Caleb’s Crew: Granny Brand or Life begins again at 70

January 30, 2012 — 6 Comments


Many years ago, I read two books by Dr Paul Brand, co-authored with Philip Yancey, In His Image,and Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Both books draw upon lessons Brand learned in his pioneering work with leprosy patients.** Full of amazing insights about the human body and the Christian faith, they are well worth reading, or re-reading.

But this post isn’t about Paul Brand. It’s about his mother who had her own fascinating story. Granny Brand started out her life as Evelyn Harris, the daughter of a rich British merchant. In her late twenties [a hundred years ago], she gave up her comfortable life in London and went to work in the mountains of southern India. There she married Jesse Brand and settled into a remote area where people struggled with sickness, poverty and hopelessness. The Brands cared for the people, sharing the good news of the gospel and caring for those who were ill. They had two children, Paul and Connie, who were eventually sent back to England for schooling. Then Jesse died of blackwater fever. Evelyn went back to England on furlough, and spent time with her children. But at the age of 49 she returned to India. For the next 20 years she continued the work, sometimes living in rugged mountain villages and sometimes working on the plains, based in Madras.

Her biography** does not dwell on her faults but it’s clear that she was not always easy to work with. She could be critical , strong-minded, and stubborn. But she was also passionate to help people in any way she could and her life is proof that the God doesn’t seem to mind using imperfect, exasperating saints.

Just before she turned 70, following the policy of the mission, she retired. And then she joined Caleb’s Crew**. Instead of returning to England, she settled once again in the southern mountains to start a new work. For 25 more years, until her death at the age of 95, she continued bringing hope and wholeness to remote villages. She helped eradicate the painful guinea worm parasite, fought marijuana growers, led Bible studies, took in foster children. Granny Brand is a great example that there’s no age limit on having a vision and making a difference in the world. Given that our life expectancy has increased over the last century, that’s a valuable lesson for all of us, no matter what age we are.


But I think the most notable success of her second career was not how God worked through her, but how God was able to work in her. Miraculously, He softened her, healed old bitterness, replaced irritation with love. When Paul Brand visited his mother towards the end of her life, he noticed a spiritual strength she had not shown before. And he found her younger–not in her body, but in her spirit. She had a deeper joy and peace. “This is how to grow old,” her son wrote.” Allow everything else to fall away, until those around you see just love. They will also see your own life renewed and they will recognize the love to be the love of God.”

What an encouraging illustration that we are never too old to be changed. God never gives up working in us. Regardless of what decade we are in, the power of the Holy Spirit can do the impossible in us, smoothing away our rough edges and healing wounds we thought were permanent.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. II Corinthians 4:16

**Links and Notes
** “Before Brand, it was widely believed that those suffering from Hansen’s Disease lost their fingers and feet because of rotting flesh. Instead, Brand discovered, such deformities were due to the loss of ability to feel pain. With treatment and care, he showed, victims of the disease could go indefinitely without such deformities.” [obituary in Christianity Today]

**Granny Brand: Her Story by Dorothy Wilson Clarke
There is also a brief biography of her here

**Introduction to the Caleb’s Crew series

6 responses to Caleb’s Crew: Granny Brand or Life begins again at 70

  1. 

    My reading this morning was Eph. 9:10 and included of Paul Brand speaking of his mother. Learning of her weaknesses gives me hope that the Lord will change me! I read where she was irritable at times; strong minded, stubborn; yes that describes me too. I wonder did she like me ask the Lord ‘will I ever change?’ I am in my old age and it is encouraging to know that this weak Christian may still be known as a witness to the Lord’s love.

  2. 

    Just came across the incredible story of (I think) London born lady, Granny Brand; how she was used by God in far far away Southern India. God ignored her faults, took her willingness to serve and created a giant in the faith. A most inspiring story, and one that encourages me to (also) in my own little way, share the love of Christ, one person, one interaction at a time.

  3. 

    It is really comforter. I had just in this moments an agly situation, because of my stubborn and impatient natur. I was praing to my God to he
    lp me to change. So I keep praying. This little writing about Granny Brand is a miracle answer from the Holy Spirit for me.

  4. 

    I am reading Dr Paul Brand’s book ” The Gift of Pain”. As I have been suffering in a painful spinal disease of CSF Leaks into the nerves of my sacrum that progress to CSF filled (nerves webbed throughout the lining ) and the pain leaves one bedridden even after attempts to surgically repair. I love to hear his mother’s story from her young life until she became Granny Brand. Her husband, Granny and later son, Dr Brand did not fear leporsy in India instead Dr Brand held find cures and surgery to end the mystery of such a horrible disease that had no pain. No pain caused destruction to the limbs of those infected. Knowing my pain is relentless I’m grateful for how pain shapes us all, whether physical or emotional pain. This family are sent from The Lord to give us hope and challenge us in our daily walk with The Lord. I’m purchasing the Granny Brand book ASAP. I recommend ” The Gift of Pain” for more information about Granny’s life of serving and facing personal challenges.

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