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A lifelong servant

By Arden Morton

It was bitter cold on our upstate New York farm the morning of Feb. 4, 1946. Dad was in the barn milking our two cows. The four of us children — myself, David, Dottie and Danny — were getting dressed for school.

Then an oil heater in the dining room burst into flames. Mom ran to the barn to get Dad. I was 13 at the time and doing my best to put out the flames. Dad ran in and threw his coat over the heater in an attempt to smother the fire. As the stove exploded and sent fire throughout the room, Dad yelled for us to get out of the house.

In the confusion Dottie, 6, and Danny, 4, ran upstairs. Dad ran after them. When the firemen found them, Dad had a child under each arm. I will never forget the sound of my mother standing outside the burning house, screaming out her anguish at the loss of her babies and husband.

With a broken heart Mom faced the daunting task of raising two boys alone. She could have boarded us out to some farmer to work for our keep, but she determined to keep our family together. She could have blamed God for the terrible tragedy, but she kept her faith. Her journey would take her through nurses’ training, and eventually to Waxahachie, Texas, where David and I were enrolled in Southwestern College (AG).

Mom began working at the hospital in Waxahachie and taking classes at Southwestern. Her dream of ministering to Native Americans began to take shape. She traveled to Phoenix to minister at the All-Tribes Bible School. After serving there, she traveled to Shiprock, N.M., to serve in the Navaho Nation. She would serve the Native American community for 18 years.

Due to failing health, Mom went to Houston to stay with David. There she served as housemother at a Teen Challenge Center. After a time of ministry there and a vast improvement in her health, Mom moved back to her home state of New York to serve as housemother at Teen Challenge of Syracuse.

When her health began to fail again, she moved to Spartanburg, S.C. We were relieved she had finally retired, but God had other plans. When she learned of a need for a housemother at the Downtown Rescue Mission, she accepted. She died in 1993, still ministering to others.

Mother’s life demonstrated tenacious faith. When God gave her an order, she would not give up until it was accomplished. Hers was a life of compassion. When her tears had dried following the loss of her husband, daughter and son in the fire, she set out on a journey that led from tears to triumph. I can almost hear Jesus say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

The late ARDEN MORTON was a retired Assemblies of God minister and lived in Spartanburg, S.C.

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