always responded to those who came to his home, and enjoyed spending time with an increasing number of grandchildren. We are grateful we were able to be with him for so many years and that he finished his course in peace.
I Corinthians 15:38 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget hospitality, for through this some, without knowing it, have entertained angels.
Joshua 24:15 As for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.