Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nettie Senger

Steve Bowers, in the book Planting the Faith in a New Land, includes a section devoted to the women from Indiana who were involved in mission work. Among those listed are: Winnie Cripe, Josephine Powell, Lillian Grisso, Minerva Metzger, Laura Shock, Ella Miller Brubaker, Anna Warstler, Josephine Keever Flory, Velma Ober, Ruby Frantz Rhoades, Marguerite Burke, Alice Eby, and Nettie Senger.

Unlike most of the others who served with their husbands, Nettie was an exception. A native of Fort Wayne, she went to China in 1916 as a single woman. She had studied the Chinese language for about a year when she started developing a closer relationship with the villagers in her area of Shansai Province.

Nettie established special ties to the women of the villages and accepted Chinese customs as a way of getting closer to the people. She began wearing native Chinese dress and always carried knitting with her so she could join in the informal conversations among small groups of women.

A number of senior missionaries repeatedly admonished Nettie to stop identifying so closely with the Chinese people because she was demeaning the dignity of a Chinese missionary. She ignored the warnings and moved ahead with projects she felt were important. She established a school for young mothers and wrote textbooks that were used in many schools all across China. During her years in the country, she earned a master's degree in Chinese philosophy and a doctorate studying the impact of Chinese civilization on women.

Nettie was forced to leave China in 1939 with the coming of war and revolution. She returned to Fort Wayne where she continued to be active as a Bible teacher and church worker. She was one of the charter members when the Beacon Heights Church was established in 1952 and remained active in the congregation until her death in 1969.

One of Nettie's hobbies was collecting old and rare Bibles. She gave her collection to Beacon Heights, and the church in 1975 turned over the collection to Bethany Theological Seminary. Among the many valuable items in the collection was one of the original Bibles printed in German by Christopher Sauer.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land