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Account of Bertha Neta Stone née Zimmerman
(30 July 1921 - 4 October 2009)

Extended from the the account given at her thanksgiving service on 19 October 2009

Bertha's parents with her eldest brother and sister emigrated to Canada from Germany early in the last century. So Bertha was born in a log house on their farm in northern Ontario, near Lake Superior. Bertha said that as a little girl she used to sing a German hymn,

God is love, he loves even me.

She prayed her first prayer at her mother's knee. It is also part of a German hymn, and means:

I am but little, make my heart clean.
May no one live in it but Jesus alone.

One day when Bertha was about still very young, she was with some children playing "school", and Bertha was playing their teacher. Somebody said, "She's going to be a teacher". "No, I'm not", she said, "I'm going to be a missionary nurse!" That was the first time she thought of it, but later on it came about. The job did involve occasional school teaching as well.

Bertha had 3 sisters and 4 brothers, all older. At the age of 8, Bertha joined the others in milking the cows. Perhaps that is what gave her hand such a strong grip. The family all had good voices, and they used to sing in harmony while milking. Once, some years later, Bertha and two of her brothers sang Christian songs on air in a broadcast from Moody Bible Institute, Chicago.

School was 2 miles from the farm, so Bertha started when she was 6 years old. She used to walk there with her next older brother. Later on, she went to the technical school in what is now Thunder Bay, and learnt things like cooking and home economics, which were extremely useful later on.

Here is Bertha's own account of her conversion:
I accepted the Lord when I was 12 years of age. That portion of Scripture which says two shall be together, grinding at the mill ... the one shall be taken and the other left behind, to my mind meant my family would be taken if Jesus came and I would be left behind, and God wonderfully answered my prayer. I'd always prayed anyway, but this time I prayed, "send someone to show me how", and when I came back from hospital after an appendectomy, which I was afraid I might not survive, I insisted I wanted to go to the cottage prayer meeting of mostly old people, and I sat on an armchair and the minister put his hand on my arm and said, "Bertha, would you like to accept Christ tonight?" I said with tearful thanks, "Lord, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow", and that night driving home on December 19, I looked at the snow on the side of the road and it reminded me of Mother's washing on the line because the moon shining brightly with a deep blue sky above it looked like the clothes Mother put on the line after blueing, and I thanked the Lord that my heart looked cleansed like the snow outside freshly snowed.

I told the Lord that I would do anything he told me to do, when he told me. In my last year at Toronto Bible College, just before nursing training in Port Arthur, someone gave me a little tract with a picture of the Emperor of Ethiopia on it — that's when I knew "that's it". Of course, I didn't know it would mean only 14 years there and 20 years in India with Tony.

When Bertha left school she studied at Toronto Bible College, and then did nursing training in Port Arthur General Hospital, graduating in 1947. Two years later she went to Ethiopia as a missionary nurse with SIM. Before that, Bertha went around to churches with an SIM deputation man to raise her support for going to Ethiopia. At one church she had her talk prepared, but the Lord told her to tell the story of how she had given up a Christian man who was interested in her but didn't want to go abroad as a missionary. She didn't want to tell it, but the Lord kept insisting. During the story the deputation man was in side room changing into African costume for his part in the meeting. Afterwards he told her, "I don't know what you said, but half your support has already come in." It was given by a lady who explained that she had saved up for her son to go abroad as a missionary, but he had given up the idea. So she gave it all to Bertha.

About 12 years later Bertha met Tony on a ship when he was going to India for the second time, and Bertha going to Ethiopia for the third time. They would have travelled on different ships if they had not been delayed for medical reasons. She got her ticket from London on by special effort of the SIM London office — on the Saturday afternoon just before sailing. When queuing for allocation of dining tables before boarding, Tony found himself behind a girl wearing a green dress with an elaborate decorative pattern. That was Bertha, and they were placed at same 8-seater table. They became acquainted, and one evening on the Red Sea, more interested.

Bertha left the ship at Aden, and Tony went on to Bombay and then Delhi. They kept writing, but Bertha wanted to know what kind of person Tony was. Providentially, there were these links: a colleague of Tony's, and then Tony - a family living near him - a relative of theirs in Ethiopia - Bertha. So she got a good report. After a while Tony proposed by letter, and went to Ethiopia to get the answer. The evening before he arrived, Bertha still didn't know it — she wanted to say "Yes" but she had been called to Ethiopia. God showed her the answer as she re-read the story of Abraham receiving Isaac back (Gen. 22:1-19). She said, "So Tony is my Isaac?" and God said, "Yes". The same evening Tony was in a hotel room in Cairo, and the room filled with the sense of God's presence, saying it would work out (he had to lie on the floor).

Six months later Tony went to Ethiopia again to get married. There was one night's stopover in Cairo, but the airline had forgotten to book a hotel room for him. At 10.30 that night he walked a deserted street to the Anglical cathedral which he had seen on his previous visit. There was a light upstairs in the residential part. He knocked on the door and was given a bed, and breakfast next morning.

There were two wedding ceremonies, one being at the British consulate in Addis Ababa to get a marriage certificate. For this, Bertha had to swear that she was over 21, which made her bridesmaid giggle (she was in fact 41). In the afternoon there was a wedding service at the SIM chapel.

After a honeymoon in Ethiopia, they travelled to Delhi where Tony was teaching mathematics. Bertha started a childrens' Bible Club, and Bible studies with nurses, which went on for a while. Then for some years she was bringing up the two children and running the house. They returned permanently to the UK in 1984. Bertha's health was poor for some time, until about 10 yrs ago she became permanently bedridden. After a few years of that, God said to Tony, "Do you want Bertha?" He reasoned like this, "Since God gave me Bertha in the first place, she must be the best one." So he said "yes", and after that she was even more of a blessing to him, and continued to be a blessing to many others.

After being in hospital twice because of falls, Bertha was too immobile for Tony to care for her at home. From early 2006 she lived in a nursing home in Luton. She also lost her sight, but had Talking Books, and CDs of sermons from ChristChuch Redbourn. She prayed for people when she thought of them. And Bertha's gift and desire was to speak to people about her Saviour the Lord Jesus whenever she had the opportunity.. Among the tributes received at her funeral were two from people who became missionaries because of Bertha, one of whom came to know the Lord through her.

In September 2009, Tony was due to have a replacement pacemaker. An appointment suddenly became available and it was done on September 25th. Nine days later Bertha died. She had been out of the apartment for four years, so her absence was not sudden.

There is no doubt that taking Jesus as her Lord as well as Saviour when she was 12 saved Bertha from many difficulties. She was totally upright in character, but not judgmental. One or two stories will show something of what she was like:

One day when there were some cows on the mission station kept for milk, the man looking after them was not able to be there. Everybody was surprised when Bertha went out and milked them.

There was a soldier in the Ethiopian army whose wife had left him. He was not able to bring up their baby son, so Bertha looked after him for several years. Later on he was admitted to an orphanage.

When Bertha married Tony, she introduced him to trusting God for financial support. She also neatly dropped a seed thought into his mind about going to Bible College. On their first time back in this country, having a year at London Bible College (as it was known then) was a wonderful opportunity for Tony.

There were a few occasions when Bertha was unjustly accused of some fault, with no one else who knew what really happened. She would never accused her accuser, but always gracefully followed the biblical injunction "Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling" (1 Peter 3:9).

In Redbourn, Bertha go to know a Christian gipsy family at the travellers site. One day when she was on the site going to visit them she tripped on a speed breaker and fell to the ground, slightly stunned. There was nobody about, but a little dog saw her and barked loudly. People came out of the nearby caravan, took her in and gave her a cup of tea. Then they took her home in a lorry. So she got to know another family. And that Christmas, the little dog got a present of a cooked sausage.

There were several years during which Bertha had M.E. One evening she felt very "down" and called for their neighbour Ernest Oliver to come and pray for her. In his prayer Ernest quoted from Ps. 71:16, "go in the strength of the Lord". Two nights later Bertha heard these words repeated twice. At first she thought it was Tony, but it was not. When she heard the words again, she said "All right, Lord, I will". After that she was free of the M.E. and had strength to get about. Later on she got weak from other causes.

When Bertha was in hospital in more recent years, and still able to move about, she might notice that another patient on the ward needed help. Then Bertha would go over and give them assistance. Her nursing training had permanently linked up with her concern for people.

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Copyright (C) Anthony P. Stone 2010. This material may be freely used, provided the author is acknowledged.

Last updated: 29 September 2013