Ina Tebbs’ faith is inspirational. She heard God’s call to mission, trained diligently for it, and faithfully served him overseas for 60 years.
Ina Jane Tebbs was born in Hamilton on April 4, 1912 and graduated into her Lord’s presence just six months short of her 100th birthday. For all that time Hamilton Central Baptist was her church family.
As a 16-year-old at Central Baptist’s old London Street building, she made a decision to follow Jesus. A few years later at the Ngaruawahia Easter Convention she responded to an appeal for service in China.
Ina felt that nursing was the most useful skill to acquire in preparation. She completed that training and moved to study at what is now Laidlaw College, under the leadership of J. O. Sanders.
Ina was accepted for service in China by the China Inland Mission, now OMF, in 1939. She arrived in Shanghai on October 18, 1940. She served at Borden Memorial Hospital in Sichuan Prefecture working leper patients until 1951, when the communist takeover forced withdrawal of all CIM missionaries.
Holding firm to her mission call, Ina accepted a new assignment in Kuala Kuba, north of Kuala Lumpur (then Malaya). Ina wrote that she had never before experienced such spiritual oppression.
In 1955 Ina reported that her three major challenges were ignorance, indifference and intimidation. She told of the daily challenges of stones being thrown on their tin roof if they tried to hold meetings and mud thrown at newly washed clothes on the washing line.
She persevered. A small clinic opened to treat those who couldn’t go to a doctor and barriers began to break down. Ina and her coworker started a children’s programme on the front porch of their one-bedroom hut. The adults would allow their children to come and then stand and listen from the shadows.
One day a Hakka woman explained to Ina that she had been sold to the devil. The woman was terrified because the spirits had told the people to kill her. That very evening the chanting was so loud the two missionary women ventured out to investigate. Ina, Bible in hand, walked into the area where the rites were being conducted. She claimed it for the Lord and immediately the chanting and dancing stopped, knives were dropped, and the woman’s life was saved.
A short time later, Ina was hospitalised in Singapore. There she heard the story of her nurse, Charity, also a follower of Jesus. Charity had no support and suffered persecution from family and other nurses.
God used this situation to call Ina to Singapore to establish the Nurses’ Christian Fellowship to disciple nurses and equip them to reach out to others. This work flourished, and by the time Ina had retired back to Hamilton in 1966 she had seen many groups grow and multiply.
Ina never retired from missionary work. Back in New Zealand she continued to encourage people to find their part in what God was doing in the world. One could never leave Ina without being inspired to keep sharing the good news of Jesus to those who didn’t yet know him. She influenced many lives from her room, both through talking to them directly and in continuing the vital ministry of prayer.
The day she received her final reward, October 18, was the 71st anniversary of her arrival in China. Well done, good and faithful servant.
• OMF is a strategic mission partner of MISSION WORLD.