News Articles

10/24/97 95-year-old’s ‘retirement’ continues in Chinese outreach

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–Lola Mae Daniel turned 95 in late September, doing what God called her to do nine decades ago: teaching Chinese-speaking people about Jesus.
The big difference is that she is teaching in Austin, Texas, where she lives in a retirement apartment building — not China or Taiwan or Hong Kong where she would rather be.
Daniel is the oldest known Mission Service Corps volunteer in the Southern Baptist Convention. While not as active as she once was, she still teaches English — using the Bible — to a group of Chinese women in her home once a week and Sunday school in the international department at Austin’s Hyde Park Baptist Church.
“It’s never too late to serve if the Lord is calling,” Daniel said, although admitting if she had her druthers she would be in China. “I’d be there, right now, if I could,” she said.
It almost seems as if God gave the spry senior a missions career after she reached retirement age.
Daniel said she has known most of her life that God called her to be a missionary to China. When she was a small child, she recalled, her mother asked her where she was going when she went out to play. “I would tell her I was going to China, but that I would be back for lunch,” Daniel said with a laugh.
Daniel finished Howard Payne University in 1926 and was selected as a mission volunteer. But the International Mission Board (then Foreign Mission Board) did not have the money to send missionaries at the time.
“They told us we could go if we could pay our own way. A few could, but not many,” she recounted. Unable to pay her own way, she taught school and went on mission trips in the summer to scratch the mission itch in her soul.
She passed 35, the age at which missionary appointment was then cut off, but she did not give up hope. She was engaged once to be married, but times were hard and her fiancee joined the Navy. He was killed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. She still wears the engagement ring he gave her.
Life marched on: the war, then the communist takeover in China, then Korea. She continued to teach school and hope.
She went to Alaska and New York and San Francisco on summer mission trips, still dreaming of someday going to China. She was a volunteer in the 16-week Billy Graham Crusade in New York City, working primarily in Chinatown, where she was particularly drawn.
While she was teaching in Ozona, a small west Texas town, her opportunity came.
“I knew if I ever got to be 60, I would never go,” she said. Not long afterward, she read in the Texas Baptist Standard that missionaries were needed to teach in Taiwan and that those up to age 60 could apply.
She did and moved quickly on faith. She purchased her own airplane ticket and shipped some of her personal items to Taiwan in a box she got from a local funeral home.
She laughs as she recalls getting the call from the FMB telling her she was approved and telling them she could leave the next morning.
In Taiwan, she taught English at a mission school during the day and Bible studies at night. She served until she reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, then stayed on two more years. She came home for a while, then went back for another year.
Then Daniel came home and taught in a private school in San Antonio. At age 84, she retired again, only to learn that universities in the People’s Republic of China were recruiting teachers for their universities.
She applied immediately, and despite her age, was accepted. “They didn’t ask and I didn’t tell,” she said.
Finally, well beyond retirement age, she was able to serve in her beloved China, teaching at two schools for a semester each.
China was in her heart, as was sharing Jesus. She led 95 students to faith in Christ; 57 in one school and 38 in the other.
After her service in China, she was called to Howard Payne University where she counseled, taught and led Chinese — and other — students to Jesus Christ. During seven years working in the Brownwood, Texas, school, she led 114 students — some Chinese and some not — to faith in her Savior.
After seven years at Howard Payne, she “retired” again, this time to Austin, where she still keeps busy with her classes and her Sunday school.
She has a ready laugh and a story to tell. She is quick to point out her name is Daniel, without the “s.” “I tell the students that without the ‘s,’ it is singular. If it has an ‘s,’ it is plural, and I am still single.”
And, singular she is, in age, in experience and in commitment.

    About the Author

  • Dan Martin