Obituary of Elfrieda Ruth Loewen
Elfrieda Ruth (Regier) Loewen, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, passed away at the age of 100. Elfrieda had the opportunity to live in several countries and she connected with people everywhere she lived, offering hospitality to them in her home. Elfrieda loved young children, flowers, trees, and dogs and she joyfully cared for many of them. Her love for her family and her faith in Jesus were the pillars of her life.
Elfrieda was born June 21, 1923, the daughter of David A. and Barbara (Epp) Regier. The third of eight children, she grew up on a farm near Mountain Lake, Minnesota. Her father, a farmer, had trained at Moody Bible Institute and the Chicago Theological Seminary at University of Chicago and then returned to the community as pastor to his home church. Her mother also attended Moody Bible Institute before their marriage. Christian education remained important to the family. Elfrieda trusted Jesus Christ as her savior at an early age and joined the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren (EMB) church in Mountain Lake where she remained a member all of her life.
Elfrieda attended country school and Mt. Lake Bible School, where some classes were taught in German. Due to the difficulty of traveling from the farm into town in the winter, she sometimes lived in town with her medical doctor aunt who taught her healthy lifestyle. When she went to Wheaton College, she paid her way by typing customer service letters for Sears Roebuck & Co. and by cleaning house for a prominent local family. She earned a Bachelor’s degree, majoring in German literature and minoring in science. Later in life she taught her children to sing German songs and shared with them the marvels of chemistry and botany. One weekend in her senior year, she visited friends at Goshen College in Indiana and met Mel, a Canadian from Steinbach, Manitoba, at an ice cream party. That initial spark started a long-distance courtship. Elfrieda graduated college in 1948 and then taught high school sciences for a year while Mel finished his senior year at Goshen. They married in August 1949 and then moved to Winnipeg for a year of Bible school. Thereafter followed a series of moves to various locations in the US and Canada for work and education.
In the early years of their marriage, Gerry, Barbara and Margaret were born. While living in Minnesota, a life changing visit by a young missionary couple from Africa turned Elfrieda and Mel toward serving as educational missionaries with the Congo Inland Mission. The family of five moved to Hartford, Connecticut for seminary studies and then took a steamer ship to Brussels, Belgium for a year to prepare for life and work in a French-speaking country. Their life as missionaries began in the bush of Congo in 1956.
In the following decade, Elfrieda was involved in educational work with African women (learning Tshiluba and Lingala) and she was busy with caring for and homeschooling her growing family. John and James were born on the Djoko Punda (Charlesville) station in the Congo in the late 1950s. Following the country’s independence, more schools were opened. In 1964, Mel was asked to help run the new Congo Protestant University in Stanleyville. The bloody rebellion in that region later that year was a time of intense tension and trauma. Elfrieda and Mel cared for their large family and offered many prayers for deliverance. After a dramatic rescue at in November 1964, the family settled in Mel’s hometown, Steinbach Manitoba, where Elizabeth was born three months later, before returning to Africa.
In 1967, after continued unrest in Congo and a brief sojourn in Wheaton, Illinois, the family drove across county to California at Christmastime. Mel was to become Academic Dean at Fresno Pacific College. Elfrieda was adept at providing stability during times of change, even managing to plan ahead and have a small Christmas tree to set up in their hotel room on Christmas Eve. The family enjoyed the sun and culture of California in the late 1960s. The children’s ages ranged from 3 to 16, so it was a lively time for Elfrieda as she mothered teenagers and little ones. She also made friends with faculty wives and led Bible study groups.
Then in 1970, the World Bank in Washington, DC was looking for an educational specialist to open an office in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Mel and Elfrieda with their three younger children went back to Africa. Elfrieda found the new post challenging and charming. She learned how to entertain for the diplomatic corps and took on roles in church, teaching children’s Sunday school and classes for women. The whole family refreshed (or learned for the first time) their French skills. Elfrieda acquired a family dog and planted papaya seeds around their newly built house. Those papaya seeds turned into fruit-producing trees within a year and gave fruit that the family enjoyed daily. It was in Abidjan that “Tea Time” became an enduring family tradition.
The move back to the US in 1973 made the Washington DC area home for the next 20 years. There was also an interlude in Rwanda in the mid-1980s. For three years Elfrieda was involved with Burundi refugees, official entertaining, and working with African and expatriate women for benevolent causes. She taught the sewing arts and cultivated a beautiful tropical garden with many flowers, especially roses. Birds, wildlife, and photo safaris were a source of joy.
Returning to their country home in Maryland (“Old Oaks”) Elfrieda stewarded the plants and animals (including two Labradors) that lived there. She continued her Bible class teaching and took on a new role of Hospice volunteer. After Mel’s retirement in 1990, the two of them traveled to many countries in Africa and Asia, encouraging business people to support emerging churches. It was a fine capstone to the work and service of a lifetime.
After 35 moves over almost 50 years, Elfrieda and Mel moved to Goshen in 1998 to be nearer to family and friends. They would live there for the next 25 years. Elfrieda is survived by Mel, her husband of 74 years, and her children Barbara, Margaret, John, James and Lisa, along with her children-in-law, Nancy, Bob, Wendy and Joe. She is also survived by her sister, Mary Regier. Her eldest child, Jacob Gerard, predeceased her. In addition, she is survived by her eight grandchildren and seven great-grands whom she loved dearly. Interment will be in Steinbach, Manitoba in land once owned by Mel and Elfrieda and bought by the city to become Heritage Cemetery on Loewen Blvd.
A graveside service will be held Saturday, July 8, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. at Heritage Cemetery, Steinbach, MB.