1909 – London, England. When 20-year-old Evie Harris heard 24-year-old Jesse Brand, a missionary on furlough from India, speak at her Baptist church, she felt a leading to go to India. That night when she told her parents she wanted to be a missionary, her father protested, “A missionary? Why would you want to be a missionary?” Her mother cried, “Aren’t there enough lost souls in London? Do you have to go all the way to India? Will we ever see you again?”
It took almost a year for Evie to gain her father’s blessing. Then she completed a year of language training and arrived in Madras, India, in 1912. A few weeks after her arrival, Evie met Jesse again at a meeting. They were married a year later, and she joined his work in the Kolli Hills. Jesse’s mission was to evangelize the Hindu people living in the five small mountain ranges in southern India.
Due to the squalor and deadly diseases, especially cholera and malaria, the area was known as the ‘Mountains of Death.’ The Brands lived in a small hut with no electricity or running water. They traveled on foot or horseback between villages sharing the gospel and caring for the sick. Two children, Paul and Connie, were born in India and both assisted with their parent’s ministry before returning to England to pursue an education.
It was seven years before their first conversion. It occurred when a Hindu priest became ill with a fever. The Brands came to his aid despite the exposure to themselves. Before his death, the priest told his family, “The Jesus God must be the true one because the Brands alone helped me in my time of death.”
In 1929 Jesse died from black water fever and was buried in the mountains. Missionary friends and family assumed that 50-year-old Evie would give up the work and return to England and re-unite with her children. However, determined to finish what Jesse began, after a year’s furlough, she returned to the Kolli Mountains. For the next 18 years, she tirelessly served the mountain people, becoming affectionately known as Granny Brand.
In 1969, 68-year-old Evie was summoned to England to meet with the Baptist mission board. She burst into tears when she learned the board would not approve another five-year term. They considered her too old to minister alone in the mountains of India. Evie pleaded, “Please send me back for one more year. Then I will retire. I promise.” The board reluctantly granted her request.
At the end of Evie’s one-year extension, friends and villagers threw a party to celebrate her retirement. During the party, she surprised everyone with the news that she wasn’t leaving India. She had instructed villagers to build her a small hut away from the missionary compound. The next day Evie transferred from the mission board housing to her new dwelling and continued her work.
At 73, Evie fell and fractured her hip. Paul, by now a respected orthopedic surgeon, flew to India to persuade his mother to retire. Committed and feisty, she adamantly refused. After convalescing, she agreed to use two bamboo walking sticks to better negotiate the steep trails. In 1965, Paul finally convinced his 86-year-old mother to allow a nurse to assist her and to be her companion.
At 93, when Evie could no longer ride a horse, Hindu villagers built a stretcher. They carried the saintly lady from village to village. For two years, men faithfully transported the beloved missionary through the mountains.
In December 1974, at Paul’s urging his 95-year-old mother, suffering with failing memory and poor eyesight came down from the mountains to visit with him. During the visit, she had another fall and died seven days later. The following day her body was returned to the people and mountains she loved and buried beside Jessie.
Evie Brand carried on for 24 more years after Jesse’s death. In all, she served in southern India for 62 years, fulfilling Jesse’s dream and her calling to evangelize the five mountain ranges. Today, an estimated 15 million Christians live in southern India.