This letter was written April 2005.
How often have you read the scripture about widows in the Lord’s church? How many women do you know who fit that description?
Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work (1 Tim 5:3-10).
According to the Lord’s commands, we should be careful to take care of such Christian women until the day they go to be with Him. They have proven themselves beyond a doubt and deserve to be like Anna in the Temple, who “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37).
Sometimes there are dedicated women who do not fit every description. They may be the only ones in their families who are dedicated to the service of the church. One such lady in India is R. Ammani. Her whole family was on the Roman Catholic register in Kerala, but Ammani was converted in the early 1980’s. She attended the Chennai Teacher Training School classes and became a faithful member of the Lock St. church. When we needed a teacher for the children’s class which met on a veranda of the original Anchorage building, she was the first to volunteer. She had nearly 100 little children which gathered there each Sunday for many years.
Later Ammani went to teach young girls in a Bible school established by another missionary brother south of here. She was able to do that work for some time before one of the preacher’s wives took her place. When she came back to Chennai, she often talked fondly of the young girls she met and learned to love there. Several of those young girls used to make special trips to Chennai to pay her a visit and tell of their marriages or of their new babies. There was a genuine rapport that could be observed by anyone.
Later, when we needed a helper in the kitchen at CTTS, sister Ammani was willing to work for us for pay. Previously, we had paid her nothing for all the work she had done. I am not sure how many years she has been engaged in the kitchen work, but she has been with the school a long time. She also graded Bible correspondence courses sent out in the Malayam language. She offered to help us in our secular school classes teaching illiterate village women skills to help them find jobs. She taught basket weaving, embroidery and crochet. Even while she was busy cooking the meals every day for our students, there would be a half dozen ladies gathered at her elbow to watch her cook and ask her questions about their craft work. At one point she crocheted a border around the communion cloth for our Lord’s Supper Table, and did not ask any pay. She often sent cooked food to our daughter when she was pregnant; trying to be sure she got good nutrition while she was carrying her children.
About 6 years ago, Ammani was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer. She did not have surgery because the cancer had progressed too far, but she had chemo and radiation therapy and supposedly was cured. She recovered and was able to work again in her normal duties. Each year, she has gone for check-ups and had a good report, but last week she was told that she is terminal. She has had fluids drawn off her stomach and the test results show that the cancer has gone beyond treatment. I feel a deep sense of sadness at this news, as you might well imagine. Ammani has been a truly faithful friend and Christian worker at CTTS for many years. Her word was always her bond. Never once can I remember her telling me anything that I did not find to be true. She never spoke of anything unless she were absolutely sure she had her facts straight, and that was most comforting to me in a land of Cretians (Titus 1:12).
Ammani is nearing 76 years of age. Why has she worked so many years doing so many different things? One would expect that her children would support her after all these years, but they were not Christians. Two sons, whose wives left them, were living with her and had no jobs. They did not help with the housework nor pay bills. Sister Ammani had all the bills to pay and all the work to do at home besides. She endured much from an ungodly family who leached off her good nature. Often she cried about not being able to see her beautiful grandchildren because the mothers moved far away from the lazy husbands. Ammani’s home life was never pleasant, but she always had a smile on her face and she genuinely loved the Lord’s people.
Scripturally, sister Ammani deserved to be enrolled as a widow, but she never allowed herself to take something for nothing. She did what she could.
Correspondence Course Graders:
Front Row—left to right Shirley Mani (English); R. Amani (Malayalam)
Back Row—left to right K. K. Rao Mark (Telugu); G. S. Gnanaraj (Tamil)