Home and Foreign Relief Commission (Mennonite Church)

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Home and Foreign Relief Commission was originated under the auspices of the Mennonite Evangelizing and Benevolent Board, the mission board of the Mennonite Church (MC), by John F. Funk, G. L. Bender, George Lambert, C. K. Hostetler, and seven others (most of them associated with the Mennonite Publishing Company) at Elkhart, Indiana, 2 March 1897, for the immediate purpose of famine relief in India. Funds were gathered and grain was purchased, the latter being shipped to India as parts of cargoes sent by various relief agencies. In April 1897 George Lambert was sent to India to supervise the distribution of the HFRC funds and the grain for which it was responsible. Lambert returned in November 1897, reporting the presence of 20,000 famine orphans in mission orphanages requiring continued support. By the close of 1897 the HFRC had collected more than $20,000 for India relief.

For a time the HFRC assumed a quasi inter-Mennonite character. While it was initiated under Mennonite Church auspices, and while this group made the largest financial contribution to the work, practically all Mennonite groups shared in the contributions. From the beginning D. F. Jantzen, representing the "Russian" Mennonites of the prairie states and residing in Elkhart as editor of the Mennonitische Rundschau, was associated with the movement. Jantzen was a member of the publicity committee and for one year served as secretary of the HFRC. The generous support of the Mennonites of the prairie states was largely due to his influence through the Rundschau (and other periodicals).

In November 1897 the HFRC withdrew from the auspices of the Mennonite Evangelizing and Benevolent Board, although continuing to work closely with it. For a time consideration was given to a constitutional provision that all branches of Mennonites supporting the work of the HFRC be represented on its board of directors. In August 1898 a group of 23 persons, including nine from other Mennonite groups, met at the call of the HFRC to give further consideration to the constitution and also to consider the possibility of an inter-Mennonite foreign mission program, several of the General Conference Mennonite Church representatives being interested in this proposal. The meeting concluded, however, that to take this action would not be advisable at this time. At the annual meeting in November 1898 the various groups were again well represented, David Goerz of Kansas, representative of the General Conference Mennonites, being elected vice-president of the HFRC, and H. H. Regier of Mountain Lake, Minnesota, a member of its executive committee. The announcements of the HFRC published in the various Mennonite periodicals continued to say that all branches of Mennonites had contributed to its relief funds and that as soon as Mennonite missions were established in India the HFRC would support the orphanage and relief work of all such missions.

By the close of 1898 the MEBB had appointed its first missionaries to India, who then opened the work at Dhamtari in November 1899. In 1899 also the General Conference Mennonite group organized its own Emergency Relief Commission, which sent David Goerz to India in 1900 as a relief commissioner and to take the first steps in locating a mission. Later that year the first General Conference missionaries sailed, establishing their mission at Champa in 1901.

The HFRC continued to collect funds for another five years, supporting various benevolent and mission projects including orphanage work in India. By 1902 these funds had reached a total of more than $45,000.  With two Mennonite missions in India, however, as well as two relief agencies at home, the inter-Mennonite character of the HFRC declined. Beginning with the annual meeting of 1901, all officers of the HFRC were representatives of the Mennonite Church (MC) group, although that year G. G. Wiens was reelected to the board of directors. From this time the Commission served more as a companion organization of the MEBB, and with the merging of that organization with the Mennonite Board of Charitable Homes to form the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities in 1906, the HFRC ceased to exist. In 1917 the Mennonite Commission for War Sufferers was created as a companion organization of the MBMC, and can be thought of as a kind of successor of the HFRC. In 1926 the MCWS was absorbed by the MBMC and eventually came to be known as the Mennonite Relief and Service Committee of that board. Renewal of an inter-Mennonite relief program came with the organization of the Mennonite Central Committee in 1920.

The HFRC published a monthly 4-page periodical for a short time in 1901 (nine issues apparently), first issue April 1901, under the title The Mennonite Missionary Messenger, "Devoted to the interests of Home and Foreign Missionary Work in General and especially to the care and support of orphans." It was edited by the HFRC secretary A. C. Kolb, who was a leading spirit throughout HFRC history.

Author(s) Guy F Hershberger
Date Published 1954

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hershberger, Guy F. "Home and Foreign Relief Commission (Mennonite Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1954. Web. 26 Sep 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Home_and_Foreign_Relief_Commission_(Mennonite_Church)&oldid=120277.

APA style

Hershberger, Guy F. (1954). Home and Foreign Relief Commission (Mennonite Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 September 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Home_and_Foreign_Relief_Commission_(Mennonite_Church)&oldid=120277.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 796-797. All rights reserved.

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