Alumni Feature: Roy and Adelina Martens
Doralyn Heinrichs (BCA '75, College '77) writes the incredible story of her parents, Roy (College '41) and Adelina (College '43) Martens, Briercrest alumni and missionaries to India. Here is her account of the victories and sacrifices her parents experienced during their lives of service to the Lord. Roy Martens went home to be with his Lord and Saviour in 2002 and was followed by Adelina in 2012. All photos are courtesy of Doralyn.
A Living Sacrifice – The Cost (by Doralyn Heinrichs)
In December 1947, along with their 4-month-old baby, Roy and Adelina Martens (nee: Janz) travelled from Main Centre, Saskatchewan, to San Francisco, where they boarded the Hoegh Trader (a Norwegian freighter) to head for Bombay, India. Saying goodbye to their parents, siblings, friends and loved ones, they finally reached Bombay after 5 weeks.
It is remarkable how God designs the circumstances of people, even from a young age, to direct them toward His plans for them. And to embed the assurance of His will. Today, in our tech-savvy world, it is hard to imagine the courage it must have taken to leave family and home to go halfway around the world with difficult communication lines and so little information about what would await them.
The Call and Beginnings of Ministry
For Roy, things changed forever when his father, who was 42 years old at the time, gave his life to Christ during special meetings in the church with a missionary from China. Roy recounts that the family came home from one meeting and saw his father kneeling down and crying in deep repentance for his sins. Things changed in the family and, for some reason, Roy received special attention from his father in going over the Sunday School lessons and Bible verses.
A year after Roy was saved (age 12), the Lord clearly spoke to him, asking if he would be willing to go to India as a missionary. He simply said, “yes." That was all the call he had, but from that time on, he never doubted that he would be a missionary in India someday. He was about 13 years of age.
In 1920, Abram Janz stopped his plough and horses one day and knelt on the ground and dedicated his firstborn to the Lord – to be a preacher. Adelina wrote, “God saw fit to make me a girl, but He did answer my father’s prayer! One beautiful, calm moonlit night, I was standing by the barn next to the windmill … God spoke to me in my heart in stillness and asked me to go to India. I considered it … and wondered how I would do it. But I promised God, ‘Yes, I will go.’ It was a very real and sacred experience. I was 13 years of age.”
It wasn’t until high school that Roy and Adelina would meet and then begin dating at age 16. Neither of them knew the other’s call to India until one day, Roy opened Adelina’s school desk to look for the answer to a math question he couldn’t solve … thinking she might have the answer. There he found an essay she wrote about a young girl who was in love with a young man, and they were going to be missionaries in India! It wouldn’t be until sometime later, when their relationship got serious, that Roy told her that he, too, had a call to go to India!
Both went to Bible School at Briercrest and worked during the summers at camp in Arlington Beach. Adelina wrote, “Roy enjoyed his studies, and the Spirit of God spoke to him through the Word of God taught by the teachers (in Briercrest). He would have been willing to sacrifice anything for Jesus’ sake, and he often wrote about this in his letters to me … Roy served with the Canadian Sunday School Mission in Northern Saskatchewan (CSSM). In Redfield, where Roy lived in a log house, he started Wednesday night services and children’s meetings, which later led to services every Sunday in the school and homes. He served the CSSM also in Lucky Lake, Asquith and Kelfield. He had no car, so he had to walk many a mile—the longest he ever walked in one stretch was 28 miles.” In 1943, Roy took on a pastorate in Kelfield at the request of Dr. Henry Hildebrand. Roy and Adelina were married on July 6, 1944.
On December 17, 1947, the small family of 3 began their trip to India, arriving 33 days later. From the Hoegh Trader Roy writes, “May God use our lives to burn out for Him in India.”
While they clearly knew there would be sacrifices in their lives, their passion, courage and faith in God and His call on their lives were unwavering.
Service and Sacrifice
Roy and Adelina’s first sacrifice was leaving their home, loved ones and the security of western civilization, knowing there would be little ability to communicate or take frequent furloughs. They spent four terms in India from 1947 to 1972, with most terms being 5 years in length. Their ministry primarily involved starting and building churches in the villages, overseeing a boys’ hostel, and, for Roy, acting as field chairman.
Upon arriving in Bombay for their first term, no one was there to meet them as they disembarked from the ship. Sights, sounds and smells overwhelmed them as they navigated through crowds of people, seeing crippled, lame and disabled sitting on the sidewalk begging. But God provided through a kind, uniformed man who came up to them and escorted them to a taxi, advising the taxi driver to take them to his home. They met two other missionary ladies from the same mission (TEAM) on business in Bombay. They advised Roy and Adelina how to go up country on the train to get to their station in Chalisgaon. It was not a coincidence that they met!
While the first term was one of the big adjustments in language study and all that comes with learning the culture, they began to see fruit through starting a church. It was a difficult transition, as Roy wrote to his father after their first year, “If we weren’t so sure of God’s will, it would be very hard out here. We would never have left home.” This was also a term of great loss. Their first daughter contracted malaria and diphtheria, Roy suffered from long-term eosinophilia and his mother, back home in Canada, passed away.
The deepest loss was when their second little girl, Lorna, suddenly died at 10 months of age of cholera. Roy wrote a detailed letter to all family back home telling of their trip to Bombay for supplies while leaving Lorna in the capable hands of a missionary nurse. They received a telegram in Bombay that “Martens’ baby died.” They travelled the lengthy journey back to their station in their jeep while processing the loss and praying that no bitterness would root in their hearts. Roy writes, “And so we buried her in Indian soil under a mango [tree], as the oriental moon looked down upon us in radiant quietness. Here lies another sacrifice, which we promised the Lord many years ago we would be ready to make.”
The spiritual battle was strong and manifested in a variety of ways in their ministry. Overt battle emerged through some of the boys in the boarding school they managed. These boys came from surrounding villages which were steeped in animism and other spiritism belief systems. One boy was consistently visited by demons which wanted to take him away, leaving physical marks on his body. Another boy suffered severe burns as he was “pushed” onto a large hotplate, with others having great difficulty lifting him off. Adelina wrote, “… He admits he has been bothered by an evil spirit. He says he believes Jesus is in his heart and wants deliverance from this.” Since Roy and Adelina had not been taught or trained to address any of this type of spiritual battle in church or from the mission, the Holy Spirit was their Teacher. They taught the boys to take the name of Jesus when suspicion of attacks came, to claim the blood of Jesus and to stay in the Word of God. Through the consistent application of this battle strategy, these boys gained freedom in Christ!
These are only a few highlights of their 25-year ministry in India. Despite many sacrifices, Roy and Adelina were a bridge to God for countless people, bringing them into new and eternal Life through faith in Jesus Christ. Upon returning home to Canada in 1972, Roy took on the role of Western Representative for the mission and travelled to bible schools and churches to inspire others to become passionate about missions. They retired from TEAM in 1986, but they continued serving on various boards and church ministries for many years.
The career missionary life can be a lonely one, as many people tend to hold them at a distance, not being able to relate well. Roy says, “Going to the mission field didn’t make me a saint – the fact was, I had already become one long ago, at the time I trusted Christ for my salvation. But to live like one – well, just don’t ask my fellow missionaries about that! I didn’t suddenly have victory over all temptations and worldly ambition … No, my steamship ticket did not provide a destination to Bombay plus Immediate Sanctification. The mission field is a battlefield, and personal holiness there also comes only in proportion to the proximity one chooses to live close to Christ. The missionary is a very real human being, subject to all and sometimes more temptations than other Christians. One redeeming factor is that doubtless he has more who are praying for him, and for this, he is truly grateful.”
They always wanted to write a book to tell of what God had done in their lives and on the mission field. Adelina wrote in her journal, “We must tell our families what GOD has done for us—share—oh, the many things and wonders He has done for us throughout our years in India and before and at home in Canada. I must write them down for our children.”
We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders. For He issued His laws and gave His instructions. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them-even the children not yet born-and they, in turn, will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands. —Psalm 78:4-7
In December 1947, along with their four-month-old baby, Roy and Adelina Martens (Janz) travelled from Main Centre, Saskatchewan, to San Francisco, where they boarded the Hoegh Trader (a Norwegian freighter) to head for Bombay, India. Saying goodbye to their parents, siblings, friends and loved ones, they finally reached Bombay after five weeks.
It is remarkable how God designs the circumstances of people, even from a young age, to direct them toward plans for them. The Lord clearly spoke to both Roy and Adelina in their early teens, separately, before they even knew each other asking them if they would be willing to go to India as a missionary.
Their first term was a difficult transition. Roy wrote to his father after their first year, “If we weren’t so sure of God’s will, it would be very hard out here. We would never have left home.” Knowing there would be sacrifices, they did not realize the full extent of what that meant. Throughout their terms, they experienced serious health issues and even the greater loss of death.
Their ministry was fruitful, starting churches in many villages, managing a boys’ boarding school, training church leaders, and acting as chairman of the field. India became their home as they loved the people and looked forward to returning to the field after furloughs.
This article highlights only a handful of experiences of their life as career missionaries. The glory is to God alone. Roy and Adelina often spoke of writing a book to tell of what God had done in their lives and on the mission field. In her journal, Adelina wrote, “We must tell our families what GOD has done for us—share—oh, the many things and wonders He has done for us throughout our years in India and before and at home in Canada. I must write them down for our children.”