NEWTON, Kan. (Mennonite Mission Network) — Harold Ratzlaff spent his entire career serving in India as an evangelist, educator and administrator. Ratzlaff died Feb. 10 at the age of 94.
Harold Ratzlaff was born April 27, 1911, to Jacob C. and Mary Becker Ratzlaff and raised on a farm near Meno, Okla. After graduating from Bethel College, North Newton, Kan., he married Ruth Regier, a nurse, on Sept. 3, 1938. A.E. Kreider, a Bible teacher at Bethel College and chairman of the mission board of the General Conference Mennonite Church, invited Ratzlaff to a mission board meeting. There, board members told him, “Harold, we want you to go to India as a missionary.” He and Ruth accepted that call, and furthered their studies at Hartford (Conn.) Seminary where he completed a bachelor of divinity degree.
In September 1940, the Ratzlaffs went to India and began studying the Hindi language. They began their first assignments at Champa where he was placed in charge of evangelism in that district, and she was hospital administrator. In 1945, they transferred to Jagdeeshpur to be responsible for district evangelism and church work.
“I was assigned to visit the already established district churches, with the help of Indian pastors and evangelists,” Ratzlaff wrote.
Their first return to the United States was 1947 to 1950. During that time he completed a master’s degree in theology from Mennonite Biblical Seminary, affiliated with Bethany Biblical Seminary in Chicago. His thesis was titled, “Planting a church in India.”
Ratzlaffs returned to Champa, resuming his evangelism work, which expanded to include the Mauhadi area. Later, he alternately managed all the mission schools in Korba and Champa. Working together with Lubin and Tillie Jantzen, they began English-language schools, which are still in operation. He continued with school administration until their time in India ended in 1976 when they retired in Newton.
“He was whole-hearted. If he did a job, he did it right,” Lubin Jantzen said.
His wife, Ruth, died Feb. 16, 1992. He was preceded in death by infant son Harold Eugene; daughter Mary Ann Jensen; and granddaughter Sharon Jensen. He is survived by one grandson, Frederick Jensen of Amherst, N.Y; and son-in-law Gary Jensen of Lake Jackson, Texas.
Ratzlaff was a member of Bethel College Mennonite Church, North Newton, Kan. Memorials may be given to Mennonite Mission Network.