Unruh, Heinrich Heinrich (1868-1912)
Heinrich Heinrich Unruh: pioneer missionary and teacher; born on 4 October 1868 in Temir-Bulat (Philippstal), Crimea, to Heinrich B. Unruh and Elisabeth (Wall) Unruh. He was the eldest of 10 children. In 1899, he married Anna Peters (24 December 1874, Friedensfeld, South Russia - 13 October 1922, Tiege, Molotschna, South Russia), daughter of Franz Peters of Friedensfeld. The couple had seven children, six of whom survived to adulthood. Heinrich died of typhus on 23 October 1912 in Jalgaon, India.
Heinrich attended the Hamburg Baptist Theological Seminary, likely beginning in 1895 and graduating in 1899. He likely met his future wife, Anna, while she was also studying at the seminary, and they were married soon after Heinrich graduated. Heinrich and Anna Unruh’s first five children, three boys and two girls, were born in India and the last one over a month after Heinrich’s death. While Heinrich and Anna worked in India, their four oldest children lived with friends and relatives in Russia. Their sixth child was born around the time of their return to India in 1911 from a furlough, but she died as an infant or young child.
On 27 August 1899, Heinrich and Anna were ordained as missionaries by the Spat Mennonite Brethren Church. They were sent as missionaries by both the Mennonite Brethren of Russia and the American Baptist Missionary Union to the Nalgonda district of India, northeast of Hyderabad. Heinrich’s principal task was to establish a mission station at a place on the railway line called Jalgaon. Despite difficulties with obtaining building permits and persecution from the local people, a mission station was eventually built, with a church membership of 200 and eight or ten affiliate stations.
In addition to his work in India, Unruh preached wherever he went. During a trip back to South Russia in 1909, Heinrich helped organize a Bible conference in Halbstadt, and he attended the annual convention of the Mennonite Brethren church in Tiege, Zagradovka in 1910. Heinrich also spoke at a Russian Baptist convention held in Rostov that year, preaching in German with P. M. Friesen providing the translation into Russian. He also visited one of the forestry camps where many Mennonites served. A spiritual revival swept through the camp after he preached there, and the churches he visited also experienced growth.
After his return to Jalgaon, Heinrich attended a district missionary conference in September 1912. Soon after that, he became ill with typhus. Even in his illness, Heinrich continued to teach and to urge young people to work as missionaries. Any accumulated money, he said, should go to fund overseas programs. He also noted what he perceived as an unbalanced focus on dogma over mission work among the Mennonite Brethren of Russia. He died on 23 October 1912 and was buried almost immediately, with two other missionaries giving tributes in German and Telugu.
Anna stayed in India for several months after Heinrich’s death but returned to Russia with her surviving children in 1913. She died in Ohrloff, Molotschna on 13 October 1921. All six of her surviving children eventually immigrated to Canada, settling in British Columbia.
Heinrich Unruh’s dedication and enthusiasm left a good example of commitment to church and mission for others to follow. Through his devoted work in India and Russia, he helped bring many people to faith, and his colleagues remembered him as a dedicated Christian who effectively ministered to people and won souls for Christ. His commitment to the people he served and to his community in Russia was a model for generations to come.
Braun, Heinrich. News Report: "Unruh tot, Familie bleibt." Friedensstimme (20 November 1912): 3.
Dueck, Abe J. "The Changing Role of Biblical/Theological Education in the Mennonite Brethren Church." In The Bible and the Church. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred Press, 1988: 143.
Dueck, Abe J. Moving Beyond Secession. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred Productions, 1998: 67, 70.
Friesen, Peter M. The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1789-1910), trans. J. B. Toews and others. Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature [M.B.], 1978, rev. ed. 1980: 468-469, 564, 567-568.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.07 ed. Fresno, CA:, 2009: #133581.
Huebert, Helmut T. Events and People: Events in Russian Mennonite History and the People That Made Them Happen. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield, 1999: 122-124.
Penner, Peter. Russians, North Americans, and Telugus. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred Productions, 1997: 10, 25, 35, 41, 55-57, 89.
Peters, G. W. Foundations of Mennonite Brethren Missions. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred Press, 1984; 39.
Unruh, A. H. Die Geschichte der Mennoniten-Brüdergemeinde, Hillsboro, KS: General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, 1955: 193-194, 262-263.
Regehr, Peggy. Unruh family history (unpublished).
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Huebert, Helmut T. and Susan Huebert. "Unruh, Heinrich Heinrich (1868-1912)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2009. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/unruh_heinrich_heinrich_1868_1912.
APA style: Huebert, Helmut T. and Susan Huebert. (March 2009). Unruh, Heinrich Heinrich (1868-1912). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/unruh_heinrich_heinrich_1868_1912.