As we journey on this road called life, we each have a story to tell. Life brings many challenges, celebrations, defeats, and victories along the way. We can learn a lot by reading stories, and hearing about events in the lives of others. Beyond All This: Thirty Years with the Mountain Peasants of Haiti, is a book written by Mildred Anderson. The book recounts stories and details from the life of Bertha Holdeman, “Granny”, as she served in Haiti.
Granny was born in 1888. Throughout the first several years of her life, before moving to Haiti, she raised many children, served the sick, and experienced a variety of struggles. It is through these trials that came in her life before her time in Haiti that she knew the Lord had prepared her for the struggles she would experience in Haiti. The Lord worked in the heart of Granny in a variety ways, which enabled her to know He was calling her to serve overseas.
Eargerness to Go:
Shortly after hearing a missionary from Africa share Isaiah 6: “Here am I, send me.” Her heart yearned to go to those who lived in darkness and fear. The burden had been placed in her heart, but the time and place to go had not yet developed.
After a series of events, Granny found herself alone in Tampa where she met the Turnbull family, along with their 21 year old son Wallace. The Turnbull’s were preparing to move to Haiti and serve as missionaries. She helped them prepare for the intense situations they would experience. Over the course of time she spent helping them prepare for their move, a desire to serve in Haiti grew within her heart. As she helped pack, she mentioned that she wanted to be packed in their trunk!
One month later she received a letter from the Turnbull’s in Haiti. They told her of the land they had found to do ministry on, and asked if she could manage on $40 a month to come and help. At this point Granny was 59 years old, and the desire to go to those who lived in darkness and fear was stronger than ever. She accepted the call to travel to Haiti with hardly anything and knew the Lord would provide.
Joyfully Living with Little:
Granny lived on very little while she was in Haiti. She often spent less than $3 a year on clothes. Her daughter, Eleanor, came to visit her mother in Haiti to “scrutinize” her work. Shortly after arriving Eleanor fell in love with the Turnbull’s son, Wallace, and married him one year later. Granny, Wallace, and Eleanor became a team.
Granny learned to speak Creole quickly and began working as a nurse. She set-up a “public clinic” with a box of medical supplies and sat under an avocado tree beside her home. At times she saw more than 300 patients a day! As she got to know the people of Haiti more, her passion for them grew as she saw their desire for change and how desperately they wanted to learn.
She was convinced that the “better life” the people desired could only come if they could read and understand Christian literature. As kids began to learn to read Granny taught the concept of one child teaching another, so more students could continue to learn. The work of the Lord through the life of Granny is one that will never be forgotten. For more details and first-hand accounts of the story of Granny and her work in Haiti, you can purchase Beyond All This.