Roth, Alvin Nelson (1913-2002)

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Alvin Roth, 1950s MAO photo 1983-1.98

Alvin Nelson Roth: farmer and urban missionary; born on 18 December 1913 on a small farm near the village of Wellesley, Ontario to David K. Roth (28 June 1879 - 9 December 1958) and Barbara (Jantzi) Roth (7 March 1886 - 8 March 1959), the second of ten children. On 7 June 1939 he married Madeline Bender (13 July 1918-31 July 2016). They had six children, three sons and three daughters. Alvin died on 27 September 2002.

Alvin grew up on the family farm, and attended Berlet’s Corner School. On 18 December 1927, in keeping with local Amish Mennonite customs, his parents insisted he terminate school immediately without completing grade eight. He was a good student and was very disappointed that he could not attend high school. His family needed his help on the farm.

After a few years of what he characterized as self-destructive behavior, Alvin found his way to a better lifestyle. He was baptized and became a member of Maple View Mennonite Church. He attended Eastern Mennonite College in Virginia for one academic year (1937-38) but family needs precluded further education. In November 1940, one year after their marriage, Alvin and Madeline bought a nearby farm. Although a farmer, Alvin felt a strong call to Christian service. He rejected foreign mission work. When his congregation decided to add two ministers, he was one of four men to qualify for the lot, but he was not chosen.

In the 1940s churches of the Amish Mennonite community experienced somewhat of a revival with an increasing interest in mission. Alvin attended a winter Bible School in Wellesley taught by Bishop Moses Roth of the Ontario Mennonite Conference. He had a vision of doing mission work by colonization. This struck a chord with a small group of young families, including Alvin and Madeline. In 1948 seven families from Maple View, Steinmann and East Zorra churches moved to the Nairn area near London and founded Nairn Mennonite Church.

This small group of young families was committed to local outreach. In the fall of 1949, 100 acres of rented land was seeded to wheat to provide funds for the purchase of facilities necessary to provide accommodations for homeless men in London, Ontario. On 29 January 1951 the doors of the Goodwill Rescue Mission, the first Mennonite institutional presence in London, were opened with Alvin and Madeline in charge. It was an immediate success.

His work at the Rescue Mission made Alvin aware of the complex situation facing the homeless. Alcoholism was frequently involved. He joined with Canon Quinton Warner, who worked with Alcoholics Anonymous, to establish Quinton Warner House, a half-way house for reformed alcoholics. Also, there were many homeless women of all ages, so a Women’s Mission, subsequently renamed Rotholme, was established. When it became overcrowded Teen Girls’ Home was also created.

In October 1976, after 25 years of service, Alvin Roth retired from Mission Services of London, as the Goodwill Rescue Mission had been renamed. His work was widely known and respected. As a result, his advice was sought by many social service institutions across Ontario. In retirement, Alvin continued to be mindful of the needs of the marginalized in London. He was instrumental in establishing chaplaincies at Southdale and Limberlost, two public housing complexes in London. His interest in alternative forms of worship led to the formation of Agape Fellowship House Churches where small groups of people worshiped in a supportive, less formal environment.

On 25 March 1993 Alvin Roth was awarded "the Commemorative Medal for the one hundred and twenty fifth Anniversary of Canadian Confederation made to those persons who have made a significant contribution to Canada, to their community, or to their fellow Canadians."


Roth, Alvin. My Journey. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2001.

Author(s) Al Koop
Date Published March 2009

Cite This Article

MLA style

Koop, Al. "Roth, Alvin Nelson (1913-2002)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2009. Web. 7 Aug 2022.,_Alvin_Nelson_(1913-2002)&oldid=141660.

APA style

Koop, Al. (March 2009). Roth, Alvin Nelson (1913-2002). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 August 2022, from,_Alvin_Nelson_(1913-2002)&oldid=141660.

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