No. 4, Summer 1998
Annie and the Titanic
Annie C. Funk was a Mennonite missionary to India. Her interest in missions had been nurtured by her home church in Bally, Pennsylvania. After several stateside assignments, she volunteered to serve overseas. Her faith in God’s care is evident in her answer to a friend who feared for her safety on the ship: “Our heavenly Father is as near to us on sea as on land. My trust is in Him. I have no fear.”
In 1908 Annie founded a girls’ school in Janjgir, India, which was later named in her memory. Her work there was interrupted by a telegram in 1912: her mother was close to death; she was to come home as soon as possible. Annie quickly made travel plans. When she arrived in Southampton, England, she learned that her ship, the SS Havorford, would be delayed by a coal strike. Her travel agent suggested another ship called the Titanic. Some were saying this was a modern marvel that “even God 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 passenger.
This was the Titanic’s highly-acclaimed maiden voyage. It was the largest, most luxurious ship every built. No cost had been spared. The White Star Line was making history. This would be the fastest trans-Atlantic voyage ever. Many aristocratic luminaries were aboard – in first-class accomodations, of course. The ship’s captain, Edward J. Smith, was to retire after he docked in New York. “So far,” he had said, his career as a ship’s captain “had been uneventful.” The Titanic left Southampton’s dock at noon on April 10, 1912.
Near midnight four days later, the ship struck an iceberg, in spite of repeated warnings. The “unsinkable” ship began sinking into the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, about four hundred miles off the coast of Newfoundland. As elaborately as the ship was furnished, it lacked life boats for all 2,207 passengers. It was immediately evident that many could not be saved. A report has it that Annie Funk was on a life boat and gave up her seat for a mother with children. Those who knew her said, “That would be just like Annie.” She, along with 1,500 others, perished in the great sea tragedy. The mighty Titanic was no more. The date was April 15, 1912.
The Titanic’s life was short. So was Annie Funk’s. But the memory of her passion for mission and her firm faith in God will long endure.