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Photo Friday: A Fond Farewell Remembered

Henry (right) and Katie (Burkholder) Smith, with their children Leoda (far left) and Joseph (in Katie's arms), were long-time Brethren in Christ missionaries to India. Here, they are pictured during a 1921-1922 furlough taken at Grantham, Pa. Courtesy of the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives.

From 1913 until 1924, Henry Light Smith and Katie (Burkholder) Smith served as Brethren in Christ missionaries in India, working alongside fellow missionary Effie Rohrer to establish a station in the country’s Bihar province.

As it was for many missionary couples leaving behind family and friends to venture overseas, the Smiths’ departure on October 1, 1913 was wrought with tears and fond farewells. As Henry Smith recalled in his diary, saying goodbye to his aging father (S.R. Smith, founder of Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home) was particularly difficult:

In tears but in perfect resignation [my parents] bade me farewell and bowed to God’s all-wise decree. Papa and Mamma too evinced His grace even amid freely flowing tears. Shall I ever forget father in white haired venerableness saying, “God has given me the Witness that you are to go”?

Then to Katie he said, “I shall not be satisfied until I see the boat moving away with you on it.”

In his diary, Smith also remembers the rest of the scene that day:

All our friends bade us a loving farewell, most of them in tears. . . . And actually the boat moves, the dreamed of is real, the sad parting is now past, but the last visions of loved ones, oh how we strained our sight for one last glympse, [sic] — and we had it. Then still waving our hands, handkerchiefs and hat, our boat turned and bore us from their sight – out into the deep who [sic] path we know not — to lands dark and strange. What a change from expressions of warmest and tenderest love — to all this unknown of sin, evil, coldness, and evil design. But we are cheered, for when the human voice on land faded into silence, still “The Voice of the Lord is upon the Waters.”

Looking back from our present vantage, the Smiths’ departure seems even more poignant given that S.R. Smith (Henry’s father) would die unexpectedly in 1916, never having seen his son or daughter-in-law again. Henry was later to die on the mission field from smallpox in 1924.

3 responses to “Photo Friday: A Fond Farewell Remembered

  1. Throughout my life, I have known some of Henry and Katie Smith’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Despite the fact that Henry died in India in 1924, some of his decendents from each generation have also been missionaries in India.

    Living and serving in India myself now, I can hardly imagine what it would have been like back in the early 1920’s to travel and spend 7 year terms there. Even though India is still a very different land and culture now, and I face challenges and difficulties living there, the early missionaries experienced far more isolation and hardships. I stand in awe of them.

  2. Henry Smith was the brother of my grandmother, Emma Climenhaga. When she and John, my grandfather, first felt the call to mission work, they planned to go to India. The Mission Board determined otherwise and sent them instead to Africa in 1920.
    Henry and Emma had been quite close, and when he died, Emma longed to see where he had done his mission work. So, in 1927 John and Emma Climenhaga requested and were granted a 3 month furlough to visit India.

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