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Published: Saturday, 8/13/2005

Tiffin missionary worked in Kenya 42 years

TIFFIN - Edna Marie Boroff, a missionary in Kenya for 42 years, died of bladder cancer Wednesday in Seneca House, an assisted-living facility here. She was 87.

Born in Seneca County's Eden Township, Ms. Boroff went to Melmore High School and then to Ohio State University. But within that first year at the university, she felt a calling to missionary work. That calling drove her for the rest of her life, her nephew, Jim Boroff said.

She got involved with World Gospel Mission, a nondenominational mission group in Marion, Ind., and transferred to the Chicago Evangelistic Institute to complete her nursing certification while working in Chicago's Women's and Children's Hospital in 1947, he said.

That same year, she traveled almost 8,000 miles to a small hospital in Tenwek in the Bomet district of Kenya's Rift Valley Province, where she worked for the next 42 years.

When the hospital was founded in 1935 it had 35 beds. Today, it's a 300-bed facility. The hospital was a mud hut when she arrived in 1947, Mr. Boroff said.

Dean Strong, a fellow missionary in Tenwek for about 30 years, said for many years Ms. Boroff and the other nurses handled almost all the medical situations at the hospital because there wasn't a doctor on staff until 1959. That included delivering about 20,000 babies, he estimated.

"There wasn't anything in her contract that said she couldn't quit," Mr. Strong said. "It was just her desire and feeling that that's where God wanted her to be."

Ms. Boroff often wrote two or three letters each day until last week. She kept in constant contact with her family. In all of her letters, she never expressed anything but a desire to meet people's needs, Mr. Boroff said.

She retired and returned to the United States in 1985, but went back to Africa in 1987 to receive the Head-of-State Commendation from then-Kenyan President Daniel Moi for her service. It's the highest civilian award in Kenya, Mr. Boroff said.

After returning for good in 1987, Ms. Boroff wrote a book about her experiences, Come Help Us. She continued to help the World Gospel Mission by advising new missionaries who were being sent to Africa, Mr. Boroff said.

Friends she knew from around the world, including some children she had delivered, came to visit her in Tiffin, Mr. Boroff said.

Surviving are her brothers, Ralph and Robert Boroff, and sister, Mildred Good.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Sept. 2 at Hoffman-Gottfried-Mack Funeral Home, Tiffin. A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 3 at Melmore United Methodist Church, Melmore, Ohio, of which she was a member.

The family suggests tributes to Community Hospice Care in Tiffin, the Melmore United Methodist Church, World Gospel Mission, or Camp Sychar in Mount Vernon, Ohio.



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