Emil Sywulka was born in Kamyoka, Austria. He and his parents came to the United States when he was four years old and settled in Wisconsin. He was naturalized on February 8, 1921 at Norristown in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
In 1898 he accepted Christ after growing up in a Catholic home and attending a Catholic school. In 1902 at the age of twenty-three, he came across a Christian Herald magazine which prompted him to join the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago where he worked as a janitor to meet his financial needs.
He applied to work as a missionary with Africa Inland Mission in 1906 who commissioned him that same year. Later that year, in August, he arrived in Kijabe, Kenya where he started his work.
In 1907 he married Marie Schneider, a nurse from Akron, Ohio who was born on December 23, 1873 in Hazelton, U.S.A. She had been accepted for work as a missionary by AIM in 1905 and arrived in Africa in July of 1906.
Two years later, in 1909, Emil, his wife and their new baby boy were asked to become the first AIM missionaries to Tanganyika following the withdrawal of the CMS missionaries, who were moving their work to Uganda. The Sywulkas arrived at Nassa, Mwanza on June 29, 1909.
The Sywulkas had three children: Paul E. Sywulka, born in Matara, Kenya on May 28, 1908, Edward, born in Nassa, Mwanza on June 21, 1911 and finally, Anna Elizabeth, born in Nassa, Mwanza on May 8, 1913. There is no information about the Sywulkas’ grandchildren.
Emil Sywulka is remembered by the nationals for his prayer life. He set up a tent on the Nassa hill and was seen each morning going up to pray. He prepared a Kikerewe catechism with the help of a national in 1937 and wrote a book for the Basukuma people, “Studies in Luke,” in 1943. He died a year later.
Bela B. Kalumbete
Muhtasari wa Historia ya Kanisa, (A Short History of the AICT Church), edited by Bishop Samwel Magessa (Mwanza: Inland Publishers, 1977), 13.
Kenneth Richardson, Garden of Miracles (London: AIM Press, 1976), 104.
Marie Sywulka, Workers Together with Him (Irumu, Congo Belge: AIM Press, n.d.), 7.
This article was researched and written by Bela B. Kalumbete, a Project Luke Fellow associated with the Africa Inland Church, Tanzania.