August 21, 1924 – October 10, 2011
Kathryn Hendrix grew up in a missions-minded Free Methodist home near Camargo, Oklahoma. Kathryn had experienced no early personal call to missionary service. Believing Christians should give service to the church, she was interested in short-term work that might help missionaries. After reading an article saying teachers were needed in the Dominican Republic, she wrote a letter to FMWM asking for more information. A letter came back four days later asking if she would consider an assignment to Burundi.
Sensing this was God’s will for her, Kathryn arrived in October 1960 at Mweya School for missionaries’ children in Burundi. “It was the greatest thrill of my life!” Kathryn wrote. “Death to self brings a wonderful resurrection, I found!”
Kathryn saw beyond the school campus to the African villages. Soon after her arrival, she began studying Kirundi so she could communicate with Africans. On weekends Kathryn joined teams from the Bible school as they visited village Sunday schools.
Before beginning her second term, Kathryn spent some months in Belgium studying the French language. Then, in 1968, she taught at the Muyebe Girls’ School, the only Protestant home economics school in Burundi. Of the 100 applicants, only 27 could be admitted in the beginning class. Cooking, homemaking, sewing and pattern-making were part of the curriculum for African girls. The only training Kathryn had for this type of ministry was five years in 4-H Club.
In 1971, Kathryn returned to the U.S. for furlough and then continued her teaching career in Oklahoma. In 1976, she married Schauner Vance. They spent their years together serving Free Methodist pastorates in Texas, New Mexico and Arkansas.
Kathryn’s Colleague Writes
Missionary colleague Gerald E. Bates recalls, “Kathryn’s Oklahoma drawl made her a unique part of our missionary staff and brought her some good-natured kidding when she came out with an especially unusual expression. She taught missionary children at Mweya’s Windy Hill School and then moved over to the girl’s high school at Muyebe. Kathryn was a serious and professional teacher. She refused, however, to be completely confined by her teacher role. She cultivated relationships with hill pastors and found a way to make a meaningful contribution to the church work. She did this by visiting churches and by helping them with her own project of providing roofs for little churches out in the districts. I am sure a lot of funds came from her own resources. Throughout the remainder of her life in the U.S., as a pastor’s wife and partner in ministry, she always kept an interest in the African church and prayed faithfully for its outreach and ministry.”