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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!!

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A godly family

William Waddell was born in Scotland in the mid-1800’s.  His parents loved God, helped in the church, and taught young William William Waddell 001about God and the Bible.  William’s mother loved to read missionary stories and eagerly retold them to her children.

Quiet and humble

William had a sensitive nature and was very quiet and humble.  He did not feel comfortable playing rough games with the other boys and they often made fun of him because of it.

William could build and fix things

Sickness kept William from attending school regularly.  He was not a very good student, but he was very good at figuring out how machines worked.  He spent many quiet hours in his workshop building with wood and rebuilding mechanical things. Neighbors soon learned that William had the exceptional skill of understanding how machines worked.  They brought their broken machines to William and he was happy to repair as many of them as he could.

Good, but still a sinner

William liked to be good, but just like everyone else he was a sinner.  At age fifteen he asked Jesus to save him from his sin.  Jesus did save him and will save you or anyone else who asks.

God made it clear that He wanted William to be a missionary in Africa.  But the boy wondered if that could ever be possible since he wasn’t smart like other young people and had such a hard time studying from books.

In those days someone who was not good at studying from books could be apprenticed to a tradesman who would teach him a specific skill.  William was apprenticed to a joiner, a type of carpenter, and became very good at his work.

To finish his apprenticeship William was sent to a ship building company.  The other men who worked there were crude and ungodly.  They did not like the young man’s quietness or his faith in God.  Many of them taunted and threatened William as he worked.

William stands up for God

But even though William was a quiet person, he was not afraid to stand up for God in front of these men.  God gave him a quiet confidence and helped him to know how to answer the mocking words.

One day William saw an advertisement looking for workers to build a church in South Africa.  He answered the ad and soon left for his new job.  Maybe God would lead him to missionary work once he was in Africa!

William settled in to his work and joined a local church.  Hi pastor became a close friend.  One day William’s pastor told him about a missionary nearby named Francois Coillard who was praying for a godly man to work with him.  He particularly wanted someone who could build and repair things.

A missionary in Africa

When the missionary met William he saw a quiet frail-looking man.  He was not sure the young man knew how hard the work would be in remote African areas.  “Do not come unless you are certain God is calling you to this work.”  But William was absolutely certain God wanted him to help the Coillards.   He was thrilled that God gave him exactly the right skills that the missionary group needed!

The missionaries traveled north to begin work in the area now called Zambia.  Sickness, tribal wars, bad weather, rough roads, and wild animals made it hard for them to travel quickly.  Finally they arrived!  William was able to begin building houses and other buildings for the mission station. Soon he was not only building, but making the tools they needed and repairing almost any tool, machine, or vehicle that broke.

Showing God’s love

The African people there had never heard of Jesus and did not seem interested when Mr. Coillard preached and taught them.  But a wonderful thing happened.  The young men who helped William cut down trees and build things were impressed with the quiet man’s bravery and skills.  As time went on he was able to show them God’s love.  These boys began to listen and some asked Jesus to save them from their sins.

William was very happy in his work and he and Francois became close friends.  Both men loved God and God used the different abilities of each man to establish a mission station.  These men showed the love of God to the Africans in many ways.  Because the African people saw that they were loved and not just preached at, some were willing to listen to the gospel and become Christians.

Back in Scotland but not forgotten

After many years of serving God in Africa, William became ill with a tropical disease.  The disease made him so sick he had to return to Scotland where he was told he would never get better.  The last years of his life William could no longer be with his beloved African friends.  But God’s work continued in Zambia and his friends and helpers never forgot the quiet man who could build anything and who showed them the love of God by the way he lived.

Verse: Isaiah 30:15 In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

Ten Questions for young readers:

  1. What kind of a person was William?
  2. Was William a good student?
  3. What did he spend time doing?
  4. Was William a sinner?
  5. Where did God want William to serve as a missionary?
  6. Was he afraid to stand up for God when other people mocked him?
  7. What does it mean to be an apprentice?
  8. Do you have to be a preacher to be a missionary?
  9. How did God use William on the mission field?
  10. What did William show the African people that helped them want to be Christians?

Bibliography: MacConnachie, Rev. John.  An Artisan Missionary on the Zambesi:  The Story of William Thomson Waddell.  Edinburgh and London:  Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1910.

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Missionary Stories for Kids are written for preschoolers or young readers and are suitable for family devotions, Bible clubs, or Sunday School.

Jennie Atkinson was a shy girl

Jennie Atkinson was a shy, timid girl who lived a long time ago. When she was very little her mama died and her new stepmother OldDesignShop_OscarPletschShynessloved her and took care of her. But one day her stepmother also died and soon Jennie’s father was going to marry again.  For some reason that Jennie did not understand, her father and his new wife decided to send eight-year-old Jennie away to be adopted by some distant cousins. “What is wrong with me that my own father does not want to keep me?” Jennie asked herself. 

The child was sent away alone on a big train. Before she left her father placed a nametag on her coat so the conductor would know her name and the train stop where she was going. Jennie got on the big train and left everyone and everything that was familiar to her.

The train conductor helped her get off at the right station. Jennie squinted as she stepped off the dark train into the bright sun. She looked around and waited expectantly but no one was there to meet a little girl.  Now she felt even more alone and insecure.  She waited as the depot agent contacted her cousin who finally came to pick her up after a long wait.

Would anyone ever really want little Jennie?

Jennie’s cousin and his wife were kind to her but they were very surprised that this little girl had been sent to them.  There must have been some mistake.  They were willing to adopt one of Jennie’s brothers, but they had not wanted a girl.  After talking it over they decided to keep her, but Jennie knew they were disappointed.  Would anyone ever really want little Jennie?

A few years passed when one day Jennie read in the newspaper that her very own father was going to be in a nearby town as a special speaker.  Oh how excited she was that she could see her father again!

After the lecture she went up front with other well-wishers to speak to her father. He reached out to shake her hand and casually asked, “Whose little girl are you?”  Jennie’s own father did not even know who she was.  How lonely and abandoned she felt!

God will never leave us or forsake us

But God was working in Jennie’s life and she opened her heart to the Great Heavenly Father Who would never leave her or forsake her.  She confessed her sins and asked Christ to save her.  Soon she began to understand that God was leading her to be a missionary to China.

After graduating from college Jennie was qualified to be a teacher.  She began teaching at a small school near her cousin’s home and was in charge of a Sunday School class of children.  She knew God had spoken to her about serving Him as a missionary in China but in spite of her love of teaching, she was timid and afraid at the thought of going to such a distant country as China.

Finally some leaders in her church asked for several highly-trained unmarried women to volunteer to work as missionaries in China.  God again whispered to Jennie that He wanted her to serve Him in China, and Jennie said “Yes” to God’s call.

The first time she saw a Chinese person was when she traveled to the west coast to meet the boat traveling to China.  Jennie was so shy and fearful she could not even speak to the man!  Soon she was aboard the ship that was taking her to China, but Jennie still struggled with timidity, insecurity, and fear.  How could she help the Chinese learn about Jesus if she was this shy?

Going to China

The ship docked in Shanghai where missionaries and Chinese Christians greeted the ladies with such kindness and warmth that Jennie no longer felt afraid.  She looked around at the thousands of people crowding the docks and streets of Shanghai.  Her heart was overflowing with compassion as she saw the Chinese people surrounding her. These dear Chinese needed Christ and God would help her tell them.

Chinese people find western names strange and hard to pronounce.  The Chinese place the surname first.  Where we would say Jane Doe, they would say *Doe Jane.  Jennie was given the name Kyung, which means gold.  Her first name became Tsung-sung, meaning Arouse-Music.  So Jennie Atkinson was now named Miss Kyung Tsung-sung or Miss Gold Arouse-Music!

Virginia Atkinson (Jennie)The Chinese language is intricate and complicated but it needed to be learned in in order to communicate with the Chinese people around her.   God gave Jennie the idea to learn Chinese like she had learned music – using rhythm and tones.  Because of this she became conversant in the Chinese language much more quickly than her fellow missionaries.

As her language skills improved Jennie was able to visit the different schools she was in charge of and teach the children hymns.  Her students loved her and soon she was invited to visit their homes where she could practice speaking Chinese with her students and their families.

Loved by her Chinese family

Over time many students came to know the Lord and became Bible-teaching women, pastors, school teachers and church leaders.  God used Jennie to help establish a church, to build many schools and to arrange training for many pastors and teachers.

Jennie’s students loved her and her shy ways and accepted both her and her teaching.  They could tell that she loved them and wanted to help them.  When Jennie returned to America for furlough her Chinese friends and family wept and begged her to ‘come back home’ soon.  She finally realized that God provided a home for her among the Chinese people she was called to serve.

Bible verse

Verse:  Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you nor forsake you (based on Deuteronomy 31:6)

Ten questions for young readers:

  1. What does the word timid mean?
  2. What happened to young Jennie that made her feel unwanted?
  3. Who will never leave or forsake us?
  4. What job did Jennie train for?
  5. Where did God want Jennie to go as a missionary?
  6. Who would help Jennie tell the Chinese people about Jesus?
  7. What language was Jennie able to learn quickly?
  8. Where did God finally provide a home for Jennie?
  9. Can God use shy people to be missionaries?
  10. Where was Jennie’s true home and family?

Bibliography:  White, Mary Culler.  Just Jennie:  The Life Story of Virginia M. Atkinson.  Atlanta:  Tupper and Love, 1955.

*Suggestion:  When reading this to your children substitute the child’s name for Jane Doe.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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