New Horizons

Betty Andrews: A Woman of Prayer

Patricia E. Clawson

Prayer has helped to define Betty Andrews, from her childhood with devout Dutch parents, to her years as a missionary in China, Pakistan, and Taiwan, to today, when, at the age of 93, she meets with another woman daily for prayer.

Betty and her late husband Egbert Andrews were Orthodox Presbyterian missionaries to Taiwan. Egbert, the son of missionaries to China, served forty-three years as an OP missionary to Manchuria, China, and Taiwan. Betty was an OP missionary for twenty-two years.

Betty's family set the example for prayer. Her mother prayed while doing laundry and making beds. Her family prayed three times daily and read the Bible too. Her parents had left the Netherlands and settled in a Dutch community near Orange City, Iowa. In Holland, Betty's mother was secretary to the prime minister's sister. Her father, from the "poor side" of the Heerema family, was a baker, who had learned to cook while serving in the army. They joined the Christian Reformed Church in Iowa.

Betty and her three brothers were raised in a loving home. She learned the value of hard work and the importance of the church and doctrine. On Sunday evenings, she listened to her parents discuss theology in Dutch, a language she didn't speak but did understand.

Betty followed her brothers to Calvin College and chose nursing because it was less of a financial strain on her parents. After her first year, they asked her to quit to help support them financially, because her father's health kept him from working. "Whatever they felt I had to do, I did," said Betty. "Those years were difficult." While fellowship with young people was sparse, she enjoyed singing solos in Sunday school and worship. She eventually graduated with a nursing education degree from the University of Chicago.

The road to becoming a missionary began when Betty first heard missionaries speak. She was impressed by their dedication, but never dreamed of becoming one herself. For three years during World War II, she taught at the nursing school she had attended in Grand Rapids, and then she was asked to go as a missionary nurse to China. "I had never been challenged in my life to be a missionary," said Betty.

She agreed and attended language school in Peking, but returned to Grand Rapids when missionaries were evacuated because of the Communist takeover. She worked in a hospital, but told them, "Mission work is in my blood. I have to go." When asked to teach nursing students in Pakistan, she went for three years. While there, she had tea in Kashmir with Indira Gandhi to escape the heat.

Before Betty left for Pakistan, her brother, Edward Heerema, told her about the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He had studied at Westminster Seminary, become a Christian Reformed minister, married R. B. Kuiper's daughter, and written Prophet in the Land about his father-in-law.

Betty met her future husband, Egbert Andrews, through Edward. Both had attended Westminster at the same time. Several years later, Edward spotted Egbert on the streets of Grand Rapids when Egbert was home on furlough from Taiwan. He invited Egbert to stay in his home, where Betty met him for the first time over Sunday dinner. They didn't try to get acquainted, however, because Betty was preparing to leave for Pakistan.

After finishing her term, Betty left Pakistan because one of the new doctors was theologically liberal. Worn out, she returned to Grand Rapids and became dean of women at the Reformed Bible Institute. One day Betty got a call from Egbert, inviting her to dinner. They saw each other several times that summer. "Then he asked if I wanted to come out and be his wife; he needed a wife," said Betty.

Egbert had served as a missionary in war-torn Manchuria, where he was put under house arrest by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. After being forced out of the country in 1948, he served in Taiwan. Betty thought, "Well, I could do worse!"

At 40, Betty knew that marriage was a tremendous step and wanted to know if it was God's will for her. She knelt by her bed, put her hand on her Bible, asked the Lord to forgive her methodology, and asked him to give her a passage to tell her what to do. She opened her eyes to Ruth 1:16, "For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." Betty wrote, "Even though the situation was not the same, I knew that I was to follow this man wherever he went for the Lord." They got engaged on a subway train in Chicago in July 1956, but Betty felt she couldn't leave her teaching position after only one year. Egbert returned to Taiwan alone.

A few months later, Betty got a letter from Egbert. "He desperately needed me to head the household for him," said Betty. He wrote, "Can't you ask them to allow you to leave?"

Betty prayed and found her replacement. She boarded a freighter for Japan, where she and Egbert were married on February 7, 1957. Heber and Eugenia McIwaine, OP missionaries to Japan, were in attendance. The last thing her mother said to her when she left was, "You are a brave girl." Her father smiled and kissed her good-bye. He died three years later, while Betty was in Taiwan.

Marriage for two people in middle age was an adjustment. As a missionary son, Egbert had attended a strict school in China, where the boys and girls were segregated. "Egbert enjoyed school, but he didn't know much about girls, so we prayed about that and really learned to understand each other and love each other. It made a difference."

Missionary life was not easy. Egbert wanted Betty to learn Taiwanese, the language of the people, even though he preached in Mandarin, Taiwan's official language. "I had to go to church for years and not understand a word that I was listening to," said Betty. "I had to get my own spiritual food from my own Bible reading. We had that at breakfast and prayer in the evening also."

They depended on prayer. "We prayed together before going to bed. No matter how late, no matter what condition, we were going to pray together." When Egbert was out in the evening, she said, "I would often spend two hours in prayer."

Setting up the household was a struggle. The biggest adjustment was having a servant and trying to teach her how to do housework. Her helper was 16, didn't want to do housework, and couldn't communicate with Betty, so they used sign language. "It was very, very difficult that first year, and it had nothing to do with my husband," said Betty. "He did the best he could to help me, but he had his own work to do."

Without organized language schools or textbooks, Betty learned enough Taiwanese for ordinary conversations. She taught children's Sunday school, sang songs, memorized Scripture, prayed, and taught one woman to read. "I didn't always understand. But the Lord brought me to it, and I considered it a gift of prayer that did it."

Betty often spoke about prayer when home on furlough. "What the Lord will do through prayer is phenomenal. God does answer prayer. He gives what you ask for according to his will. It might be tough."

One Christian woman asked if Mr. Andrews would pray for her non-Christian husband, who was scared, shaking, and hiding under a blanket. Egbert was out, but Betty volunteered. "Demons are troubling him again," the woman said. "Only a Christian praying can deliver him." Betty's heart sank, but she prayed, "God, I've never done it before, but I believe in your power."

"I put my hand on his head, and prayed as fervently as I could, 'Through the power of Jesus Christ you will be freed.' And he was—just like that!" The blanket came off and he said, "Thank you!" Betty urged him to confess his sins and repent, but he refused. After she left Taiwan, she returned in 1988 and learned that the man had been saved after he had a stroke. He crawled on his hands and knees to prayer meetings.

Prayer calmed Betty when Egbert had the first of several strokes. His poor health prompted the Andrewses to leave the mission field in 1979. Egbert died in 1982 at the age of 71. Betty moved to Florida, took a writing course, and wrote self-published books for her family. One about Egbert's childhood in China was called An American Boy on the Yangsi. Her own story was Memoirs of Elizabeth. She now lives at the Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Community in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, where she still focuses on prayer.

"I know it is not a popular thing to be dogmatic about prayer," said Betty, "but it is the most wonderful resource you have in the world."

New Horizons, February 2011.

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