Feature

Two Minutes

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Mabel Best had an amazing story to convey, and she was going to have the opportunity to tell it to the 1918 General Council of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Yet, what was her reaction when informed that she would share the platform with 32 other missionaries? That meant she had two minutes to tell a story so outstanding that in 1993, Lester Vogel, a senior staff member of the Library of Congress, included it in To See a Promised Land, a book about Americans in the Holy Land.

Mabel was an Alliance missionary to Palestine, which was under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. After the Turks aligned with Germany in World War I, communication was difficult and financial support of the missionaries uncertain. To make matters worse, a locust infestation wiped out much of Jerusalem’s food supply.

At the beginning of 1915, the situation became so untenable that all Alliance missionaries were removed from Palestine. Three women—Mabel Best, Mary Butterfield and Anna Gummoe—chose to remain. The Turks were unpredictable, and rampant starvation and disease made the continued presence of the three missionaries almost impossible. The military commander urged foreign citizens’ immediate departure, but the three Alliance women held on, attempting to provide food, both physical and spiritual, to the hungry. Their presence protected Alliance property, including the Jerusalem church, and kept the ministry alive.

When the United States entered the war in 1917, the three women could no longer stay. American Consul Otis Glazebrook, assisted by sympathetic Turks, helped the ladies board a train on May 17, 1917. Vogel wrote: “Unfortunately, the women’s railroad car was diverted overnight to a munitions dump that was frequently the target of French aerial sorties. Half a world away that night, at a session of the annual Council of the Alliance being held in Nyack, New York, ‘a delegate suddenly burdened for the ladies at Jerusalem urgently requested special prayers on their behalf.’ The Council prayed, and that same night no bombing runs were conducted, though the Palestinian sky was clear and beautiful.” And so, God ushered the three missionaries on a three-month journey to New York by way of Turkey, Austria and France.

In reviewing the minutes of Council for 1917 and 1918, several omissions strike me: First, there was no debate concerning the ministry of women. How different the history of Alliance missions would be without them. Second, there is no mention of the prayer that kept the French bombers from targeting that munitions dump. Who requested it? Perhaps the words of that prayer were the most important of the entire Council! And third, the evening rally was reserved for three well-known speakers, not Mabel Best. Here is a reminder that valiant ministry is often unrecognized.

I write this to express my appreciation for the men and women who have faced the difficulty and sacrifice that have formed the thrilling story of The Alliance.

For more Alliance history, visit archives.cmalliance.org.

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