Still Serving after All These Years
Five years ago Thelma Langely published a book of children’s poems and limericks. Now she’s working on a young adult novel to round out her writing career and global ministry, which includes five books on church life and mission trips to Central and South America, Africa, Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Not bad for someone who turned 100 years old in November. But she insists that 100 feels like every other age. “Life goes on just the same. I stopped worrying a long time ago, because my husband, Abner, sat me down one day and told me I had to stop worrying and start trusting.”
Abner was the “young handsome Canadian” Thelma Irene Damon met during their studies at Gordon College in the 1930s, when it was still on the Fenway in Boston. When asked why she’d chosen to study at Gordon, she said, “Gordon was a Christian school. I’d given my heart to Jesus in high school and knew then I wanted to work for Him.”
Thelma recorded in her class history: “It didn’t seem possible that those four happy years had come to a close. . . . Now the time had come for us to separate, yet not really separate either, for being in the service of the King had brought us into a closer circle of fellowship than we had ever dreamed of, a nearness which can only be made real as we earnestly work for the cause of Jesus Christ, whether it be in obscure places, in the busy city or in other lands. We have become ‘Venturers with Christ.’”
When they graduated in 1934 with theology degrees, Thelma and Abner prepared for full-time ministry. Thelma got a job as a “Christian worker” at Clarendon Baptist Church, while Abner became an ordained Baptist minister, earning a master’s degree from Boston University and helping youth at Tremont Temple.
In 1936 they married, joined forces in ministry and moved to Novia Scotia. Eventually he became chair of the Canadian Baptist Foreign Mission Board (and president of Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia). After that Thelma accompanied him on mission trips around the world, helped raise four children, and wrote scores of church plays for youth, as well as her Sunday school and missions books. She’s credited with starting the first Sunday school for mentally handicapped children in North America.
“Each of us has benefited from her unquestioning love,” says her daughter Miriam. “And she extends that love to all people.”
After Abner died in 1987, Thelma continued to live at home, watching their family grow to eleven grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren, all of whom she has held and blessed. When she visited Gordon a few years ago, she was impressed Gordon was “still going strong. With so many students at such a small school, training to be Christian leaders—that’s wonderful.”
NEXT: Lillian Woodworth Aiken