Sunday, August 10, 2008

Homer and Marguerite Burke

Homer and Marguerite Burke were both Indiana natives who pioneered mission work in Nigeria and Puerto Rico. Homer was born in 1896 near Plymouth and studied medicine while Marguerite was born near Middlebury in 1898. She contracted tuberculosis during nurse's training and because of this, no doctor would consider her for foreign service which had been her dream.

Following their marriage, the Burke's applied to join the infant mission effort being started by the Brethren in Nigeria. They were accepted and first arrived in Nigeria in 1924 and began their work by establishing a local health service. They gradually gained the trust of the Nigerians and developed a small hospital. Although their emphasis was on providing medical care, the Burke's never forgot their evangelistic calling. It was Homer who extended the first evangelistic call in 1927 that brought forward the first converts to the Nigerian Church.

The Burkes stayed in Nigeria for 14 years before coming home in 1938. Homer established a medical practice in Bremen, Indiana and practiced medicine there until 1946 when they accepted a call to work at the Castener Hospital in Puerto Rico until 1961. The Burkes returned to the United States for a short time in 1961 with the intention of retiring, but they once again answered the call for help and returned to Nigeria in 1962 where they would stay until 1974. While individual health care was still an important part of their work, much of their emphasis during this second period of service was on public health programs: innoculations, baby clinics, and health instruction.

The Burkes finally retired to Indiana in 1974. Marguerite died in 1978 and Homer in 1983.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land