Rev. Freda Mae Farmer, a former missionary of Wesleyan World Missions (now Global Partners), passed away on February 13 just six months before her 100th birthday.

Born in Knox County, Ohio, Rev. Farmer gave her life to Christ as a young adult after attending a particularly influential Bible study, according to her niece Nancy Sapp. It was then that she began to feel the call to go and serve as a missionary. Following her education at Cleveland Bible College — now Malone — she did just that.

Her time serving cross-culturally originally began in 1954 with the Society of Friends in Taiwan. She spent 21 years there before transitioning over to serve in Indonesia with The Wesleyan Church until 1989. According to a fellow Global Partners alumnus, James (Jim) Vermilya, Rev. Farmer was instrumental in helping to plant the first Wesleyan Church in Indonesia.

Rev. Robert (Bob) and Julia Smith’s service with Wesleyan World Missions overlapped with Rev. Farmer’s time spent in Indonesia. Julia explained that following her and Bob’s arrival in Indonesia (after serving in the Philippines), Bob began leading the building of the Bible college in Magelang, Central Java, where they and Rev. Farmer taught for years.

Julia explained that in Indonesia, it was required that children learn more about their religion in public school. If a school was largely located in a Muslim community, they were to be taught by Muslim teachers. If there were Christian children in the area, they were to be taught Christianity. “(They believed) to have moral character, you must be trained in your religion,” Julia said.

Because of that, one of the main focuses of the Wesleyan Bible college was to teach individuals to be able to go into schools and teach Christianity. Rev. Farmer focused on teaching at the Bible college, as well as being a mentor to several students. She was also a faculty advisor for a church plant in a nearby village, Julia wrote.

Though the transition from speaking Chinese in Taiwan to learning the Indonesian language was difficult, Julia said that she always admired Rev. Farmer for working hard and persevering.

“Sometimes her command of the Indonesian language was faltering; but each time she stood behind the pulpit to deliver God’s word, the message on her heart flowed out through her mouth with accuracy and power,” Julia wrote. “She was fluent in her delivery of God’s Word.”

One student in particular really took to Rev. Farmer’s mentorship, which ultimately led to a lasting legacy. Julia said Rev. Farmer advised a student named Rosma to focus on teaching children in Sunday School about the importance of prayer. As a result, Rosma would have prayer meetings with the children — in a location that was predominantly Muslim — where all they would do was pray. Eventually, their mothers joined the prayer group, revival broke out and several people were saved.

Upon graduation from the Bible college, Rosma and her husband moved back to their home island of Sumatra. There, they planted a church and established a Christian school where Rosma serves as the headmaster. Praise God for using Rev. Farmer to plant seeds in Rosma’s life!

Rev. Farmer’s faithfulness to the Lord and her kindness toward children are two of her most memorable characteristics. Julia said when her son Jonathan was still in elementary school, he’d often find himself at Rev. Farmer’s house. They’d talk about their common interest in birds and he’d kneel at her coffee table, drawing pictures of the birds he found in one of her books.

Rev. Farmer’s nieces also remember their bright and loving Aunt Freda. Betty Tiebout, Charlotte Norris and Nancy Sapp recalled sitting around her flannelgraph as she taught them Bible stories. They also remember singing songs with her, receiving gifts of clothing and dolls from overseas, seeing her off at the train station and the ever-present encouragement from Aunt Freda to read their Bibles and go to church.

Her dedication to spreading the love of the Lord continued even in the nursing home and the legacy of her faithfulness lives on.

To read Rev. Farmer’s obituary, click here 

Heather Auker is the communication supervisor for Global Partners.