Mary Behner



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Mary wrote this letter to her family during the second half of her freshman year at college. The letter is comprised of 4 large sheets, with handwriting in blue ink on the front and back of each page. Mary writes about her conviction to become a foreign missionary, which takes up the bulk of this letter. She also talks about plans in the Student Volunteer Movement, her friendship with Paul Richenbach, taking vocal lessons, and several friends.


March 8, 1925.

Dearest Family -

It is after 4:30 - just came from chapel. The girls glee club are giving a sacred vesper service. They had a processional - all dressed in cap and gown - enclosed find program. Didn’t stay till the end tho.

Have felt the "call" and have freely surrendered my heart and life to “foreign service.” Have felt it lately even before the student volunteer conference - I wasn’t happy - something was bothering me - I couldn’t explain it to anyone - I didn’t know what it was - but now I know. Jesus Christ has been trying to open the door of my heart - he has been knocking and I withheld - did not open the door until today. I cannot stay here and do social settlement work - which would be mainly to organize special work - etc - I want to get closer to the hearts who have never even had a chance to know “Him”- We have had a chance here in America - it seems to me more fair to [unclear] live [/unclear] Christ to those in unchristian lands - altho America does need Christ. Four fifths of the earth’s surface does not have Christianity. The Pioneer work has especially caught me. Dr. Dinividdie of South American spoke at the conference a few times - I also had a conference with him. He tells of thousands of miles of terriatory never crossed by a missionary. The people down there in some parts are almost canibals - He is doing wonderful work there - as a pioneer missionary.

I really do feel that this is my work - I mean foreign work - for one reason - that so many other decisions have followed that one. One thing I will not dance. I feel I can keep closer to God if I do not dance besides I would not need it on the mission field as I might here. I do not give enough time to God anyway - maybe if I would use that time that I would dance here in the dorm between after supper and 7:o’clock- I would be a better Christian. I feel so unworthy to work for Christ in such responsible positions and I know it will have to be entirely in his own strength that I ever will accomplish anything. I have so many selfish thoughts - that I know make me unhappy and that I must crowd out of my life. I must - get “closer” so that his love might be tranfused into my needy heart.

My heart was opened wide to

(2) him this morning - it is still open - My prayer is that it may always be open - that my vision will never fail.

I know you have faith enough in me to know that this this confidence in you is not a passing passion. Many things have been leading up to it, especially this week end. I am going to tell you one thing which a student volunteer friend said to me - which (I can’t explain why) appealed to me. She is a capable girl who is in charge of the convention exhibits. Was talking to her and standing up, too. Asked her where she was going and why? - To Persia, she said - as a medical missionary to minister unto the women who refuse to let men doctors touch them. Just that one sentence is all she said about it but it was enough food for thought. They need doctors and how much easier it would be to show them the love of Christ thru healing. The difficulty for me will be to decide whether I should be a doctor - and if I do decide to - to get a special liking for science. Perhaps future has in store for me a medical - husband - This would be ideal - anyway God has a plan and it must not be hindered.

Another thing I have resolved to do is to train myself to learn about more things - to know something about everything - to be interested in more things - read more - and try to remember more.

Dr. Wilder, who is the founder of the Student Volunteer Movement spoke at our conference. He is such a wonderful man. It seems he knows every missionary, and he has been all over the world. There were quite a few other missionaries there who spoke at different times. This Dr. Dinwiddie has worked in Guadamala He hasn’t met the Vanhooks (Hasn’t been there for 3 to 4 yrs & they weren’t there then) but he knows their names.

We had one of the most attractive exhibits I have ever seen. There were many tables - each table representing some foreign country - Then this girl who had charge of it Marguereta Craig had painted in colors a “Christ Head” from the print which was lighted up. She had evergreens all around the exhibit.

3) Mandy was the Pres. of the conference and he did fine. He is the one who took me to the Glee club concert. The pres. for the conference next year which will be held in Bluffton, Ohio is from Wooster also. - Herman Kreder is his name. He traveled in the near East and was making lots of money before the war but came back to the U.S. after he decided to be a missionary, to get a college education and be better fitted. He is a Junior this year. Mandy is a senior. Both fine fellows.

Boots has a date tonight. Paul [Richenbach] wanted to go for a walk but I was too tired & my ankle hurt so I let him bring me home from C.E. and we talked out on the steps till 7: o’clock. He’s a good boy. We didn’t go to the last game of the season here on account of the conference - I don’t mean Paul didn’t because he did. What I want to say is what he told me tonight. He said he felt so lonely the night of the game & said he didn’t see me there & of course I wasn’t there. I’m afraid he is a little serious but I have never given him any satisfaction of any kind and always change the conversation when it comes to that. He certainly doesn’t have any affection for me because I have any for him or have shown any - I’ve simply had dates with him & been a friend - I know he is not going out with anyone else.

Boots helped lead C.E. tonight. A girl & fellow lead. She is the third Freshmen that has led. The only thing the girl leader ever does is read the scripture.

We got acquainted with some Oberlin girls during the conference. Boots & I took a delegate in our room. Quite a few of the delegates were taken in the dorms. One girl was an Oberlin girl. You can see on the conference program what colleges were represented. It was a fine group. The spirit at the meals was splendid-

Like vocal lessons but is is so hard, not being able to accompany myself - Boots is going to accompany me for practice. It will be so much easier. My last lesson contained 4 dear little melodies with Italian sylables. Mrs. Arnold said she doesn’t very often have such good results the first time on those as were mine - so that is quite encouraging. It is hard for

4) me to keep the notes out of my throat - especially the low ones. Stood so correctly during my last lesson that my legs hurt right on the knee joint when I finished. I told her they did thinking I must have been standing incorrectly but she said it was because I was standing alright. This pen is out of ink—.

Received a fine letter from Luella [Sanders, her cousin]. She said she had just finished writing to you - It seems to me it would be wise to go to Toledo. If you could get there the week end before Holy Week - it would be wonderful. Am planning on mother coming here in May for color day. They are making plans already for it. The crowds were so large that year that we can’t have it on the “quad” so are going to hold the pageant & other festivities in the stadium. May day here (this year it is May 16) is an unusually wonderful sight, they say.

All 3 of Boots brothers are sick. Ellis has whooping cough, bronchitis and pneumonia.- Think of that-Mother, it would be appreciated if you wrote to Mrs. B. You know that book at Christmas time was sent to the family. If you haven’t written to her - please do so before you write to me. Mrs. B. has written to me - Boots sent a night letter to her folks last night saying if they needed her to telegraph.

It is almost 9:o’clock - so the girls will soon be coming up here for prayer group- This letter is surely plenty long enough anyway.

Pray for me harder than ever - that I might keep the vision before me in all that I do or say and that I might grow and develop now into a stronger character.

Much love
from your devoted
Mary Elizabeth.

-Boots & Jean send love-

P.S. Save this letter. Just read it over- altho perhaps, my thoughts are expressed crudely- its what I think Some time it might do me good to read it over.



Publication Date



Letters; Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions; Women in missionary work; College students--Dating; Vocal coaches


Wooster, Ohio

Letter from Mary to Family- March 8, 1925



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