Friday’s Fave Five #48

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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

1. This week we were able to enjoy the fellowship of a family temporarily here until their immigration papers come through to serve in ministry elsewhere. It was a blessing to get to know them a little this week. We’ve also had a fellow minister and occasional teacher at the college staying with us this week. He is a blessing to our family in every way and we always enjoy having him in our home.

2.Freshly returned from their honeymoon to Rome, our daughter and son-in-law regaled us with stories of their travels and explorations of the City of the Seven Hills at our weekly family night dinner. It was so much fun to discuss special places we discovered on our visit there a few years ago and learn what’s the same and what has changed.

3.This week I began rereading some of my missionary biography collection. I was looking to source a quotation which I thought was from Amy Carmichael’s God’s Missionary and ended up reading the whole thing. It’s a booklet, so not hard or long to read, but Amy Carmichael’s writing tends to be introspective and somewhat mystical so it requires some contemplation, evaluation, and simplification when reading her works. I did not find the quote I was looking for so began perusing Elisabeth Elliot’s work on Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. Still haven’t found my quote, but I shall persevere! (Ahem * Grumpy Grammar Lady reminds you that this word is pronounced “per-se-vere.” Do not be bamboozled, hornswoggled, or flimflammed into saying “per-ser-vere.” There is no ‘r’ in the second syllable of persevere. But I digress…)

4.Someday some smart researcher will be able to definitively explain why cloudy days and stormy weather make some of us ache physically (my arthritis and fibromyalgia yell at me when it’s cloudy outside!) or feel down mentally. We’ve had a few of those days this week. I am grateful for every clear and sunny day and the positive influence they have on my outlook. More sunny days coming! Sunday is the first day of Spring.

5.I am grateful for brothers and sisters in Christ who willingly discuss thorny theological issues and controversial topics without judgement, but with an understanding that our mutual goal in any such discussion is to be made more conformed to the image of Christ.

I didn’t get much photography practice this week, but did get a few gloomy day pics of rural Alberta on Saturday.

Near Beaumont 2 Near Beaumont 5 Near Beaumont 7

What were some of your blessings this week?

Old Books, New Treasures

Old books, new treasures

While organizing my missionary books I came across a small volume (about 3” x 5”) entitled Missionary Daily Text Book, published by The Religious Tract Society. There is no author or compiler listed nor publication date, though by the looks of the binding, endpapers, and pages it was probably printed in the late 1800’s.

The book has entries for each day of the year and highlights missionary themed scriptures and quotes along with notable missionary events for each date.  I’d like to share a few entries from this week.

The Judsons

February 19 – Adoniram Judson sailed for India, 1812. Mark 10:27 With God all things are possible.

Judson and his wife Ann sailed for India, but God redirected them to Burma (modern Myanmar) where they endured privation, suspicion, false accusation, imprisonment, starvation, the death of children, and finally the death of Ann.

Bud God allowed the translation of the Scriptures to survive and eventually many Burmese were won to Christ.  Our friend pastors a church in Calgary where a number of the Karen tribe from Burma worship.  They trace their spiritual ancestry back to relatives who were won to Christ by the work of the Judsons.

Longfellow poem

February 21 – Longfellow poem (taken from Hymn for My Brother’s Ordination)
And evermore beside him on his way
The unseen Christ shall move,
That he may lean upon His arm and say
Dost Thou, dear Lord, approve?

James Gilmour and Mtesa – Answers to prayer  EmilyPrankard411px-Gilmourjames

February 22 – James Gilmour sails for China, 1870
Mtesa’s request for missionaries given through H. M. Stanley    

James Gilmour was used of God to share the gospel in China and Mongolia.  His had the blessing of ministering with Mr. and Mrs. Meech, but longed for a companion – a wife – to share in his life. Not having any prospects nearby, he asked God to clearly direct and provide a wife.  His coworkers opened their lives to him and often read letters from home to the bachelor.  After seeing a picture of Mrs. Meech’s sister, and hearing her letters read in his company, James, having never meet Emily, decided to write and ask for her hand in marriage.  She accepted and God gave them a number of years of joyful marriage and ministry together in Asia.

Mtesa was the King (or Emperor) of Uganda who was converted to Christ.  He sent a message back with H.M. Stanley (of Stanley and Livingstone fame) to send more missionaries.  God blessed that request by calling a number of missionaries to Africa.

The view from history

Sometimes in obeying God’s leading we feel like failures or as if we are wasting our time.  Nothing is happening!  God does not seem to be answering our prayers!  We’re enduring such opposition!  These entries remind us that sometimes we don’t see immediate answers to prayer in our spiritual efforts.   It is essential that we walk with God, obey His direction for each of our lives, and leave the results with Him.  History will better display the eternal effectiveness of our Christian labors than what we are able to observe in the here and now.

photos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EmilyPrankard.jpg; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gilmourjames.jpg

Reading About Gladys

Reading about Gladys

This past week I have been reading the books from my library about Gladys Aylward.  I’m working on a series of missionary stories Gladys Aylwardfor kids, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but am realizing I won’t always be able to whip out a story a week as I had hoped.  Though I am using only the books from my own personal library as source material, I have multiple books on some of the missionaries and it takes time to read or re-read these books.

So many books, so little time

I have read seven books and three articles on Gladys this past week and have two more books to go. One of the benefits of doing this concentrated reading on one subject is that you can understand the person from more than one perspective.  I love seeing how God uses such a wide diversity of people to accomplish His purposes!

Gladys loved God

So what have I learned from reading about Gladys Aylward?  I have been reminded that it is not education, station in life or natural giftedness that God is looking for.  Gladys was a terrible student and may have possibly had a learning disability.  She was from a working class family and was unremarkable in appearance and abilities.  But she loved her God and obeyed His leading. Her friends thought she was crazy, the mission board she wanted to work under rejected her, and most in her circle of acquaintances thought she was irresponsible for heading off to serve God in China with little more than her certainty that God wanted her there.

Child-like faith

Over and over again in her life Gladys demonstrated sincere child-like faith in God and His abilities.  And over and over again God proved Himself faithful to Gladys.  Her story is remarkable and I have been blessed by reading it.  And remember, her God is our God and He is the same today as He was in her lifetime.

So I will soldier on reading my Aylward books and hopefully soon write a kid’s missionary story as well as an overview of her life for adults.  Thanks for sticking with me!!

Stay Tuned: Missionary Stories for Kids

20130720_200311 - CopyGod’s provision

Years ago God gave me the opportunity to purchase second-hand missionary biographies very inexpensively.  We had a wonderful used book store in our city run by two retired sisters who had formerly served as missionaries in Africa.  Their burden was to get good resources into the hands of local pastors.  News spread, books were donated, and many, including my husband and I, were blessed and helped in ministry because of these dear ladies.

Church library

As a child I ransacked our church library and read as many missionary books as possible.  I loved reading about people from all walks of life, with all kinds of personalities, and many different skills and hindrances whom the Lord used to spread the gospel across the world.

Gleaning gems

When I learned that the used bookstore carried not only commentaries, but also biographies, I was thrilled.  Initially when I visited the bookstore I would stand and stare at the hundreds of missionary titles and wonder how to separate what was good from what was fluff.  A dear missionary mentor, Bettie Dreisbach, helped guide me in my selections.  She told me that reading missionary books was like mining for precious gems; sometimes you would come away with a gem or two, but sometimes you would glean a whole vault of gems from these books.

Family devotions

My husband and I had family devotions with our five children and would often read missionary stories in conjunction with Bible reading.  My husband would stop mid sentence at an exciting part or give a dramatic pause and finish with a cliff hanger so the kids would squirm in their seats and beg him to read more.  We discovered some good biographies written for youth, but not many written for preschoolers and very young readers, and so we compromised and edited as we read to keep our children’s attention.

Missionary stories for toddlers

A couple of years ago I was challenged by some friends, young couples with small children, to use my missionary books as references to write missionary stories for young children.  Tomorrow will be the first in what I hope will be a long series of stories written with my grandchildren and other toddlers in mind.  If you use these in family devotions or to teach your children, please pass on any feedback so that I can improve and refine the process as I write.

Loving Louise: Thoughts from a Fellow Sufferer

Rose from Brier

Amy Carmichael was an invalid the last twenty years of her missionary life.  She wrote Rose from Brier – a collection of thoughts 7-13-10 The Garrique roses 9and lessons from one sufferer to another.  She understood suffering – it was her lot in life for over twenty years.

I have been reading this book and sharing some of the wonderful poetry and thoughts with Louise as she continues her fight with cancer.  Maybe these words will bless and encourage others who are suffering.

My grace is sufficient

From chapter 3 in the book:

“Hardly a life that goes deep but has tragedy somewhere within it; what would such do without Job?  And who could spare from his soul’s hidden history the great words spoken to St. Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness?  Such words lead straight to a land where there is gold, and the gold of that land is good.

I shall come forth as gold

Gold – the word recalls Job’s affirmation, When He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold; and St. Peter’s The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire;  and the quiet word in Malachi, He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.  I have often thanked God that the word is not gold there, but silver.  Silver is of little account in the East, and we feel more like silver than gold.  But He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, so who need fear?

How do you know when it is purified?   Melting_crucible.jpg large

This picture of the Refiner is straight from Eastern life.  The Eastern goldsmith sits on the floor by his crucible.  For me, at least, it was not hard to know why the Heavenly Refiner had to sit so long.  The heart knows its own dross.  Blessed be the love that never wearies, never gives up hope that even in such poor metal He may at last see the reflection of His face.  “How do you know when it is purified?” we asked our village goldsmith.  “When I can see my face in it,” he answered.”

Can others see Christ in us, even in our sufferings?

Maintain a constant victory

This poem is from a beginning chapter titled ‘The Rose’

Before the winds that blow do cease,
Teach me to dwell within Thy calm;
Before the pain has passed in peace,
Give me, my God, to sing a psalm.
Let me not lose the chance to prove
The fullness of enabling love.
O Love of God, do this for me:
Maintain a constant victory.

Before I leave the desert land
For meadows of immortal flowers,
Lead me where streams at Thy command
Flow by the borders of the hours,
That when the thirsty come, I may
Show them the fountains in the way.
O Love of God, do this for me:                                                                                                                                                                                                          Maintain a constant victory.

crucible picture credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Melting_crucible.jpg

Miss Annie Soper Missionary to Peru

Dawn Beyond the Andes by Phyllis Thompson (Regions Beyond Missionary Union, London 1955) is a wonderful missionary biography about Miss Annie Soper, missionary nurse to the unreached regions of eastern Peru in the 1920’s.

Annie Soper was certain God had called her to serve Him in Peru, but health issues resulted in rejection by the sponsoring mission board.  Instead, she ventured alone to Lima and worked as a lone Protestant nurse in a Catholic hospital.  Annie showed the love of Christ by lovingly and carefully caring for her patients.  For her testimony and Christ-motivated care for her patients, Annie was shunned, resented, and eventually poisoned by someone on the hospital staff.

As Annie recovered she continued to hear about remote villages east of the Andes deemed inaccessible to westerners where no missionary had ever ventured.  Though these villages had Catholic priests, the people had never heard of the Bible or salvation through faith in Christ alone.  Medical help was scarce in these areas and Annie’s heart remained burdened for the spiritual and physical needs of these villagers.

A missionary doctor crossed paths with Annie and with great compassion told about the village of Moyobama which he felt could serve as a hub for medical and evangelistic outreaches.  “Can’t you go there, Miss Soper?” was his pleading question that the Holy Spirit used to clearly direct her to strike out to serve in faith.

First by steamer, then by train, and finally by mule, Annie and her nursing friend Rhonda Gould ventured across the Andes into the unknown.  Many near death experiences met them along the rugged path to their new calling. Yet God protected them and brought them safely to Moyobamba.

Even their essential medical efforts were resisted at first but God directed them to wrap their medicines in Gospel tracts and eventually hearts melted, superstitions were set aside, and souls were saved.  One of their first converts, Eduardo, graduated from Bible school and returned as pastor to his fellow villagers in Moyobama.

Dawn Beyond the Andes is an inspiring book about a woman who in simple faith obeyed and served God!

This book is out of print and can be found used through online booksellers such as www.Addall.com   www.AbeBooks.com  and www.amazon.ca

Reading Which Glorifies God, part 2 Missionary Biography Suggestions

Reading Which Glorifies God part 2 – Missionary Biography Suggestions 

The missionary biographies below are among my favorites. I have a list of “Fifty Favorite” missionary biographies which I have read, learned from, and recommend to others.  Some overviews are posted in the Book Blurbs section of this blog with more coming in the future.  God has taught me a great deal through reading about struggles and victories these godly men and women experienced.  Many of these books are currently available in e-book format, some of them offered without charge.  I hope you will be able to find and read these books, or others like them, to the glory of God!

To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson

To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson chronicles the life of Adoniram Judson, one of the first missionaries to leave North American in obedience to God’s call.  He and his wife left New England in the early 1800’s with no promise of ever seeing home or family ever again.  Modes of communication were limited to letters or word of mouth; a letter could take up to a year to reach its intended recipient.  The Judsons ministered over six years to the Burmese people before one professed Christ.  All of the Judson’s children died due to illness or harsh living conditions, none of them surviving to school age.  Adoniram painstakingly learned the language, wrote it down, worked on a dictionary and laboriously translated the scriptures into the Burmese language so that these people could know the truth.  He was falsely imprisoned as a spy and tortured during a war in 1812.  Adoniram, starving, ill, and completely worn was released from prison just a few short weeks before his wife died.  After a period of great despair, new avenues of ministry were opened up to him and many confessed the Lord.

The life of Adoniram Judson reminds me of the following verses: Luke 14:26  If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he  cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27 “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:33 “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

How I Know God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth

How I Know God Answers Prayer is a poignant, personal account of God’s direct dealing with the Goforth family during their years of missionary service in China.  Mrs. Goforth honestly lays out her own struggles with sinful attitudes that quenched or grieved the Holy Spirit and hindered prayer.  She reverently wonders at miraculous deliverance from the hands of murderous Chinese rebels (Boxers) bent on eliminating all foreigners.  God literally stayed the hands of these murderers on several occasions as the Goforths traveled by cart in their escape from the interior of China.   Weapons aimed directly at them glanced off, leaving little more than a scratch; when attacked by the rebels, Mr. Goforth was saved from a final death blow by a horse collapsing to the ground in front of him and separating him from his attackers. Strangers offered them protection knowing they would be killed instantly if caught aiding the “foreign devils.”  God did answer prayer and brought them safely through this ordeal.

On furlough in Canada, Rosalind recounts the many provisions of food, clothing, accommodation and unexpected gifts for herself, her husband and her six children.  At the turn of the century tinned foods and store bought clothes were expensive, so clothing was generally sewn at home and fruits and vegetables home canned.  Repeatedly God laid it on the hearts of various people to give clothes to, or offer to sew for, the Goforths as well as give them fresh and canned fruit and vegetables.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Goforth were engaged as speakers in various churches.  This schedule prevented Rosalind from sewing and canning as she needed so these provisions were a specific answer to prayer for her.

A particular time of testing came for Rosalind when her husband proposed moving their work further into the interior of China. Four of their children had already died and fearful for the lives of her remaining children in an unsanitary, disease-ridden area, Rosalind refused her consent.  Her husband admonished her and reminded her that the safest place for their children was in the will of God.  When she continued in her refusal, Jonathan warned her that he feared for the children. The next day a son became seriously ill, rallied, and then another child grew ill and died.

“In the moments that followed God revealed Himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself up to him with unspeakable joy.  Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to him wherever he might lead.  One thing only seemed plain, that I must follow where God should lead.  I saw at last that God must come first.”

They began preparations for the move right away.   From that moment on her family suffered little sickness and the lives of their other children were spared.  We read in Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”  Rosalind learned this lesson through these experiences.

Rosalind Goforth penned several other books which are well worth reading including among others:

1.  Goforth of China

2.  Climbing

3.  Miracle Lives of China

4.  Chinese Diamonds for the King of Kings

By Searching by Isobel Kuhn

By Searching opens to us the struggle of Canadian Isobel Miller as the world entices her from one direction and the Lord calls from another.  A bright intelligent girl, Isobel attempted to lead a worldly life and still have a Christian testimony. She learned through many hardships that God expects the believer to be holy and dedicated solely to Him without divided loyalties.  God brought a lovely older Christian lady into Isobel’s life.  This woman encouraged her in the things of the Lord, prayed constantly for her, gave her a godly example and kindly admonished her when necessary.  Isobel was able to attend a Bible college and had to trust the Lord to provide to pay her bills while there.  She felt this exercise in faith laid the groundwork for trusting the Lord while engaged in missionary service in China.  God called Isobel to China and later called her to marry fellow missionary candidate John Kuhn.  Isobel’s books are engaging compilations of her work among the Lisu tribe on the Chinese boarder.  Isobel learned as a young woman that “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Luke 16:13

Isobel’s other books include:

1.  Precious Things of the Lasting Hills

2.  Nests Above the Abyss

3.  Stones of Fire

4.  Ascent to the Tribes

5.  Green Leaf in Drought Time

6.  In the Arena

John Paton – an Autobiography

John Paton-An Autobiography is a two-volume read which allows us to look into the life of this Scottish missionary to the cannibals of the South Seas Islands.  Fervently believing God wanted him to give the gospel to those who had never heard, John Paton embarked on his missionary endeavors with great intensity.  His attempts to win the natives to the Lord were met with suspicion.  Repeatedly his life was threatened, his goods stolen, his health broken.  His first wife and son died from the tropical fevers so common in the area.  Various traders in their ships tried to stop Paton from evangelizing the islanders fearing it would affect their opportunities to trade on the islands. Yet John persevered and after a number of years many came to know the Lord.

Hudson Taylor by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

Hudson Taylor by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor in its original form is a two-volume detailed account of the life of the founder of the China Inland Mission, James Hudson Taylor.  In a time when Europeans dressed and acted as Europeans wherever they lived in the world, Taylor’s decision to dress, eat and live as the Chinese was shocking.  Also shocking to some was his concept that God and God alone should be consulted for the means to live.  While still in medical school Hudson determined to live as ascetically as possible and to ask God only for things he needed.  He felt that he must learn to live by faith first in England or he would never be able to trust God in far-away China.  Taylor’s faith was stretched as he waited upon God to provide for him, and he found God faithful to meet every need.  From this early lesson grew the understanding that God could and would do amazing things for those who believe wholeheartedly in Him. Hudson Taylor reflected the truths found in Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Other good books by or about Hudson Taylor include:

1.  Hudson Taylor and Maria by J.C. Pollock

2.  A Retrospect by J. Hudson Taylor

3.  It Is Not Death to Die by Jim Cromarty

4.  Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by J. Hudson Taylor

Darlene Deibler Rose – Missionary Example in Times of Discouragement

Darlene Deibler Rose – Missionary Example in Times of Discouragement is used in conjunction with the lesson on Discouragement.

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose is the autobiographical work of a young missionary wife imprisoned during WWII. Darlene McIntosh was only 19 years old when she married Russell Deibler, a veteran missionary and a man twelve years her senior. After six months of church meetings in North America and six months of language study in Holland, the Deiblers eagerly returned to Russell’s pioneer missionary work in the interior of New Guinea. Darlene accompanied Russell into the jungle to establish a new mission station near a previously unevangelized tribe. Darlene, the first white woman any of them had ever seen, grew to deeply love these child-like primitive people she was ministering to.

WW II reached them in January 1942 after the Deiblers had served in New Guinea for three years. The Japanese took control of the area and herded all foreigners into prisoner of war camps, interring the men in one location and the women and children in another. No communication was allowed between the two camps and Darlene never saw Russell again, learning of her husband’s death three months after his fatal illness. As a result of Russell’s death God gave Darlene a miraculous opportunity to freely witness of God’s love and salvation to the Japanese commander of the prison camp

Abuse and atrocities were inflicted on the imprisoned women and children, and many of them died as a result. Despite being so young, Darlene was a recognized leader among the women and was soon appointed as barracks leader. Her Christian testimony was clear and unwavering in the face of continual privations and troubles.

Near the end of the war Darlene was accused of being a spy for the Americans against the Japanese. She was moved from a prisoner of war camp to a death prison where she was the only female inmate. Severe malnutrition, serious illness, and discouragement engulfed her as she was tortured, deprived and humiliated in that prison. She could not sense God’s presence and was despondent until God reminded her of a verse she had learned as a child, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Still in her twenties, her hair whitened, and so ill she was unable to stand on her feet, Darlene called out to God with renewed faith.

After years of receiving only starvation rations of spoiled rice, Darlene longed for bananas. She pled with God to provide just one banana for her. She constantly dreamed about, thought about, prayed for and wished for one single banana.

In His mercy God laid it on the heart of the commander of her previous woman’s prisoner of war camp to come and visit Darlene. Shocked by her spectre-like appearance the commander left without speaking to her.  He composed himself, then returned and talked to her with kindness. When he asked what message she had for the other women prisoners, Darlene sent the message that she still trusted the Lord.

Soon after the commander left, a guard came to her cell and left her 92 bananas, a gift from the commander, who was unaware of her wish. She was absolutely humbled by God’s exceedingly abundant provision for her, and her faith was strengthened.

In reading this book I was impressed with how frequently a memorized Scripture verse or stanza of a godly hymn came to Darlene’s mind as she suffered discouraging fear and abuse. We are reminded by Darlene’s experiences of God’s presence with believers even when we may not sense it. God’s Word and God’s promised presence comfort and strengthen us in our times of discouragement.

Elizabeth Bowen Thompson – Missionary Example of Helper

Elizabeth Bowen Thompson Missionary Example of Helper is used in conjunction with the lesson on God’s Plan from Creation:  Helper.

Elizabeth Bowen Thompson is an example of a woman who used her gifts and skills to help others.  She began serving others as a single woman, and carried out her sacrificial and ambitious ministry as a married woman and later as a widow.

Young Elizabeth Maria Lloyd was a spirited girl with abundant energy and unusual organizational skills.  Born in the early 1800’s, Elizabeth, spiritually sensitive from her early childhood, was taunted by other children for her piety and was sometimes called the “little saint.”   She came to Christ as a girl and learned early that all matters were to be prayed about. Frances Ridley Havergal wrote, “Lord, prepare me for whatever thou art preparing for me”[1] This prayer quite aptly described Elizabeth Bowen Thompson’s early life.

From her childhood Elizabeth had a keen interest in ancient things, particularly in Biblical archaeology. As a young woman she intently studied the latest Eastern archaeological discoveries and soon became an authority on Egyptian and Eastern antiquities.  Miss Lloyd was offered a position working for the Syro-Egyptian Mission in Damascus where she met Dr. James Bowen Thompson, head of the British Syrian Hospital in that city. The friendship between James and Elizabeth soon blossomed into love.  The couple was married and settled near Antioch.

Elizabeth was moved by the plight of the Syrian women in Antioch and longed to help them.  She learned the language, hired other Christians to assist her, and opened a small school in her home, which she ran for eighteen months until the outbreak of the Crimean War.

When the war erupted in 1853, Dr. Bowen Thompson, an expert in Eastern diseases, quickly volunteered to go serve his country as a military doctor. Eager to be of assistance, he left for the front before his commission was issued.  Upon arriving, Dr. Bowen Thompson was stricken down with the same fever he had come to treat.  Because he was not yet a military doctor, he was refused admission to the military hospital.  At the urging of a fellow physician the hospital finally admitted him, but it was too late and Dr. Bowen Thompson died.

Grief-stricken, the young widow returned to England and lived with her sister and brother-in-law.  News reached England of the massacres in Syria in 1860 where the slaughter of thousands of males was carried out by the Turks, Druses and Kurds. These factions were brutal and merciless in their destruction, resorting to trickery to gather together and butcher all men and boys from the ages of 7 -70. Over 20,000 widows and many more children were left homeless. Widows and orphans fled to seaport towns of Syria. Elizabeth felt specially qualified in her widowhood to aid these widows, and with her years lived in Syria, she knew the language and customs of the land.  Elizabeth gave of her own means to help widows and orphans, and soon travelled to Beirut to do what she could personally.

“When tidings of these fearful events reached Europe, England sent money, food, and clothing.  Many of my friends, and the members of my family, took an active part in helping in this good work:  and, as it had pleased God that during the Crimean War I should be one of the many to become widows, it was but natural that my heart should respond to the widows’ cries.  Then, too, the happy portion of my wedded life, which I had spent in Syria, had enabled me to acquire some knowledge of the language as well as of the ignorance and desolate condition of the women.  Therefore, as a widow caring for the widow, I felt called upon to try to give help in distress, and make known to them the only balm for a broken heart – the love of the Lord Jesus.”[2]

Elizabeth Bowen Thompson discovered a great lack of Christian teaching, of ability to read, and of training in housekeeping among the widows. Suddenly widowed, these Syrian women had little education and few skills to make their own living. Elizabeth quickly formed industrial schools, instructing the women in areas such as sewing and embroidery while teaching them to read by using the Bible.  Students young and old were given the gospel. Every day the women would have Bible lessons and learn hymns, followed by school and skills classes.  As these downtrodden women heard the gospel they responded with amazement.

“No idea of ‘the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus,’ their (the widow’s) souls were filled with revenge…When, however, their Christian teachers unfolded to them the Good News of our Saviour, they would sit at their feet in rapt attention and exclaim, ‘We never heard such words.  We are women.  Does it mean for us?’ A few of them blessed God for the Word he had sent to them by us.”[3]

Strangers who heard of the new schools came from all of Syria and begged Mrs. Bowen Thompson to open schools for them. Within a few months Elizabeth established schools for the widows, schools for the orphans, and evening schools for the young men. She received help and supplies from the Syrian Relief Fund and the Anglo-American Committee.  Above all she made sure that the gospel was preached to every person associated with her schools.

“The Bible was in their hands, and the songs of Zion rose up to heaven instead of their former imprecations and idle talk.  Groups of women being taught by their children now met the eye; and in their miserable abodes the Bible was read, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit sought in prayer.”[4]

As the number of schools increased, so did the need for good workers.  When their home in England burned down, Elizabeth’s sister and brother in law, Mr. and Mrs. Mentor Mott, came to help in the work. Miss Lloyd, a younger sister, also answered the call for workers in this burgeoning ministry.

“When I began, amidst great discouragement, I had not the slightest idea how large and how rapidly the work would grow; and when I look at the schools as they stand, I own I marvel at what the Lord has wrought in little more than two months and a half.”[5]

Word of the schools continued to spread and soon the upper-class Syrians asked Mrs. Bowen Thompson to teach their children for a fee. More homes were opened for orphans and widows with the tuition from these paying students.  Parents, friends, brothers of the widows and of paying and non-paying students alike were invited to Sunday evening classes where a Christian man read verses, explained the passage, answered questions, and closed in prayer.

How to provide for all of the needs of these newly begun schools was ever on Elizabeth Bowen Thompson’s heart. By 1862 resources were stretched thin.  Elizabeth went to the Lord with her burden.

“I had no money in hand for my poor widows.  They were without food…I went up into my room and there, alone with God, I besought Him for help.  While yet in prayer my request was granted; for the Prussian Consul was downstairs with the news he had opened a soup-kitchen, and would give a meal every day to fifty of my poor women.  The Lord doth surely provide!”[6]

In answer to Elizabeth’s prayers, British sailors docked at Beirut heard of the schools and sent their laundry to be done, thus providing regular income for the widows.

By 1863 there were 18 various schools, and by 1864 over four hundred students were enrolled in the schools. Bible education as well as secular training was mandatory. This godly training helped dispel superstitious practices that many of the people had such as buying one or two square feet of heaven to ensure a place for themselves or loved ones. “To such a people, the entrance of God’s Word is as ‘the dayspring from on high.’”[7]

Some of the newly saved widows began nightly prayer meetings in their homes and were turned out by their landlords for it.  Elizabeth found them new places to live and gave them rooms at the school for their prayer meetings.

As news of the well run schools spread, Elizabeth was asked to establish her schools in an ever widening area. Schools were established at Damascus and Elizabeth was responsible to train teachers for Bishop Gobat’s school in Jerusalem, Miss Whately’s school in Cairo, plus schools in six other locations.

After several years a variety of schools were in operation:  boys’ schools, girls’ schools, infant schools, orphanages, Sunday schools, Moslem boarding schools, blind schools, a school for cripples plus a Normal Training College for teachers were all started and supplied by the influence of Elizabeth Bowen Thompson.  Much of the training of the teachers for these schools was funded by Mrs. Bowen Thompson or her family.

By 1899 Elizabeth had laboured diligently for eight years in Syria, establishing schools and training many in the Word.  Elizabeth’s health was never robust and the strain of the hard work weakened her.  Elizabeth knew the Lord was with her in her illness and she wrote, “Notwithstanding my great weakness I have never one instant lost my peace of mind or sense of the presence of Jesus, my Lord.”[8]

Hoping to improve her health, Elizabeth Bowen Thompson returned to England.  Her health deteriorated and as she lay dying she regretted she could never again see her “dear children far away”[9]

Her last days were a shining testimony of one who walked with God.  Shortly before she crossed the vale she prayed, “And now, dear Lord Jesus, let none of those who know me, and none of those who love me, ever think of me as passing through the grave and gate of death.  I am passing through the gate of glory.”[10]  Elizabeth Bowen Thompson died glorious in the Lord on November. 14,1869. This widow gave al that she had and was to bring the Gospel to the downtrodden of Syria.

With wisdom, grace, and love divinely blest,

She raised the fallen, shielded the oppressed.

The blind she led to touch the Word and see;

And healed the strife of creeds by charity.

Damascus mourns her – Hermon’s daughters weep –

Their ‘mother in the Lord’ has fall’n asleep.

Her native land has claimed her mortal part;

Jesus her soul; but Syria hath her heart.[11]

Author unknown


[1] Mrs. J. T. Gracey, Eminent Missionary Women (New York:  Eaton & Mains, 1898) p. 101.

[2] Charles F. Hayward, Women Missionaries (London:  Collins Clear-type Press, n.d.) p. 149

[3] Ibid., 150.

[4]  “Elizabeth Bowen Thompson,” Heroines of the Cross:  True Stories of Noble Women (Kilmarnock, Scotland:  John Ritchie Publishers n.d.) p. 20

[5] Ibid., pp. 21-22

[6] Hayward, p. 157

[7] Canon Dawson, Heroines of Missionary Adventure (Philadelphia:  J. P. Lippincott, 1909) p. 167

[8] Hayward, p. 167.

[9] “Elizabeth Bowen Thompson,” Heroines of the Cross:  True Stories of Noble Women, p.25.

[10] Hayward, p. 168.

[11] Mrs. E. R. Pitman, Missionary Heroines in Eastern Lands (London:  Pickering & Inglis, n.d.) p. 87.

Mary Reed – Missionary Example of Glorifying God through Hardships

Mary Reed a Missionary Example for the lesson on Hardships:  A Biblical Response to Difficulties in Life

Mary Reed, a hard-working and accomplished school teacher, responded to the call of God for missionary service and departed for India in 1884 at the age of 30.  Mary had enjoyed excellent health all her life, but that changed almost as soon as she reached India, and she was shuttled off to a quiet location to rest and recover.  Near her resting spot at a place called Chandag was the Mission to Lepers.

Mary had great pity for these lepers as she learned of their plight. Leprosy was a terrible degenerative disease which left its victims deformed and disfigured as their flesh atrophied and fell away.  Known today as Hansen’s Disease, the disease is now treatable, but at that time no cure was known.  No clear understanding of the spread of this disease was understood and lepers were almost always banished from society in isolation with other lepers for life.

Mary finished her first missionary term then left for furlough in the States 1890.  While at home she had a recurrence of her health problems.  While being treated for these she noticed a loss of feeling and a tingling in her hands. The final diagnosis: leprosy.

“Determined to spare her dear ones as far as possible, the heroic sufferer confided the nature of her illness to one sister only, and asked her mother and other members of the family to permit her to go forth without any special farewell, just as if she were coming home again the same evening. ‘We didn’t understand at that time her motive for not kissing any of us good-bye,’ said her mother, ‘and when the train pulled out of the station Mary was smiling and waved farewell, while the rest of us were in tears.’”

When a friend wept at the news of Mary’s incurable degenerative illness Mary replied: “I have not yet received my assurance of healing; perhaps I can serve my Father better thus.  I shall have the joy of ministering to a class of people who, but for the preparation which has been mine for this special work, I would have been no helper at all; and while I am called apart among these needy creatures who hunger and thirst for salvation, for comfort and for cheer, He Who has called and prepared me, promises that He Himself will be to me as a little sanctuary where I am to abide, and abiding in Him, I shall have a supply of all my need.  He has enabled me to say not with a sigh, but with a song, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Mary worked with the lepers until her death in 1943.  The Lord allowed her 58 years of missionary service, 52 of them among the lepers.  She accepted the hardship of an incurable illness and chose to faithfully minister to other lepers with the good news of God’s love and salvation.  Mary Reed serves as an example to all believers of glorifying God in the midst of her hardships.

Bibliography

Heroines of Missionary Adventure by Canon Dawson

Eminent Missionary Women by Mrs. J. T. Gracey

Mary Reed:  Missionary to the Lepers by John Jackson

Mary Reed of Chandag by E. Mackerchar

The Picket-Line of Missions by W. F. McDowell, et al