Although Women's History Month is typically a celebration of women's right to vote in America and many achievements of women in the secular world, I thought it appropriate to take the opportunity to share with you a recent article in "The Global Advocate" (September/October 2020) written by Don Dennison, Church & Missions Consultant, about five women whose faith in action impacted their world in significant and eternal ways. This is the second of three posts which will be published throughout this month. I am certain you will be as inspired as I have been in reading their stories!
Before It Was Popular, Part 2
by Don Dennison
At just eight years of age, Eva Fidelia Gilbert knew God wanted her to become a missionary after hearing veteran missionaries share their experiences and the plight of children who did not know Jesus. In the years that followed, missionaries who were hosted in the Gilbert family home in Uniontown, MD had a profound impact on young Fidelia’s life. Knowing India needed female doctors, she completed the necessary training and certification in the USA and Canada that she might serve to be the best of her ability.
In 1938, Dr. Gilbert became the first medical missionary commissioned by the Board of Missions of the Churches of God of North America. After learning the language, she opened a medical clinic on the veranda of the Bogra Mission House in 1941 that eventually grew into Bogra Christian Hospital with multiple wards serving 100,000 patients annually. But in those early years, the demand for house calls and home deliveries kept Doc busy, because she was the only female physician within 200 miles. In response to the apparent need
, she developed a student nursing program and midwifery training with the assistance of other medical missionaries. Mobile clinics were arranged in outlying areas to serve distant tribal peoples. Aware of the economic challenges which come from raising large families in a third world country, Dr. Gilbert began to focus on family planning in the 1960s. She pioneered the use of the IUD in East Pakistan [formerly East Bengal, India] and completed some of the initial research on it in the country. So successful were her efforts that the government adopted the program as a mass project.
While God used Fidelia’s compassionate heart and skillful hands to bring better health to the people, her primary concern was always their spiritual needs. Amid the busyness of her schedule, she always had time to pray for patients and families. In response to her praying, she felt led to invest in someone to become a medical doctor and selected Sajal Dewan from the local Christian community. Dr. Dewan eventually succeeded her as the medical director of Bogra Christian Hospital. A devoted student and teacher of the Bible, Doc Gilbert was selected as an honorary life elder by the Bogra Church of God, an unusual recognition in a male-dominated society.
Rhoda Kauffman grew up in a Christian family near Maytown, PA. Although she accepted Christ at the age of 12, it was a camp experience at the age of 16 when she dedicated her life to serve God wherever He may lead. Rhoda soon felt called to the mission field and committed her life to serve in India in 1936. Arriving in early 1945, Rhoda settled into a brick missionary cottage on the Khanjanpur compound which would be her home for the next 41 years. She always delighted in telling people that she lived in the same house in three different countries: India, then East Pakistan, and finally Bangladesh.
Despite the stability of home which that brick cottage provided, Rhoda was always “on the go” bicycling throughout the district. She worked with village schools and became a school supervisor. Under her leadership, the number of schools doubled. Many of the churches and schools established in the different villages were the fruit of Rhoda’s labors. There seemed to be no end to her initiatives. She began women’s meetings, children’s meetings, instructed Bible women (evangelists), taught Sunday School classes, directed Bible courses in the schools, and taught church membership classes.
Inspired by youth camping in the States, Rhoda directed the first youth camp at Khanjanpur in June 1952. Within a year, she established a much-needed boarding school for local girls and boys. Because of her leadership ability and the quality of her character, Rhoda was sought out by pastors and teachers who were forever appreciative of her wisdom and encouragement. In 1968, she assisted in the formation of what became the largest evangelical interdenominational training school in the country —the College of Christian Theology Bangladesh. When Rhoda retired in 1986, it could be said that all the present church leaders, school teachers, preachers, and even hospital workers in Bangladesh had been brought up under her care.
Copies of the book may be ordered directly from the CGGC website at https://secure.cggc.org/missions?pagenumber=2; or email Kris Cupp at KrisC@cggc.org; or call Kris at 419-424-1961. The per book cost is only $6 plus shipping. [the price is intentionally low to get them into the hands of our people.]