Guenther, Elsie (1910-1998)

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Elsie Guenther: missionary to the Congo; born 01 January 1910 in Corn, Oklahoma, USA, to Daniel P. (24 Nov. 1880-22 June 1965) and Katharina (Reimer) Guenther (11 June 1885-18 April 1958). She was the third of seven children in the family. Elsie died in Reedley, California on 4 September 1998 and was buried in the Reedley Cemetery.

When Elsie was growing up, her family lived in several different states, including Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Her father was a farmer who also owned a flour mill and later worked as a church custodian. Elsie was converted to Christianity at the age of 13, was baptized, and joined the Corn Mennonite Brethren Church in Corn, Oklahoma. After she completed her elementary education, she attended the Corn Bible Academy and later the Reedley Joint Union High School in Reedley, California. Following her graduation, she attended Pacific Bible College in Huntington Park, California and then Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, with a major in children’s work. During this time, she was involved in the local church, teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

In December 1944, Guenther applied for overseas work with the Mennonite Brethren Board of Foreign Missions. On 22 June 1947, she was ordained as a foreign missionary by the Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church. Although she first thought of going to Brazil, she eventually went to work in the Congo instead. Together with another service worker, Mary Toews, she left New York City on 22 December 1948, heading for Africa. They arrived in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), Congo, on 24 December and stayed at the Union Mission House before flying out to Kikwit on 4 January. Together with some of the other workers, Elsie visited several of the mission stations before arriving at her final destination.

Over the next years, Elsie worked at the Matende and Bololo mission stations. When she first arrived in the Congo, Elsie began to study the local language, Lingala, while also giving sewing classes for the women of the area. Her work soon expanded into other fields. The Matende station included a church, an elementary school, teacher training, dormitories, and various services for the local people. The Bololo station also had schools, a church, medical facilities, and other services. Elsie continued to work at the mission stations until 1959, when she returned to the United States. She moved to California, where she joined the Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church. Elsie died on 4 September 1998 at 88 years old and was buried in the Reedley Cemetery.

Elsie Guenther was a dedicated church worker and missionary who used her interests and abilities to help people in her own country and overseas. Whether she was teaching Sunday School in California or giving sewing lessons in the Congo, she was an example of commitment and service.


Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Fresno, California. "Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International: An Inventory of Records."

"Miss Elsie Guenther." Missionary Album of Missionaries Serving Under the Board of Foreign Missions, The Mennonite Brethren Conference, Inc. Hillsboro, KS: Board of Foreign Missions of the Conference of Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, 1954.

Find a Grave. "Elsie Guenther." "Elsie Guenther (b. 01 Jan 1910, d. 04 Sep 1998)." "Daniel P. Guenther (b. 24 Nov 1880, d. 22 Jun 1965)."

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.19 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2005: #37244, 37247.

Guenther, Elsie "In Africa." Christian Leader 12 (1 March 1948): 5.

Mennonite Library & Archives. Fresno Pacific University. "MB Mission Work in Congo: An Inventory of Records."

Obituary. Christian Leader (November 1998): 35.

Reid-Schroeder Genealogies. "Family: Daniel P. Guenther/Katharina (Tina) Reimer (F14605)."

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published December 2014

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Huebert, Susan. "Guenther, Elsie (1910-1998)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2014. Web. 9 Aug 2022.,_Elsie_(1910-1998)&oldid=128397.

APA style

Huebert, Susan. (December 2014). Guenther, Elsie (1910-1998). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 9 August 2022, from,_Elsie_(1910-1998)&oldid=128397.

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