The woman known to countless Mennonite church missionary kids from Canada and the U.S. as “Aunt Tina” died on Oct. 16 at the age of 83
“Tina had a special place in her heart for single women missionaries and missionary children. She often entertained them in her home when they came to Newton [Kan.] for debriefing,” wrote Howard Habegger, former executive secretary of the Commission on Overseas Mission (COM) of the General Conference (GC) Mennonite Church, for which Block Ediger worked for more than a quarter-century.
Block Ediger served with COM from 1955-81. She was there when Habegger joined the staff in 1970 as executive secretary. “It was Tina who welcomed me and provided the information and inspiration I very much needed,” he said in his tribute to her. “She had a unique grasp of the total mission program and its personnel overseas. Tina possessed a deep personal passion for GC involvement in world missions, first serving in India and then many years on the COM staff.”
Block Ediger was born April 25, 1931, in Steinbach, Man., to Julius H. and Katherina Block, the sixth of eight children. She was baptized in 1951. According to her brother Bill, she put her secretarial training to work at several different jobs in Manitoba, but found the work unfulfilling.
“I prayed and God led me to accept a job in Newton, Kan., as a secretary for [the] Commission on Overseas Mission, a two-year job that lasted 26 years,” she wrote in her life story.
During these years, she completed her bachelor of arts degree at Bethel (Kan.) College and served for two years as the secretary-bookkeeper at the Union Biblical Seminary in Yeotmal, India.
In 1975, she married Elmer Ediger. “One great joy of marrying Elmer was gaining a family,” she wrote. Elmer died unexpectedly in 1983, three weeks before she started chemotherapy for her lymphoma.
“Tina believed it was necessary to put a ‘face’ on overseas mission,” wrote Habegger. “Therefore, she developed an extensive itineration program for furloughing missionaries, COM staff and commission members. She would say, ‘We need to get a face-to-face story to our churches on what God is doing through the life of our mission family overseas.’ It is safe to say that during Tina’s tenure as a COM staff person she placed mission partners in approximately 90 percent of General Conference churches in the U.S. and Canada. This was an immense task in communicating with pastors, setting up travel arrangements and placing missionaries as speakers in local churches.”
Block Ediger envisioned and then produced the first Overseas Mission Directory, a compilation of information on each country where missionaries were serving. This pictorial directory was “a monumental task,” wrote Habegger, “and was sent to every GC church and each of its members.”
In 1996, Block Ediger was asked to write a book celebrating 100 years of overseas missions. She completed Window to the World five years later. Block Ediger went on to work for the Kansas Department of Health and Human Welfare as the Low-German interpreter for Old Colony Mennonites who emigrated from Mexico.
“There is still so much to do,” she wrote in her life story. “One of my mottos is, ‘Now that I have shrunk to 4 feet 7 inches, I cannot be seen, but I can still be heard.’ ”
—Posted Nov. 6, 2014