The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders that "the Holy Spirit witnesses in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the [great] grace of God" (Acts 20:23,24). Mary Reed epitomizes the spirit of the Apostle Paul.
Mary was born into a godly home and accepted Christ at an early age. At 16 she realized that she had been "saved to serve." She prepared for and taught in public schools for ten years.
The Methodist Church had missions in India. Mary read of the plight of the women and girls confined to the Zenanas of an Indian home and, at the age of 30, went as a missionary to India to minister to the women. Her health soon failed; and she was sent to a mountain retreat to regain her health and to study the language. While in this pursuit, she saw firsthand those who were diseased with leprosy; and her heart went out to these outcasts from society.
She returned to India and for 52 additional years ministered in a home for those with leprosy before she was forced to return to her Ohio home in search of renewed strength and health. She said, "He who has called and prepared me promises that He Himself will be to me as a little sanctuary where I am to abide and, abiding in Him, I shall have a supply of all my needs."
Some of her medical problems baffled her physicians. There was an annoying tingling of her right index finger and a strange lesion on her face. She recounts that one day with the suddenness of a flash and the certainty of a voice, there was revealed to her not only the characteristics of her disease but also the purpose of it. It was leprosy. She confided this to her physician who, being inexperienced regarding this condition, could not confirm the diagnosis. She at once made preparation to return to India, letting only one of her sisters know of her condition. In New York City and again in London, she was seen by specialists who confirmed her suspicion. After careful consideration, she wrote from Bombay to her family (from whom she had taken such a quick leave without a kiss or a handshake):
I find it wisest and kindest to tell you or allow dear brave-hearted sister Rena, with whom I entrusted this mystery of God's providence, to tell you what she pledged to keep from you. She will tell you how our loving heavenly Father, Who is too wise to err, has in His infinite love and wisdom chosen, called, and prepared your daughter to teach lessons of patience, endurance, and submission, while I shall have the joy of ministering to a class of people who, but for the preparation that has been mine for this special work, would have no helper at all. And while I am called apart among these needy creatures who hunger and thirst for salvation and for comfort and cheer, He who has called and prepared me promises that He himself will be as a little sanctuary where I am to abide. And abiding in Him I shall have a supply of all my needs. Jesus has enabled me to say not with a sigh but with a song, ‘Thy will be done.'
The Methodist Mission Society had no ministry to those with leprosy; but when she approached the Mission to Lepers, they immediately accepted her offer to serve; and she was appointed superintendent of the Chandag Heights Leprosy Home. It was a beautiful site 6,400 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. Mary often referred to it as "Chandag the Beautiful." Others have referred to it as "one of the fairest spots on God's beautiful earth." Here she labored for the next 52 years. Because of its inaccessibility, she rarely had European visitors. Her home was a lovely little cottage she named "Sunny Crest Cottage." Here, shut out of contact with the rest of the world, she found music a great solace to her heart; and the gift of a small pump organ brightened many a lonely hour. She said, "If I didn't sing songs in the night, I'd never have strength for the tasks of the day." Books also became her companions; and she collected a sizeable library over the years. The following quotation was over her bookcase: "No man knows solitude who makes books his friends."
She threw all of her energies into the spiritual and physical welfare of the patients under her care. They were her family, and she cared for each one dearly. There was no effective treatment for leprosy at that time, but compassionate Christ-like care worked wonders. In this service, her own health improved. She never felt better in health, more cheerful in spirit, or happier in service than at that time. This was not the result of any medical treatment she had adopted; she had given up all treatment of that sort under the strong sense that God required only faith in Him and in His healing power. Concerning the fact that she had contracted leprosy, those who knew her said, "As from God's hand she received it, so in God's hand she leaves it." She herself said, "Jesus has enabled me to say not with a sigh but with a song, ‘Thy will be done.'"
A national Indian pastor assisted Mary in the ministry. Through their combined witness, the majority of those under their care put their trust in Christ. A lovely little whitewashed chapel named Bethel was the center of the leprosy home, and songs of praise poured forth across the surrounding hills and vales. In a letter to a friend she wrote, "My heart is heavily burdened for the souls committed to my care. Oh, please pray for them earnestly that they may be made free from the bondage of sin." This prayer was abundantly answered.
By 1906 there was no sign of the disease, and Mary took the occasion to fulfill her long-cherished dream. She returned to her Ohio home, family, and friends for a brief furlough of one month. She then returned to "her home and family at Chandag Heights"; and except for a brief time away for dental care, she did not leave again until her death in 1943. In later years her health began to fail. There was a recurrence of active leprosy, but her death at the age of 88 was due to heart failure following a painful fall. She was buried in front of Bethel Chapel.
Seldom in the annuls of missionary history has there been a more dedicated, committed servant of the Lord than was Mary Reed of Chandag Heights.