BANGALORE, India (BP)–Rebekah Naylor has left colleagues with plenty to say after her 35 years as a medical missionary at Bangalore Baptist Hospital in India with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
Colleagues’ tributes to Naylor, who retired in February, follow:
— “Now even though she is retiring from the board, her influence will live on through the many lives she has touched — including ours. It is obvious to me that her handprints are all over Bangalore Baptist Hospital, but her influence is not limited there. Her life has been written across the missions world in indelible ink as a surgeon, an administrator, a fellow colleague and a personal friend to a multitude of people. Speaking for both [my wife] Audrey and myself, it has been our privilege to serve under her leadership and now to claim her as our forever friend.”
IMB missionary, south Asia
— “I have had the privilege of serving alongside Dr. Naylor as a missionary colleague for the past seven years. She is indeed a gracious servant of God. I have been touched by the way she cloaks the highest levels of competence and professionalism in a genuine humility of service to her Lord.
“Dr. Naylor has effectively bridged the gap between institution and people, showing us all that there is no need to choose a hospital ministry over and against evangelism and church planting or vice versa. Her ministry of the past decades has wonderfully integrated the two, setting a standard that we all hope to maintain in the years ahead.
“Thank you, Dr. Naylor, for the gift to south Asia that your life has been.”
Regional leader for south Asia, IMB
— “Rebekah Naylor and I have been friends and prayer partners since 1973 when we were in missionary orientation together. Through these many years, Rebekah has been an example of commitment to her call from the Lord. Even when things were bad and she was being hung in effigy and slandered by those she befriended, Rebekah never wavered from the task the Lord called her to — that of caring for the sick and needy, both physically and spiritually. She was consistent and steadfast and kept her eyes focused on Jesus. I am proud to call her friend and co-worker. She has been and continues to be an encouragement to me.”
IMB missionary, Pacific Rim
-– “Dr. Rebekah Naylor is the epitome of the genre ‘missionary doctor.’ Well-trained, decisive, compassionate and always on mission for Christ, Dr. Naylor left a legacy in India and far beyond. My wife and I will never forget our visit to her in Bangalore. She had created an exact representation of a rural village on the hospital grounds because she had discovered that children suffering from malnutrition went back home to their villages well, but because of nutritional misunderstandings, they soon returned suffering the same malady. Dr. Naylor hit upon the idea of requiring mothers to come and live in the hospital village, and while the children were treated, mothers were taught how to choose and prepare nutritiously significant meals in village circumstances — exactly like those in which they lived. Soon, few children ever returned for treatment, and Dr. Naylor had demonstrated that the essential problem was lack of knowledge rather than poverty. Naturally, this endeared her to thousands and paved the way for people to come to know Christ. Southern Baptists have seldom had a more effective, diligent and compassionate medical missionary.”
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
— “We first met Rebekah about 11 years ago when we were new to the field and stressed. We just saw Rebekah around and spoke to her briefly. She always acted toward us as though we’d been her friends all of her life. She’d already been on the field for many years and was a doctor and had no reason at all to be so kind. Surely, she’d seen people such as us come and go. She shared her concerns especially for obtaining a renewal of her license to practice medicine in India as well as visa renewals, but even though we knew she was worried, she was calm. Such was the case when her father was ill and close to death. That is the bottom line of what we feel about Rebekah Naylor. She has an aura of peace about her — a calm trust in the Lord even when things aren’t going so well, and genuine rejoicing and praise when they do.”
Ted and Colette Cranston*
IMB missionaries, south Asia
— “I’ve gotten to know Dr. Naylor here at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In hearing excerpts of her life stories, witnessing her passion for missions and simply seeing a life well invested for God’s Kingdom, I’ve decided we should hail her as the Southern Baptist Convention’s 20th-century equivalent to Lottie Moon. That’s intended to be stated as a great accolade.”
Keith E. Eitel
Dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, SWBTS
— “I grew up hearing the name Dr. Rebekah Naylor. As a child attending Girls in Action, we prayed for Dr. Naylor, for her hospital work and for the lost in her beloved India. Through the years, I followed her ministry through IMB literature and continued to pray for her. Then some 20 years later, while I was teaching Girls in Action, my pastor invited me to join him and a team going on a Crossover India trip. It would be my first overseas mission trip and the trip that ultimately would lead me back to south Asia to serve on the field full-time. I never dreamed we would actually meet Dr. Naylor during that trip, but she shared with us, dined with us and gave us a tour of Bangalore Baptist Hospital. Working as a secular journalist for years, I had been in the presence of many influential people. Yet I will never forget that first time meeting Dr. Naylor. I might as well have been a 9-year-old GA again — I stood awestruck as she radiantly showed off the new donated incubator in the hospital’s neonatal ward. Though now a colleague of Dr. Naylor’s for nearly a dozen years, I remain in awe of this godly woman. Her talent and drive are incredible, but it is her compassion and humility that set her apart and make her most worthy of emulating. Thank you, Dr. Naylor, for your faithful service unto the Lord and for living a life of obedience that draws us to want to do the same.”
IMB missionary, south Asia
— “South Carolina Baptists realize that Dr. Rebekah Naylor has lived in more places than South Carolina, but we claim her as our own missionary even though she only lived here for five years during her childhood. Her name is spoken with great respect and awe in South Carolina Baptist circles. So when the International Mission Board asked us to partner with south Asia, one of the delights was that we were going to be able to send teams to the ‘land of Rebekah Naylor.’ Of course, she would want us to focus more on the fact that south Asia is the land of the greatest concentration of lostness.
“The partnership has given us a great excuse to invite Rebekah back to South Carolina for missions conferences, annual meetings, senior adult conventions and medical mobilization events. It is amazing to see how many people she has stayed in touch with throughout the years and in spite of the distance. During her visits to South Carolina, I have seen delight on the faces of people who have prayed for and admired Dr. Naylor and are getting to meet her face to face. One retired director of missions says he is honored to meet her and expresses deep appreciation to her for her years of faithful service, and then you hear a single woman whom Rebekah has mentored for the past several years. On her most recent visit, many lined up to meet her and get her to autograph her biography. She is ‘one of ours’ and will continue to be. Most importantly, she is one of His humble servants who has impacted many lives for eternity.
“Rebekah, you are always welcome in South Carolina. We appreciate and admire the way that you have represented South Carolina Baptists, Southern Baptists and our Lord in India and beyond. I know as the next part of your journey begins that you will continue to honor His name and allow His love to spill out of your life onto many others. Your impact will continue for eternity. What more could anyone desire? We love you. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life and ministry through the years.”
Director, missions mobilization, South Carolina Baptist Convention
— “I first met Dr. Naylor in 1988 as a Baptist Student Union summer missionary. I was a new nurse right out of college and had the privilege of working at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital and living right next door to Dr. Naylor for the summer. Her love for the patients and the staff inspired me. She is so patient and kind. She truly walks in the Spirit as evidenced by His fruit flowing through her to those she comes in contact with. That summer, I remember it took a lot to get her ‘feathers ruffled.’ One evening she had my roommate and me over for dinner, and she calmly recounted her encounter with a huge snake on her back patio that day. She told us about it like it happened every day. Ten years later, after marrying and starting a family, I moved back into the south Asia region. Looking back, I believe Dr. Naylor’s ministry in India impacted my life and inspired me to serve in south Asia.”
IMB missionary, south Asia
— “We knew Rebekah at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, before her appointment to India. We had been appointed to the Philippines, but when IMB administration for India was transferred from Europe and the Middle East to south Asia and the Pacific, that country was among the new countries assigned to me to develop media use. There had been an unsuccessful attempt to use media formerly, so Rebekah was not too pleased to have a new media person visiting.
“But I was able to work with her Bangalore Baptist Hospital outreach teams in their visits and film ministry. When the opportunity to begin a radio program in the Kannada language came, we were able to work together, especially as Rebekah lived in Bangalore and I was only commuting in and out.
“As the missionary medical staff and other support missionaries began to dwindle, I recall Rebekah carrying much of the administrative load. She was the true ‘point person’ for the whole Karnataka ministry effort. During some of those years, she was under much pressure due to labor issues. She relied on and supported her hospital staff and the staff of the Indian Baptist Society.
“I was in her home having supper one evening when word came that a longtime pastor friend was brought to the hospital after suffering a heart attack. It was too late to save him. When Rebekah returned to her apartment, I recall that she was deeply grieving the loss of a friend.
“Rebekah loved audiocassette music to relax to when not on duty, so it was a joy to bring her a new tape from time to time. Also, chocolate cake mixes from Singapore and Philadelphia cream cheese seemed to make a hit.
“We’ve been off the field more than eight years now, but we occasionally see Rebekah here in Fort Worth. It was great during those years and a privilege to work alongside Rebekah in her beloved India.”
J.O. and Mabelee Terry
Retired IMB missionaries
— “For many years, I was actively involved in missions by working with Girls in Action and Baptist Women [now Women on Mission] as part of our Texas Woman’s Missionary Union program. I read about and admired the work of Dr. Rebekah Ann Naylor in India, as did all active Baptists in Texas. Some of my friends even had the opportunity to meet her, but not me. Then, more than a year ago, God called my husband and me to work in south Asia through the Masters Program of the IMB [for senior adults]. Through a mutual friend, we were able to communicate with her before we left the U.S. She was so supportive of our decision, and we felt as if we knew her after that brief conversation. I can’t begin to express in words the feelings that came over me to finally meet this servant of God once we were on the field. Although we grew up and lived not more than 30 miles apart in Texas, God sent us to south Asia to meet her. Her name is so respected among all of the nationals in India, and with her retirement, the great void will be hard to fill.”
IMB missionary, south Asia
*Name changed for security reasons. Compiled by Ethan Leyton, an International Mission Board missionary serving in south Asia as a music and media strategist.