Anna Marie Kurtz served in Ghana from 1961-1992. Photo provided by Mennonite Church USA Archives.

By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Anna Marie Kurtz, 90, served God through caring for people's physical and spiritual needs in Ghana and in Ohio.

GOSHEN, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — Anna Marie Kurtz served in Ghana with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network, for more than three decades. She died June 9 from complications of cancer at her home in Salem, Ohio. She was 90.

Born in 1930 to Earl and Mollie (Lehman) Kurtz, Anna Marie graduated from Greenford High School in 1948, and Salem City Hospital School of Nursing as a registered nurse in 1951. She received her bachelor's degree in Natural Science for Nursing and Bible from Goshen College in 1961. That same year she followed God's call to Ghana.

Kurtz lived in Amasaman, a village 15 miles north of Accra, and helped to open a medical clinic there. However, within two years, she began dividing her time between nursing and her true passion, Bible teaching and evangelism.

"I feel the call to go where no [missionary] has been, to give those people a chance to hear about Jesus," Kurtz wrote in a report.

In 1984, when the Ghanaian government opened a clinic in Amasaman, Kurtz combined a mobile health clinic with evangelism. She would spend four to five days in remote communities with a Mennonite congregation. She did medical work during the day and taught Bible in the evenings.

In Kurtz's final report to the mission agency in 1992, she wrote that she sometimes felt depressed by all that remained undone.

"Other times I feel heartened … by the thousands who would not be here today [if it were not for the Mennonites' health ministry]. In addition to our own work, we were able to provide 24-hour ambulance service, which saved many lives … It is more difficult to assess the church work and my part in nurturing it," Kurtz wrote, referring to the 16 Mennonite congregations with a total of 1,200 members.

"I would say that the Mennonite influence here has been far greater than is seen in the few congregations we have," Kurtz wrote.

Kurtz acknowledged that Mennonite mission workers could have done ministry differently.

"I have been here long enough to look back and say I wish we had decided to do it another way," Kurtz wrote. "But I sometimes cringe when I read critical books about the work of missionaries of the past. We must be careful that we are not criticizing the work of the Holy Spirit. We prayed asking God's guidance before making decisions."

Steve Wiebe-Johnson, Mennonite Mission Network co-director for Africa and Europe, first met Kurtz in 1990 when his family transitioned from Mennonite Board of Missions ministry in Liberia to Ghana.

"Anna Marie welcomed us warmly," Wiebe-Johnson said. "She was a woman with conviction, persistence, and a strong sense of being called to serve the church. She wanted to help the church leaders to advance their vision, especially in the area of evangelism."

Brothers Edgar and Wilbur Kurtz remember their sister's love for the people among whom she lived in Ghana. They became her family and called her "Mother," "Grandmother," and "Auntie Anna." One of Anna Marie Kurtz's legacies is her many namesakes in the areas where she worked. Some mothers started naming their newborn daughters "Kurtz" because there were so many "Annas!"

When Kurtz retired from mission work in Ghana, she expressed gratitude to God for having been called to serve in such an interesting place. She expected to continue to do God's work in the United States but was sure it wouldn't be as exciting!

When Anna Marie Kurtz returned to the United States in 1992, she became a nurse caretaker and continued to share her love of God in this way. She attended Leetonia (Ohio) Mennonite Church where she taught Sunday school and visited the sick. She often brought them a bouquet of flowers picked from her own garden, where she loved to spend her afternoons.

Those who knew Kurtz describe her as a woman of deep faith and a generous person who put the needs of others before her own. Her generosity continues even after her death as she chose to have her body donated to a medical school.

Kurtz is survived by her brothers, Edgar and Wilbur. She was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Raymond Kurtz.

In lieu of a funeral, Kurtz requested a simple family gathering that took place June 13 at Leetonia Mennonite Church.


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



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