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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Marie Harrup

Raising Sons in Africa

Obie and Marie Harrup retired from full-time ministry with the Assemblies of God in 2006. Since their marriage in 1963, they have served together in a variety of pastoral and missionary assignments. Marie recently spoke with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor (and her son), about the unique challenges of parenting in the pastorate and on the mission field.

evangel: You served with your husband while he pastored a small church in Virginia. Your three sons were born during those early years of ministry. How did that experience shape your view of parenting and of ministry?

HARRUP: We began pastoring within months of our wedding, and soon thereafter learned that we were expecting our first child. Finances were limited, but the people there were warm and encouraging. It was like a family. At the same time, I had to set boundaries. I wasn’t just going to pass our baby around.

Several caring women in the church would sit with our boys while I played the piano or led the choir. So, as a young mother, I knew I needed to be strong, but also appreciative of the older women in the church. Those six years, and three sons, did help to shape and mold me as a young mom and pastor’s wife.

evangel: In 1971, your family traveled to Sierra Leone, West Africa. You ministered in a very rural environment. What were some key adjustments?

HARRUP: One of the most fearful aspects of going to the mission field was how young the boys were. Obie III was a toddler, and I remember one day he came in the house to tell his dad he’d found a “big bug.” It turned out to be a 6-inch emperor scorpion. If he had reached out to pick it up, the sting could have killed him.

So I committed our boys to the Lord in prayer whenever they went out. At any time, any one of them could have come across a snake, scorpion or other threat. Knowing the Lord had called us, I had to trust Him to keep our family safe.

evangel: You earned your registered nursing degree before you married. West Africa offered many opportunities to use those skills.

HARRUP: Delivering two babies and assisting in two other deliveries — those were probably the most critical situations. We nearly lost to malaria the man who kept the mission grounds for us. He spent several days at our home until he recovered. On another occasion, I pedaled a bicycle to a nearby village to treat a woman with a snakebite in her hand.

One of the first cases I remember was a 2-year-old boy who tipped over a pot of boiling stew and burned himself badly. I treated his blisters for several weeks, the real risk there being infection.

Much of my work was in helping our Bible school students and their families learn basic hygiene and first aid. The chances of a small wound turning septic were very great in that environment. And people were so grateful for whatever we could do for them. 

evangel: During that era, it was common practice to send children to boarding school on the mission field. You made a different choice. Why?

HARRUP: My husband and I felt God had given us our three sons, and it was our responsibility to raise them according to the Word. And we did not feel that God wanted us to send them away. Their best education would come through us. We began using correspondence lessons while we were still in the States so that the transition to home schooling on the mission field would be smooth.

It wasn’t a popular decision back then, but it really opened other doors for ministry. Local families would watch us and watch how we raised our sons. They knew we disciplined our boys. I would tell other young mothers how important it was to begin teaching and guiding their children from an early age. People knew we believed in discipline, but they could also see how much we loved our sons.

evangel: You were home alone when a man, planning to rob the mission, broke in and attacked you with a machete and iron bar. You ended up taking his life in self-defense, and going on trial before being acquitted of all charges. What brought you through that experience?

HARRUP: Isaiah 43:1-3 became a Scripture I clung to. God talks about being with us when we walk through a fire. And that He knows us by name. I was grateful that none of our children had been home that day. I don’t know what might have happened to them. The healing process took time. I had bouts of shaking. I found it difficult to speak at times. But in my heart, I knew that God had spared me and that He knew all along who I was, where I was, and He was calling me by name.

evangel: Any other thoughts?

HARRUP: Next to being married to my husband, being a mother has been the most marvelous experience of my life. I’m so thankful the Lord allowed me to have three sons who love and serve the Lord. And their wives are standing with them, and they’re raising their children to serve the Lord. That’s the greatest thing any mother could desire.


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