Munson, Melvin (1889–1961)

By Jonathan Oey Kuntaraf

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Jonathan Oey Kuntaraf was born into a Buddhist family. He joined the SDA Church at the age of 17. During his 44 years of denominational service, Kuntaraf has served as a pastor, teacher, and administrator. Before his retirement, Kuntaraf served as the director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. His wife Kathleen Kiem Hoa Oey Kuntaraf, a physician, served the denomination for 36 years, with her last responsibility as the General Conference associate director of Health Ministries department. The Kuntarafs are partners in preaching, teaching, presenting seminars, and writing books and articles. They have two children.

Melvin Munson was an editor, evangelist, and missionary to Indonesia and Singapore.

Early Life

Melvin Munson was born on February 27, 1889, in Singapore to Ralph Waldo E. and Carrie Louise (Gasser) Munson,1 who were missionaries for the Methodist Church and were establishing a school for children of the orphanage.2 Melvin has one elder sister and two younger brothers. Miriam, his sister, was born in Burma, while Melvin and two other siblings, Albert and Paul, were born in Singapore.3 Due to his parents’ illness, they returned to the United States, and while there, they became acquainted with the message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church through Battle Creek Sanitarium. They returned to the Far East and arrived in Padang, Indonesia, on January 1, 1900, as Adventist self-supporting missionaries.4

Education and Marriage

In 1904, Melvin and his older sister, Miriam, studied in Australia while the rest of the family lived in Indonesia.5 When his parents went to Australia for medical treatment in 1905, the whole family was reunited.6 While Melvin was in Australia, one summer he sold books in Brisbane to earn money for school. He used a bicycle to get around, and one day while he was riding down a long hill on a gravel road, the front fork of the bicycle broke. In the resulting crash, his face was lacerated, and he suffered injuries that gave him problems as he grew older.7

Due to his parents’ ill health, the entire family returned to America from Australia. While finishing his education in America at Washington Missionary College, Melvin met a young lady by the name of Irene Frisby, whom he married on January 14, 1917.8 A baby boy was born to them on January 4, 1918, and they named him Eugene.9

Career/Ministry

While he was a student at Australasian Missionary College10 in Australia, Melvin helped with the evangelistic meetings held in Christchurch, New Zealand.11 He later studied journalism, and his father encouraged him to write in Malay.12 In February 1910, the Munsons had returned to Indonesia and started a printing press in Sukabumi. The press was then moved to Batavia (now Jakarta) in April 1911. Melvin joined his parents to help with the editorial work in the new printing plant.13

After Melvin’s marriage to Irene in 1917, they were called to be missionaries in Batavia. Melvin was to be the editor of the Signs of the Times.14 Melvin’s duties included working in several languages. He was assisted by a good staff of workers.

Tragedy struck Melvin’s family when Irene gave birth to their second son, Ralph. She died after childbirth on December 30, 1918, but the baby lived. So with two small boys, Melvin was forced to return to America. There he met Harriet Sherrill, whom he married on May 31, 1919.15 A baby girl, Melva, was born to them on May 15, 1925, in Singapore.16

In 1923, Melvin received a call from Singapore to be the editor of the Signs of the Times Publishing House of Malaysia. He wasted no time in going back to the work closest to his heart. Again in 1927, Melvin had to leave his mission work for medical reasons. So he and his family returned to America and settled in La Sierra, California.17

Later Life

In 1942, Melvin was called by the U.S. government to join a group of people who knew the Indonesian language to write the script to broadcast the “Voice of America,” which was beamed by radio to the people of Indonesia. This gave the people hope during World War II.18 Melvin died on July 4, 1961,19 and Harriet Munson died in November 1972 at Loma Linda, California.20

Contribution/Legacy

Melvin Munson followed the spirit of his parents to do missionary work in Indonesia and Singapore. From his childhood to adulthood, he thought only of mission and serving the Lord. He helped his father, the first missionary to Indonesia, in pioneering and establishing the publishing work in Indonesia and also Singapore. Despite his health challenges, he supported God’s work by using his language and writing ability in Malay. It was through the pioneering work of Melvin and his family that the publishing work in Indonesia began and is still in operation until the present time.

Sources

“Ralph Waldo E. Munson (1860–1934).” WikiTree. Last modified November 18, 2014. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Munson-1290.

Munson, George. More Than Conquerors. Brushton, N.Y.: Teach Services, 2007.

Fernandez, Gil G. Light Dawns over Asia. Silang, Cavite: Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Publications, 1990.

“Melvin Munson obituary.” ARH, November 30, 1961.

“Death of Pastor and Mrs. Melvin Munson.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1972.

Notes

  1. “Ralph Waldo E. Munson (1860–1934),” WikiTree, last modified November 18, 2014, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Munson-1290; interview with with Eloise Munson Murdock, Loma Linda, California, May 9, 2018.

  2. George Munson, More Than Conquerors (Brushton, N.Y.: Teach Services, 2007), 21.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Gil G. Fernandez, Light Dawns over Asia (Silang, Cavite: Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Publications, 1990), 164.

  5. Ibid., 43.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Ibid., 44.

  8. Ibid., 45.

  9. Ibid.

  10. “Melvin Munson obituary,” ARH, November 30, 1961, 21.

  11. Fernandez, Light Dawns over Asia, 44.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Ibid., 45.

  14. “Melvin Munson obituary,” 21.

  15. Fernandez, Light Dawns over Asia, 46.

  16. Ibid.

  17. Ibid.

  18. Ibid.

  19. “Melvin Munson obituary,” 21.

  20. Death of Pastor and Mrs. Melvin Munson,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1972, 10.

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Kuntaraf, Jonathan Oey. "Munson, Melvin (1889–1961)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed September 23, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=DCL6.

Kuntaraf, Jonathan Oey. "Munson, Melvin (1889–1961)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access September 23, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=DCL6.

Kuntaraf, Jonathan Oey (2021, April 28). Munson, Melvin (1889–1961). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 23, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=DCL6.