Martha Atkins Emmert passed quietly from this life at Parkview Hospice Home, on Monday, February 13, following surgery and several weeks of attempted recovery. Martha was born in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1923, into a family of seven. "We lived a nomadic life, due to the depression and our poverty", she wrote.
Martha was a high school dropout for three years and "had despaired of a brighter future until I met Christ in 1942. From there wonders, blessings and adventures took over beyond anything I dreamed of as a child." God made education possible for her by giving her the attitude "I can do all things through Christ."
Martha credited God with giving her a professional life of 35 years as a missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society in Congo, and a retirement in Fort Wayne, Indiana, since 1990.
Martha Atkins and Leon Emmert met as students at Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago. They hoped to go as missionaries, first to Burma and then when that failed, to India. Nationalistic political movements in these countries made their departure there impossible. Next they agreed to go to the Belgian Congo, first stopping in Belgium in 1955 with their five-year-old son Daniel to study French. They flew to Congo, arriving in August of 1956, and joining American, Swedish, and British colleagues as teachers at EPI, Kimpese, a Protestant union high school in Bas Congo. Martha was asked to teach art to the Congolese students.
The following year, Martha and her family moved to Nsona Mpangu to continue as teachers at the American Baptist High School there, and remained until 1964. Next they moved further into the interior of the Congo, to Moanza, where they helped establish the first high school in that area. Martha began teaching science classes, in addition to art, and assumed directorial responsibilities for the elementary schools of the region. In 1968 they went to Milundu, at that time a large, developing American Baptist high school, and worked there until 1972.
Then Martha was asked to join Leon in the capital city of Kinshasa, when Leon assumed responsibility as associate general secretary for the mission, in cooperation with a Congolese counterpart. In 1980 they moved to IME Kimpese, a hospital center of 360 beds, and worked there for 5 years. During this time, Martha worked as director of a private guest house and nursing facility. Their last assignment was at the seaport, Matadi. They were the first missionaries stationed there since the mission was established 110 years earlier.
As a missionary and teacher, Martha's work touched hundreds of lives. She saw students graduate high school, continue to college, many of them travelling to other countries and continents to continue studies and practice their chosen professions.
Since retirement, Martha wrote her memoirs, maintained contact with former colleagues, students and friends, and was active in the life of First Baptist Church, in Fort Wayne. Martha was the last surviving among her siblings. She is survived by her husband Leon, son Daniel, grandson Nathan, of Fort Wayne, and grandson Todd who resides with his family in Colorado. Martha's only daughter, Michal Rose, lives in Virginia with her daughter, Destiny Rose.
Gifts in memory of Martha Emmert may be sent to the First Baptist Church, 2323 Fairfield Avenue, Fort Wayne IN. 46807, where they will be applied towards supporting the work of Rev. and Mrs. Nzunga who are American Baptist Missionaries in Haiti. Reverend Nzunga was one of Martha's students in Congo.
The Emmert family will hold a private memorial service for
Martha. Her ashes will be laid to rest at Sloan Cemetery in Clearspring Township, LaGrange County.
Arrangements by Klaehn, Fahl and Melton Funeral Home, Wayne St. Chapel, 420 W. Wayne St., www.klaehnfahl melton.com.