ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — Howard Jay Habegger tended to the church in North and South America. A leader in God's mission, Habegger was born Sept. 6, 1932, in Berne, Indiana, and died Dec. 28, 2018, at Schowalter Villa in Hesston, Kansas.
Howard Habegger circa 1970.
Habegger dedicated himself to ministry through teaching, pastoring, and leading the Commission on Overseas Mission (COM), a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network, as executive secretary from 1970 to 1982.
John A. Lapp, who was a colleague and executive secretary emeritus of Mennonite Central Committee, said, "Howard was an inspirational missionary and mission leader." Lapp remembered their collaboration on the Council of International Ministries and shared that Habegger was committed to inter-Mennonite work.
Preceding Habegger's leadership of COM, in 1954, he graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. That same year he married Marlene Jane (Short) Habegger on June 11. He later graduated from The Biblical Seminary of New York and Princeton Theological Seminary obtaining the degrees of Sacred Theology and Systematic Theology respectively. In 1959, he was ordained and became pastor at Grace Mennonite Church in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
In 1963, Howard and Marlene began their six years of service in Bogotá, Colombia. Habegger founded the first Mennonite congregation in Bogotá; the Berna Mennonite Church.
Peter Stucky, pastor in the Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (Colombia Mennonite Church), said, "We thank Howard for his many years of service, not only directly in Colombia, but also as executive secretary of the Commission on Overseas Mission, where he was always supportive of the work in Colombia."
Habegger family at the International Airport, Bogota, Colombia, returning to the United States in 1968. Marlene and Howard are in the back; Eric and Lisa are in front, and Cynthia is in the middle.
After serving in Colombia, in 1970, Habegger earned his Doctor of Religion from Claremont School of Theology in California and then began his tenure at the COM office in Newton, Kansas. Later, Habegger taught at Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas, in the Bible and Religion department for two years. Howard and Marlene returned to Colombia where Habegger pastored the Union Church of Bogotá, an English-speaking interdenominational congregation.
Upon their return to the United States, he became pastor of Silverwood Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, where he served until his retirement in 1997.
"Those of us who are called to serve God's mission today are privileged to build on the legacy of those who came before us, like Howard," said Stanley W. Green, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network. "He served faithfully to extend the good news of Jesus around the world."
Howard and Marlene Habegger at Lake Vista, Hesston, Kansas in 1998.
Habegger is survived by his wife of 64 years, Marlene Habegger, and his children and grandchildren: Cynthia (Marcus) Loganbill, Wichita, Kansas, Christian (Jaimie), Patrick and Genet; Lisa (Blair) Loganbill, Hesston, Kansas, Alec and Mia; Eric (Lisa) Habegger, Bogotá, Colombia, Jeff and Kelly; his sister, Evelyn Beitler, Berne, Indiana; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held Feb. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Faith Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas. A celebration of life service will take place the following day, Feb. 9, at 2 p.m., also at Faith Mennonite Church.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to Mennonite Mission of Colombia or to Schowalter Villa Good Samaritan Fund, in care of Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, 120 E. Broadway, Newton, KS 67114.