Elsie (Bunner) Miller


Elsie Miller
Surname as Student: Bunner
Education: United Church Training School
Graduation Year: 1955
Denomination: United Church of Canada
  • 1929 - Born
  • 1955 - Graduated

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Elsie Bunner (Miller) was born on October 10, 1929 in Manchester, New Hampshire. When she was 6 weeks old, her mother took her with her on board ship in a basket to join her husband who was teaching in the Achi.auoto College, Accra, Ghana (then known as Gold Coast). Mr. Bunner was hired by the government and after 6 years of service, returned to Canada in 1931. Elsie attended High School at Lucan and Whitby, Ontario, and graduated from Toronto Teachers College in 1947. For the next 5 years, she taught school. During the summer of 1952 and 1953, she served on Caravan teams and helped with youth camps.

Elsie attended The United Church Training School from 1953 to 55 and was commissioned as a Woman’s Missionary Society missionary and designated a Deaconess when Hamilton Conference met in Sudbury in 1955. She then spent one year at the Church of All Nations on Queen St. in Toronto and one year at All People’s United Church in Hamilton.

In August of 1957, Elsie went to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). First she went to the copper mining city of Kitwe for six months language study, later she lived in a rural African villagefor three months for further language study. She then went to Ndola, Zambia to serve alongside the women in the United Church of Zambia and to help with girls work. Ndola was a modern city with African townships all around its outskirts. There were church services in 10 African townships and a woman’s. group in each called KBBK (Kaafwana Ba Mayo Bena Klister) which means “The Christians Who Help One Another”.

Elsie met Geoffrey Miller through church work and they were married in October, 1959. She continued her work for a year and then they returned to Canada. She was disjoined from the Deaconess Order. They lived at Owen Sound with their son and daughter.

Elsie says, “I shall always remember the warm welcome the African people gave me and a handshake from everyone so that I did not feel a stranger. They did so appreciate my learning the Bemba language. I remember well attending the K.B.B.K. meetings. Worship played the central part, walking with one or more K.B.B.K. women visiting homes so we could invite people to church. In the Copperbelt cities, only 5% of the African population attend church. … I remember visiting the hospital … being invited for bwali to their homes. It is an honour to be invited for a meal. I also remember attending mournings. One was aware of the comfort the Christians gave the bereaved by their continual presence, even all night, and by much spontaneous hymn singing.”

Elsie continued, “Another memory is the Leadership Training Conferences we held every 8 weeks for a whole day. When 3 women returned to Ndola after attending the Mindolo Training Centre at the Mindolo Ecumenical Centre, Kitwe, we asked them to do the teaching. The women came in from the African townships to the central church, some walking as far as 10 miles, so eager were they. About 100 women would come and they returned to their townships to teach their women what they had learned. Subjects included Bible study, how to prepare for a baby, health, budgeting, etc.”

Elsie concludes, “I shall always be grateful to God for the privilege of getting to know the African people. They taught me more than I taught them.”

In 2001, Elsie was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease.

Adapted from material written by Bruce Presbyterial United Church Women, Centennial Project, 1967