John William Stauffacher and Florence Minch were American missionaries in Kenya and Belgian Congo. Born near Monroe, Wisconsin, John Stauffacher graduated from North Western College (now North Central College, Naperville, Illinois). Recruited by the Student Volunteer Movement, he sailed for Kenya in 1903 under the auspices of the Africa Inland Mission (AIM). Florence Minch, born in Hooppole, Illinois, arrived in Kenya in 1906, where she and John were married that year. Both possessed pioneering spirits. In 1908 John Stauffacher was appointed extension director for AIM and began the process of opening up German East Africa (now Tanzania). In 1912 the Stauffachers entered the Belgian Congo (Zaire), where they finished their long missionary career. While based there, they also spent many interim years among the Maasai in Kenya.
In many ways the Stauffachers were ahead of their time. From the beginning they practiced a contextualized evangelism. They early developed a strong educational program. On their first furlough in 1909 they took with them their language informant, a Maasai, who became the first Kenyan African to obtain higher education in the United States. John Stauffacher’s passion for justice led him to denounce fellow Westerners who exploited the Maasai. He identified with Maasai resistance to government efforts to move them from their ancestral land. Some of the expatriate community therefore saw him as a major factor in the politicization of the Maasai. His concern for gradualism in the transformation of the custom of female circumcision stood in marked contrast with the position of his own and other missions. Rather than excommunicate new converts who participated in this rite, he called for patience and prayer until African believers themselves rejected the custom. Though at times the Stauffachers seemingly marched to the beat of a different drum, more than once history proved that in reality they were hearing a drumbeat that would sound decades later. They both died in Africa.
John A. Gration
Oliver Burbridge, Tagi (n.d.).
Gladys Stauffacher, Faster Beats the Drum (1977).
Josephine H. Westervelt, On Safari for God (n.d.).
The Stauffachers’ personal letters and diaries are in the archives of the Billy Graham Center library, Wheaton College, III.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.