Esau, John J. (1900-1979)

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John J. Esau. Family photo.

John J. Esau was born 12 February 1900 in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, the son of Dietrich and Katharina (Harder) Esau. He was married to Elvina (Augsburger) of Bluffton, Ohio on 24 June 1926. He died in Mountain Lake on 13 January 1979. He came to be known as "the blind evangelist," traveling throughout the General Conference Mennonite Church and other Mennonite groups for many years. John lost the sight of one eye through a childhood accident when a stick lodged in his eye. Then at the age of 27 he lost the sight of the second eye due to damage to the optic nerve (Sympathetic ophthalmia) in the original accident. This was the first year of his public ministry as well as the first year of his marriage. For the remainder of his life Esau was totally without sight.

Having graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, John sought for ministry opportunities within the Mennonite church. Failing to find such due to his impending blindness, he found three small Christian Union congregations near Lima, Ohio, willing to take the risk. Nevertheless, he sought ordination within the Mennonite church, first as a minister of the gospel in 1927 and then as an elder in 1935. He became the first pastor of First Mennonite Church of Lima, Ohio. Beginning in 1940 he traveled as an independent evangelist, holding services in Mennonite congregations across North America. During this time the family lived in Bluffton, Ohio. In 1948 he became the half time pastor of United Mennonite Church of Omaha, Nebraska, an unaffiliated congregation related to Grace Bible Institute for whom he also worked the other half time as a traveling evangelist. He served several other congregations as an interim pastor, but most of the years of his ministry were as an itinerant evangelist, traveling throughout the United States and Canada. As a blind person he normally traveled by train and usually alone. During his final years of active ministry (1956-1965), he traveled under the Board of Missions of the General Conference Mennonite Church.

Author(s) John A Esau
Date Published June 2011

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MLA style

Esau, John A. "Esau, John J. (1900-1979)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. June 2011. Web. 12 Aug 2020.,_John_J._(1900-1979)&oldid=113346.

APA style

Esau, John A. (June 2011). Esau, John J. (1900-1979). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 August 2020, from,_John_J._(1900-1979)&oldid=113346.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 272. All rights reserved.

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