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Klassen, John N. (1929– ) and Mary (1928– )

Proper Title

John N. and Mary Klassen fonds

Dates of Creation

1960–2019

Physical Description

45 cm of textual material

Biographical Sketch

John N. Klassen (GRANDMA ID: 465718) was born on April 7, 1929, in the village Steinfeld—part of the Schlachtin Mennonite settlement in what is now Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine—to Johann J. and Elizabeth Klassen nee Niebuhr. On May 18, 1936, twins Peter and Margaret were born, making them a family five.

During the Soviet political oppression of religious minorities (1936–1938), his father was arrested on the night of September 10, 1937, never to be heard from again. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the family applied to the Ukrainian government for information about their father. The response they received was that he was executed September 25, 1937.

After almost five years (October 1943—February 1948) as a refugee family in Germany, they were helped to come to Canada by the International Relief Organisation and the Mennonite Central Committee, arriving on February 14, 1948.

A spiritual awakening began for John in Germany while at a youth camp in Braunschweig, September 1946. He was baptised as a follower of Jesus Christ on December 10, 1946, in Braunschweig.

During the 12 years in Canada before returning to Germany as a missionary, he worked to repay is travel debit, studied at Winkler Bible School (1949–1953), and married Mary Goerzen in 1953. They started a family during this time and studied at the Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg (1957–1960).

Mary Goerzen (GRANDMA ID: 465719) was born August 23, 1928, in the village of Tiege—part of the Sagradowka Mennonite settlement in what is now Kherson Oblast, Ukraine—to Johann and Liese Goerzen nee Goossen. Her father was also arrested September 19, 1937 and sent to Archangel, Northern Russia. He died there of unknown causes.

Mary came to faith in Jesus during German occupation in 1943, and was baptised on September 19, 1943, in Ukraine. Mary’s family was also a fatherless refugee family that lived in Germany from 1944 to 1948, until they also managed to immigrate to Canada.

Mary and John first met at a youth camp in Germany and then later saw each other again in Vancouver after John completed his studies at Winkler Bible School. They were married on October 18, 1953, and raised four children John Ruben (b. 1954), Mary Ruth (b. 1956), and Timothy Raymond (b. 1964).

For 50 years John N. and Mary Klassen served as missionaries with MB Mission in Germany (1960–2010). John’s assignments included preaching, teaching, evangelism, and church planting with Mary providing support. The first half of their service involved pastoral ministry in three congregations (Neustadt/Weinstrasse, Lage/Lippe, and Bielefeld) and the second half in teaching/administration in two schools (Korntal/Stuttgart and Bibelseminar Bonn). During these years, MB Mission granted them two study leaves so John could complete his seminary studies. Later, he earned a ThD in missiology from the University of South Africa.

John N. and Mary retired to Abbotsford, British Columbia.

[Note: This biographical sketch is derived from a more detailed autobiograpy written by John N. Klassen (see vol 1504, fld no. 1).]

Custodial History

In March 2019, John N. and Mary Klassen donated two large boxes of correspondence and personal papers relating to their 50 years of service with MB Mission (formerly MB Mission/Services International; formerly Board of Missions and Services). In June 2020, several more binders of research papers and correspondence were deposited.

Scope and Content

The John N. & Mary Klassen fonds consists of correspondence between John N. & Mary and various Mission executives, supporting churches in Canada, and missionary colleagues during their five decades of missionary service in Germany, both in pastoral/church planting and in teaching/educational ministry. The fonds documents the assumptions, motivation, vision, and everyday life of one missionary couple, John N. and Mary Klassen, and the particular organizational culture of the Mennonite Brethren mission office during the decades in which they served.

Notes

  • Title based on contents of fonds.
  • Accession number: 2019-02; 2020-03.
  • Volume Nos.: 1504, 1505, and 1510.
  • Finding aid consists of a description and a file/folder list.
  • Description created by Jon Isaak, May 2019, and updated June 2020.
  • No restrictions to access.
  • Language: English and German.

File List

Volume 1504

  1. Biographical sketch of John N. and Mary Klassen. -- 2019.
  2. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., J.W. Vogt, Henry Brucks, J.B. Toews). -- 1960–1968.
  3. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., J.H. Epp, Henry Brucks, J.B. Toews, J.J. Toews, H.R. Wiens, Vernon Wiebe). -- 1969–1971.
  4. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., F.C. Peters, G.W. Peters) and various other groups (Mennonite Children's choir, M.B. Communications, etc.). -- 1973–1979.
  5. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., Victor Adrian, Peter Hamm, Don Loewen, Fred Epp). -- 1985–1989.
  6. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., Marilyn Robinson, Jake Thielmann, Dale Warkentin, Fred Epp). -- 1989–1991.
  7. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., Harold Ens, John Wall, Dave Dyck, Fred Epp, Gary Hardaway, Ferne Hiebert). -- 1992–1994.
  8. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., Dave Dyck, John Olfert, Craig Hallman, Gary Hardaway, Marni Enns, Betty Loeppky). -- 1995–1998.
  9. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Mennonite Brethren Mission/Services personnel (e.g., Lori Toews, Franz Rathmair, Tim Bergdahl, Matt Wall). -- 1999–2002.
  10. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and Victor Adrian (re. mission partnership with Umsiedler churches) and J.B. Toews (re. manuscript on M.B. mission history in Europe for M.B. Historical Commission). -- 1971–1991.
  11. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and missionary colleagues Heinrich H. and Katharina Janzen. -- 1969–1971.
  12. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and missionary colleagues Rueben  and Louise Dirks. -- 1971.
  13. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and missionary colleagues J.W. and Martha Vogt. -- 1968–1971.
  14. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and missionary colleagues Corny and Elfrieda Balzer. -- 1965–1971.
  15. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and missionary colleagues B.J. and Linda Braun. -- 1968–1971.
  16. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and missionary colleagues G.H. and Marianne Jantzen. -- 1968–1971.
  17. Correspondence between John N. and Mary Klassen and missionary colleagues Roland and Lorinna Marsch. -- 1967–1976.
  18. John N. and Mary Klassen correspondence (bulletin announcements, presentation notes, follow-up) with their supporting churches organized by church name or city: Calgary, Clearbrook, Vancouver, Elmwood, Coaldale, McIvor, St. Boniface, King Road, Kelowna, South Langley, Mountainview, Lethbridge, Penticton, Sardis, Central Heights, Winnipeg Central, Winnipeg Fort Gary, Winnipeg Westwood, North Kildonan, Emmanuel Mennonite, Aalten, Regina, McDermot Baptist. -- 1966–2009.

Volume 1505

  1. John N. and Mary Klassen correspondence (bulletin announcements, presentation notes, follow-up) with their supporting churches organized by church name or city: Arnold, Butler, Calgary Highland, Clearbrook, Culloden, Grand Forks, Greendale, Hope Mission, Janz Team, Kelowna, King Road, Kingdom Ventures, Lethbridge, Logos, M.B. Communications, Mennonite Educational Institute, Northview, Penticton, South Langley, Vancouver, Westwood, Willow Park, Winnipeg Central, Winnipeg Elmwood, Winnipeg North Kildonan, Winnipeg Portage Ave., Winnipeg Westwood. -- 1986–1999.

Volume 1510

  1. Research papers: "Underlying Factors for the Relocation of the Japanese American in 1942" (Pacific College, 1966) and "Germany--The Newest Mission Field of the United States: A Study of American Missionary Interest and Involvement in Germany (Fresno State University, 1968). -- 1966, 1968.
  2. Research paper: "A Study of the Motivations and Results of German Emigrations to Russia under the Colonization Program of 1764–1864" (Fresno State College, 1968). -- 1968.
  3. Bachelor of Divinity thesis research paper: "An Image of the Fresno Christian Churches: A Study of the Ecclesiastical Configuration of the Christian Churches and their Historical Development since 1940" (Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, 1968). -- 1968.
  4. Research paper: "An Attempt of Church Planting in Germany: An Assigned Feasibility Study" (Fuller Seminary, 1982). -- 1982.
  5. Master of Theology in Mission thesis paper: "Groups of German Christians Move to Russia 1763–1862--What Happened to them?" (Fuller Seminary, 1983). -- 1983.
  6. Research paper: "Mennonite Brethren Attitudes toward the Charismatic Movement and their Understanding of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Fuller Seminary, 1983). -- 1983.
  7. Research paper: "Good News to Israel About Mission to the Gentiles: A Survey of References to World-Wide Mission in the Gospel of Matthew" (Fuller Seminary, 1983). -- 1983.
  8. Research paper: "God's Surprise for the German Christians: A Study of the Background and the Return of the Russian Germans to Germany Since World War II" (Fuller Seminary, 1984). -- 1984.
  9. Manuscript: "Migrationen der Mennoniten." -- 1996.
  10. Transcript: MB Herald editor, Jim Coggins, interviews John N. Klassen. -- 1996.
  11. Commemorative congregational history book: Die Geschichte der M.B. Gemeinde Dierdorf-Wienau, 1989–1999. -- 1999.
  12. John N. and Mary Klassen correspondence (bulletin announcements, presentation notes, follow-up) with their supporting churches organized by church name or city: North Kildonan, Lethbridge, Richmond, Vancouver, Willingdon, Highland (Calgary), King Road, Kelowna, Langley South, Greendale, Culloden, Central (Winnipeg), Penticton, Fort Garry, Westwood (Winnipeg), Shafter, Terrace (Los Angeles), and Rosedale (Bakersfield). -- 1975–1984.
  13. John N. and Mary Klassen correspondence with various MB Mission administrative assistants and executives (Betty Loeppke, Ethel Goerzen, Shelly Spencer, Jeanine Yoder, Carol Hagen, Ron Penner, Franz Rathmair, and Tina Yutzy). -- 1994–2003.
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