“This is absurd!”, claimed the mission office, as Evie burst into tears. She pleaded with the board to send her back. But it’s leaders would not yield. Rules were rules, they said. The high range where Evie and her husband, Jesse, had invested long years of their life wasn’t yielded results. They had lived off of a meagre inheritance, and gave up everything to the building up of the mission. But since the time Jesse died of blackwater fever, she was always a question mark for the board.
What could an elderly, single lady possibly want to do in the Mountains of Death?
To fulfill a vow, that’s what she wanted to do! A vow that she made to the Lord, together with her husband, to reach five mountain ranges with the Gospel. They’d only reached one, in three decades. Evie grasped at one last straw, a one-year return with a promise of retirement. The board reluctantly agreed.
So in 1946, just like 35 years ago, Evelyn Brand once again set sail for India. This time though, there was no coming back.
Evelyn Constance Harris was born in May 1879, in a well-to-do family in the fashionable areas of London. She accepted Christ at a very young age. Her father saw to it that she had the best of education. Despite her high standing, she would sneak out of her home to go into the slums of London on missions of mercy. Evelyn was deeply moved by overseas missions, particularly the ones in India. She was challenged by the letters published in a missionary journal written by a missionary to the hill people of south India. Later that year, she heard him speak, both at her church and at tea in her home.
Evelyn sensed a divine calling to be a missionary. But could she, a fashionable girl in frilly dresses with a passion for art, handle such a challenge? With the God’s help, she could!
She shared her desire to her father. He agreed, eventually.
Assigned to Madras, in the plains of India, Evelyn met up with Jesse. Their love for each other blossomed just as their vision and passion for the people of the Kolli Hills (mountains of death) in Tamil Nadu, South India. And so in August 1913, they got married.
In the first seven years in the hills, they had little fruit to show for their efforts.
The two went from village to village preaching the Gospel and tending the sick. Jesse taught the villagers better farming methods, treated their sick, built houses, and fought their tax battles.
But the local priests drove the villagers away from Christianity. The breakthrough came when a dying priest entrusted his nine year-old daughter to the care of the Brands. No one else, including his swamis, would take her up. The people marvelled at a God who made Jesse care for an enemy's orphaned children.
Over the years, Evie eventually became mother to many abandoned Indian children. They had to leave their two children, Paul and Connie, in England for better 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. The progress of the Gospel remained painfully slow. Soon Jesse contracted the dreadful disease and died and was buried by the local villagers in the Hills. Evie was now all alone.
The mission board was right in their own right to deny Evelyn, now almost 68, her wish to go back alone to the hills. After much persuasion they allowed her to return to the plains. Evelyn waited patiently till she retired to go back to the hills!
Though everyone called her "Granny", she felt young! Just as in the old times, she traveled from village to village riding a hill pony: camping, teaching, and dispensing medicine, rescuing abandoned children. The work was harder now. She herself had been reduced to very fragile, thin frame. Once, her carriers smacked her head on a rock. She never fully recovered her balance after that. But Granny toiled on with bamboo canes. Full of joy and laughter, she would exclaim praises continually.
Despite broken bones, fevers, infirmities, in the next fifteen years, she almost eradicated Guinea worm from the Kalrayan range. Through her efforts, the five ranges were evangelized, and a mission work planted on each. The vow, now complete. But Granny didn’t stop!
Wherever she was, she proclaimed Christ. In the hospital with a broken hip, she wheeled herself from room to room and talked to the other patients. She painted landscapes for them. Her bones knit in record time. Then, one day, 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. Paul Brand, now himself a missionary doctor, remembered the actress-like figure of his mother from old. She was but a shadow of the same now. Granny 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 breathed her last, aged 94. The very 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 three decades more!
“I am not wonderful. I am just a poor, old, frail, and weak woman. God has taken hold of me and gives me the strength I need each day. He uses me just because I know that I have no strength of my own. Please tell the people to praise God, not me.” -Granny Brand