A life of sacrifice for Christ: Evelyn ‘Granny’ Brand (1879 – 1974)

Evelyn was born in England in 1879. Her father was a well-to-do merchant and her family was involved in missions, street work, and charities. Her father tried to dissuade his daughters from marriages that would take them away from him.

After finding that her hobby of painting did not feed her soul, Evie sensed a divine calling to be a missionary. At a missionary meeting she listened to Jesse Brand describe the filth and squalor on the mission field. Could she, a fashionable girl, handle such things? Yes, with God’s help she could! The difficult part was breaking the news to her father.

She was assigned to Madras in India, and discovered that Jesse Brand (whom she had found rather intense) had been transferred there too. She fell in love with him and with his vision for the people of the Mountains of Death. Then she found out that Jesse was engaged. Hot and shaking, she fled to her bathroom and poured cold water over herself. She had made a fool of herself!

Her heart grew dry. Looking at India’s flowers, blooming brilliantly in the dry season, she prayed, “Let me be like that, Lord, flowering best when life seems most dry and dead.”

Language study took her to the hills. Jesse contacted her. His engagement was off. Would Evie marry him? They would work the mountains together.

Evie’s honeymoon was an introduction to what her life in the hills would be like. Dressed in wedding white, she joined Jesse in the canvas dholi (carrier). Her bearers had gone off to hunt a wild pig. New men were found, but thunder rumbled in the sky. She tried not to give way to terror as the men lurched along steep precipices. Thorns caught her clothes. Rain drenched the carrier. When she dismounted to walk, she sank deep into mud holes. They lost their way in the dark.

That was the beginning of their work in the mountains. It was not glamorous. At the start, a dying man gave his heart to Christ. It was seven years before they saw another convert. Hindu priests feared to lose their influence and revenue, so they opposed the Gospel. People wanted to follow Jesus because God enabled Jesse to heal many of their diseases, but the priests frightened the people away from the new faith.

Jesse taught them better farming methods, treated their sick, built houses, and fought their tax battles. He showed Evie the five ranges of hills he hoped to win for Christ.

The two went from village to village preaching the Gospel and tending the sick, but no one wanted to believe for fear of their priests. A breakthrough came when a priest caught fever. Jesse hurried to his aid. As he died, the priest entrusted his children to the care of the Brands.

The Jesus God must be the true one, he said, because the Brands alone had helped him in his hour of death.

The people marvelled at a God who made Jesse care for an enemy’s orphaned children. Evie eventually became mother to many abandoned Indian children. Through her motherly love, a small Christian community was born.

The progress of the Gospel remained painfully slow. Jesse and Evie had to leave their two children, Paul and Connie, in England for schooling. Evie said that something “just died in me” the day she had to say good-bye to them. It was the hardest test of loyalty God asked of her.

Then Jesse died of Blackwater Fever. Both Hindus and Christians mourned the man who had poured out love to them, and they vied with each other for the job of digging his grave and lowering his body into it.

After a visit with her children in England, Evie was determined to return to fulfil the dream of reaching the five hills in their area. She wanted to open a new work in the mountains, but the mission leaders were uneasy. They didn’t want to appoint a 68-year-old woman to another five-year term.

Evie grasped at one last straw. “Please just send me back for one year,” she pleaded. At the end of one year I will retire.” So the board agreed.

Her year with the mission ended. Everyone gathered to wish her a tearful good-bye. Evie informed them gleefully that she was retiring from the mission, but was going to continue to work in the mountains. Her colleagues’ protests and warnings fell on deaf ears. As far as Evie was concerned, life begins at 70.

She travelled from village to village riding a hill pony, camping, teaching, and dispensing medicine. She rescued abandoned children. The work was harder now and she was thin. Despite broken bones, fevers and infirmities, she laboured on. Through her efforts, the five ranges were evangelized, and a mission work planted on each.

Wherever she was, she proclaimed Christ, even in the hospital, recovering from a broken hip. Her bones knit in record time, and back she went to the mountains to fight marijuana growers.

When her son, Paul, visited her in the mountains, he found her looking younger. Her smile, brighter than ever, made the difference. “This is how to grow old,” he wrote. “Allow everything else to fall away, until those around you see just love.”

Granny, as she was fondly called, tore some ligaments and had to go to the plains for treatment. Before she could return to her beloved mountains, her speech became jumbled and her memory failed. Seven days later, on December 18, 1974, she died. The next day her body was taken back to the hills and laid beside Jesse’s as a multitude wept. The woman who had been declared too old for India had carried on for 24 more years, working almost to her day of death.

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