A Call to Older Women – Part One

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  • A Call to Older Women – Part One
  • **We continue this quarters theme of Elisabeth Elliot’s Heroes of the Faith.

    In 1948 when I had been at Prairie Bible Institute (a very stark set of wooden buildings on a very bleak prairie in Alberta) for only a few weeks, I was feeling a bit displaced and lonesome one afternoon when there came a knock on my door. I opened it to find a beautiful rosy-cheeked face framed by white hair. She spoke with a charming Scottish burr: “You don’t know me, but I know you. I’ve been prraying forr you, Betty dearr. I’m Mrs. Cunningham. If everr you’d like a cup of tea and a Scottish scone, just pop down to my little aparrt-ment.”

    She told me where she lived and went on to say that my name had been mentioned in a staff meeting (she never said how—was I thought of as a misfit at PBI? I wonder) and the Lord had given her a burden for me. Many were the wintry afternoons when I availed myself of her gracious offer and we sat together in her tiny but very cozy basement apartment while she poured tea for me and I poured my soul out to her. Her radiant face was full of sympathy, love, and understanding as she listened. She would be quiet for a little, then she would pray and, looking up, cheer and strengthen me with words from God. During and after my missionary years she wrote to me until she died. Only God knows what I owe to “the four Katharines”-Katharine Cunningham, Katharine Gillingham Howard (my own mother), Katherine Cumming (my house mother when I was in college), and Katherine Morgan, the widowed missionary of Colombia who gave me the push that sent me to Ecuador. These and several others have not only shown me what godliness looks like (many have done that), but have significantly graced my life by obeying God’s special call to older women. 

    The Apostle Paul tells Titus that older women ought to “school the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, temperate, chaste, and kind, busy at home, respecting the authority of their own husbands” (Titus 2:4,5 NEB). My dear “Mom Cunningham” schooled me—not in a class or seminar, or even primarily by her words. It was what she was that taught me. It was her availability to God when He sent her to my door. It was the surrender of her time, an offering to Him for my sake. It was her readiness to “get involved,” to lay down her life for one anxious Bible school girl. Above all, she herself, a simple Scottish woman, was the message.

    **Excerpt originally published in September/October 1989 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.