Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly…..
In Acts chapter 2, Peter is found preaching in Jerusalem to devout men, out of every nation under heaven, about the gospel of Christ. He proclaims the good news of salvation and a multitude of 3,000 are saved! Then in verse 42, Scripture says, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
To be steadfast means to be diligent; to be resolutely firm and unwavering; to persevere.
One thing I have noticed in reading biographies of great women in our Church history is that as they were met with their share of trials, they chose to look upward - not inward - and they persevered joyfully. Many experienced serious health problems and struggled with discouragement, many were forsaken by friends and family, many endured what would appear to be harsh suffering and loss, many were tortured and killed. And yet they persevered, only desiring to glorify Christ in life and in death. And the interesting thing about it is that they were radiant and joyful in situations that would make most of us throw a pity party. One such person is a woman by the name of 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.
When Evelyn was 30 years old, she sensed a calling to become a missionary. She met a young missionary, Jesse Brand, and heard that the people of India needed to be reached. She listened as he spoke of the Kolli Moloi “Mountains of Death” - a place where malaria had claimed many lives, thus earning its name. She was a rich, fashionable, city girl, yet she felt compelled to go. She journeyed to Madras in the plains of India and fell in love with Jesse Brand who had also been 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 tirelessly in helping build houses and aid any sick villager. Jesse preached the gospel and relentlessly tried to convert a people who were afraid to turn away from their idol gods. Evelyn and Jesse's two children, Paul and Connie, 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. She let go of her children, entrusting them into the hands of God, while she stayed in her place 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 turning into black water fever - one of the most deadly complications of that disease. He died shortly after. Evelyn’s heart 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. After a year spent with her son and daughter in England, Evelyn knew she must return back to the Kolli hills. Missionaries were scarce but 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 continued to evangelize until her death in 1974 at age 95.
Evelyn Brand reminds me of Caleb in the Bible - who said, "Give me this mountain!" Regardless of the obstacles our eyes may see, the only true obstacle that prevents us from persevering is ourself. The men in Jerusalem who heard the Gospel preached from Peter continued to steadfastly keep the fire of God burning in their hearts. Evelyn Brand was no spiritual couch potato. She was a force of heavenly perseverance. She kept going. And throughout pain and suffering and loss, she was full of joy.
Happiness? Not always.
Joy? Every day.
Evelyn'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, knowing that souls for Christ were more important than her own comfort and happiness. She pursued that which 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. This poem captures the heart of Evelyn Brand:
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. . . .
Oh may that be the cry of our hearts as well.