They called her “Mama”
1943 – The Baptist Mission Society of Great Britain passed a resolution in the memory of Lydia (Lily) Mary De Hailes, the first single lady missionary to be appointed by them. It read in part, “She loved the African with a deep and passionate devotion and she longed with her whole life that he might be brought to Christ…” Lily was born into a fine Christian family in North London, and in her youth she was introduced to the cause of missions, even hearing Dr. Robert Moffatt, the pioneer missionary to Africa. After her school years, a severe case of smallpox left her permanently scarred, and she also suffered a lifelong bout with headaches, but nothing kept her from her goal of missionary service. A study of medicine, and her families uniting with Pastor James Stewart’s Baptist Chapel in Highgate, which was a hotbed of missions, that during his tenure saw fifty-one of his members leave for missionary service, prepared her even more for her life’s work. Next she moved to Edinburgh Scotland to train at the Simpson Memorial Hospital in 1881-1882 where she met Rev. Alexander Cowe, who planned to serve in the Congo. In 1885 they were engaged with the understanding that she would follow him in about a year. Tragedy struck, however, as he fell sick and died after just five weeks in Africa. The Mission Society refused to send a young woman to the field, thus her hopes were doubly dashed. However, in 1889 Lily was allowed to go as a nurse with other missionaries, and this started her forty year ministry in Africa. They called her “Mama”, and she received the Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II from Belgium. [Edna M. Staple, Great Baptist Women (London: Carey Kingsgate Press Limited, 1955), p. 97. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 647-49] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
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