Friesen, Abraham (1859-1919)

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Abraham Friesen, a Mennonite Brethren missionary, was born 15 May 1859, at Nieder-Chortitza, South Russia, the second son of Johann and Margaret (Wieler) Friesen. He grew up and attended school in the village of Einlage. Abraham was converted at an early age and became a member of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Einlage. His abilities soon became evident and he was his father's right-hand man in his large flour mill and farm machinery factory. In his early twenties he married Mary Martens. No children were born to this union.

In 1885 Abraham and Mary Friesen volunteered for service in a foreign field. That same autumn found the Friesens in Hamburg, Germany, at the German Baptist Seminary, where Friesen studied for four years. Due to regulations of the Russian government an independent mission of the Mennonite Brethren Church was an impossibility and therefore Friesen worked out a cooperative basis with the American Baptist Mission Union and he himself opened the first mission of the Mennonite Brethren Church to the Telugus of South India.

He and his wife arrived in Secunderabad on 5 December, and stayed with the Baptist missionaries to study the Telugu language. Finally on 25 October 1890 they were ready to open the work at the Nalgonda mission station. Nalgonda comprised the southeastern section of the former Hyderabad Native State.

Friesen's ministry proved successful from the very beginning, and on 4 January 1891 he organized the first church with 129 members. Some evangelistic work had been done in this section prior to the Friesens' coming to Nalgonda. Due to the rapid growth of membership, the Nalgonda church was subdivided and in June 1891 three independent churches were established. From the very beginning the missionary established the principle of self-support and the dependence of the pastor upon the native church.

During his furlough in 1898-1899 Friesen visited the Mennonite Brethren churches in the United States and Canada with several workers, and also visited the headquarters of the Baptist Mission Union at Boston, Massachusetts (later at New York), to strengthen the bond of cooperation. Finally in August 1904 Friesen met with Dr. Barbour of the Baptist Union in Stockholm, Sweden, to lay down definite rules to guide in the association of the American Baptist Mission Union and the Mennonite Brethren Church of Russia.

After a most effective ministry of almost 20 years the Friesens returned to Russia in 1908 and settled in Rückenau, Molotschna. He became the guiding spirit in the foreign mission enterprise of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Russia. In 1914 Friesen went to India once more to help in the great work, returning to Russia in 1915 to experience all the tragedies of World War I and the Revolution. He died in 1919.

Friesen was the author of two books: Kardu, das Hindumädchen, and Morgenstern auf finstrer Nacht. He also served as editor of the mission periodical, Das Erntefeld, published in Russia in the German language.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 5.

Peters, George W. The Growth of Foreign Missions in the Mennonite Brethren Church. Hillsboro, 1952.

Author(s) George W Peters
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Peters, George W. "Friesen, Abraham (1859-1919)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 18 Jul 2024.,_Abraham_(1859-1919)&oldid=145156.

APA style

Peters, George W. (1956). Friesen, Abraham (1859-1919). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 July 2024, from,_Abraham_(1859-1919)&oldid=145156.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 404. All rights reserved.

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