Bartel, Loyal (1901-1971)

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Loyal Bartel, b. 23 November 1901, was the first child of H. C. and Nellie Bartel, born on the high seas as his parents were enroute to China for their first term of missionary service.

He was converted at an early age and dedicated his life to Christian service. At age 17 he began preaching and working with orphan boys. When he was 19 he went to the United States to study at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Fort Wayne (Indiana) Bible College, and Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago. After graduation, he worked with the Chicago Hebrew Mission. On 4 June 1926, he was married to Susan Schultz (22 February 1900, Mountain Lake, Minnesota, USA - 10 January 2008, Hopkins, Minnesota, USA). Five children were born to their union.

The couple went to China as missionaries in 1927, serving in Caoxian (Tsaohsien), Shandong Province, in the Bible school, the publishing house, and in preaching as requested. The only time Loyal returned to the United States wasfor a furlough in the winter of 1936-1937.

When the Bible school was closed in the early 1940s, the couple continued to try to help the Chinese church. During the time of the Japanese occupation of North China, Loyal's youngest brother, Jonathan Bartel, who had spent some years teaching in Shanghai and later served as a missionary in Japan, came to Caoxian to teach Loyal and Susan's three daughters. All other missionaries had left or were detained by the occupation force. During this time the Bartels went through many experiences, including detention and trying to make ends meet by farming.

On Loyal's birthday on 23 November 1941, just before the outbreak of war between the United States and Japan, the family and Jonathan drew Bible verses from a promise box for Loyal. One verse was Job 23:10, "But he knoweth the way that I take: When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." The verse foreshadowed Loyal's experience in the years to come.

Close to the end of World War II, Loyal and his family and Jonathan were taken by the military police to Heze (Tsao Cho Fu), located about 30 mi. (48 km.) north of Caoxian, where Loyal was accused of being a spy on behalf of the guerrillas roaming the villages. From Heze he was taken to higher military authorities in another city, where daily torture of other prisoners was taking place. Here the Lord gave him a promise from Psalms 27:5, "For in the day of trouble he will conceal me in his tabernacle. In the secret place of his tent he will hide me; he will lift me up on a rock." Shortly thereafter, unharmed, Loyal was released.

Finally, in October 1948 Susan and the children and Jonathan left China to return to the United States. Loyal felt constrained to stay. Although during subsequent years under the communist rule, family members tried to encourage him to leave, he insisted that he had no such leading, even though he could not be directly involved in any church work. He moved to the village where he farmed a small plot of land that had not been collectivized. Here he was able to grow enough to support himself for about 10 months of the year. His modest home, with a small coalburning stove, was a gathering place for local farmers during the winter. He was not free to preach, but he could respond to their questions. Almost all of his books, Bibles, photo albums, and other effects had been either confiscated or burned in front of his house. One leaf of his Bible blew out of the flames. It contained Matthew 16:8: "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

After China again began to open up, brothers Jonathan and Paul Bartel traveled there to gather further details about Loyal's death. They were told he had been imprisoned during the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), had been accused as a spy of imperialist America, and that he had died a natural death as a prisoner. Their Christian informants, however, did not know the exact date of his death or place of burial.

In May 1987 Jonathan again went to China with the sole purpose of getting to his hometown of Caoxian. Although the city was still closed to travelers from abroad, he was given a travel permit by the Shandong provincial police. In Caoxian he asked the chief of police for a statement of exoneration for his brother. The chief informed him that Loyal had never been accused of being a spy and therefore he would not be able to give him a statement of exoneration. He did, however, suggest that Jonathan could take Loyal's remains back with him. According to the police, Loyal died on 16 March 1971. A memorial and burial service was held in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, on 22 August 1987.

In 1949 there were approximtely one million Christians in China. In the late 1980s there were at least 50 million. In 2005, there were at least 80 million Chinese Christians, with about 200,000 new converts each year, making it the fastest-growing religion in China. When Jonathan visited Caoxian in 1987, the Caoxian church had just completed a new church building. The church has some 1,000 believers attending on Sundays. He also learned that there are an estimated 20,000 believers in that county alone.


Adapted from an address by Jonathan Bartel at the memorial service for Loyal Bartel, Mountain Lake, 22 August 1987.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.23 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2005.

Mennonite Weekly Review (January 21, 2008): 9

Author(s) John M Bender
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, John M. "Bartel, Loyal (1901-1971)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 13 Jul 2024.,_Loyal_(1901-1971)&oldid=132845.

APA style

Bender, John M. (1987). Bartel, Loyal (1901-1971). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 July 2024, from,_Loyal_(1901-1971)&oldid=132845.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 690-691. All rights reserved.

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