In Memory of Mertis Heimbach

On November 1, 2023, Mertis (Mertie) Heimbach went into the presence of the Lord whom she served faithfully over a lifetime. We reflect on her life and the way God used her for His glory.

By JoLene Lampinen, former OMF (U.S.) Retiree Care Coordinator

On behalf of OMF (U.S.), I would like to express our sense of loss in Mertie’s passing. However, knowing the number of years Mertie has been bedridden, we rejoice with her in her new Heavenly Home that contains no more pain, suffering, tears, blindness or deafness and is home to her beloved, Ernie. This is the home she has eagerly awaited for many years. She is now united with her Lord and Savior whom she has so faithfully served throughout her life.

In a 1944 application paper to China Inland Mission (CIM) Mertie wrote that it seemed that she had always known Jesus as her Savior. She reminisced over a time when she was four and her Mother told her and her sister how Jesus died for them. This telling made Mertie cry tears of joy because Jesus loved her so much!

Mertie knew she wanted to be a missionary from the time she was quite young. In high school chapel time, they were singing a song that said, “Go; go; go; go; – Go where He wants you to go. Pray for your part in the harvest. Do what He wants you to do.”

Mertie reported, “Each one of those ‘goes’ seemed to be spoken directly to me. Souls were dying without Him. I knew then that if I did not go I would be disobeying God. I did not know where He wanted me to go, but was willing to go anywhere He led.”

Following her graduation from Wheaton College with a major in Bible and her engagement to a fellow student, Ernie Heimbach, Mertie attended Prairie Bible Institute. While a student at Prairie, Mertie read “Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret” and wrote a short paper on the founding of the China Inland Mission. As God was directing Mertie’s interests toward the CIM, He was also drawing Ernie to the same. Ernie wrote of their desire to marry, as “a real crucifying experience” when they learned they may have to postpone their marriage for possibly six years if they were to go out with the CIM. However, as they surrendered their desires to God, He opened the door for them to marry much sooner in 1944.

Following Ernie’s graduation from Eastern Baptist Seminary in 1945, they went to Montana for a year’s missionary work, while awaiting their acceptance by CIM in 1946.

From 1946-51 Mertie did language study and helped in women’s and church ministry in Kweichow, China. While next being designated for service in Guizhou among the Black Miao tribal people, they were only allowed a few months to stay because of the Communist turnover. While traveling with Chinese Communist solders, their first child was born prematurely. Daniel was delivered by his father and committed to the Lord and God’s best for them and their child.

Following their evacuation, the Heimbachs had a short stay in Singapore where Mertie served as a hostess, and served in a newly organized multi-language orientation program for new workers.

In 1953 the OMF/CIM designated the Heimbachs to serve the White Miao (White Hmong) in North Thailand. Where they pioneered work among the White Meo (Hmong), and Mertie also served in literacy, women’s classes, Sunday School teaching, and leadership training. Three more children (Ruthi, Jim, and Paul) were born to Mertie and Ernie in Thailand.  Mertie served as Mission Home Hostess in Chiangmai, North Thailand from 1960-1962, while Ernie was appointed as Superintendent of the North Thailand field, so they left the work among the Hmong.

In 1963, they moved to Singapore where Ernie was named Director of the Eastern Region of OMF; which at that time included Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia. While in Singapore, Mertie developed a ministry to families of handicapped children which she initiated and then trained nationals in. Their last son, John, was born in Singapore. In the field report for that time frame of ministry, the Director remarked, “Mertie has worked tirelessly at Jesus Saves Mission seeking to train teachers to work with (handicapped) children. She has done considerable visiting in homes and has sought to encourage and train local people to do this also.”

In 1970 the Heimbachs returned to the US and in 1971 they were designated as OMF Home Director. Mertie was a homemaker with five children, did Bible teaching, and also assisted at the US headquarters office.

From 1978-1988, Mertie and Ernie were seconded to the US Center for World Missions. Mertie assisted in various departments and worked with Ernie in outreach to Hmong refugees from Laos.

In 1987, the Heimbachs were also appointed as Coordinators for Ethnic Ministries in the US for OMF. They recognized they were being stretched too far and tendered their resignation with the Center for World Missions in 1988, with the offer of being available for consultation if desired and as time allowed. Mertie also continued to volunteer with the EMC department and in editing the publication, SLATE.

In the fall of 1991, Ernie was diagnosed with a fast-growing brain tumor. He passed away on October 22 of that year. A memorial tribute read at Ernie’s memorial service said, “Ernie and Mertie were indefatigable pioneers for Christ, fully committed to the Lord, consistent in their love for Him, courageous in their service as they pioneered in primitive situations and constant in their zeal to service Him and others.”

Mertis Heimbach

Mertie at her 90th Birthday celebration 2011

Mertie remained at the US Center for World Missions until 1999, when she moved into the OMF Lammermuir Retirement Community in Pennsylvania. At Lammermuir, Mertie continued reading and praying over missionary letters and updates, providing information and leading others in prayer, and quietly displaying her love of the Lord.

In reading The Byram Heritage that Mertie wrote, I was in awe of how her family’s Christian heritage that can be traced back to 1633. I noted that each one in her family had suffered in some way for Christ. They had counted the cost, they had run the race and they had finished well in the arms of Jesus. The same can most certainly also be said of Mertie.

And now God has welcomed Mertie Home with a “Well done, good and faithful Servant,” on November 1, 2023.

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Dorothy (Fischbacher) Scharer
Dorothy (Fischbacher) Scharer
4 months ago

Wonderful to read of her heart given for the Lord. 100%
She and Ernie held nothing back from serving. Praise God for their witness.

Lynne Morrow
Lynne Morrow
4 months ago

So glad to learn more of this faithful servant’s life! How encouraging!

Helen Shao
Helen Shao
4 months ago

Today is my birthday and the Lord sent me a story of one of His servants as my gift. Thanks be to God!