Mrs. Madeline Kelso Dennis - 1991 A Award Recipient
Bio from 1991
Asbury College wishes to honor an alumna whose heart embraces the world and whose faith understands neither the meaning of retirement nor the limit for sacrificial service.
With her 1930 Asbury diploma in hand and a call to medical missions in her heart, Mrs. Madeline Kelso Dennis returned home for further training at the Methodist Hospital of Philadelphia. During these years of study, her college sweetheart continued his studies at Asbury Seminary in preparation for missionary service with the Methodist Church.
In time, the dark clouds of America’s depression were lifted. This ambitious couple, now happily married and eager to serve, set sail for Nan Ping, China only to discover a Japanese blockade of coastal China and ominous war clouds on the horizon. This Asbury team, however, would not be deterred. God had called them to China and there they ministered faithfully through the Japanese invasion and later the communist revolution of Mao Tse-tung.
By 1950 communist harassment was so intense that their lives were threatened. Mrs. Dennis's husband was secretly arrested and taken away. Harm was inevitable unless she sought asylum across China’s borders. In the long houses along the rivers of Sarawak, God blessed their efforts among the Ibans, legendary as headhunters. Mrs. Dennis soon established a school of nursing and instituted a public health program. Her husband set up a Bible college to train Iban pastors and teachers.
While in Sarawak, these Asburians met a poor family who had rescued an abandoned Chinese infant from a nearby garbage dump. Crippling polio and poverty had destined this young girl to a hopeless future. These two missionaries believed otherwise. Government bureaucracy ultimately yielded to the hand of God. The rest of the story for Doris, their adoptive daughter, included extensive medical care back home in Delaware, a great deal of love from her new parents, and a baccalaureate degree with honors from Asbury College.
In the meantime, this Asbury couple returned to Malaysia as superintendent of the Methodist Church and leaders for public health programs. Again communist harassment of the Gospel interrupted their ministry. A suspicious car accident along a mountainous road forced this nurse to bring her injured husband to the States for recuperation and early retirement.
In 1985, life on earth ended for her husband of nearly 50 years. Years in America never diminished this Asburian’s burden for the Chinese people. At age 76, Mrs. Madeline Kelso Dennis answered the call to teach in an old Methodist college in Fujian, China. After two years of teaching in the People’s Republic of China, she accepted a one-year assignment to teach English at Malaysia’s Methodist Theological Seminary, the college founded by her husband almost 40 years earlier.
“Retirement” is not in this 1930 graduate’s vocabulary. From Sarawak on the island of Borneo to the staff of Red Bird Mission in Beverly, Kentucky where she presently serves as a nurse, Madeline Kelso Dennis lives out the call to Christian service. The United Methodist Reporter, in a feature story, tells it best—“in a world that hears change and loves luxury, Madeline Kelso Dennis stands out as one willing to put aside comfort to continue serving in Christ’s name all her days.”
Other 1991 Recipients
Dr. Carl Fliermans '66
Rev. Russell Williams '66
Rev. Clarence Yates '41