United Orphanage and Mission Society, The

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The Girls' home in Hadjin, Turkey, 1905.
Photo courtesy of Max Haines

The origins of the United Orphanage and Mission Society are rooted in the massacres of thousands of Armenian Christians by the Turkish military in the Hamidian Massacres of 1894-1896. A survivor, Garabed Der Hagopian, went to North America and shared the plight of thousands of orphans. His wife had been one of those killed in the massacre at Zeitun. He shared this story at the Light and Hope Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio where his message touched the hearts of two deaconess nurses, Maria A. Gerber (1858-1917), and Rose Lambert (8 September 1878–27 December 1974). Maria was born in Switzerland but came to America and trained the first deaconesses for the Missionary Society Light and Hope in Berne, Indiana. Rose’s father, George Lambert was a Mennonite Brethren in Christ minister. These two women left in 1898 for Turkey to begin an orphanage to care for the many orphans left by the massacres.

Upon arrival in the city of Hadjin, in the Adana Province, they found a newly constructed house. With the help of a local man, they convinced the authorities to let them use it as an orphanage home for boys, with girls in another building. They dived into the work, gathering in orphans, educating them, teaching them skills so they could work on their own at the appropriate age. Many widows were taught skills in mending clothes, knitting items for the orphans and also to sell. Maria Gerber loved to preach and there were times of revival among the widows and orphans in Hadjin. Maria left for the USA in 1902 because of her health and did other orphanage work outside the Society.

The United Orphanage and Mission Society was organized in 1901. Three denominations, Mennonite Church, Mennonite Brethren, and Mennonite Brethren in Christ supported it and its missionaries. Some support also came from individuals.

Orphanages were established in Hadjin, Sis, and Everek, though the one is Sis was short lived because the government closed it. By 1908 the government of Turkey was unstable, resulting in government leadership changes a number of times. This instability caused much blame to be placed on the Armenians, who were despised for being Christians in a Muslim-majority country. In the Adana Province thousands of Armenians were killed in 1909.

Rose Lambert bore the brunt of running the Hadjin orphanage when that city was threatened. Hundreds of widows and orphans fled to the orphanage for protection. Food and resources ran low and times were desperate. A typhoid epidemic took many lives. An American flag was flown over the orphanage as a means of protection.

Rose wrote the following, “Space will not permit me to write of the many who were crucified, thrown into the river, killed with swords and axes, burned by the thousands in the churches or in their homes, and of the many who were tortured and killed in such hideous and awful ways that dare not be repeated but it is estimated that in the vilayet (Province) of Adana between twenty and thirty thousand were slain and months later the plain was still strewn with their bones….”

This turmoil took a toll on Rose Lambert and she returned to the USA in 1910 broken in health. She never returned to Turkey.

The work was continued by other missionaries despite these trials until the outbreak of World War I in 1914 which saw another time of massacre of the Armenians. The missionaries were ordered to leave the country in 1914. In this war the city of Hadjin was totally destroyed. Some missionaries returned to the area in 1919 but were not allowed to stay. This ended the work in Turkey of the The United Orphanage and Mission Society.

Missionaries who came at different times to work for the Society in the orphanages in addition to Rose Lambert and Maria Gerber included Ada (Moyer) Barker, T. Ford Barker, Fredericka Honk, J. E. and Mary Fidler, Helen Penner, Ida Tschumi, Adeline Brunk, Henry Maurer, Dr. Elizabeth Hawley Maurer, Dorinda Bowman, Anna Bowman, Norah Lambert Sommers, Ethel Nelson, Katherine Bredemus, Daniel C. and Blanche Eby, and D. J. and Mrs. Storms.

Fredericka Honk, Henry and Dr. Elizabeth Hawley Maurer, Adeline Brunk and Blanche Eby died while serving the United Orphanage and Mission Society. All were buried in Turkey except Fredericka Honk who was buried in Alexandria, Egypt on route home because of her failing health.

Though the life span of the Society in Turkey was only about 20 years, thousands of orphans and widows heard the message of Jesus Christ, were fed spiritually and physically, and learned skills for life. The eternal results are known but to the Lord.

The Armenian refugees were scattered after the war, so the Society work was continued by Daniel and Blanche Eby in Syria until the Society was closed in 1938. Katherine Bredemus labored among them in Cyprus from 1920-1924. Dorinda Bowman served them in Syria and Lebanon in the years of 1923 to 1931 and Bertha Fidler, daughter of J. E. and Mary Fidler, gave the years of 1925-1930 to help those refugees in need.


“Dorinda Bowman Collection.” Missionary Church Archives and Historical Collections, Bethel University, Mishawaka, Indiana.

Gerber, Maria A. Passed Experiences, Present Conditions, Hope for the Future. Ramsey-Burnes Printing Co., Pasadena, California, 1917.

“Hadjin-Missionaries.” Houshamadyan, A project for reconstruct Ottoman Armenian town and village life. 2014. Web. 11 February 2020. https://www.houshamadyan.org/mapottomanempire/vilayet-of-adana/hadjin/religion/missionaries.html.

Lambert, Rose. Hadjin and the Armenian Massacres. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1911. Available in full electronic text at: https://archive.org/details/hadjinarmenianma00lamb/page/n8/mode/2up.

Rodgers, Darrin J. “This Week in AG History—December 4, 1915.” The General Council of the Assemblies Of God. 6 December 2018. Web. 11 February 2020. https://news.ag.org/en/Features/This-Week-in-AG-History-Dec-4-1915.

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By J. A. Huffman. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 776. All rights reserved.

United Orphanage and Mission was organized in 1901, for the purpose of promoting and supporting the orphanage work that had been begun among the Armenians in Turkey in 1898 by Rose Lambert of Indiana and Anna Gerber of Ohio. By 1901 scores of Armenian orphans were being supported by friends from America and Europe. In 1911 there were two orphanage institutions, one for boys at Everek and one for girls at Hadjin, Turkey, with 306 orphans.

During World War I the orphanage buildings were burned by the Muslim Turks, and the Armenians scattered, but the successors of the mission continued until 1938 to minister to the Armenian remnant which migrated to Syria. What remains of this good work is now in the charge of the Spiritual Brotherhood, an indigenous Armenian organization whose head is Abraham Sefarian, with headquarters in Aleppo, Syria, and Beirut, Lebanon, but with groups scattered into various countries, including Africa, Cyprus, the United States, and South America. This movement was really interdenominational, but the board members as well as the missionaries were chiefly of the United Missionary Church from the United States and Canada. In 1932 the United Orphanage was disbanded, and the work was transferred to the United Missionary Society.

Author(s) Max Haines
Date Published February 2020

Cite This Article

MLA style

Haines, Max. "United Orphanage and Mission Society, The." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2020. Web. 14 May 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=United_Orphanage_and_Mission_Society,_The&oldid=166605.

APA style

Haines, Max. (February 2020). United Orphanage and Mission Society, The. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 14 May 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=United_Orphanage_and_Mission_Society,_The&oldid=166605.

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