Unrau, Jacob M., 1920-1999

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Unrau, Jacob M., 1920-1999

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  • Unrau, J.M.
  • Unrau, Jake

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Jacob (Jake) M. Unrau was born to John A. and Helena (Martens) Unrau on January 19, 1920 on his grandfather Martens' farm in Silberfeld, five miles from Gretna, Manitoba. He was the oldest of seven children from his father's first marriage. Other children include Margaret, Helen, Mary, Agnes, John, and Albert. His father was one of the last private school teachers in the Silberfeld and Halbstadt school districts and then began farming. Both parents were raised in the Sommerfelder church setting, and became very faithful members. Jake's mother, Helena died on April 5, 1931 at the age of 35 after a lengthy illness. In 1931, Jake's father married Karoline Bansen in the Altona Bergthaler Mennonite church. Five more children were added to the family through this marriage -- Henry, Paul, Diedrich, Karoline and Nick.

Jake attended school in the Silberfeld area, however when the family moved to Grunthal, Manitoba, he continued his education through correspondence courses. He was baptized by Bishop David Schulz of the Bergthaler Mennonite church in June 1939. Shortly thereafter he felt led to pursue mission work. This led him in 1940 to attend the Elim Bible school in Altona, Manitoba. In 1941 he was called to military service, but agreed with the church doctrine and opted for conscientious objectors status, which he received and worked in an Alternative Service Camp at Riding Mountain Provincial Park.

While in Bible school he met Trudie Giesbrecht whom he married on May 23, 1943. Trudie was the daughter of Cornelius Giesbrecht (1893-1985) and Aganetha Penner (1893-1984). They began working on a dairy farm near Homewood, Manitoba. Here they worked hard but felt they had another calling. In 1948 they began work with the newly formed Mennonite Pioneer Mission (MPM), an outreach ministry of the Bergthaler Mennonite Church of Manitoba. They served the aboriginal community at Matheson Island in Manitoba's Interlake region from 1948-1956. They were the first live-in ministers at Matheson Island, where they planted a church and expanded their work into other communities.

In 1956 the family moved back to southern Manitoba and Jake attended Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC). After this furlough they again headed out into the mission field. From 1957-1965 Mennonite Pioneer Mission supported their work with another aboriginal community in Manigotogan. This post was not as isolated as Matheson Island, since this community had a road built for most of the trip. Some of their children stayed with relatives in southern Manitoba in order to attend school. In total the Jake and Trudie Unrau had six children: Patricia, Hedy, Larry, Mabel, Phyllis, and Vernelle.

In 1965 another break from mission work was in order and they moved back to Winnipeg where Jake attended CMBC once again. When arriving back at Manigotogan they realized that others had taken up their work and to stay would be somewhat redundant. Mennonite Pioneer Mission was aware of the drift of northern people south into the community of Selkirk, Manitoba. For this reason when friends of the Unrau's realized that they were looking for an assignment they approached MPM and asked that Jake be assigned to work in Selkirk as their minister. MPM agreed. They continued their church work in Selkirk until 1972.

In 1972 the Unraus continued their pastoral mission work in Hammon, Oklahoma with native Americans under the General Conference Mennonite church. In 1975 they returned to Winnipeg and audited courses at the University of Winnipeg. Jake and Trudie then began working with aboriginal people coming to Winnipeg for medical treatment under the auspices of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada Native Ministries. Jake and Trudie retired in 1985 and moved to Bethel Place, a Mennonite apartment building for seniors. From here they continued to be active in the church and in activities at the home. Jake Unrau passed away on December 17, 1999. Trudy Unrau died March 19, 2011.


Matheson Island; Manigotogan; Winnipeg (Manitoba)
Hammon (Oklahoma)

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Minister and missionary with Mennonite Pioneer Missions (later Native Ministries of Conference of Mennonites in Canada)

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Revision J.Z. 7/18/2018; edited 4 May 2020, AHR.




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