Bachert, Alice (1903-1996)
Alice Bachert: missionary to Latin America, was born near Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario on 17 March 1903 to William Bachert (16 December 1869-2 April 1955) and Elvina Baer Bachert (12 March 1871-6 January 1952). Alice was the third child in a family of three sons and two daughters. They attended First Mennonite Church until transferring their membership to Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church when that church was established just a few blocks from First Mennonite in August 1924.
Alice, desperately wanting to be a missionary after a 1921 conversion experience, began studies at Toronto Bible College (now Tyndale University College & Seminary) in 1925. There women were encouraged to prepare for missionary service and to get nurses training to minister in foreign lands. Alice went to Bellevue Hospital in New York City in 1928 to train as a nurse and midwife. Two years later she made plans to go to Costa Rica with Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church providing support of $600 a year from their annual mission budget of $800.
Alice Bachert was not sent by the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, which at that time had only eight Ontario people, all couples, posted in Argentina. Alice's priority was evangelism so she joined the Latin American Mission, an independent, inter-denominational, evangelism organization. She traveled by ship to Costa Rica on her own and began nursing and visitation. By 1936 she was working in San Francisco de Ríos, a village near the capital, San José. The Stirling Avenue congregation helped her to buy a car so she could take neighbors to church in San José where she taught a class of boys and a Sunday afternoon class.
After a 1937 July to October furlough, she moved to Colombia, happy to provide an evangelical witness in a Roman Catholic region. By early 1938 she was stationed at Montería. She soon discovered that, as a single woman, she could not preach. People wanted a male preacher and refused to attend meetings led by a woman. This became a frustration for her for many years. In 1944, she moved geographically to Chinú and theologically closer to a Mennonite view of nonresistance, seeing that "Vengeance is mine [God’s]" applied to nations as well as individuals. In 1948 Alice transferred to the General Conference Mennonite mission agency which posted her at Anolaima, an hour's drive from mission headquarters at Cachipay. She did visitation, set up meetings, sold Bibles and scripture portions and wrote preparatory lessons for baptismal candidates. The local priest objected and tried to convince her landlady to evict Alice. In 1949 she opened a primary school for children of believers, but it survived less than a year.
Alice Bachert also worked in San Javier, Girardot, and Anapoima. However, she was remained frustrated because, as a single woman, it was considered improper for her to conduct or attend meetings. Her letters home were a litany of struggle, due both to her pious, stubborn will and to bouts of Raynauds disease, other illnesses and loneliness.
For Alice, always reluctant to take a furlough, the Mission Board's call for her to retire back in Ontario in 1968 was unwelcome. Her "home" was Colombia. Mission agencies sometimes felt it necessary to recall single women working in unsafe situations but Alice's involuntary retirement at age 65 may have had less to do with safety than with her passion for evangelism which no longer fit well with a new mission emphasis on social and economic justice. She returned to Kitchener briefly, but like other single women who had been free to undertake leadership roles overseas, she felt alienated and lonely in male-dominated Ontario Mennonite churches where she had no status, no authority and no role in spiritual leadership.
Alice soon relocated to a Christian and Missionary Alliance retirement community in Fort Myers, Florida, but she longed for Colombia with its good climate and the doctor who understood her health issues. In 1972 she returned to Girardot in Colombia where Presbyterians gave her work supervising a home for the elderly and teaching a class of girls and boys. By 1983, disorientation and illness prevailed. Doug Millar from Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church flew to Colombia and brought Alice back to Ontario to live at Nithview Home in New Hamburg. She died there on 17 November 1996. Her funeral service was held at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church on 1 December 1996. She is buried in the First Mennonite Church cemetery in Kitchener, Ontario.
Alice was strong-minded, even stubborn, and it was not easy to follow her logic as she chose to move from place to place, but hers was an amazing story of a congregation's caring and faithfulness in supporting her and her determination to do what she felt was God's will. At Nithview, her Bible was her constant companion and she is fondly remembered for repeatedly stating: "All things come to those who wait."
Epp, Marlene. Mennonite women in Canada: a history. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press, 2008.
"Elvina Baer Bachert" Find a Grave. 26 April 2009. Web. 16 February 2017. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=36370597.
"William Bachert." Waterloo Region Generations. 2017. Web. 16 February 2017. http://generations.regionofwaterloo.ca/getperson.php personID=I37301&tree=generations.
Harder, Laureen. Risk and endurance: a history of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church. Kitchener, Ont.: Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, 2003.
Martin, David, former Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church pastor. Personal Email (2 February 2017).
Roth, Lorraine. Willing Service: Stories of Ontario Mennonite Women. Waterloo, Ont.: Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario in cooperation with Women's Missionary and Service Commission of Eastern Canada, 1992.
Schlegel, Ray, former Nithview Home administrator. Phone conversation (3 February 2017)
|Date Published||February 2017|
Cite This Article
Burkhardt, Ferne. "Bachert, Alice (1903-1996)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2017. Web. 23 May 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Bachert,_Alice_(1903-1996)&oldid=147224.
Burkhardt, Ferne. (February 2017). Bachert, Alice (1903-1996). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Bachert,_Alice_(1903-1996)&oldid=147224.
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