Friesen, Peter Abraham (1879-1967)

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Peter Abraham "P. A." Friesen was a pioneer missionary in India and bishop in the Mennonite Church in India. He was born 22 May 1879 at Mountain Lake, Minnesota, the fourth of five children born to Johann and Marie (Bartsch) Friesen. P. A. attended local schools and early on became an active member in the Bruderthaler Mennonite (Evangelical Mennonite Brethren, now Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches) congregation and an active participant in its mission program. He taught in the congregations's German school (1903-1904) and worked as an evangelist and colporteur.

P. A. married Helena Hiebert in 1901 at Mountain Lake, and they applied for mission work with the Mennonite Evangelizing and Benevolent Board (MC), Elkhart, IN. in 1903. On 23 December 1906 P. A. was ordained to the ministry, and on 7 March 1907, he and Helena arrived in India to work with the American Mennonite Mission in Dhamtari, C.P. (later Madhya Pradesh). They opened the Sankra station in 1911, and P. A. served as pastor of the Zion Mennonite congregation there for many years. He helped with drawing up the first constitution of the India Mennonite Conference (adopted 1912). He was ordained bishop in 1916. He personally favored an emphasis on evangelism over an emphasis on education and institutional ministries.

Two children, Mary and Rosa as well as his first wife, Helena (1921), died in India. In 1922 P. A. married fellow missionary Florence Cooprider, a physician. Working together at Sankra, they developed the Roadside Leprosy Clinics along with their district touring program. Throughout Durg District, "Burhwa Sahib" (the old gentleman) and "Sankra Daktarini" (the Sankra lady doctor) were household words spoken with reverence and respect.

In 1941 the Friesens retired from foreign service and accepted an assignment to administer a home for nursing students in Denver and to minister to the conscientious objectors working in Civilian Public Service (CPS) in the city. Later they served in pastoral and medical work in Greensburg, Kansas and from 1955 until P. A.'s death on 28 October 1967 they lived in Hesston, Kansas. P. A. had eight children by his first marriage: Peter, Elizabeth, Mary, Ida, Rosa, William, John, and Edward. He had two children with Florence, Paul and Grace.


Ebenezer, 1889-1964, a history of the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church at Mt. Lake, MN. 75th anniversary publication: 38-43, 62.

Steiner, M. S. "Among Our Russian Brethren." The Gospel Witness (27 December 1905): 345.

Lapp, George J. "Meeting New Missionaries." The Gospel Witness (17 April 1907): 36.

"Report of the Nebraska Mennonite Conference." The Gospel Witness (October 1906): 490.

Graber, Esther Rose. compiler, "MBM Missionary Directory." 1984.

Annual Reports of the American Mennonite Mission, India 1907 under Rudri Station, 1916, 64.

"Facts and dates in the life of P. A. Friesen," compiled by Myrtle Friesen, 1980.

Author(s) John A Friesen
Date Published 1987

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MLA style

Friesen, John A. "Friesen, Peter Abraham (1879-1967)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 1 Oct 2023.,_Peter_Abraham_(1879-1967)&oldid=87607.

APA style

Friesen, John A. (1987). Friesen, Peter Abraham (1879-1967). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 October 2023, from,_Peter_Abraham_(1879-1967)&oldid=87607.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 313. All rights reserved.

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