A Legacy that Endures – Miss Edith K. J. Gulston (1889–1965)
When the time came to free God’s people from Egyptian bondage, the Holy Spirit raised up Jochebed and Miriam. In a sadder phase of their history, He used Ruth and Anna. Abigail and Bathsheba would rise to honor as well. In apostolic times he employed Priscilla; and Paul’s last words recorded in Holy Writ are a warm greeting to Claudia, “the lame lady.”
When the time came for the gospel to work mightily in the Republic of Venezuela, the Spirit raised up the Misses Eva Watson, Edith Gulston, Ruth Scott, Fanny Goff, Sadie McIlwaine, and “the time would fail me to tell of” other ladies, single and married. These women come under the common denominator of having taught and administered schools that were (and are) a major bonus in the testimony, but they could be better remembered for their one-on-one evangelism and their mother-in-Israel ministries.
The editor of this magazine calls for bringing to memory “… women of a past generation who lived for God and left a mark.” Edith Gulston did both. She is honored for the way in which she worked in the Lord’s work. Paul’s evaluation of two dozen Christians in Romans chapter 16 has been described as a preview of the judgment seat of Christ. If Edith had been in Rome at the time, she would have been included in verse 12, “which labored much in the Lord.”
She was one of approximately a dozen men and women that the assemblies in Ontario sent to the Latin American republic in the early decades of the last century. For the first twelve years she was in Puerto Cabello, the cradle of assembly activity in the nation. Miss Watson had established the Colegio Evanglico in 1919. Poverty and ignorance still abounded (abound!), but the cutting edge of Roman persecution had been blunted.
But a new candlestick was lit in an even more demanding environment: the village of El Mene. Today you could drive there from the Port in less than an hour, but, when she went, you would have had to risk “a day and a night in the deep” before going inland on horseback.
The petroleum basin underneath El Mene was a disappointment, but the triumphs of the gospel in the exploration phase early in the 1930s converted that swollen, wild hamlet into a big name in the annals of gospel pioneering. An assembly was formed and practical Christianity called for something more. Edith established a day school that she would administer from 1936 to 1954. She was plumber, carpenter, gardener, school teacher, nurse, and an evangelist, as well as spiritual advisor to all.
One of the brethren told of how unsaved and saved would come to him at night, require that he light a lamp and awake la seoritaso that she would dress a machete cut or whatever. A lady asked her: “Sister, how is it possible that year after year you do so much for these people when often you do not receive so much as a thank you?” Her reply was quintessential Edith Gulston: “Do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
When a couple who knew her well was asked for input to this biographical sketch, the first thought that came to their mind was a comment that another worker had made to them in 1947: “Edith knows her Lord.” She could have said, “There stood by me this night the angel of God, Whose I am, and Whom I serve.”
Edith was not erudite. After one of her trips out to purchase supplies, she planned to toss in the sailboat as far as the mouth of the river, and then ride by donkey from the mouth to El Mene. She had told her houseboy, a youth known in the village by the inelegant nickname of Mouthful, to await her instructions. So, her telegram to the postmaster read simply: “send mouthful to the mouth!”
But our sister reached age 65, and Miss Martha Kember, who had been cut out of the same bolt of cloth in Ontario, was willing and able to undertake the arduous role. Miss Gulston returned to Puerto Cabello.
To retire? No; to commence Phase Three. The need of a home for aged Christians, almost all of them indigent, had been evident for some time. Who better than E.K.J.G. to get it running, and to work there for ten years? A lady that she brought to Christ in those days was the key to opening the door for a new work, and eventually an assembly, in the outskirts of the city.
Our sister was very disciplined and expected the same of others. She would turn her head in incredulity and look at anyone who gave a hint of unbelief or indecision. She expected that one would do what needed to be done, and it is little wonder that women speak of learning valuable lessons while living with her.
For example: “When I was 18 years old, she decided that the Lord wanted her to go to a conference to support the new workers there. I would take an old Volkswagen Beetle, she stated, and drive eight hours with my new license. We had no idea of what to do if the car broke down. She absolutely depended on her Lord to get us there and back. And He did.”
But there is another comment of Miss Gulston’s -made in confidence- that has a message for us. She remarked: “I have been in the Lord’s work for thirty years, and in all that time I have been sustained by old maids and widows.” All praise to “old maids and widows,” but those who have the responsibility to distribute the assembly gifts, please note.