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Collection 551 Papers of Emil and Marie Sywulka

Identifier: CN 551

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of letters, documenting the lives and ministry service of Marie and Emil Sywulka, missionaries with Africa Inland Mission in Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika Territory) from 1906-1964. Collection contains handwritten letters on regular or airmail paper, typed and printed prayer letters, and pamphlets, newspaper clippings, tracts, and other materials previously sent with the letters. Collection primarily contains letters from Marie and occasionally from Emil to their family about their lives and work in Africa and family matters.


  • 1907-1971


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Biography of Marie (Schneider) Sywulka

Full name: Marie Schneider (alternately spelled “Snyder”)

Birth: December 23, 1873, in Hazelton, Pennsylvania

Death: June 22, 1971, in Clermont, Florida


Parents: Adam and Elizabeth Schneider

Siblings: Adam, Elizabeth “Lizzie,” Lyda, and Anna (Baumert)

Conversion: 1881


Common School

1898 Hospital Course at Philadelphia Hospital; Trained Nurse

1905 Moody Bible Institute (AIM required prayer and study)


1905 Accepted as AIM missionary

1906 AIM missionary in Kenya (British East Africa)

1946-1497 Stationed in South Africa

1949-1964 Stationed in Mwanza, Tanzania

1964 Retired to Clermont, Florida

See Joint Career after Emil Sywulka’s Biography

Other significant information

Between 1913 and 1924, the Sywulkas spent time first in America and then in Swaziland and Portuguese East Africa while they waited for permission to reenter Tanganyika, as war and post-war conditions delayed their reentry. They furloughed in America again from late 1930 through 1931, spending time with family in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California and establishing Betty and Edward in school.

Following Emil’s death in 1944, Marie continued her mission work in Tanzania. Early in 1946, she traveled to South Africa to care for her daughter, Betty Barrett, who died in June of that year. She remained in South Africa, leaving for America with her son-in-law early in 1947. She left America and returned to Mwanza in 1949, continuing her work there until she retired to the Africa Inland Mission Retirement center in Clermont, Florida in 1964.


Biography of Emil Sywulka

Full Name: Emil Sywulka

Birth: May 20, 1879, in Austria

Death: November 7, 1944, in Mwanza, Tanzania


Parents: Peter and Anna Sywulka

Siblings: Hattie, Jeannette “Jennie,” Louisa, Julia, and Edward Gray

Conversion: 1898, raised Catholic


1902 Moody Bible Institute (AIM required prayer and study)


1906 AIM missionary in Kenya (British East Africa)

1909-1910 Recording Secretary for AIM

1912-1916 Field director for German East Africa (Tanganyika/Tanzania)


Joint Biography

Marital Status: married August 7, 1907

Children: Paul Emil Sywulka, Edward Frederick Sywulka, and Anna Elizabeth Sywulka Barrett

Joint Career of Marie and Emil Sywulka

1909 AIM missionaries in Nasa, Mwanza, Tanganyika Territory

1913-1923 Furlough in USA, then stationed in Swaziland and Portuguese East Africa

1924-1930 Stationed in Luhumbo, Tanganyika Territory

1932-1944 Stationed in Mwanza, Tanganyika Territory

1944 Emil dies from a heart attack and is buried in Mwanza


3 Boxes (DC)

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Materials

Arrangement: Chronological

Date Range: 1907-1971

Volume: 1 cu. ft.

Boxes: 3

Geographic coverage: Tanzania, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa, United States

Type of documents: Personal letters, prayer letters, tracts, programs, telegram receipts, newspaper clippings

Correspondents: Emil Sywulka, Marie Sywulka, Paul Sywulka, Edward Sywulka, Betty (Sywulka) Barrett, Stephen Barrett, Edward and Nora Gray.


This collection consists of letters from Marie and Emil Sywulka to their family during their time as missionaries with AIM in the Tanganyika Territory (Tanzania). The majority of these letters are written by Marie and addressed to her sons: Paul, a student at Wheaton College, and Edward, a student at Rift Valley Academy, Kenya, and Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University), South Carolina, and later a missionary in Guatemala. Also included are letters to Emil’s brother and sister-in-law, Edward and Nora Gray, and letters to Marie’s grandchildren, in particular Anna Marie Sywulka (Dahlquist), letters from fellow AIM missionaries, and other letters exchanged between the family.

The letters describe the Sywulkas’ personal experiences living in Africa, the lives of their family in America, and the work of the mission in Africa. Letters to their sons discuss daily life and challenges in Africa but always emphasize God’s faithfulness and the value of a strong prayer and devotion life. Key topics related to their mission work include the translation and printing of the Bible and other church literature in native languages (specifically Kiswahili and Kisukuma), the establishment of new mission stations, local church construction and services, interactions with local believers and nonbelievers, missionary conferences, and meetings with other missionaries from the AIM, CSM, and other denominational missions. Although not discussed in detail, the letters from 1940-1945 reference the global unrest resulting from WWII, and letters from 1961 discuss Tanzania’s independence. Other global and national events are occasionally mentioned in passing, such as elections in the United States.

Though primarily focused on the Sywulkas’ personal and work lives, several close friends and colleagues of the family are mentioned frequently in the letters, many of whom were also AIM missionaries. These include Belle Severson, Minnie Magnin, Martha Jorgensen, William and Ruby Maynard, Charles and Laura Hess, Theodore and Josephine Westervelt, William and Florence Bates, and Thomas and Margaret Marsh. Most of the letters are handwritten on regular or airmail paper, with a few typewritten documents, printed or typed prayer letters, rollover copies, as well as a folder of newspaper clippings, tracts, programs, and other documents sent with the letters. All letters are in English, with the exception of the occasional phrase in German or African and one note in Sukuma.

Exceptional items:

Folder 1-1 contains a letter from Marie and Emil to family in America describing their wedding on August 7, 1907. Also in this folder are letters from their time in Swaziland, awaiting reentry into Tanzania.

Folders 1-4 and 1-5 contain letters from Marie and Emil to Paul regarding his on and off studies at Wheaton College.

Folder 2-6 contains a typed letter with handwritten postscript from Marie to Paul and Nance describing Emil’s death and funeral, 1944.

Folder 2-12 contains letters sent leading up to and proceeding Tanzanian Independence in December 1961.

Folder 2-14 contains typed prayer letters that summarize the specific work of the mission, including the establishment of schools and churches, specific ministries to local people, and the translation and printing of the Bible in Kisukuma and other local languages.

Folder 3-2 contains a typed letter from Steve Barrett to Edward Sywulka about Betty’s death. This folder also contains a handwritten document penned by Marie for the 1959 African Jubilee Conference, a typed letter by Emil entitled “A Letter to a Dispensationalist Brother,” and a typed document entitled “Are you born again?”

Folder 3-3 contains a printed booklet written by Marie Sywulka entitled “Workers Together with Him” that describes the missionaries and the work of the AIM in Tanzania.

Accruals and Additions

The material in this collection was donated by Paul Sywulka in 1994, Edward Sywulka in 2002, and Anna Dahlquist in 2002 and 2003.

Accession: 94-76, 02-56, 02-59, 03-21

April 12, 2019

Emily Brokaw

B. Shuster

Collection 551 Papers of Emil and Marie Sywulka
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US