Yesterday evening, my mother-in-law, Penelope (often known as Penny) Dale graduated from this life into the presence of Jesus. She has been longing to see him for many years, and so for her, this was a joyous release.
Born in New Zealand, in 1924, Penny spent most of the formative years of her life in the care of the Armitage family. (Her own father was very sick, and so she lived from the ages of two to ten with a wonderful Christian family who introduced her to Jesus.) Then on to boarding school.
At 18, Penny trained to be a nurse at the same hospital where Tony and I trained–St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London (founded in 1123, just to put American history in perspective.) It was there she met Donald, who was training as a doctor. Her stories of the war years in London revealed some of the drama they lived through. When they both discovered they had been called to China (Penny at the age of 5), it was natural they would end up getting married and going together.
Since Donald had asthma, they were turned down by every mission agency they applied to, but God’s call was clear, and they decided to go anyway.
In 1948, with their two young sons, Andrew and Robin, they sailed on a slow boat to China. The trip took three months. Their destination was a small city needing a doctor. Their wages, Ten Sacks of Rice! But within 6 weeks of their arrival, the Communists took over their area, and they were forced to flee for their lives. They eventually landed in Taiwan, which is where my husband, Tony, was born.
Christian Clinic was the medical practice they founded, and it treated people from all over the island. But they also were involved in many other ventures. They helped bring Navigators, Scripture Union, Full Gospel Business Men International to Taiwan. They helped to start two schools, including Morrison Academy, the school from which their three sons graduated. Triple C Camps inspired many of the young people in the missions community to become lifelong followers of Jesus. Because they weren’t associated with any denomination or mission agency, they had wide acceptance from the missionary community as a whole.
Penny longed to know more of Jesus. In the mid 1950s, while waiting on God on her own, she was baptized in the Holy Spirit. She loved Jesus with all of her heart, dedicating her life to serving him. Some of the most formative experiences of Tony’s life occurred when the Holy Spirit spoke to her–like the time he was instantly healed of severe hepatitis in response to the prayers of her and a friend. Or the time when God revealed to her that Tony was at a movie theater (on a Sunday, which made it sinful!) and he had to ‘fess up and admit that she was right.
Donald and Penny moved from Taiwan to Hong Kong in the late seventies. Donald helped work with the Vietnamese boat people in the refugee camps. Penny became very involved with Women’s Aglow, even taking responsibility for their work in SE Asia for a while. Then as China opened, they helped an organization founded by some Chinese businessmen to get professionals from around the world into positions within China.
In 1992, they moved here to Texas to be closer to us. Donald died in 1998, but Penny continued in fruitful ministry for many years. She started Bible studies in the retirement center where she lived until failing health prevented her from doing more.
Even in her last few months of life, she had a profound impact on some of those who helped care for her, including one person whose life was totally turned around by her contact with Penny.
Penny, we will miss you as you embark on your next great adventure!