Martens, Theodor C. (1919-2002) and Frieda (Willms) (1923-2014)

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Theodor C. and Frieda Martens: missionaries in central Africa and church workers in Canada. Theodor C. Martens was born in Chortitza Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, on 7 November 1919 to Kornelius Martens (28 November 1894, Einlage, Chortitza, South Russia - 19 January 1920, South Russia) and Katharina (Neustaedter) Martens (29 August 1895, South Russia - 5 April 1984, Winnipeg, Manitoba). Frieda was born on 28 December 1923 in Kleefeld, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, south Russia, to Aaron J. Willms (8 March 1887, Kleefeld, Molotschna, South Russia - June 1955) and and Susie (Janzen) Willms (14 July 1894, Alexanderwohl, Molotschna, South Russia - 19 May 1942, Alberta, Canada). Theodor and Frieda were married on 24 August 1946 in Steinbach, Manitoba. They had one son, Theodore, and two daughters, Frieda and Elizabeth. Theodor died on 14 December 2002 in Altona, Manitoba, and Frieda died on 27 September 2014 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Theodor's father died of typhus two months after he was born. The Martens family moved to Saskatchewan, Canada in 1927, where he finished Grade 10 at the German-English Academy. He became a Christian in 1938 and was baptized and joined the Mennonite Brethren church before going on to studies at Bethany Bible Institute. He graduated from there in 1942 and then obtained a Bachelor of Theology from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tabor College in Kansas, USA.

Frieda became a Christian at the age of 12 and was baptized five years later, when she also joined the Niverville Mennonite Brethren Church. She graduated from the Coaldale Bible School in Alberta and later attended the Mennonite Brethren Bible College, where she met Theodor.

In 1954, Theodor C. and Frieda Martens went to work in the Belgian Congo, where they worked for almost five years. Theodor spent much of his time traveling from one village to another and preaching, while Frieda stayed home to take care of their children and to help out in other ways. They both became involved in the local schools and helped provide food for the students who could not go home on the weekends.

Theodor and Frieda held church business meetings, communion services, and Bible conferences, as well as helping to translate the New Testament into Kituba, a local trade language. However, their term was cut short when a case of malaria left Theodor unable to continue the work and his elder daughter became severely ill. After almost five years of service, the Martens family returned to Canada.

After Theodor Martens and his family moved to Manitoba, he went to teach at the school in Niverville before completing his Bachelor of Education in 1965. During this time, he also served as a minister at the Niverville Mennonite Brethren Church. In 1975, the family moved to Altona, where Theodor taught in the school and later helped start the South Park Mennonite Brethren Church.

During this time, Theodor Martens also served in the Horndean Mennonite Brethren Church as a minister until health problems made it difficult for him to continue. Frieda led Bible studies, taught Sunday School, and helped out in many other ways in the churches until their retirement. After Theodor died of his heart condition in Altona on 14 December 2002, Frieda moved first to Alberta and then to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to live with her younger daughter. She died there on 27 September 2014 and was buried in Altona.

Theodor and Frieda Martens were dedicated leaders with a strong commitment to building up the church and its people. Throughout the many years of their service, they were examples of perseverance for others to follow.


GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.19 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2005: #376407, 642674.

Missionary Album of Missionaries Serving under the Board of Foreign Mission of the Mennonite Brethren Conference, Inc. October, 1954. Hillsboro, Kansas: The Board of Foreign Missions, 1954.

Obits for Life. "Frieda Martens Obituary."

Obituary. "Theodore C. Martens."

Obituary. "Frieda (Willms) Martens."

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published July 2015

Cite This Article

MLA style

Huebert, Susan. "Martens, Theodor C. (1919-2002) and Frieda (Willms) (1923-2014)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2015. Web. 17 Aug 2022.,_Theodor_C._(1919-2002)_and_Frieda_(Willms)_(1923-2014)&oldid=132534.

APA style

Huebert, Susan. (July 2015). Martens, Theodor C. (1919-2002) and Frieda (Willms) (1923-2014). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 August 2022, from,_Theodor_C._(1919-2002)_and_Frieda_(Willms)_(1923-2014)&oldid=132534.

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