by Maureen Crow
In 1950, Gordon and Eileen Williamson set sail for Pakistan on a new adventure: to be witnesses for Christ among the millions of Muslims living there. However, it would not be my parents’ first experience of Pakistan. During World War II, the British army posted my father to Karachi as an officer. Undoubtedly, that first-hand glimpse of Islam and its failure to transform lives contributed to their desire to return as witnesses for Christ.
When my parents, my three sisters and I arrived in the port city of Karachi, the capital at the time, accommodation was difficult to find on our limited support. We ended up living in old army barracks, which leaked horribly during the monsoon rains and where rats visited at night. Throughout the Pakistani years, my parents’ financial support remained rather meagre, so we often ate just bread and jam at night after our hot midday meal. However, we never went hungry and God always provided.
We attended the international school, which held high standards and where English was spoken. My parents did their best to provide a happy life for us and, many Saturdays, we packed a picnic lunch and big sun hats and took off to the beach, where temperatures could easily surpass 370C.
Ministry in Karachi
Neither of my parents had much formal Bible training before becoming missionaries. My father had worked as a ship’s purser and my mother had worked as a secretary. However, they studied the Bible extensively and my father learned to speak Hindi and Urdu fluently. As young, single missionaries before the war, both had worked in India.
Their continual sacrifices for other people evidenced their love for Christ. Also living in a simple room in the barracks that we called home, was a former Muslim who had lost his wife and family after trusting Christ. Often, our mother would share food with him since he was poor.
Every afternoon Dad worked at the Bible Society. He had a desk and some easy chairs where passers-by, who chose to, could come in and sit down. Since there was an attractive window display with open Bibles and Scripture portions, Muslim men often came in to discuss what they read. Wonderful discussions ensued and several eventually came to faith in Christ. Sadly, thereafter they disappeared. My father had strong reasons to suspect that they had been poisoned for their faith. Such was the cost of a conversion at that time. In many instances, that would most likely be repeated today.
My father spent hours in the local bazaar sharing the gospel with shopkeepers and passers-by, and he spent one day per week at the docks of this bustling port city. He distributed Christian literature including booklets containing the Gospels and Bibles. Through these efforts, several Muslim men and navy personnel trusted Christ. After prayers, tears and much effort, my parents started an assembly but it was a challenging ministry.
…we never went hungry and God always provided
The South African Years
After five years in Pakistan, we returned to the USA. My two older sisters, I am the third sibling of four, would soon need higher education and Pakistan would not have been a suitable environment, being Muslim and male-dominated. We spent three happy years there. However, my parents were anxious to continue their ministry among Hindus and Muslims. After doing some research, my father learned of assembly work in South Africa among these people groups and, in 1958, we set sail for Durban.
My parents quickly integrated into the ministry and started working in the two small Indian assemblies. Besides teaching and preaching the gospel, they visited and encouraged believers in their homes and held several children’s clubs. As my parents did in Pakistan, they opened our home to people from different strata of society, including nurses in training, university students and visiting missionaries.
My father regularly mailed gospel records and portable players to folks in various African countries. They were supplied by Recordings Network, formerly Gospel Recordings. Often, he received letters from the recipients saying that they had been converted as they listened. In 1968, at the age of 65, my father succumbed to a fatal heart attack, but my mother continued in the ministry until she returned to the USA in 1973. By this time, my two older sisters were married to fine Christian men. Paul Logan and Lois, my second sister, served the Lord in Zambia for many years. Even after Paul went home to be with the Lord, Lois continued her ministry in Zambia until she retired. Two of their daughters continued this legacy: Martha Logan still serves in Zambia today and another daughter, Joy Beer, who, with her husband, Timothy, and their children, also served in Zambia from 1996 to 2021.
The French Connection
After my mother retired from her service in South Africa and we returned to the USA, I taught in a Christian high school for many years. However, I knew that I would not spend the rest of my life teaching. My students had constant exposure to God’s Word whereas so many people in the world had never heard the gospel. After my mum went Home to Heaven, I began praying that God would open a door for me to witness for Him elsewhere.
In 1992, I arrived in Strasbourg, France, with a small team to work among immigrants and refugees, many of whom were Muslims.
The Strasbourg Lighthouse
With help from the assembly our team attended, we opened a centre in a high-crime area of Strasbourg. We named it the Lighthouse, and it became a venue for women’s Bible studies, English classes, fun evenings for young people, and debates between an imam and a local Christian well versed in the Qur’an.
Over the years, the Lord moved hearts and brought people to Himself, not just through the Lighthouse but also through other forms of witness. One testimony stands out: I met a refugee in the centre of town who was trying to sell local newspapers to earn a few cents. He was wearing a heavy sweater and perspiring in the warm weather. When I asked why he was thus clad, he said he had no choice since he had no other clothes. I also asked how his paper sales were going. He said that some days, he sold no papers and other days one or two. Moved by the Holy Spirit, I said, ‘Ayus, there is Someone who can help you sell more papers. His name is Jesus and I’m going to pray that He will help you increase your sales.’
When I returned a week later, bringing with me several lightweight shirts from men in my church, his face was beaming. He told me that he had sold an average of four or five papers per day – something that had not happened before. When I explained the message of salvation to him, he believed immediately and, to this day, he has not turned back. He is passionate about sharing his faith: when he visited his family in Nigeria, which he had fled for political reasons, he led all his Muslim uncles to Christ.
I am still in contact with Ayus and visit him and his family when I go to Strasbourg. He married a sweet Nigerian woman who professed Christ as her Saviour in my living room.
Montpellier on the Mediterranean
In 2008, I attended the European Christian Workers’ Conference, which is an annual retreat held in the lovely French Alps, for English-speaking assembly missionaries serving in Europe. There, I met Colin Crow. I did not know then that, in less than two years, Colin would become my husband. After a fairy tale romance, we married in Strasbourg in 2010, and soon after I moved to Montpellier in southern France.
As in other parts of France, many immigrants and refugees who need the Lord live here. So, soon after I arrived at the church in Montpellier, with a few others we started an evangelistic team, Aime Ton Prochain (Love Thy Neighbour). We spent many Saturdays in the large public square, chatting with interested people and distributing literature. Today, young people in France will often readily talk about spiritual subjects. Over this past year, we have had contact with several Afghans as well as a Nigerian Christian refugee, Seyi, and her children, who were forced to flee their countries. Now, Seyi and her family live in a tiny basement apartment in our village, thanks to the kindness of a Christian neighbour who does not charge them rent.
When I reflect on my parents’ story, I see the Lord’s hand in preparing the way for my cross-cultural work today. Europe teems with refugees and immigrants who need Him. Colin and I enjoy practising hospitality and reaching out to minority groups, and it is a joy to impact lives for His Kingdom.