International Ministries

Obituary for Retired Missionary to Congo, Martha Emmert

February 23, 2012 News

Martha Atkins Emmert, aged 88, passed away quietly on February 13, 2012 following surgery and several weeks of attempted recovery.  Martha was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on September 10, 1923, into a family of seven.  She grew up in a rural environment. "We lived a nomadic life, due to the depression and our poverty", she wrote.

Martha was a high school drop out 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."  She committed her life to Christ and was baptized during her teens.  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 (now known as American Baptist International Ministries) in the Democratic Republic of the 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 were married in 1948.  In March of 1953 Martha and Leon were appointed by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (A.B.F.M.S.) for service in Assam, India.  When that did not work out they hoped to go to Burma.  When the visa for Burma was not granted they agreed to go to the Belgian Congo.  They left for Belgium in 1955 with their 5 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 thousands of lives. She saw students graduate high school, continue to college, many of them traveling to other countries and continents to continue studies and practice their chosen professions.  Having evidenced early an interest in the musical arts, painting and other forms of creative art also became an important part of Martha’s interpretive ministry.  She found a very special ministry as she applied her artistic skills to the beautification of school, hospital, and church buildings in the various locations where she and Leon lived and served.

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.  She is survived by her husband Leon, son Daniel, grandsons Nathan and Todd, daughter Michal Rose, and granddaughter Destiny Rose.