A friend converses with Tina Bohn (right) in the compound of Emily and Samuel Muhono in 1987. The Muhono family hosted John and Tina for part of the time that they served in Lesotho. Photo courtesy of MCUSA archives.

By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Monday, June 10, 2024

Tina Warkentin Bohn, who served God and God's people on four continents, died April 11.

Tina Warkentin Bohn, 95, who served God and God's people on four continents, died April 11, at Greencroft Healthcare in Goshen, Indiana.

In 1978, Tina began her final overseas mission assignment, a 15-year ministry with Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM) in Lesotho, a small mountainous kingdom that is totally surrounded by South Africa. AIMM is a Mennonite Mission Network partner. Tina and her husband, John, responded to a call from the Federal Council of African-Initiated Churches (AICs) to provide biblical and community development training for a holistic ministry center that sought to lessen the need for men to leave their families to work in South African mines.

Upon arriving in Lesotho, the Bohns were called upon to help with an emergency need at the Thaba Khuba Ecumenical Institute. Then, in 1981, the Bohns moved into a rondavel (a round house with a pointed roof) in Tabola, about 45 miles north of Meseru, Lesotho's capital. The Bohns' new home, which was about 15 feet in diameter, had a thatch roof and a slightly concave dirt floor. Jim Bertsche in CIM/AIMM: A Story of Vision, Commitment and Grace, wrote:

"That efficient and imaginative use had to be made of every square inch was obvious … That the Bohns were up to coping with their new arrangement was soon enough apparent to visitors … Little wooden shims under legs of furniture effectively leveled them … Standing in the center of their tiny round shelter they would slowly turn on their heels while gesturing in different directions of the compass, announcing: 'We are now in the kitchen. Now, we are in the study; and now, in the bedroom!' On occasion, when things got a bit too snug, they always had temporary storage available in their 'mobile closet' parked outside under a peach tree: their VW bug!" (p. 524).


The Bohns traveled to various villages, incorporating development seminars into the already established Bible-teaching ministry of the AICs. They taught nutrition, composting and food preservation; sanitation; ropemaking; and simple bookkeeping. They sold Bibles, hymnals, Christian literature, seeds and fruit trees at minimal cost. Tina often organized women's sewing circles.


Pastor John Mallela and the chief of Ha Thuhloane recognize one of the women, who was part of the sewing circle that Tina Bohn organized. Photo courtesy of MCUSA archives. 


One of their projects was to make comforters with four-inch blocks of material that had been donated by North American women. The Basotho women were so excited to see the scraps of cloth become a warm and aesthetically pleasing covering that a celebration was planned. Tina later described it in an AIMM publication:

"This has been a therapeutic project — one that compelled the women, as they sewed, to reveal the true fabric of their lives. They alternately shed tears over disrupted family lives and joined together in songs of hope and joy …

"Following village protocol, the chief opened the program with a speech and the pastor followed with a prayer. Songs were sung, and then, as the women's names were called out, each went into the church to choose her [comforter] … The women danced their way back to the gathering with the [comforters] around their shoulders amid clapping and cheering.

"One of the women spoke on behalf of the sewing group … I gave a history of the project, stressing the fact that this was a joint effort between the women of [Lesotho] and North American women. What was most encouraging was that these women represented five denominations, [both AIC and mission churches], in a country where there is so much conflict and mistrust between churches … The experience is an example of what can happen when people set aside their differences and emphasize their oneness in Christ."  


Born to Helen and Peter Warkentin, December 19, 1928, in Saskatchewan, Canada, Tina was the seventh of 10 children. The year before her birth, her parents fled violence in a Mennonite colony in present-day Ukraine. Tina grew up on the family farm near Superb, Saskatchewan, with German as her first language. She attended Rosthern Bible School and Saskatoon Business College, both in Saskatchewan.   

From 1955-1957, Tina served with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in California, working with families of farm workers from Mexico. Then, she responded to a call to work with MCC in Europe. She managed homes for refugees in Austria and Germany. She first met John Bohn in Frankfurt, Germany, where he was also serving with MCC. She, then, became the hostess for a house of MCC Pax men, who were rebuilding in Austria after World War II. These men were conscientious objectors and fulfilling their alternative military service with the MCC Pax program. From Austria, Tina went to Greece to manage one of the MCC Pax houses. John and Tina met a second time when John visited Pax men in Greece.

In 1960, Tina returned to Canada, but she stayed there less than a year, as MCC requested that she become the hostess for a guest house for traveling church workers in Kinshasa, the capital city of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After two years, AIMM asked her to help with the administration of a 300-bed hospital at the Kimpese mission station, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Kinshasa. She served here for 12 years, before returning to Kinshasa to work in the AIMM office.

John, who, by then, was improving food crops in the remote mountainous regions of New Guinea, received an AIMM prayer directory in which he saw Tina for the third time! He arranged a visit to DRC. After a period of correspondence, while Tina still lived in DRC and John returned Papua New Guinea, John and Tina were married in Kinshasa in 1975. They worked in Papua New Guinea for three years. John continued with his agricultural projects, and Tina volunteered in the office of Mission Aviation Fellowship of Australia and New Zealand, an organization that provides flights for mission workers in areas that are not accessible by roads.

In 1978, the Bohns began ministry with AIMM in Lesotho, where they continued until they retired to Goshen, Indiana, in 1993. Tina's passion for mission continued in retirement, as she volunteered in the kitchen at Camp Friedenswald, a Mennonite camp in Michigan; delivered food for Meals on Wheels, a service for house-bound people; served on AIMM's auxiliary team; provided childcare for friends; and read with an elementary school reading buddy. She enjoyed needlework, sharing her baked goods with others and translating into English papers that her father, who was a pastor, had written in German. 

Tina was preceded in death by her parents and siblings; Agatha (Henry) Wiebe, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Pete, Saskatoon; Helen (George) Olfert, Luseland, Saskatchewan; Abe (Elsie), Saskatoon; Anne (Leonard) Dyck, Calgary, Alberta; Gerard, Saskatoon; brother-in-law Brad Houston, Penticton, British Columbia and sister-in-law Sue Warkentin, Calgary. She is survived by her husband, John, and sister Gertrude Warkentin, both of Goshen, sister Marie Houston, Penticton, brother John (Kathy), Calgary; sisters-in-law Helen Warkentin and Tina Warkentin, both of Saskatoon and many nieces and nephews.

She was a member of Eighth Street Mennonite Church, where a memorial service was held on April 27. Memorial donations may be made to MCC or AIMM.

 

 

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​Lynda Hollinger-Janzen is a writer for Mennonite Mission Network.

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