One of Moody’s early students was Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955). Mary’s parents, Samuel and Patsy McLeod, were former slaves in Mayesville, S.C. Everyone in the family worked picking cotton; Mary was the only one of their seventeen children to attend school. A missionary woman offered young Mary the opportunity to further her education at the Scotia Seminary in North Carolina and then at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. She completed her studies at Moody in 1895, her heart set on being a missionary to Africa. Racial prejudice crushed Mary’s dreams when a church board denied her application.
Mary was resolute in her desire to serve God. She went to Florida to teach in a missionary school and started her own school in Daytona Beach in 1904 with $1.65 in her pocket. Above the doorway, she carved the name “Faith Hall.” The school still exists today as Bethune-Cookman University.
Mary’s efforts extended beyond education. She registered men and women to vote, standing up to threats by the Ku Klux Klan. She served by special appointment under U.S. presidents and was a noted ambassador on behalf of African Americans. In 1953, one of Mary’s lifelong dreams came true when she was sent to Africa for the presidential inauguration in Liberia.
Mary’s life and accomplishments are examples of what God can do through someone willing to faithfully serve Him. But the victorious end of her story does not mean we should forget the difficult beginning and the closed doors she encountered. Sometimes you and I might feel discouraged in doing good. Like Mary, we may see our efforts to serve Him shut down. But in his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (6:9–10).
Paul says that at God’s appointed time, “we will reap a harvest” (v. 10). While we may never understand the whole story in our lifetime, we are still called to follow faithfully and serve humbly. May we, like Mary, resist discouragement, trust the harvest to God, and never become weary in doing good to serve others for His glory.