Telugu Mission (Mennonite Brethren)
In the 1950s the Telugu mission field of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America was located near the city of Hyderabad, Deccan, India, in the State of Andhra Pradesh, a small section of the field extending into the Madras Presidency. The Muse River formed the northern boundary between the Mennonite Brethren and the American Baptist fields. From here the field extended southward to the Tungabadra and Kisna rivers for a distance of about 120 miles. The maximum width from the east to the west was about 150 miles. The mission field embraced some 10,800 square miles with a population of 1,540,000 scattered in 2,500 villages and Hyderabad City. The field was not a large flat steaming, unhealthy jungle, but was dotted with hills, reaching in some cases to the height of 3,000 feet. Besides, there were some beautiful woods and fertile fields. A railroad traversed the field from north to south and four mission stations, Shamshabad, Jadcherla, Mahbubnagar, and Gadwal, were situated along this railroad. The territory was divided into ten mission fields with a mission center located in each field: Hughestown, Shamshabad, Jadcherla, Kalva-Kurthy, Deverakonda, Nagar-Kurnool, Wanaparty, Mahbubnagar, Narayanpet, Gadwal fields, with a section designated as the "Home Mission," which was being served by the Telugu Mennonite Brethren Convention.
The mission was founded in 1899 by a group of four missionaries consisting of N. N. and Susie Hiebert, Elizabeth Neufeld, and Anna Suderman. Since the field had formerly been claimed by the American Baptist Mission Union and since it lay between some of their mission stations, credit must be given to the kind co-operation of the Baptist missionaries and to Abraham Friesen, a Mennonite Brethren missionary from South Russia who was serving at Nalgonda, a neighboring Baptist mission station. His help and advice was of great value in securing the field and beginning the work.
On 10 October 1900, the missionaries occupied a very suitable place in Hughestown, three miles south of Secunderabad and just a short distance north of Hyderabad, on an elevated section overlooking both cities, as well as a number of villages. It seemed an ideal location for a mission station. In November of that year they began regular preaching services and opened a school for children.
The new work, however, was not permitted to continue very long. On 14 January 1902, Hiebert became sick and was ordered by the doctor to leave India. In March he and his wife returned to America, never to see India again. Elizabeth Neufeld and Anna Suderman temporarily transferred to the mission of the Mennonite Brethren of Russia and the Baptist Missionary Union. The Hieberts were replaced by John H. and Maria Pankratz, who arrived in India 20 October 1902. Since the original mission station had only been rented, the new missionaries purchased a suitable site for a mission compound in the suburb Mulkapet, taking possession on 26 November 1903. Only four days later they conducted the first service in their home. Abraham Friesen had transferred several national workers to this new work and thus an effective ministry could be begun. In addition to the evangelism, school-work was immediately begun, as well as work among the women and the sick. On 27 March 1904, the missionaries, national workers, and a few Christians gathered at the mission station Mulkapet to organize the first Mennonite Brethren Church among the Telugus under the auspices of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America.
The Mulkapet mission station was liquidated in 1913 and the work was transferred to Hughestown. Since 1914 the field has been known as the Hughestown mission field.
Villages—2,175; stations—9; boarding schools—13 (8 elementary, 3 middle, 1 high, 1 Bible); hospitals—6; staff through the years—59 (20 couples, 19 single women); under appointment—5 (2 couples, 1 single woman); baptized believers—14,000; organized churches—180; church buildings—170; ordained or licensed ministers—113; village evangelists and teachers—175; Bible women—120; villages with Christians—200.
A monthly church paper in the vernacular was begun in 1920, the Suvarthamani, which had become the official organ of the indigenous church. The printing press first established at Nagar-Kurnool was transferred to Mahbubnagar. In 1943 a high school was begun in Shamshabad, which was also transferred to Mahbubnagar; it offered a three-year course, and had an enrollment of 100 in 1953. The Bethany Bible School, begun in 1920 for the training of indigenous workers, was begun at Nagar-Kurnool, transferred in 1930 to Shamshabad, and in 1946 to Deverakonda. Nearly all of the 300 ministers, evangelists, teachers, Bible women, and other Christian workers had received their training in Bethany.
The advances in the 1950s were particularly in strengthening the indigenous church and organizing it on a sound basis. On each of the station fields the churches formed a field association which had a large annual gathering. All the churches together formed the Andhra Mennonite Brethren Convention, which was ultimately to take full responsibility for the church in India. A Mission and Church Council, on which the mission had six and the church eight members, handled matters of common concern to both.
Esau, Mrs. H. T. The First Sixty Years of Mennonite Brethren Foreign Missions. Hillsboro, 1954.
Peters, G. W. The Growth of Foreign Missions in the Mennonite Brethren Church. Hillsboro, 1952.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 691-692. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Peters, George W. and J. H. Lohrenz. "Telugu Mission (Mennonite Brethren)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/T456.html.
APA style: Peters, George W. and J. H. Lohrenz. (1959). Telugu Mission (Mennonite Brethren). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/T456.html.