you see Titanic . . .
. . remember Annie Funk.
James Cameron's spectacular
movie, Titanic, has been a gigantic success at the box-office,
with sales of $500 million. Kate Winslet plays the lead role
of Rose DeWitt Bukater, a 17-year-old, upper-class American,
unhappily engaged to a stifling aristocract. On the ship she
falls in love with a free-spirited steerege passenger, Jack Dawson,
played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Romance turns to action, suspense
and tragedy when the Titanic sinks. But Cameron ignored the dramatic
real-life story of Annie C. Funk, a Mennonite missionary also
on board the ill-fated ship.
Annie Funk served as
a missionary in the Central Province of India from 1906 to 1912.
Her home congregation, the Hereford General Conference Mennonite
Church in Bally, Pennsylvania had nurtured her interest in missions
from the time she was a child. After several stateside assignments,
she volunteered to go overseas. Annie gave an unqualified testimony
of her trust in God's care when she answered a friend who feared
for her safety on her first transatlantic voyage: "Our heavenly
Father is as near to us on sea as on land. My trust is in Him.
I have no fear."
Annie's work included the founding and management of a school
for girls in Janjgir, India, which was later named in her memory.
Her work there was interrupted one day by a telegram, which urged
her to come home to as soon as possible, and that her passage
was paid. She was not told that her mother was close to death.
Annie quickly made travel plans. In her final letter, written
somewhere "Near Suez," she worried about what the French
would charge for her "excess baggage" on the overland
route from Versailles to London. She estimated it would take
three more weeks to get back home to Butter Valley, "if
the weather and strikes do not prevent" it. When she arrived
in Southampton, England, she learned that her ship, the S.S.
Havorford, would be delayed by a coal strike. She was guided
to another ship-a new one called the Titanic. Some were saying
this was a modern marvel that "God, himself couldn't sink."
Though it cost more, Annie was assured that passage on the Titanic
would get her home in record time. She boarded as a second class
The Titanic was
the White Star Line's proudest accomplishment. No cost had been
spared. It was the largest, fastest, most luxurious ship ever
built. This highly acclaimed, maiden voyage would break all transatlantic
speed records. Many luminaries were aboard-in first class accommodations,
of course. The ship's captain, Edward J. Smith was to retire
after he docked in New York Harbor. "So far," he had
said, his career as a ship's captain "had been uneventful."
That was about to change. The Titanic steamed out of Southampton's
dock at noon on April 10, 1912.
four days later the ship struck an iceberg, in spite of repeated
warnings. The "unsinkable" dream ship began to sink
into the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, about 400 miles
off the coast of Newfoundland. As elaborately as the ship had
been furnished, sadly, it lacked an essential safety feature--sufficient
lifeboats for all 2, 207 passengers. It was immediately evident
that many would not be saved. What about Annie? An unconfirmed
report has it that Annie Funk, already seated in a lifeboat,
gave up her seat to another woman-a mother with children. Whether
true or not, those who knew her said, "That would be just
like Annie." Annie, along with 1500 others, perished in
the greatest catastrophe yet known. The mighty Titanic was no
more. The date was April 15, 1912.
film made $500 million in box-office sales. But he neglected
to tell the priceless story of a Mennonite woman who gave herself
to the people of Janjgir, India--and perhaps, died in the place
of another woman on the Titanic.
(For more on Annie Funk, see Mennonite
Encyclopedia, vol. V, p. 891; John Ruth, Maintaining the
Right Fellowship [ Scottdale, 1984] pp. 412-414; Russell
Krabill, "They Found Annie Funk's Resting Place," Mennonite
Weekly Review, Jan. 19, 1986; Christena Duerksen, "A
Missionary on the Titanic," Mennonite Life, Jan 1957,
For more on the Titanic follow
this link to Encylcopedia
Britannica's special exhibit.
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