Schmelzenbach, Harmon Faldean

Church of the Nazarene

Harmon Faldean Schmelzenbach and Lula Glatzel were Church of the Nazarene pioneer missionaries in Swaziland, Africa. Born in Ohio, orphaned at age 12, and raised by a farmer, Harmon Schmelzenbach had minimal education. After his conversion, he enrolled in 1906 at the Holiness Peniel Bible College in Texas, where he decided to become a missionary. After raising his own support, he sailed for South Africa in May 1907 with nine other independent Holiness missionaries. In the group was Lula Glatzel, who was born in Baltimore, received a call to missions at a camp meeting, and studied at God’s Bible School in Cincinnati. The two were married in Port Elizabeth a year later. The Schmelzenbachs first worked in Pondoland, but local officials ousted them because they were not from a recognized church body. They relocated in Natal, where Harmon mastered Zulu, and went to Swaziland in 1910 to begin a new work in the Piggs Peak District. In 1909 they affiliated with the newly formed Church of the Nazarene General Missionary Board. Etta Innis (1876-1966), an Indiana native who had been part of the 1907 group and was conducting a mission among Europeans in Cape Colony, joined the Schmelzenbachs in Swaziland. Working under extreme conditions in an area unserved by missionaries, they recorded the first convert in 1913. The three lived frugally, with minimal support from abroad, and functioned as a team. They preached, formed schools, and counseled people at their Peniel and Grace stations. Harmon Schmelzenbach learned the rudiments of medicine and carried on medical work until a doctor arrived in 1922. Widower H. A. Shirley (1879-1945), who went to Africa in 1911 as an independent missionary, joined the Nazarene mission and in 1919 married Innis. The Schmelzenbachs took only one furlough after 21 years in Africa. In 1920, the Swazi queen approved an expansion of the work, and when Harmon Schmelzenbach died in 1929 (of malaria), the Nazarene mission numbered 24 expatriate and 143 African workers and 3,000 Christians. Lula Schmelzenbach continued to labor in Swaziland until 1953, and Etta Innis Shirley until 1946. Several Schmelzenbach descendants also became missionaries.

Richard V. Pierard


Lula Schmelzenbach, The Missionary Prospector: A Life Story of Harmon Schmelzenbach (1937).

Harmon Schmelzenbach III, Schmelzenbach of Africa (1971).

Mendell Taylor, Fifty Years of Nazarene Missions (1952).

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.