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The Protection Mennonite Church, Protection, Comanche County, Kansas, 19 June 2005.  Photo by Orlin Loucks.
The Protection Mennonite Church, Protection, Comanche County, Kansas, 19 June 2005. Photo by Orlin Loucks.

Protection Mennonite Church

Written by Orlin Loucks

As Abraham journeyed by faith to a new country, so in the early 20th century the open prairies far to the west beckoned many young farmers seeking homes and farmlands. The first Mennonite settlers to come to the area south of Protection were Jacob Zimmerman, a deacon, and Noah Ebersole, a minister. On March 7, 1907, they came with their families by train from Harper, Kansas. Church life was high on their list of priorities, for three days later, March 10, they met together to plan for a church meeting. John Schrock, a deacon, with his family, arrived March 11, 1907, from Louisiana. The first Sunday school session was held at the Murray schoolhouse two miles south of Protection on March 17, 1907.

More families continued coming that spring and summer. Alvin and Nora Selzer with their two children came from Canton, Kansas; the Noah E. Miller family from Holmes County, Ohio; and the Jacob Stutzmans from Nebraska. In august, George R. Brunk, a bishop, and his family arrived from McPherson County in time to put in the fall crops. Others coming from Canton that fall were C. W. Miller, minister, Mose Shenk and Joe Landis, each with his family. Will Weaver came with the group and soon married C. W. Miller's daughter, Ella. Theirs was the first wedding of the new congregation.

On October 6, 1907, the new church was formally organized as the Protection Mennonite Church with 32 charter members.

On June 14, 1908, 14 members were received into church fellowship by letter. The governing body of that first group of believers was as follows: George R. Brunk, bishop, and presided as chairman. Elected by ballot were Chris Miller, Treasurer; N. E. Miller, clerk; directors; Jacob Zimmerman, John Schrock and Henry Hostetler.

At the business meeting April 8, 1908, a committee was appointed to start planning of the new meeting house. At the August4, 1908 meeting the offer was made by Alvin Selzer to donate three acres of land was accepted. Two acres were for the church site. One acre was for burial ground. Details of the building plan were drawn up with the assistance of C. W. Miller, a carpenter. Lumber for the building was purchased from John Schrock, lumberman in Protection and grandfather of Fred Webb. All labor and funds were donated by members. Within three months time, the building was completed at a total cost of $1,788.10. At the October 3, 1908 meeting, they voted to order two dozen hymnals. Bishop George R. Brunk was delegated to secure a visiting minister for dedication of the new building. Brother Mahlon Lapp, a returned missionary from India, gave the dedicatory message for the service November 1, 1908. N. E. Miller was church secretary until his death in 1910. Then Alvin Selzer was elected to that office, which he held for 25 years.

Numerous families became discouraged because of crop failures and moved elsewhere, yet others came and the congregation continued to grow. In 1917 the church building was enlarged 12 feet in length and a full basement put under the structure. The additional space was necessary for the growing membership, but was immediately needed for hosting of the District Conference which was held here in the fall of 1917. Although Comanche County was famous for its dry weather, the downpour of rain on that final session of the conference has gone down in history. The South Central Conference again met here in 1969 in the new building in Protection.

In 1954 several city lots were purchased and a three-bedroom parsonage was built in Protection. In the late "50's, discussions were held concerning our mission outreach in the community. Since the little church was needing much repairing, modernizing and enlarging, it was decided by the 82% vote in 1964 to build in Protection where more people could by reached with the Gospel. A city block was purchased on the south side of town and building plans were made. The church voted to have $25,000 cash on hand before starting. This amount was soon raised and after nine months of construction with 12,000 hours of volunteer labor, the actual cost of the building was $97,000. Dedication services were held April 2, 1967, with Peter B. Wiebe, then pastor of Hesston Mennonite Church, preaching the dedicatory sermon. The mortgage burning service was held October 17, 1976, freeing the congregation of any debt on the new building.

A garage was built at the parsonage in 1971. In the winter of 1981 when two students from Haviland Bible College were ministering to us, the parsonage was enlarged by adding a utility-family room and a second bathroom, thus connecting the house to the garage.

A sidewalk was built from the church to Protection Valley Manor in 1975 to encourage attendance of residents who were able to come.

In 1912 the women of the church organized a sewing circle meeting in homes, making garments for the Kansas City Childrens Home. Later, sewing machines were purchased and placed in the basement. This group was known as the WMSC and was active in needlework for the needy. They also had a Menninger Bible Study that met once a month for many years. In 1994 the WMSC voted to disband the local unit. The women still meet for quilting, tying comforters, devotions, and fellowship but not on a regular basis.

The first Daily Vacation Bible School was started in the summer of 1936 with Mary Miller, member of the Hesston College faculty and a former member of our congregation, as superintendent. Children living in the area for miles around and from Protection were brought to the church. The cooperative effort of the whole congregation in transportation, working and teaching for two weeks proved fruitful in "sowing the seeds of the kingdom of God." Bible School continued to be held each summer since that beginning. In 1959 because of the crowded condition of the church building, the Bible School was held in the Protection Grade School. This continued until the new church was built. Bible School is still being held in our church each summer.

An annual event was started March, 1974, when the young married Sunday School class called "The Harvesters" served a Borscht supper in the Fellowship Hall. The menu was kept simple: Borscht (a vegetable-beef soup with sour cream), home-made bread or rolls, crackers, cheese, relishes and pie or cobbler. Old-fashioned decor prevails and free-will offerings are dropped into an old iron kettle soup kettle. Proceeds are sent to MCC for relief and for pressing local needs. Throughout the evening, musical numbers of praise and worship are performed in the sanctuary. In recent years, the whole congregation has been helping with this project. Average attendance has been 250 people fed with offerings averaging about $900.

In 1980 it was decided to assist with support of specific missionaries, with Stanley and Jane Fryenberger as the first. In 1982, Mary Beyler, missionary to Japan, was chosen. She is the daughter of Clayton and Gladys Baker. Clayton was a native of this congregation and former pastor, and the first missionary from this congregation. We continue to support Mary. We also give support to Randal and Katy Harms family in Brazil. He is a nephew of Raymond and DaMaris Unruh. Randal and Katy are former members of our church. The Roger and DeAnn Hershberger family is given support for their work with "Youth With a Mission Program". DeAnn is the daughter of Aaron and Mary Willems.

Pastor Raymond Unruh, his wife DeMaris, and daughter LaDana have been here since 1987. They have served us in so many ways, in preaching, leading Bible Study, marriage counseling, financial counseling, hospital calling, visitation, and other individual needs not only in our church but in the community as well, funerals, and services at Valley Manor and Senior Center. DaMaris helps teaching, plays organ and piano for our services and wherever needed.

The Wednesday night adult Bible Study and the Youth Program for preschool through grade 6 have been very successful the past number of years. This year a Junior High class has been added.

The past two years our Church has been involved with other Churches in putting on a Bible Camp at Boiling Springs, Oklahoma for the youth. A number of our members have helped with this as leaders, counselors, teachers, cooking, music, camp nurse, and other ways. Many of our youth attend and enjoy the camp.

We are blessed to have many talented singers in our Church. We have a number of singing groups, quartets, trios, and duets for special music. Also our young people love to sing praises to God.

A number of men attended Promise Keepers the past few years. Many testimonies have been brought back from those meetings and lives changed. Several ladies attended a "Women of Faith" conference and shared. Other retreats and conferences have been attended and enjoyed.

The membership stays about the same. We average about 70 for attendance on Sunday morning. Here are some interesting figures: 1966 Total Budget-$8318.30. (This did not include building fund.) 1996 Total Budget-$49,887.00.

We are glad to have Dick Headings for our conference minister. He meets with the pastors once a month. He also comes to Protection and meets with the Elders and Advisory Board and gives us guidance. Dick and Dorothy have shared in our worship services from time to time and even sang for us.

As with the early church fathers and throughout the history of the church, the leaders today were interested in the continued spiritual growth for members of Christ's Kingdom.

Compiled from South Central Conference Messenger, Jan/Feb 1994 and other sources. Used with permission. Written by Orlin Loucks.

Thanks to Pearl Loucks for your information.

Printed for 90th Anniversary Celebration, October 19, 1997.

Also see:

Mennonites In Comanche County, Kansas by Ursala Miller, 1948.

Mennonite Cemetery, Comanche County, Kansas

A Gallery of Orlin Louck's Photographs, Comanche County, Kansas

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Thanks to Orlin Loucks for permission to publish this history on this web site and to Glennda Burt for typing it!

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