31 Days of Missionary Stories: Dallas and Kay Washer, Candles in the Darkness

The names of Dallas and Kay washer were legend when I was in college. At that time I only knew they were missionaries in Togo, West Africa. I never had the opportunity to meet Dallas or hear him speak, but I was privileged to meet Kay several years later when my family lived in SC and two of her grandsons (Mike Washer of National Hoops and Jonathan Washer of National Goals, for those of you who know them) were youth pastors at our church. Kay became “Grandma Washer” to our ministry, speaking to the youth group a number of times and to the ladies once or twice. one-candle-lg.jpg

One saying Dal is known for is, “I have but one candle of life to burn and would rather burn it out where people are dying in darkness than in a land which is flooded with light.” (I had thought this saying was original with him, but it was a quote from John Keith Falconer.) So a few years ago when I saw Kay’s daughter-in-law at church with a stack of books with the title One Candle To Burn, I immediately went to her and asked if Kay had written a book. And she had! I bought one on the spot.

It was pure joy to read. It begins with Dallas and Kay’s childhood and call to the ministry, how the Lord led them together (she at first thought her sister was just right for him), a year of learning the language and Muslim customs in Algiers, then ministry first in Niger and then in Togo. There are many stories of open doors of ministry, people turning from darkness to light, and answers to prayer such as provision of land and finding a source of water for land for a hospital during the last attempt to drill for it. Compassion for the blind, who could only provide for themselves by begging, led Kay to take courses in Braille during one family vacation, then to teaching a few blind boys how to read, then eventually to the establishment of blind school where students get a regular academic education plus learn certain crafts or skills. She was surprised to be honored with the civilian medal of honor by Togo’s President Eyadema.

You get some idea of where the Washer adventurousness comes from when you read of Kay lying on her stomach strapped to the floor of a small plane with the door removed so she could film the maiden voyage of boat used as a floating mission station.

When people asked about her children’s safety and exposure to disease, she told them about an lawn mower accident resulting in the loss of toes of one of her sons — in America.

My heart was especially touched by the chapters dealing with Dallas’s death and later Kay’s serious fall which resulted in a broken arm and two broken bones in her leg and the long, complicated recovery period. At first she chafed under what felt like imprisonment, but later came to accept that this was God’s will for her at the time and to allow Him to work in and through her for a different kind of ministry.

There are many remarkable stories tracing God’s hand at work, laced with good humor and touching moments and lessons learned — all the more remarkable because the events are true. Love for God, for family, and for the people of Africa shines throughout.

I have been so glad to see this book. As much as I love the missionary classics, I believe it is incredibly important for missionaries of our time to record what the Lord has done. The same God who worked through Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael is still at work today!

You can read a bit more about Kay Washer here.

(You can see other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)