February 18, 1931 – December 24, 2014
Janet Wallin was born into a Free Methodist Christian home in Valley City, North Dakota, in 1931. She graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Jamestown College, Jamestown, North Dakota. Shortly after graduation she sensed God speaking to her about the possibility of becoming a missionary nurse. Her call to missions was also influenced by hearing the testimonies of furloughing missionaries and learning of the need for nurses in other lands.
Janet and Dale Nitzsche were married December 28, 1954. Janet worked in a Brockport, New York, hospital while Dale completed his nursing degree at Roberts Wesleyan College, North Chili, New York. She also served as a part time instructor of student nurses at the college.
In 1963 Dale sensed God calling him and Janet into missionary service. When they realized “the possibility our church could use us, we both felt a thrill and a willingness to do this if the Lord would so will.” Because Dale felt specifically called to Africa, the couple applied for missionary service in that world area. They were assigned to Kibogora Hospital in Rwanda.
The Nitzsche family, including their three children, Jean, David and Kathryn, arrived in Belgium in 1966 for French language study and for Dale to complete a course in tropical medicines. During that year, construction on Kibogora Hospital was completed, and the hospital began to serve a population of more than 100,000 people.
Arriving in Rwanda in 1967, Janet and Dale at first worked part time at the hospital while they studied Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwandans. Eventually Janet added other responsibilities, including teaching part time in the school for missionaries’ children, assisting with mission bookkeeping and serving as mission treasurer.
The medical work of Kibogora Hospital constantly expanded over the two terms the Nitzsches served in Rwanda. During their first term, a new surgical-medical unit, including an X-ray department as well as labor and delivery rooms, was opened. The hospital’s reputation for excellent facilities and good medical staff drew European patients, as well as Rwandans. An active evangelistic program began with patients and their families. Both Janet and Dale had a strong desire to communicate Christ through medicine and God’s Word.
Janet enjoyed the beauty of Rwanda. A family Christmas letter described the setting: “Our front door looks out over Lake Kivu, and when the sky is clear we can see the volcanic mountains across the lake in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” One of the most difficult aspects of their service came in the second term when the children attended boarding school at Kenya’s Rift Valley Academy. “Never has anything been so hard to do!” wrote Janet and Dale. “But, praise the Lord, they all love their school and have happily adjusted to dorm life.”
The Nitzsche family returned to Ohio in 1973, settling in Mansfield. Janet returned to medical work and was an active member of the Ontario Free Methodist Church.
Janet’s Colleagues Write
Bishop Emeritus Gerald and Marlene Bates write, “We remember Janet as a positive, happy person, always ready to laugh at some of the foibles we regularly observed out there. She was one of those enduring friends, who never changed, and whose friendship one could take up exactly as it was left, even after a period of years. Our prayers and condolences are to the family who now will live with many happy memories.”
“Janet was an example of humility, courage, poise and dedication to Jesus’ command to serve,” writes former missionary to Africa Pris Osborn Thompson. “When she and Dale were first going to be missionaries I met with them in Valley City, ND. I had just graduated from the University of Washington and felt called to be a missionary. Dale and Janet patiently answered my frantic questions and guided me through all the expectations of candidacy. They were shining examples in the Dakota Conference of what real discipleship meant.
“Years later, I was a guest in their home at Kibogora while on vacation from Burundi. Later this same house became Nate’s and my residence.
“Nate worked with them for a couple of months when he was a new VISA missionary. He describes them as hard workers and congenial; he enjoyed fellowshipping with them.
“We last visited with Janet when she was at Central Christian College in 2009 for a Wessington Springs College reunion. With bright eyes and a warm spirit, she still exemplified the heart of a humble missionary. We are honored to have known her and pray for comfort for her family and the Africans she loved.”