Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Perseverance: Evelyn Brand

Acts 2:42
And they continued steadfastly…..

In the Christian life, it is so easy to become discouraged and downcast when you’re playing tug of war with the Satan and the culture around us. Being pulled from every angle, it doesn’t take much to lose focus and get our eyes off of the glories of heavenly, eternal things and, instead, cast them upon ourselves and our troubles. Ironically, we forget that God Almighty knows the storms that come our way. In fact, we fail to see that He often brings a storm to test our faith and trust. I’ve seen it in my own life, how we fret and grow faint when the winds blow and the flood rises, forgetting completely that we serve the God who walks on the sea and calms raging waters.

One thing I have noticed in reading stories of great women is that they met with their share of trials, many experienced health problems and struggled with discouragement. Many were tortured and killed. Yet through every hardship, they persevered. What makes us stop? What makes us come to a sudden halt in our walk with Christ and decide that what we’ve done is enough? What makes us give up? What makes us lose sight of the goal? What turns our head and what turns our heart? Countless women of God were ignored and forsaken, yet they kept the faith and continued along the path of Christ. Many were thrown into the group of “religious radicals” and mocked, yet they remained strong and were full of heavenly joy.

One woman in history stands out to me as a striking picture of perseverance and spiritual grit. Her name is Evelyn Brand.

Born into a large but close family of eleven children in 1879 London, England, Evelyn Harris was the daughter of a well-to-do merchant, and a loving homemaker. Saved at an early age, Evelyn became drawn to ministry work. The Harris family was actively involved in missions and charity, her mother often giving their own clothes, shoes, food, and necessities away to anyone less fortunate. Growing up in a large but happy home, revolving around the Lord and the Lord’s work, Evelyn quickly acquired a heart for expressing the message of God’s love. It began with her art, as she sketched and painted the beauty before her. Her art continued throughout the rest of her life.

When Evelyn was 30 years old, she sensed a calling to become a missionary. She heard from a young missionary, Jesse Brand, who would soon become her husband, that the people of India needed to be reached. She listened as Jesse Brand spoke of the Kolli Moloi “Mountains of Death” - a place where malaria had claimed many lives, thus earning its name. The mountains were the home of a people who were a filthy, deprived, and full of sin, desperately in need of the Gospel. She was a rich, fashionable, city girl, yet she felt compelled to go. She must go! God would help her. Though such an occupation was far from the dreams others had for her, she insisted that a God-calling must be obeyed and so, after much persisting, she finally convinced her family to let her travel to India. She journeyed to Madras in the plains of India and fell in love with Jesse, who was also assigned to Madras. They were soon after married and they set their sights on the “Mountains of Death” - five mountain ranges that were untouched by civilization and completely destitute of the Gospel. Jesse and Evelyn worked vigorously in helping build houses and aid any sick villager. Jesse preached the gospel and relentlessly tried to convert a people that were afraid to turn away from their idol gods. The Hindu priests used fear to control their people and although plenty would listen to the words Jesse preached, they would always pull back from Christianity. After years of trying, unsuccessfully, to win the village to Christ, a breakthrough came! A Hindu priest was dying and sent for Jesse Brand. Jesse ran to his aid and was with him until the priest died. Before his death, the priest entrusted his children to the Brands because, at the hour of his death, they were the only ones who rushed to his aid. The villagers were amazed that it was the Christians who were so honored by their Hindu priest. Slowly, they began to come to Jesus.
Evelyn and Jesse had two children, Paul and Connie. They played amongst the children of India and acquired a strong faith from their parents who had given up everything to serve the Lord on the “Mountains of Death.” After several years, Evelyn and Jesse sent them to England to begin their schooling. Evelyn recalls that day to be the biggest test of faith God ever gave to her. As a new mother myself, I can only imagine how her heart ached to see them go. Yet like the mother of Moses, Evelyn let go of her children, entrusting them into the hands of God, while she stayed in the mountains. She and Jesse continued to work fervently in reaching the people in the village.
Then came the summer of 1929 when Jesse came down with a severe case of malaria. Soon after, the sickness turned into black water fever - one of the most deadly complications of that disease. He died shortly after. Evelyn’s heart, of course, was broken. Alone in the mountains, she prayed that the Lord would take Jesse’s death and use it to win more souls than his life had.

Soon after Jesse’s burial, Evelyn returned to England to her children, Paul and Connie - now young teenagers. After a year spent with her son and daughter, Evelyn knew she must return back to the Kolli hills. Missionaries were scarce and somebody must go back to the mountains. The mission boards found it difficult to let her go. Evelyn was strong, outspoken, opinionated…and an elderly single, and that made it very hard for the board to allow her to go. She was a 68-year-old woman who wanted to go, alone, to the “Mountains of Death” to start a new mission work in the hills. But she and Jesse had vowed to reach those five mountain ranges with the Gospel. One range had been won. There were four more yet to be touched. Evelyn knew God was calling her to fulfill that vow. Determined, she asked the mission board to let her go back for one more year. “I promise not to make any more trouble,” she said. “At the end of one year, I will retire.” They agreed.

When her year of mission work ended, Evelyn did retire - to India! She took on independent work in the hills, despite the many objections and protests from fellow missionaries. At age 70, she journeyed back to her beloved mountains and began teaching, aiding the sick, evangelizing, and discipling. Everyone called her “Granny” but she felt young and light. When she broke bones, she healed quickly and returned to the mission work. When she was struck with fevers, she carried on. When she was hit on the head with a rock and lost most of her balance, she went from village to village, walking with bamboo canes, rescuing children, distributing medicine, and telling everyone she came in contact with about Jesus. After many years laboring, the five mountain ranges were evangelized! A mission work was planted and established on each mountain. After that victory, of fulfilling the vow she and Jesse had made, Evelyn set her sights on two more mountain ranges. Eventually, they, too, were won for Christ.
Evelyn showed love wherever she went. She painted for people in hospitals, she reached out to the poor, she ministered to the needy and helpless, she told everyone she met about the saving love of God. She did so until her death in 1974 at age 95.

Throughout the years, we have come to a point where we, as Christians, are easily persuaded to give up. In our modern culture, we are lazy and have a couch potato version of Christianity that we cling tightly to. Evelyn was certainly no spiritual couch potato. She was a force of heavenly perseverance. She kept going.
The more I read about such amazing women of God throughout history, the more I am convicted, inspired and hungry to possess the stimulating life they live. Though they are met with trials of every kind and very often fail, they press on. And me? I sometimes grow discouraged over a stack of unpaid bills! Oh how much I have to learn! Evelyn Brand’s determination and spiritual backbone is what I long to possess when life throws me a curve ball and I’m hit with the harshest winds imaginable. When she lost her husband so suddenly, she could have chosen to sink into the muddy waters of defeat and depression and give up hope. She could have chosen to trade in her Bible and missionary shoes for a hammock under the shade trees, sipping lemonade. But instead, she persisted. She pursued a vision that held more for her than anything this life could offer. Though weary, she persevered down the pathway that is stained with tears of loss and discouragement from saints throughout history. This is the kind of determination we should possess. And oh, Father God, give me such spiritual perseverance!

The following poem by Amy Carmichael captures the heart of Evelyn Brand and is my prayer for myself:

Make us Thy Mountaineers;
We would not linger on the lower slope,
Fill us afresh with hope, O God of Hope,
That undefeated we may climb the hill
As seeing Him Who is invisible.
Let us die climbing. . . .

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