An extraordinary mission worker's life
“Is this going to be short-term, or for life?” For BMS World Mission worker Ann Bothamley, there was only one answer.
She stared down the devil when she was weak. Overcame dysentery, major spinal surgery and crushing loneliness. She founded a hostel for children of mission doctors, helped thousands of people through her nursing service, and returned to work after retirement to give pastoral care to patients.
Ann Bothamley has been an ambassador for Christ in India since 1968. We’re inspired by all that she’s done in the past, and all that she continues to do. We know you will be too. This is Ann’s story.
Chapter one: the beginning
I gave my heart to the Lord when I was nine years old. After Sunday School one day I went to the superintendent and said, “I’ve decided I want to follow Jesus.”
I then went in for a Bible quiz and won a Bible. It had, ‘Presented to Ann Bothamley’, and at the bottom was the verse from Matthew 28: 19, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel”. I remember saying to my mother, “I think that means me. I think I have to go.”
So even then, I knew in my heart that God wanted me to go out as a medical missionary somewhere.
Ann in 1967, months before leaving for India, where she has been serving with BMS for over half a century.
Chapter two: the call
I was quite sure that God wanted me to be a doctor, but I didn’t do terribly well at school. I went to work in the microbiology department of St Thomas’ Hospital, and one day the professor said to me, “why don’t you go in for nursing?”
Within six weeks, I was in. I really enjoyed it and knew I was in the right place. I wanted to have more qualifications, so I did a ward sister course, but twice during my training I slipped a disc in my back. After the second time, the matron said, “I think you might have to give up nursing”, and I thought, ‘no way’.
I ended up having a laminectomy [the removal of part of a vertebrae] after my fourth year. There was a lot of waiting and I wondered what God was saying to me. But I got through all that and got better very quickly. I did midwifery in Glasgow, and then did a year as a night sister in a large hospital in Croydon. I decided then that it was the time to go to BMS.
Chapter three: the journey
I think God planted it in my heart that I was going to India. I knew, too, that it was going to be for life. I was asked at the candidate board, “is this going to be short-term, or for life?” That was how it was put in those days. I said, “no, for life”. And so I was accepted by BMS.
The journey to India was a very long one. We travelled across Europe to Venice, where we boarded a boat to Brindisi, and then went on to the Canary Islands, and down to Cape Town where we boarded the boat to Mombasa.
From Mombasa we went to Karachi and on to Bombay, as it was then. I got on the train about 2pm and arrived the next afternoon, about an hour from Vellore. I was met by someone called Miss Thompson. We were sitting squeezed up on the front seat of the car and she said to me, “well, I hope the Lord has brought you here. Because if not, you might as well go back now.”
Vellore has been Ann Bothamley's home since she arrived in 1968, after a gruelling journey that began at Victoria Station in London.
Chapter four: the attack
There was no question of going back. I was where God had put me. I had quite a few problems to begin with. I had dysentery and it was a very horrible thing.
I also remember being sent up into the hills after suffering sunstroke. I was sitting in a garden and it was as though the devil was saying, “I’m going to get you home.” I can remember telling him, “no, God is with me and I am not going home, and don’t think you can send me because God is greater than you.”
One of the amazing things in those first six months was that every so often Miss Thompson would hand me a little note with a verse of Scripture on it. It was quite amazing, and always seemed to me that God was saying, “I am with you.”
Chapter five: the loneliness
There have been times when I have known great loneliness. Sometimes one can be in a huge institution and still be very lonely.
But every so often God would send somebody I could pray with. I’d be tremendously encouraged and God would say to me, “I want you to rely on me more. Just keep relying on me.”
Ann Bothamley catches up with friends at the Christian Medical College in Vellore. Friends back home support her too, ringing her to chat and ask for her prayer requests.
Chapter six: the blessings
God has blessed me through some of the experiences I’ve been through. Three years ago, when I had major surgery on my spine, two families I didn’t even know were amazing to me, absolutely amazing.
God has been so faithful to me over the years, and blessed me so much in enabling me and giving me the privilege to meet such a diversity of people and patients.
Watch the moment when Ann is presented with a gift to mark her 50 years' service with BMS.
Chapter seven: the support
I could not be here, but for the support and prayers of people at home. I have two friends who phone me about every two weeks and jot down all the things I would like them to pray about. And there’s a church too that does the same thing.
Prayer makes a difference, a huge difference. I’m sure there have been difficult times when I’ve been carried by the prayers of people at home.
Could you be the next Ann Bothamley?
BMS has mission workers all over the world showing people what following Christ looks like, just as Ann is doing today. If you’re sensing God calling you overseas, you need to read the article 10 reasons why you should serve with BMS.
You can confront injustice. Free women from trafficking. Teach children robbed of an education. And you can introduce people to Jesus. We’ll be with you every step of the way. Start by getting in touch here. We would love to hear from you.
This story was originally published on the BMS World Mission website and is used with permission.