Isabella Thoburn, was an American Missionary who set a precedent for single women to enter missionary enterprise. Born in a Christian family and raised in God’s fear, Thoburn had remarkable parents of faith. Her mother’s teaching that ‘we are all on earth to serve and not to be served’ had a significant impact on her life later.
She graduated from Wheeling Female Seminary, Virginia, and then worked as a teacher for several years. However, a letter from her brother James Thoburn brought a turning point in the life of Isabella.
James Thoburn was a Methodist Episcopal Missionary in India who experienced gender-based constraints in his gospel work. So, James sought his sister’s help to join him in this task, which Isabella readily accepted.
Isabella Thoburn ministry in Lucknow, India
Despite the discouragements and insufficient funds, Isabella, under the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) of the Methodist church, reached India on January 20, 1870, along with another single woman missionary Clara Swain. Stationed with her brother, James, Isabella started her missionary work by educating the Indian women.
Looking at the plight of Indian women who were treated as unwanted at birth, she realized that social change could only be possible through education. She visited the Indian women at their homes, educating and evangelizing them. Despite the criticisms and oppositions from the local Hindu priests, she reached out to the neglected and rejected women of the society and gave them a reason to live meaningfully.
With the financial support received from the WFMS, she opened a girls’ school and a Women’s Christian College in Lucknow, the first of its kind in Asia. The girls were educated not just to acquire knowledge but also to serve their Lord and the community. Prayer meetings were held on Sunday evenings for their spiritual upliftment.
After working tirelessly in Lucknow for 31 years to open the people’s spiritual and moral eyes, Isabella finally went to be with her Lord in peace.
Beloved, do you realize ‘we are all on earth to serve and not to be served?’Take away from the article
“Lord, strengthen me to cater to the moral and spiritual needs of the others. Amen!”Word of Prayer
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