Missionaries slain in Kenya honored
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Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette
Sylvia Moller and her father the Rev. Bill Anderson, left, listen to one of many eulogies for Lois Anderson, Mrs. Moller's mother and the Rev. Anderson's wife, yesterday at New Wilmington Presbyterian Church.
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. -- At a memorial service attended by 100 people who had supported or shared in their work, a slain missionary and her daughter were remembered for a faith that eulogists said would inspire many to enter the mission field.
Beaver native Lois Anderson, 79, and daughter Zelda White, 51, were murdered Jan. 27 during a carjacking on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, where their multigenerational missionary family had gathered.
Their husband and father, the Rev. Bill Anderson, 80, and daughter and sister, Sylvia Moller, were present when the women were shot, and both attended yesterday's service in New Wilmington Presbyterian Church. For decades the Andersons, who retired to South Carolina in 2000, were popular speakers at the annual New Wilmington Mission Conference at Westminster College.
The Rev. Anderson said beforehand that the pattern of Kenyan carjackers was to steal a vehicle, take its contents, then quickly abandon it and steal another vehicle so it would be harder for police to chase them. Theirs was the third vehicle the thieves hijacked that day, he said.
"They didn't even take my wallet," he said, though a carefully edited manuscript of the Arabic translation of his book on the history of Christianity in Sudan was stolen and never recovered.
The Rev. Anderson said that attending this memorial service was a priority for him, because the congregation of New Wilmington Presbyterian Church had been an early and crucial supporter of the couple's ministry. Because of a collection the congregation took up on their behalf, when they were newlyweds, he and Lois were able to leave for the mission field in 1951, two years earlier than expected.
Then, during a 1971 furlough in the United States, the mission board said it had no money to continue their support. When he told his wife they might have to stay in this country and take a congregation, she became angry, he said.
"It's the first time she really stood against me. She said, 'No. We were called by God to work in Africa,' " he said. They contacted churches to support them, and among those that stepped up was the New Wilmington congregation, he said.
"She was a wonderful wife, and she was a wonderful missionary," he said. "The way you have to get the gospel to people is to love, and my wife knew how to communicate love better than anyone I have ever known."
They spent 49 years in Africa, mostly in Sudan, where he founded a theological college.
Most at yesterday's service knew Ms. Anderson far better than Ms. White, who was born in Uganda and, except for attending Geneva College where she met her husband, Craig, spent most of her life overseas.
Prior to college, she had studied briefly in L'Abri, Switzerland, where many young evangelicals sought the tutelage of the writer Francis Schaeffer. After college, she and her husband joined the Peace Corps in Oman. When he joined the foreign service, they moved around -- to Yemen, Iceland, Zaire, Washington, D.C., Oman and Kenya -- while she raised their three children.
At the time of her death, Ms. White had just earned a bachelor's degree in divinity from St. Paul Theological College near Nairobi, where she and her mother were buried.
Many people in Africa and the United States have given to a memorial fund for the two women, though no one has had time to count the donations yet. Ms. Moller said the fund would be used to help the neediest theology students at the Kenyan seminary, particularly women. And, if there was enough money, it would also do so at Nile Theological College in Sudan, which the Andersons founded.
"Early in the morning, on the day Zelda died, a student asked her to help him with his school fees. She told me, 'Oh, I wish I could help,' " Ms. Moller said.
Many speakers praised the faith, courage and cheerful spirit of Ms. Anderson, who had taught second grade in Beaver after her 1949 graduation from Geneva College.
Her older brother, Harold Crawford of Ames, Iowa, said the night she packed to leave for the mission field, he found her because he knew she would be giving up her way of life forever.
"But she said, 'To be a Christian, you have to give something up.' And she did," he said.
The Rev. Kenneth Bailey, a renowned New Testament scholar who lived most of his life in the Middle East, sent a written tribute. He has known the Rev. Anderson since they were at a school for missionary children, he said, while Ms. Anderson entered the life as an adult.
In 1952, the newly wed Andersons were studying in Cairo when antiforeigner riots broke out and major buildings in the city center were set on fire. The Andersons were caught in the worst of it, he said,
They "were obliged to walk through burning streets out of its center in order to find a taxi and escape from the mobs and the conflagration. From that point on all of us knew that Bill and Lois were made of steel and that they would be able and willing to face whatever life might throw at them as they fulfilled their high calling in Jesus Christ," he wrote.
When he visited them in 1978 in southern Sudan they were training evangelists in "harsh, stark isolated" conditions that were far more primitive than anything he had known in south Egypt, he wrote. She cooked on a hotplate fueled by gas made from cow dung.
"The Andersons were part of the African community. That meant that they were expected to share whatever they had with anyone who came to the door. The only way to survive in such a culture was to have nothing, and the Andersons had nothing," he wrote.
"In her life she served all who crossed her path. In her death she will inspire tens of thousands to re-examine their own willingness to go out in faith with Abraham, not knowing where they are going -- seeking a better country whose maker and founder is God."
Donations may be sent to Shenango Presbytery, marked for the Lois Anderson and Zelda White Fund, 4197 New Castle Road, Pulaski, PA 16143-9513. The mission conference plans a podcast of yesterday's service at their Web site, nwmcmission.org.
First Published February 26, 2007 12:00 am