Watching a missionary’s slide presentation, eleven-year old Mary Baker knew she would be a missionary. The first person she told responded, “Oh, Mary, did those pictures of the Africans bother you? They almost bothered me, too. But you’ll forget about them. ” Though she needed years of preparation, Mary forgot neither the pictures, nor the burden God had placed on her heart. He had called her to Africa, and nothing would dissuade her.
Mary’s first year in Africa, 1948, was filled with teaching literacy, Bible stories, and, most importantly, the Gospel. After a year of teaching at various mission stations, the field council sent Mary to Chad, where she would spend the next three decades of her life.
Though a single lady, Mary never lacked children to care for—or a ministry to occupy her. Eventually, Mary raised five boys as her own sons. She taught hundreds of young people in Bible classes and her home became a Bible study center where eager young Africans gladly received the literature she gave her visitors. On one occasion, Mary shared dinner with one of the highest-ranking generals in the Chadian army. Afterwards, the general and his staff listened as the local pastor taught a Bible study. Many of her students eventually held government office or became leaders in the African church.
In 1973, rumblings of unrest grew into a cultural revolution that ripped through Chad as animistic tribal rites regained prominence. Mary and the other missionaries were uneasy about the situation, but it came as a shock when they were served with deportation papers. Back in the States, Mary could only grieve from a distance at being forced from her Chadian home, until sudden news came that a coup had killed the president and the country was open to missionaries. Eagerly, she purchased an airline ticket to Chad.
A royal greeting awaited her at the airport. Mary restrained tears for those martyred during the revolution, and smiled at the Chadians who rejoiced to have “our pretty mother” back again. She was happy, but it was harder and harder to keep up with the demands of the work. The Chadians wholeheartedly welcomed her brother and sister-in-law as replacements. Mary returned from foreign missions, but didn’t retire. She presented the need for missions in churches around the United States and remained active in various ministries until poor health forced her to slow down in 2006. On September 7, 2007, Mary Baker passed into the presence of the Lord. She hadn’t forgotten.