Eastern Mennonite Missions (Lancaster Mennonite Conference)

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Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM, known as the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities until 1993) (Mennonite Church) was organized in 1914 (incorporated 1916) to serve the missionary interests of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. The organized interest in missions as such in the Lancaster district had its beginning about 1893. In the Paradise district of Lancaster Conference the first meeting to promote mission work was held on 15 September 1893, by a group who called themselves Home Mission Advocates. In spite of opposition, they met regularly afterwards. The third regular meeting, held at Paradise on 14 November 1895, was a very stirring occasion, at which strong opinions were expressed for and against the movement. It was learned here that official church leaders would not object to Sunday-school work. This then became the open door for the movement, and the group changed its name to Sunday School Mission, and for the next 22 years held regular quarterly meetings. Sunday schools were opened at several rural points in the county, beginning at Welsh Mountain. Work in Lancaster city soon followed, and by 1899 a city mission work was opened in Philadelphia.

The Sunday School Mission group became the pioneers of the mission activities now sponsored by Lancaster Conference. John H. Mellinger (1858-1952), at whose home the first meeting had been held, was chairman all through the 22 years of the Sunday School Mission, became the first chairman of the new board and continued until 1934, when he asked to be relieved after 41 years of leadership. To a large extent he molded the mission trends of the conference. J. A. Ressler, who later became one of the first two missionaries to India for the Mennonite Church (MC), was also a member of that group.

On 8 June 1914 a meeting was called by the secretary of the Lancaster Conference to organize a mission board, which was named Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. After that the Board’s work became extensive and varied. It operated the Welsh Mountain Samaritan Home for the Aged. It shared generously in later years in the war relief programs in Europe and in the migrations of European refugees to Paraguay, Canada, and the United States. In 1953 it sponsored 67 home missions, including such cities as New York, New York; Reading and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, District of Columbia; Brewton, Alabama, and Tampa, Florida, and included nine African-American missions and three centers for Jewish evangelism. In 1934 it opened foreign work in Tanganyika Territory, Africa. By 1953 there were 39 missionaries on furlough and on this field, and native membership was about 950 with about 600 additional catechumens. In 1948 approval of the Ethiopian government was received to open work in that country, and the first missionaries were soon on the field, with a total of 35 workers by 1953. In 1950 work was begun in Honduras, with five workers in 1953. A work was started in Luxembourg in 1951, with four workers in 1953. In 1953 work was opened in Italian Somaliland with four workers. The Board also sponsored work in Israel (started 1953) jointly with the Mission Board at Elkhart. A total of 87 foreign workers was serving under the Board in 1953. A system of voluntary short-term services was set up in 1948 to provide opportunities for the young people of the church. In 1953 the total income of the Board for all purposes was $390,000. In 2007 Eastern Mennonite Missions had 65 staff, with over 300 workers (some appointed jointly with other agencies). The 2004 budget was $7.13 million.

This Board co-operated with the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities at Elkhart, Indiana, in the program sponsored by that Board in its various home and foreign missions. The Eastern Board officers in 1954 were as follows: Henry F. Garber, president; H. Raymond Charles, vice-president; Orie O. Miller, secretary; Paul Graybill, assistant secretary; and Ira Buckwalter, treasurer. The Board supports the work of the Mennonite Central Committee and has had a representative on it from the beginning in 1920.

In 2017 Nelson Okanya was serving as the seventh president of EMM. Okanya is from Migori, Kenya. He attended Daystar University and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary. Prior to his appointment as president in 2011, Okanya served on multiple short-term mission assignments with EMM and as a pastor.

Past EMM presidents include John H. Mellinger (1914–1934), Henry Garber (1934–1956), H. Raymond Charles (1956–1980), Paul G. Landis (1980–1993), Norman G. Shenk (acting president, 1993–1994), and Richard Showalter (1994–2011).

Beginning with 15 April 1924, the Board published its own organ, the Missionary Messenger, since 15 May 1925 a monthly, usually 16 pages, which is a rich source of material on the history and work of the Board. Beginning with 1952 it has published a comprehensive annual report; previously for many years the annual financial report was published. A mimeographed Newsletter was issued regularly beginning with 1952.


Eastern Mennonite Missions. "History." 2017. Web. 15 June 2017. http://www.emm.org/who-we-are/history.

Landis, Ira D. The Missionary Movement Among Lancaster Conference Mennonites. Scottdale, PA, 1937.

Additional Information

Eastern Mennonite Missions website

Author(s) Henry F Garber
Date Published 1955

Cite This Article

MLA style

Garber, Henry F. "Eastern Mennonite Missions (Lancaster Mennonite Conference)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 19 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eastern_Mennonite_Missions_(Lancaster_Mennonite_Conference)&oldid=177117.

APA style

Garber, Henry F. (1955). Eastern Mennonite Missions (Lancaster Mennonite Conference). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eastern_Mennonite_Missions_(Lancaster_Mennonite_Conference)&oldid=177117.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 133. All rights reserved.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.