Mary Jones: Ordinary Housekeeper, Extraordinary Giver

By David Black

A few years prior to joining Beacon Wealth Consultants, my wife and I had the great privilege of serving as missionaries with SIM for a number of years.

SIM has come a long way since it’s founding in 1893. The mission’s history is a testament to God’s power and faithfulness, the power of prayer, the perseverance of the missionaries, and the faithfulness of the many whose generosity has supported the work for 130 years.

I want to share the story of how the mission began since it is as much a story of faithful, generous givers as it is of the three young men who first set out – including a house servant named Mary Jones.


The Beginnings of SIM

SIM, or as it was originally called the Sudan Interior Mission, was started in 1893 by Canadians Walter Gowans and Rowland Bingham, and American Thomas Kent who had a burden to reach the 60-90 million unreached people of the interior of sub-Saharan Africa – an area then known as the Central Sudan. This area stretches across sub-Saharan Arica and now includes countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and others.

Founders of SIM

L to R: Walter Gowans, Thomas Kent, Rowland Bingham. Image credit: Seven Sevens of Years and a Jubilee: The Story of the Sudan Interior Mission by Rowland Bingham

Rowland Bingham later told their story in the book Seven Sevens of Years and a Jubilee. The Story of the Sudan Interior Mission. Bingham was awakened to the needs of the unreached people of the world when he heard Adoniram Judson “A. J.” Gordon speak on the power of the Holy Spirit in God’s mission.

Later, Bingham heard about the needs of the Central Sudan from Walter Gowans’ mother, whose strong presentation of the need for missionaries to the area so strongly impressed Bingham that he determined to join Gowans who was in England trying to raise funds to go.

He did not have enough money to pay for the voyage to England, let alone Africa. He shared his intention to go with friends recounting,

“In the little more than a week that remained, one or two of my farmer friends, here and there, handed me a five-dollar bill which, when put all together, did not amount to more than fifty or sixty dollars. Then the last night was spent in the home of the friend who had said he would help me. Again nothing was said about money. After breakfast and prayers the next morning, this friend said, ‘I have not forgotten my promise made some months ago; but a week ago another man borrowed almost all the ready money I had. I will give you all I have in the bank, and then I shall borrow more, if need be.’

We went into town, where I was to take the train, and he emptied out his bank account for me! That morning I set out for Africa.”[1]

In New York, Bingham met Tom Kent who joined him and together they went to England, joining with Gowans as they tried to secure the funds to go. They failed to secure any type of sponsorship but determined to go anyway, they booked passage on a ship on November 4, 1893 to sail from Liverpool to Lagos, Nigeria. Between the three of them they had only around $150 left.

Reaching Lagos in December, they soon realized that their funds were not sufficient to continue farther north. Bingham writes of the wonderful way God provided through the generosity of an ordinary housekeeper,

‘We saw that our resources were altogether inadequate for the long journey which lay before us through the unknown. We decided on a week of prayer and proposed to dispose of any keepsakes or non-essential articles. In this category we included even our watches, for we were now in a country where the sun ruled by day and rose about the same time every morning the year round. Prepared now to lay aside every weight, we had our sale.

The next mail that reached us brought us five hundred dollars. This included a number of gifts, but the largest donor toward that five-hundred-dollar draft was a servant, named Mary Jones. She knew of our going to Africa and when, just after we left, she had received a legacy of three hundred dollars from a relative, she felt moved to give the whole amount to our Sudan enterprise. To this her mistress added one hundred dollars and a few other friends brought up the amount to an even five hundred.

Of the act of another woman who poured out her most precious gift to anoint Him, our Lord said, “Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world there this also which this woman hath done, shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”

I have always loved to tell the story of this woman with a very common name, engaged in very common work. She served faithfully, as housekeeper, in the same position for a quarter of a century and died in the home of her master and mistress, with whom she had lived.’[2]

When Mary Jones died, all her earthly possessions fit in one trunk, inside of which was found a small account book. Bingham writes,

‘on one side of [the account book], year after year, she had entered her monthly wage, a good one for that day. On the opposite page she had entered her small personal expenses and then there appeared such entries as “for native work in China, $50.00;” a few months later, “for native worker in India, $50.00;” a little farther on there was an entry for work in the South Sea Islands. Items such as these were repeated through the years.

Her relatives knew when she had received the legacy of three hundred dollars and turned the pages to that date. There it was-“Received legacy, $300.00”, and on the opposite page, “Paid out for the Sudan, $300.00.”

Even her last month’s wages had been entered and dispensed. She needed no executor, no trust company-she had already fulfilled her trust. Would that we all might present such a faithful account in the day of judgment!

The gift of this servant girl came just at the moment of our greatest need and made possible that first journey up into the Sudan. Out of that gift of fifty years ago, in a very real sense, has come the great harvest of hundreds of converts every year, which we are seeing today.’[3]

Mary Jones was an ordinary working Christian like many of us, yet her generosity enabled three young men to proceed in their call to reach the world for Christ. Today, SIM has over 4,000 missionaries from 65 different countries serving around the world, a work that continues by the grace and power of God, through prayer, and the generosity of many.


Funding the Unfinished Task

There are still many, many people around the world how have not heard about Jesus. The Joshua Project estimates that there are still 3.4 billion unreached/least-reached people[4] — 42% of the world population!

Despite this huge unfinished task, one recent article I read estimated that only 1.7% of Christian giving goes toward work among unreached people.

What a great opportunity for generous givers to invest their resources for eternity and help bring the Gospel to those who haven’t yet heard of Christ!

Mary Jones didn’t leave much behind when she died. But I can’t help but imagine her standing face-to-face with Jesus and hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant!” and then joyfully greeting the countless souls impacted through her generosity.

Friends, let’s prayerfully and boldly consider how we can use our own resources for an eternal impact!

If you’d like to talk about your giving goals or desires, give us a call! Not only will we rejoice in your calling to generosity, but we can also help you understand the options available to you.


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[1] Bingham, Rowland V. Seven Sevens of Years and a Jubilee: The Story of the Sudan Interior Mission. Toronto: Evangelical Publishers, 1943. p. 17.

[2] Ibid. p. 19-20.

[3] Ibid. p. 20-21.

[4] Joshua Project definition:  Less than or equal to 5% Christian Adherent AND less than or equal to 2% Evangelical. An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.