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Petra Tunheim director of mission in Java 1916 - Copy.jpg
Do you have an Adventist history story about a woman leading? Please share with us as we work to record the history of early women leaders before their stories are lost.

Petra Tunheim Shadsheim - Mission director


What a life Petra Shadsheim, nee Tunheim (1871–1923) lived! Born in Norway, she immigrated to the US at 17 years old. She became an Adventist in her twenties attending Union College and briefly teaching then entered into a short marriage. She wished to be sent to Asia after being inspired by mission appeals in the Review & Herald, so sailed to Australia where she canvased for a while gaining funds. In 1906 she traveled to Surabaya, Java where she met and took over the mission of a self-converted Dutch Sabbath keeper. Her efforts established the Batavia and Surabaya congregations. In 1913 she was elected the first woman (we believe) to be director and treasurer of a Mission, the Batavia district of Java. During the War she was essentially the only Adventist administrator in the country. Petra was fluent in Norwegian, Dutch, English, Chinese, Malay, and Javanese. This facilitated leading churches, Sabbath Schools and translating Adventist literature to the many people groups in this diverse area.

Like so many missionaries she became ill (presumed with malaria) and was sent on permanent return 1919. However, on the way home she stopped in Shanghai, China and recovered significantly in the drier climate. So she took the initiative to study with Javanese students there and pass her second-year university exams in Chinese. In 1923 she felt well enough to return to her calling in Java but died of malaria in the boat back to Indonesia. (See ESDA entry, photo credit Adventist Archives)

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