NEWTON, KS (Mennonite Mission Network) - Matilda Jantzen, who served as a long-term mission worker in India, died Dec. 15, 2017 at Showalter Villa in Hesston, Kansas. She was 99.
Matilda (who went by "Tillie") and her husband, Lubin, served in mission work in India for 35 years through Commission on Overseas Mission, a predecessor agency to Mennonite Mission Network. Traveling on an American troop ship with their two small children in 1947, Tillie and Lubin began their service work in Jagdeeshpur, India, guiding and directing evangelism and church planting in more than 100 villages in the surrounding area. The couple had two more children while in India, who joined their older siblings and children of fellow missionaries in attending Woodstock School, a boarding school in the Himalayan Mountains, more than a thousand miles away from their parents.
After a brief furlough in the United States, the family returned to India in 1956, where Tillie and Lubin led work at Jansen Memorial High School and Middle School in Jagdeeshpur. Tillie's work centered around the supervision of the girls' boarding house, food stock and preparation for the school, as well as teaching Scripture classes and lending spiritual leadership to the Women's Society in the local church. "She was a great storyteller," says Jai Masih, who grew up in the Jagdeeshpur community. Masih recalls Jantzen telling Bible stories with flannelgraph pictures to the children during church, as well as his mother often speaking of Jantzen's work with the women's church fellowship.
Tillie and Lubin's third term in India took them to Janjgir, and then to the industrial city of Korba, where the community desired an English-language primary school to accommodate the multitude of non-Hindi speakers who had come to Korba to live and work. This need pushed Tillie and Lubin to open the Beacon English School in which Tillie served as the first principal. "[Founding the school] required a whole lot of organizing and delegating," says Jon Jantzen, the youngest of Tillie and Lubin's four children. He describes that his mother was able to reach across boundaries and bring people together in teamwork to open the school, despite limited funding and staff.
After an extended leave from India, in which the Jantzens lived in Newton, Kansas, they returned to India for a fourth term in 1976, serving at the Union Biblical Seminary in Yeotmal. There, Tillie served as manager of the campus store, in addition to assisting with campus hostess work and supervising food supplies and preparation in the student dining hall. The couple retired from service in 1983, and returned to Newton, where Tillie assisted Lubin in pastoral visitation work, as well as preparation of midweek Bible class lessons. "Ourlife together has always been that of serving the Lord as a team," Tillie wrote in her life sketch, which was included in her funeral bulletin.
In Tillie and Lubin's 2004 autobiography, Guided Lives, Tillie describes her relationship to God as a lifelong commitment to service, summed up in her life verse, Matthew 6:33: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Tillie was preceded in death by her husband, Lubin; three brothers, Alfred Mueller, Herbert Mueller and Edgar Mueller; and two sisters, Linda Kaufman and Olga Franey.
Survivors include a brother, Harold (Romy) Mueller of Modesto, California; a daughter, Esther Jantzen of Los Angeles; three sons, Dan (Betty) Jantzen of Arvada, Colorado, Jim (Susan) Jantzen of Hillsboro, Kansas, and Jon (Mary Beth) Jantzen of Lacey, Washington; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Jan. 6 at First Mennonite Church in Newton. Memorial gifts may be made to Mennonite Mission Network.