Nauraine, Tillie Yoder (1920-2010)
Tillie Yoder Nauraine: camp founder and urban mission pioneer, was born near Kokomo, Indiana on 5 December 1920 to Jacob S. Yoder (30 July 1892-10 September 1969) and Lovina (Helmuth) Yoder (8 January 1896-10 August 1987). She was the third child and oldest daughter in a family of four boys and three girls. Tillie grew up on the Amish family farm, and attended the local public schools until she reached age of 16. As a child she experienced physical abuse at the hands of her parents, but this ended when she became a teenager. After the age of 21 she moved from Indiana to Harrisonburg, Virginia where she worked and attended Eastern Mennonite College (EMC). While in Harrisonburg, Tillie Yoder attended a small African American mission church. Mrs. Webb, one of the African Americnn women at the church wanted her daughter, Peggy, to go to a Mennonite college. At that time EMC did not accept African American students. Hesston College in Kansas did, so Tillie went with Peggy to Hesston in the fall of 1945. She graduated from Hesston in 1947 with her high school diploma completed and an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree.
In fall 1946 the Jacob Yoder family moved to Holmes County, Ohio. At that time they left the Amish church and joined the Mennonites. Over Christmas vacation Tillie discovered a second house on the farm; she developed a vision to hold a camp there for urban African American children. She had helped to teach Bible School at the Bethel Mission in Chicago where James H. Lark served as pastor. In summer 1947 her vision of Camp Ebenezer first operated. The camp offered Bible classes, recreation, nature studies and more for children from Chicago. In fall 1947 Tillie could not afford to return to school, so she worked for a year and explored mission opportunities among African Americans in Cleveland. She obtained space in a public school for Summer Bible School classes, and with the help of the Mennonite Board of Missions Voluntary Service program and the rural Plainview Mennonite Church near Cleveland, she operated two Bible schools in the African American community that attracted 400 students. Camp Ebenezer operated for four summers, becoming the forerunner for Camp Luz. The Cleveland Bible School program developed into the Gladstone Mennonite Mission. One of the volunteers she attracted to the Gladstone work was Vern Miller, who founded the Gladstone congregation in 1957.
Yoder completed her B.A. at Goshen College in 1949, and went to work at the Mennonite Publishing House until 1951. In 1952 she married Joseph Nauraine (26 January 1915-9 March 1975), an East Indian man she had met at Goshen. They raised three daughters and one son. For five years after marriage they volunteered at a children's home in Puerto Rico. During one 1954 fundraising trip in the USA they made a presentation on behalf of the home to former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. They returned to the United States and moved frequently as the family grew. These were difficult years until they settled in Iowa in 1968 and both Tillie and Joseph took positions as social workers.
Tillie Yoder Nauraine returned to the Goshen area in 1980 and began making porcelain dolls. From then until 2007 she made more than 1000 dolls. She died in Goshen on 27 February 2010 and was buried at the Clinton Brick Mennonite Cemetery. Tillie Yoder Nauraine's early vision for Mennonite ministry to the African American community in Ohio had a profound and long term impact.
Bechler, LeRoy.The Black Mennonite Church in North America,1886-1986. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1986: 98, 124-126.
Groff, Anna, with Serena Townsend. "Courage and persistence." TheMennonite (May 2012): 12-15.
Nauraine, Tillie. "Author biography." XLibris. Web. 12 May 2012. http://www.xlibrispublishing.co.uk/bookstore/author.aspx?authorid=51737.
Roosevelt, Eleanor. "October 26, 1954," in My Day. Web. 12 May 2012. http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/myday/displaydoc.cfm?_y=1954&_f=md002997.
Showalter, Ann. Personal emails. 16-18 May 2012.
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