Spring 1991 · Vol. 20 No. 1 · pp. 125–40 

Historical Endnotes

Heinrich Epp


(Part I of the booklet by Heinrich Epp, Recollections from the Life and Work of the Late Elder Abraham Unger, Founder of the Einlage Mennonite Brethren Congregation (1907) appeared in translation in Direction 19/2 (1990) 127-39. Ida Toews and Ken Reddig are the translators.)


Abraham Unger wrote to Johann Klassen and Brother Fast in the Molotschna on 12 February 1865, confronting them with the problem of false doctrine 1 and pleading that they do everything in their power against it, for it was the same spirit that had created so much turmoil several years earlier. Gerhard Wieler and Brother Becker had brought this doctrine from the Molotschna four years ago and established it in Einlage.

Now help came from the Molotschna through Johann Klassen who had been in St. Petersburg. It had become clear to him that this doctrine was wrong. He came to us and talked to the Brethren who were in error. Since Johann Klassen was a highly respected man with the gift of speech, he made a deep impression; yet they could not accept this.

Several brethren, Heinrich Neufeld and Johann Neufeld (a one-time manufacturer in Einlage), travelled to the Molotschna to ask advice from the brethren there. They then had no choice but to realize their error and admit it. They did so saying, “We have done wrong.” Thus the people of God were humbled before the world, which rejoiced saying, “We told you so.”

Heinrich Neufeld realized he had been misled by false brethren who had not spared the herd but rather scattered it, and thus led God’s children astray.

Several weeks passed before the congregation met again at the end of August 1865. They declared that the wild raving and dancing was wrong, and that they were going to change their ways. Again they were undecided about what to do. To reinstate Brother Neufeld as a teacher did not meet with everyone’s approval. The discussions continued back and forth. Finally the majority decided to elect a teacher. Not all were in agreement, fearing it was still too early since the {126} congregation was not as yet on a firm basis. But they finally held an election.

Abraham Unger participated in the election on the condition that the one chosen be reviewed according to 1 Timothy 3:7, “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” 2 The election proceeded, but not all took part. When concluded Heinrich Neufeld was elected. The testing was now to be undertaken, but the group from Kronsweide (the first to come to a new life) objected saying, “The voice of the congregation is the voice of God.”

Brother Neufeld was well loved and had a genial manner. The brethren were willing to overlook his inconsistent nature, not listening to the words which said he must have a good reputation, and began the process of drawing lots. Some said that Brother Neufeld ought not to be chosen according to lot, God’s word being contrary to this. But this counsel was not considered, and the Lord’s will was sought by drawing lots. Once again the choice was Brother Neufeld. Reference was made to Balaam’s words, “I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God” (Num. 22:18-35), but this scripture was not considered either.

Then Neufeld, in the midst of the brethren, threw himself on the floor and wept bitterly over his fate. He believed that God had appointed him to be the teacher, but the brethren who disagreed believed he was appointed only by the people. Thus opinions diverged. The majority held him to be a teacher sent by God; the minority did not, believing rather that God’s glory was preserved by not participating in the election at all.

The groups remained divided. The larger group, where Brother Neufeld was an active preacher diligently preaching repentance, were edified and increased in numbers, even though several from their midst returned to the other group. The two groups struggled with each other for a time, and eventually both sides tired. Then on 28 July, 1866 they came together.

Now two teachers were chosen, but only provisionally: Aron Lepp and Peter Friesen, both of whom had been active in God’s kingdom. As there was no order or set of rules in the congregation, those who wished to introduce such rules being considered legalistic pharisees, the congregation continued on in a wretched way. In spite of this, missionary journeys by {127} Peter Friesen and Johann Loewen were made to Old and New Danzig where the congregation had originated in 1864. This came about as a result of contacts in the wagon business. Awakened souls came looking for guidance, and from time to time we had fellowship with them and felt that inner bond which draws us together.

In the meantime a great revival took place, soon followed by severe persecution. Seven brethren were banished to Turkey like criminals. Others were threatened; they finally signed statements so they could return to the church. Upon this, Abraham Unger wrote the following letter to the present elder on 1 April, 1865:

Dear Brother Pritzkau,

Your letter of 17 March has been received and read by me with great sadness. I had to weep over you. The kingdom of God is suffering a great loss because you are so easily diverted from this new way. We, too, have received an official letter forbidding us to travel, for there is to be an investigation. Eight brethren are under scrutiny, probably by the War Ministry.

Well, brethren, you have become soft and have allowed yourselves to be frightened by the people who can do no more than kill the body. I am not surprised by this, for I myself have experienced how ill-equipped man is for suffering, but that does not justify us. Brethren, Jesus said clearly: eternally lost or eternally saved-what a difference. The tribulation of this time is not worth the glory that is to be revealed to us.

You write that everyone is saying we should not have left the church, for it is in the church that we hear the word of truth. But what do you mean by church? Do you mean the building where you meet? When you enter in and read the sermon, sing and pray, etc., that is quite right and not a sin. However, if your concept of church is the people who meet there, believers as well as unbelievers; and if you have once again made a covenant with them by your signature; and if you go to holy communion with them; then read 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17 and 20: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf  . . . {128} but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.”

Yes, I say, these people who put you in chains and send you across the border because you believe and think differently from them; who want to bind your conscience; these people are then your brethren, with them you are one body. Read also 2 Corinthians 6: 14-18. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” Brethren, let us not commit such a folly for thereby we do great dishonor to the savior, who for our sakes was martyred. 0 Brethren, take up the sword of the spirit, strike out to the left and to the right that your enemies shall fall. For without a battle there is no victory, and without a victory there is no crown. Let us therefore fight that we may inherit the crown of eternal life.

You write that perhaps some of this may have been pride. I say yes, there has been much pride. Ever since Gerhard Wieler began to teach in the congregation, this arrogance has been taught, to despise both the world and the children of God who think differently from us. I have fought many a battle against it but could not win until we were finally separated. Thus we do not want to despise believing Christians who think differently from us. Instead we want to speak kindly to them, diligently showing them the way to God, for whoever is not against us is for us. But on the other hand, when we make mistakes, we will not throw down our arms calling surrender; for this will not likely be the last mistake. Therefore, I admonish you again. Take the sword of the Spirit in your hand once more: it is the word of God. Retract your error with the authorities. Admit your signature was a mistake, for by no other way will you gain victory; in no other way will God be with you. We will pray for you. I believe the dear Lord will give you the necessary strength for this, for you cannot find peace in any other way.

I have just received a document from Hamburg whose contents indicate the Russian government is not against the Baptists. Brother Oneken has travelled to St. Petersburg in order to represent, before the Czar, his brethren who live in Russia, and they have the highest hopes that they will receive freedom in Russia and Poland. This will surely also benefit us as we already have about a thousand {129} members in Russia and Poland. The Lord willing, we will soon have a closer association with the Baptists, which I see as absolutely necessary.

According to the document, a school for missions has been opened in Hamburg with 24 brethren enrolled in its courses. Brethren are accepted there whom the Lord has endowed with gifts to bear witness for him. They possess the full confidence of their congregations and have shown themselves to be diligent in the furthering of the kingdom of God. They probably have an open mind and are totally committed to the Lord and serve him willingly. They request that if we have such brethren, we recommend them to them. They will give us free tuition, lodging and board. The program of studies consists of religion, German, English, composition, mathematics, literature, geometry, church history, geography, sermon outlining, etc. . . . The students would remain there from six months to a year. Then they would be sent out in all directions, wherever there is a need. Most students have their assignments already. They are also asking for financial support from here, if it is possible. Maintaining the school costs a great deal of money per student. Despite great thriftiness, it comes to three “Taler” per week.

Dear brethren, I would like to write to the New Danzig Brethren, but do not know whom to approach or who would also respond. If you can, please direct this letter to them.

Abraham Unger

As you can see from the preceeding letter, Brother Unger has corresponded with the brethren in Hamburg. Consequently they were familiar with our situation and were aware that there was no organized congregation here. In 1866 Abraham Unger made a proposal to several brethren to write to Hamburg to ask for a teacher who would assist us in organizing a congregation. The following eight brethren gave their signature for this: Abraham Unger, Kornelius Unger, Heinrich Epp, Kornelius Fast, Johann Neufeld, Johann Loewen, and Hermann Borm. These brethren wished that the congregation be placed on an organized footing, which thus far had not been achieved. We sent the request to Hamburg immediately, and in the spring of 1866 we received word from them. The Hamburg {130} congregation already had a mission in Turkey. Brother August Liebig had been assigned to travel there, and he would also come to see us that spring. What did he find? Disruption and strife. God is a God of order, and that we did not have.

On Sunday he preached an earnest and invitational sermon, and a membership meeting was arranged to follow it. Brother Liebig was named chairman. He requested the secretary to keep minutes, which was entirely new to us. The chairman gave us good instruction by asking us what would be the use of holding a business meeting if no report was kept. To many brethren this made good sense and we proceeded accordingly. The brethren who were the ablest speakers were the most vocal. Before one had concluded, the next had already started and everyone remained seated. The chairman interrupted with the following comment: “Brethren, that is not the way with God’s children. God is a God of order. Each person who has something to say must rise from his seat and address the congregation one after the other. Everyone may speak at most three times on one topic, thus giving the other brethren a chance to speak. This allows the thoughts of the whole congregation to be heard.” This was enlightening to us. The brethren who wanted to talk all the time and have their opinions prevail did not like this suggestion.

Brother Liebig’s work among us was not for long. He had been here barely two weeks when the authorities became aware he was uniting the scattered children of God. The report from Chortitza said he was to be taken into custody, and he was arrested by the Chortitza district court. He was taken to the government center of Jekaterinoslav, then to Odessa, and then sent over the border. Once again we were helpless, although we had been greatly blessed through him.

But the Lord was not lacking in means. Through his wondrous leading, Brother Karl Benzin and family moved into our midst in the spring of 1868 from the Dirschau congregation in Germany. He was familiar with church structure, for he had been active as a deacon in his congregation. He was able to give us substantial help at a most crucial time.

At a meeting in Einlage on 10 July, 1868 where Brother Benzin was named chairman, the following resolutions were made:

  1. Our congregation should be named “Einlage Congregation.”
  2. Besides Einlage, there are congregations at Markusland, {131} Chernoglas, and others.
  3. The serving members of the congregation, such as elders, teachers and deacons, all of whom must be elected, were named. The duties of the elder were: baptism, communion, weddings, to comfort and admonish, to keep the books of the congregation, and to carry out whatever written work or correspondence was necessary. For this he would require a church seal (stamp). Thus one thing after another was discussed and concluded; but not all is enumerated here.

Another church membership meeting was called on 14 July, with Karl Benzin as chairman once again. He opened the meeting by asking if everyone was still in agreement with the resolutions of the previous meeting. The “yes” was indicated by a show of hands. Karl Benzin moved that the congregation should proceed to the election of an elder that afternoon. This was unanimously accepted as indicated by a show of hands.

At two o’clock the afternoon meeting began. After a hymn and a prayer, the chairman asked if the election should be determined by majority vote. This was also unanimously accepted. Karl Benzin and the elderly Brother Wieler went into the next room and received the votes. According to majority count, the election was won by Abraham Unger who received 21 votes; Aron Lepp had 9, Peter Friesen had 5; and the others had fewer votes. The congregation now had an elder and teachers.

Matters should have gone according to the scriptures, but because different interpretations still persisted among the members, God’s Word was often individually and variously understood.

The situation was still not smooth, leaving much to be desired. But the Lord who began this also knew how to continue it. In 1869 Brother Oncken came from Hamburg to Russia to visit his brethren with whom he had been deeply involved in Old Danzig. On this occasion he wanted to help us and to unify the brethren who were preaching the Word. Since Brother Lepp relinquished his temporary position during the presence of Brother Oneken, the congregation was obliged to elect a teacher once more. Brother Lepp was elected again. On October, 1869 a service was held at the home of Abraham Unger in Einlage. Here Brother Oneken ordained Abraham Unger as elder, and Aron Lepp, Karl Benzin and two other brethren as deacons. Unfortunately, Brother Oneken could {132} remain with us for only 10 days. Some brethren would have liked him to continue in our midst for a longer time, but because winter was near, and the return journey was being made by water and stagecoach without any traveling companions, he was in a hurry.

The congregation was on its own and worked as hard as it could. In 1870 the elder of the congregation was given the assignment to go to Old Danzig to make the “Macedonian call.” From time to time we had fellowship with them, and they were happy to see Abraham Unger in their midst; in fact they were soon one in heart and soul.

On the second day of Pentecost, the congregation decided to hold a baptism. Brother Unger was asked to officiate. He stepped into the water and baptised 53 souls, including two Russians. The Russian girl had been brought up in a German home. A Russian brother had hurried into the water saying: “Who will baptize me if you will not do it?” A brother who had compassion for him said, “Go into the water.” No sooner said than done. He threw off his “tschumarka” and hurried to the officiating minister.

Brother Unger suddenly saw a Russian in front of him, and was not quite sure what he should do. That he was a believing brother, he knew, but he was also a member of the Orthodox Church. Secondly, there were many Russian spectators present. Abraham Unger put his faith in God’s hands and baptized the Russian.

Immediately following the baptism the brethren went home. In the event that they would be imprisoned, they wanted to be with their families for a little while. God moves in mysterious ways. Although the “Odessa Zeitung” reported that Abraham Unger had baptized two Russians, there was no further development. To God be the glory for ever. Amen.

That was the beginning of the Russian Baptist or the Baptist Congregation in the province of Jekaterinoslav. (Eight years ago Gerhard Wielder had baptised a Russian from Volovkaia, who was persecuted and fled to Turkey. Later he was excommunicated and nothing is known about the fruit of his activity.)

There were several points of view in our congregation. One point of division was that Brother Oneken was a Baptist and that those baptized by him were likewise Baptists. Therefore our leader, teachers and deacons must be Baptists. This {133} thought filled many minds with concern. The question of military service and the fact that we had Holy Communion with the Baptists was also discussed. A further point discussed was tobacco smoking. The Baptists do not forbid it as adamantly as we do; occasionally Brother Oneken smoked when he was with us. A few brethren emulated him, and this did not help the matter of peace.

All this led many brethren to desire that we should separate completely from the Baptists. Brother Lepp supported this wish. Several brethren feared that by our association with the Baptists we would lose our Mennonite privileges. Brother Unger, on the other hand, believed we could go hand in hand with them without jeopardizing our privileges. This led to debates on military service, which the Baptists accept. To some, military service was wrong; others thought that in the time of need, they would submit to government authority in this matter also. The debate produced arguments both for and against.

In the meantime Brother Liebig, who had come from Turkey to visit us, suggested we could be two separate congregations while still maintaining a spiritual fellowship and sharing in Holy Communion. This was agreeable to Aron Lepp and the Brethren, and so it was concluded. This was a big step towards peace in the congregation. For this we thank God and Brother Liebig. Those who did not have the Mennonite privileges were counted as Baptists.

The congregation found smoking unacceptable, and Brother Lepp felt excommunication would be necessary. Brother Unger felt excommunication was too harsh. Brother Lepp persisted in his conviction. It was resolved to look upon the 10 to 12 Brethren who smoked as no longer members of the congregation. This was distressful for the congregation as they were gifted and highly respected men. This created an outcry among the outsiders. Thus the congregation had one battle after the other.

One battle had hardly been settled when the next one appeared before the door. The Brethren who were preaching the Word disagreed so strongly in their doctrine that it appeared the congregation might be forced to separate.

A members’ meeting was called on 6 January, 1871 in order to decide what was to be done. Aron Lepp suggested {134} Brother Liebig, now serving a Baptist congregation in Dobrudscha, Romania, be asked to visit us. The members agreed to this. The Lord, who guides the hearts of people like a brook, made Brother Liebig willing to visit us once more. In the meantime the Baptists had received official status between 1867 and 1871.

Brother Liebig, together with wife and child, arrived in Andreasfeld in June of 1871. They lived in a small house on Peter Froese’s property. He found the congregation here in a lamentable state: some held on to this interpretation, others held on to that one. Much work had to be done to calm and unify the spirits. He spoke little, but was in private communion with the Lord through prayer, asking Him to soften the hearts of the Brethren. He was careful to avoid partisanship. Soon we saw that the Lord was with him and that he would be successful in uniting the parties. The Lord gave him wisdom. The group which stood closest to him he chastised the most, showing no favoritism. He made many improvements. He introduced the time of prayer preceeding the morning worship service; the church membership meeting; and recording the minutes at these meetings. He also thought a mission school would be a good thing. Brother Lepp later participated in a mission school in Odessa. August Liebig also started a Sunday School and did many other good things not included in this account. The year passed too quickly, and Brother Liebig had to return to his field work in Turkey. (Romania was part of Turkey at that time.)

As far as the general feeling of the teachers and congregation was concerned, Brother Liebig had done much good among them and they were on their way to unification. The itinerant-preachers ministry had been organized so that everyone knew when and where he was to serve. Baptist preachers were also active in the itinerant ministry here.

In 1872 Eduard Leppky came from Prussia, and in 1873 Wilhelm Schulz came from Germany. Brother Schulz was sent into the Don River area. Since he was a gifted speaker and would appear freely at open gatherings, the local pastors became aware of him and asked him who had granted him permission to speak. He would answer that the king of kings had given him permission to go into all the world and to preach the gospel. This aroused the pastors so much that they placed an accusation against him with the government. He {135} was arrested and brought to Andreasfeld under guard, and then sent over the border.

In 1875 his field of service was given to Eduard Leppky. In the meantime Brother Leppky had come to a new conviction. He had accepted the Mennonite confession of faith, and was now teaching it in the area. He was well received and spoke with much success. As it so often has happened in the past, Satan was able to mislead a soul. Leppky was held in too high esteem. Everything he said was accepted as heaven sent. God permitted him to fall into an erroneous doctrine. He began to teach that only those who do not take the sword shall be saved. According to this, only Mennonites could then be saved. With this he came into conflict with the whole brotherhood. In spite of this, he continued to speak here as well as in the Molotschna, being zealous to undo all that August Liebig had done.

In addition to this, after a 14-year ministry as elder, Abraham Unger resigned his position in 1876, due to his depressing economic situation. The congregation elected Aron Lepp to this position. Since Brother Leppky had already done the groundwork, Brother Lepp believed that the time was right to separate from the Baptists in the celebration of communion. A church membership meeting was held to discuss Brother Leppky’s viewpoint.

But man’s ways are not necessarily God’s ways. The separation did not take place, and everything remained as it had been. Eduard Leppky now wrote highly derogatory letters about the church leadership. Division among the membership was aroused once more. Negative aspects about the Baptists were exposed and emphasized. Once Brother Liebig was not permitted to participate in communion because he was a Baptist. Thereupon he modestly refrained from attending.

The majority were on Eduard Leppky’s side, and Aron Lepp supported this. Abraham Unger and several brethren were of a different opinion. As the time for the Rueckenau, Molotschna General Conference of 1877 drew near, the discussion on this point was shelved until the time when the point could be decided. The time came and the Conference was well attended. One of the most important items was the discussion of Leppky’s viewpoint. Opinions were expressed in an orderly way, one after the other. No final consensus could be reached. During the discussion several brethren silently prayed, “Lord, {136} you show us the way.” At this point Johann Siemens rose from his seat with the question, “Would the brotherhood agree to put off a decision for a year to see if the Lord would have something to say on this matter?” This was accepted. Some brethren expressed the hope privately that this point would not be raised again, that it would rest until the day of resurrection. It was never discussed at a subsequent conference.

At the membership meeting of 27 December, 1879 the most important item on the agenda concerned the marriage of our children, not yet members of any church but who wished to be married. The question to be resolved by the brethren was: “What do we do in this situation? Do we want to refer them to the old church to be married? Do we want to marry them in our congregation?” The problem appeared incomprehensible and insoluble to many. “Of what concern to us are those who are outside?” was the comment by some. Others answered, “They are our children and we must take responsibility for their well-being.” “Let them go the ‘Church’ ,” replied the former. “But what if they do not feel this is right, yet cannot come to us because they are not converted?” countered the latter.

Abraham Unger made a suggestion: the congregation should make a rule that the children of our members who were not baptized and who did not belong to any congregation but who wished to marry, would be required to make a personal appearance before the congregation to request that they be married by this church, and endorse this request with their signature. In addition, they would promise to attend church services, and to conduct their life in a quiet, upright way. This suggestion pleased the congregation. It was made into a motion, seconded, and accepted unanimously.

Though our congregation was known to the government, they still sent a high official from the Ministry in St. Petersburg in 1873 to sojourn among the Mennonites of southern Russia, gathering information for a report. He also visited the new Mennonite Brethren congregation to find out their reason for separating from the original Mennonite Church. He was interested in knowing what relationship existed between us and the Baptists. The teachers and elders of the entire Mennonite Brethren Church, including Molotschna, came together to draft a statement addressed to the higher authorities outlining the differences between the above named churches. The {137} accuracy of the statement was verified by the whole assembly. Together with the Confession of Faith, it was sent to the Ministry. The Conference of Mennonite Brethren also decided to have this printed and published, but this did not happen until 1876. Since the statements of the Confession of Faith were coming in at a time when a separation from the Baptists was being contemplated, their appendage to the statement was undesirable to many Brethren. They considered it unnecessary and occasionally it was even rejected. however, some Brethren valued it.

As noted earlier, the German Baptists in Russia had received official recognition and the government was interested in knowing how many there were and where they lived. In 1878 the Ministry sent an official order to the Chortitza district office to submit a record of the number of Baptists living here. In this number we who had separated from the Mennonite conference were counted among the Baptists. Johann Friesen, Abraham Unger and Jakob Koslowsky became aware of this, and made inquiries to the district chairman. They said we should send a petition to rescind this. The congregation met and decided that Abraham Unger and Aron Lepp should investigate the matter whether we could still remain Mennonites. The brethren did their utmost, undertook long journeys at no small expense to them, and finally brought the information. It would be necessary to submit our Confession of Faith in both the Russian and German languages to the government. This was endorsed by the congregation. But who were the brethren who could take on this assignment?

The choice fell on the Halbstadt teacher, Johann Wieler. Brother Wieler passed it on to the Russian language teacher Peter Friesen. Thus a clear statement of the Confession of Faith as well as the attachment (which had been earlier tossed aside by some) was made and sent to the Ministry for a second time, showing to what extent we agreed with the Mennonites, and to what extent we agreed with the Baptists. Thanks to the attachment, we retained our status as Mennonites with the higher Russian authorities. After some time, the Chortitza district office received a statement that we, as well as those who were born Mennonites, were accepted and recognized as Mennonites. So the Enemy had been put to shame again. In this respect the Molotschna Conference had proceeded more wisely by stating there were no Baptists. (The Molotschna {138} Mennonite Brethren Conference proceeded with greater independence from the beginning, and consequent development showed less influence from the Baptists.)

From the foregoing events it is clear things had happened among the members as well as within the leadership. “But all things work together for good to them who are called according to the Lord’s purpose.”

Abraham Unger became ill on 19 February, 1880. He had inflammation of the chest, and his end seemed imminent. The brethren and sisters visited him often. Brother Lepp too, felt deeply for him in his illness even though in the past there had been some confrontations that weakened the love between Abraham Unger and Brother Lepp when each stood strongly on his point of view. In spite of this, their last hour together was of earnest, deep spiritual fellowship. Their last conversation is not known to this writer because it was just between the two of them.

His end was drawing closer. Although it seemed at times as if he was going to get well again, something he believed himself, the Lord had planned otherwise. During his last night, 11 March at eight o’clock, he was aware that his end was near. A brother who had come from a distance and stayed overnight with Brother Abraham Unger related that the night had not seemed long. Brother Unger wanted to bid farewell to all his workers. The oldest son and the one who was in charge, Abraham, allowed all 16 men into his room, one at a time. Brother Unger admonished each with a few words, asking forgiveness where he had erred, for he was now dying. The Russians wept, pressing and kissing his hands.

Then he bade farewell to his children who entered one by one. David the youngest son, who attended high school (Zentralschule) in Chortitza, had been brought home. With the words “David, my dearest son, I have put my hope in you, but I cannot carry you to complete the course,” he said farewell. That was eleven o’clock in the evening. His strength was totally spent. He had spoken with full consciousness, and now wished to sleep.

At midnight everything became very dark. It seemed as if he had been robbed of all his strength. He believed that the Lord had fulfilled the work of salvation but felt himself so unworthy and having done so little for the Lord. He became very restless in his bed. When he had been about an hour in {139} this darkness, he requested that his daughter-in-law, Louise, read the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. “No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand,” she read slowly. He said, “No one. So I may believe too.” He was completely comforted and remained thus until the end. It seemed to take too long for him to be released. On 12 March, 1880 at nine o’clock in the morning, he passed from us.

The burial service was held on 16 March, 1880. The school house at Einlage was filled to capacity. Johann Siemens of Andreasfeld, preached the funeral sermon, relating parts of his life story. On the coffin his children had lovingly written the following Bible verse in gold lettering: “I have kept the faith; now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.” The cemetery was full of people even before the funeral procession arrived. Many inhabitants of the villages wanted to see him once more. His face was not changed. He lay in the coffin like a victor, and after his death he was honored as a victor. Many of his congregation came to the insight that the belief for which Abraham Unger had fought, was the right one. Our dear Brother Lepp came to a different view regarding fellowship with the Baptists, and admitted this.

At a large gathering of the founding anniversary celebration in Molotschna on 6 January, 1885, Brother Lepp admitted his changed outlook before everyone, and wished that much that had happened, had not been. But it was past. And who would not want to forgive him? We all make mistakes, and yet we will enter as victors into the heavenly ranks. “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

Now I would like to close my short narrative from the life and work of the first elder of the Einlage Mennonite Brethren Church, Abraham Unger, with whom I have shared and experienced much of the foregoing account. I believe I have completed my last assignment in this life, for my days are numbered.

Heinrich Epp {140}


  1. Froehliche Richtung or the movement of exuberance.
  2. All biblical quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (1978).
Ken Reddig is former Archivist at the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Ida Toews is a retired public school teacher living in Winnipeg.