Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Emma Dearstine: Woman In Ministry

This week I was told by Frances that one of the people from headquarters called and they want to interview her to get her insights into the former missionary, Emma Dearstine.  What a unique person she was.  In a sermon I used a number of times which I called "The Foreign Gospel", I would usually make the comment that, "Every missionary I ever met was weird!  Of course that meant all but me and my wife, and sometimes I wondered about her!"  [My regular blog readers know that my career was as a foreign missionary.]
I first met Emma Dearstein when she arrived in the country of Guyana where I was serving the Church as Missionary Overseer.  Wade H. Horton, one of our Tennessee Camp Meeting preachers, had mentioned this lady who prayed for God’s direction as to where to go, heard from God, then prepared herself to go by taking in washing for people, cleaning houses, and whatever else was necessary, saving her money until she had enough to purchase her ticket, then fulfilling her call by going!  In my mind she was a saint in the fullest sense of the word.  

She entered Guyana (where the main language was English) and as soon as she arrived in the outskirts of town began to preach on the street corner in Spanish.  Later, she would say to me, “Brother, I could not understand it.  People would look at me for a few minutes as if I was crazy – then they would walk away.  I had always been able to get someone to listen to me.  But now they were not listening.  Then I discovered why.  They speak English here!  Not Spanish!” 

Someone found her preaching on the streets and brought her to our mission home.  She stayed in the home with us for a short time only and then went out into a remote area where she got very week and sick.  Upon returning to our home sick, she told us she thought that it was her heart, because she had fainted.  At her request we had prayer for divine healing and began trying to nourish her back to good health.  She believed strongly in divine healing and trusted God to take care of her.  We had some local pastors stop by and they also prayed for her healing but she was not getting better.  When we wanted to call a doctor, she protested.  After much initial protest, she finally said, “I’ll let you call a doctor – only because I don’t want you to be blamed for my death if something happens and I don’t survive.”

Emma refused to go to the hospital.  We called a doctor whom we had met at the Adventist Hospital and he agreed to come to our home to give her a physical examination.  After listening to her heart-beat and checking all her other vital signs, the doctor asked her, “Emma, have you been diagnosed with heart problems before?”  She responded with an emphatic “No!”  “Well … has someone around you told you it was you heart?”  Again, she said “No!”  The doctor then said, “Emma, I want to tell you that your heart is strong!  All of your vital signs are great.  The problem is that you have eaten some food somewhere and the germs have attacked your system.”  To which Sister Dearstein responded, “I don’t believe in germs!  I believe in demons!  And right now all the demons of hell are attacking me!”  She did get better and got back out onto the streets, preaching up to ten times a day.

The number of times the lady preached in a month was incredible!  After the first month that she was there she sent in her ministerial report.  After reading it and seeing that she reported something over 200 sermons preached in one month, I discreetly asked my Superintendent what he made of this report.  Should I talk to her about this?  Normally, a minister who preaches 3 times a week will have 12 to 15 sermons to report.  An evangelist who spends his time preaching every night would normally report less than 30.  Brother Morse (My supervisor) said, “No need to talk to her.  I KNOW for a fact that her report is accurate.  I have already checked her out by watching from a distance.  She will take her market basket onto one arm and walk to a corner of the street; set her basket down, take out a hymn book, sing, close the book, take out a bible, read a verse/s and preach for about ten to fifteen minutes, invite people to come and pray and after prayer will pass out a few tracts.  Then she picks up the basket and goes to the next corner where she starts all over again.”  He further reminded me that 10 times a day multiplied by 30 days, equals 300!"  That was the pattern she had set for herself. 

In the beginning of her ministry  (In the '50s or '60s) the board expressed to her that they did not think it wise to send out a single lady.  It was too dangerous.  It would raise too many sensitive questions from the converts in the foreign fields and might put her into awkward situations where she would have to be alone with a male.  After being rejected by the board, she prayed about it until she felt sure that she was really called of God to go as a missionary.  She told me that she prayed fervently, until she would speak in tongues.  Then the Holy Ghost would give her the interpretation to the message, telling her in English where she was to go.  Then she would raise her own support, purchase her own ticket, go to the place God told her to go – then work in that place until her funds ran out.  After she had done this for a few years (I don't know how many) the board decided to send her $50.00 per month for support so she could at least have something extra for food or a new dress.
She was so pleased that the board supported her with that "huge" offering that now she could purchase gospel tracts for free distribution.  She used very little for her own personal needs.

On one occasion, she said that she was praying, and feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost as if he were going to speak through her lips in tongues.  However, she said, “Instead of a message in tongues, the words would come out … ‘St. Johns, St. Johns, St. Johns, St. Johns.’”  After several days of praying like this, she went to the local library to see if she could find a place in the world named St. Johns.  Walking into the building, she asked the young librarian, “Do you know of any place in the world named St. Johns?”   “Oh, Yes!”  She replied, “I’ve just come back from St. Johns, Antigua.”  Immediately, Sister Dearstine purchased her ticket, went to that island in the Caribbean and established the Church of God there.


Ginny said...

What a story! Her energy is amazing, but it was probably all given to her by God. From the way you are writing, I am supposing that she is no longer with us. How old did she live to be, and was she the pastor of her church in the Caribbeans?

Joyful said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyful said...

I enjoyed this post very much as I've never heard of Miss Dearstine. What a wonderful woman of God!

Fred Alton said...

Ginny, Emma died in 1970. Guyana was my first Missionary Assignment so I was very young. I'm only guessing - but I would say in her 70s when I met her.

jack69 said...

Wow, what a story Fred. You have to admire someone who would raise their own funds and take off without the backing of some denomination or group. I would say that was truly trusting God. I can see Emma was a special person.

Equally amazing to me was me knowing folks that you knew in Guyana. and I met them years later in Canada. Wonderful folk also.

My mama would have loved Emma.
Thanks for an inspiring story.
Lvoe from the mts of NC
Sherry & jack

George said...

Thanks for sharing this inspiring story with us. Emma Dearstine was definitely a saintly woman.

Melanie said...

I so enjoyed reading that story, Fred! Emma sounds like she was an amazing woman! Isn't it amazing what God can do through someone if they're just willing to be used?

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Wow what an incredible woman. She was your "Mother Teresa"... That is a great story. I hope someone is writing a book about her life. She truly was a saint in every respect... Most of us don't have that kind of faith. I can only imagine how many people she brought to Christ in her ministry... Wow!!!

God Bless her.

~mel said...

We need more Emma Dearsteins in this world. This was a great post Fred ~ thank you so much for sharing :) Isn't it wonderful how God introduces you to people who will influence and inspire you for your own life experiences.

Have a fantastic day!!

Dar said...

Fred, my friend, what a fantastic inspiration Ms Emma is. I am so happy to have you in my life to remind me of how wonderful a world we really do live in thanks to God's intervention in our lives. Your story was so wonderful and Emma, bless her soul, has touched us, even today.
What a joy.

Favorite One said...

Awwww, I loved reading about Sister Dearstine! What a wonderful lady! Glad I can say I met her. :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your bloggs brother Brannen, and the pictures as well. Warm regards to you and your lovely wife.

Ruth Palomo

About Me

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Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton