Healing and Revival


"Healing and Missions"


The family history section is the same for all the Duncan sisters. Their individual stories are told after this section, but will also have to include shared experiences.

The Duncan family history is one of difficulties and trials. Reverend James Duncan was a Methodist pastor. His wife, Mary, was a woman of great social ambition who never believed that her husband had a big enough parish or made enough money. Although there were seven children in the family, two boys and five girls, the children were treated as unwelcome burdens. Early on many of the family responsibilities were passed to the oldest girl Elizabeth who declared that she felt old from almost from the time of being a small child, because of the enormity of the responsibilities placed on her. The home was loveless and Mary Duncan kept the family in constant contention and emotional turmoil. After Reverend Duncan retired the conflict was so bad that he left the home to move in with his son. When he needed to return for financial reasons, his wife would not even allow him to be in the same room with her. After seven years of this behavior she abandoned the family altogether and told stories of her perceived mistreatment by her husband and children, and they were rejected by many of their former friends. The girls had started the Faith Home and their father was a constant support. These were his happiest years. When he died the family begged their mother to return, but she continued to be bitter and she died two years after her husband, without seeing any of her children again. She was buried in a pauper's grave.

Harriet May Duncan was born in May 1861 in Dansville, New York. She was a shy child. When she was four years old she had an accident and lost her sight in one eye. This increased her introversion to the point where she avoided meeting people. Hattie grew up attending her father's church and had an awareness of God but not a personal level. When she was 13 she stepped forward in response to an alter call in the Methodist church, but had no particular sense of conversion, conviction or change. She grew up, in her ow words as a "worldy Christian". Everything changed however when her sister Elizabeth V. Baker became very ill and they thought she would die. Elizabeth was healed miraculously and began to live a life of faith. Hattie thought she was too religious for her taste but increasingly came under conviction and finally gave her heart to the Lord. The sisters began to teach divine healing but were asked to leave the church they had known. Hattie began crying out to God for His presence to come into her. She attended a Holiness meeting where "the dear workers was praying with us, and he asked what we wanted him to pray for, and I said, 'that we might receive the Holy Spirit.' He laid his hands upon our heads, and as he prayed with me I felt something like an electric shock go all through my being, and I knew the Comforter had come to take possession. From that time there was a marked change in my experience, and the Lord began to use me more in His service."

The sisters began to pray regularly and to seek God for providing for them by faith. God began to provide in small miraculous ways for the family. They decided that God was asking them to take up the Faith Life as a continuous lifestyle. Mary Duncan was horrified and began to vilify her family, eventually abandoning the house altogether. At one point "having no money to purchase coal, in answer to prayer, the furnace fire showed no perceptible difference, giving out as much heat as if replenished as usual, though no coal was added from Friday night till Monday morning when we were able to buy another ton. The furnace was not touched during those two days and three nights, but warmed the house comfortably though it was cold winter weather."

The sisters began to push on in the things of God when in 1893 two devastating blows hit. Their eldest brother, Charles, was killed in a railroad accident and William, the second son, died of an illness. Hattie became angry because they really had believed that God would heal William. She turned away from God for a season. At one point Hattie herself became ill with a fever and symptoms similar to lock-jaw. She turned back to God and was healed. Then God began to speak to them about starting a Faith Home and a Mission work. One night while they were praying with a little group a prophetic word came and the promise that God would provide a Home was made. He did all that He promised. Elizabeth, who was now separated from her husband, rejoined the family in 1894. The sisters felt called to open the Elim Faith Home in 1895. While getting ready to open the mission Hattie dropped a large pot of boiling gravy that splashed back over her head and face. The burns were terrible. Hattie cried out to Jesus and all the pain disappeared immediately. Within two weeks her face was completely healed without a scar.

In 1898-1899 God called Elizabeth to India. Hattie and Susan Duncan carried on the work of running the Home, Church, and School. In 1901 they began publishing a journal called "Trust". Susan was the editor and Hattie the assistant editor of this journal for more than thirty years. About 1904 God asked them to create a church and Elim Tabernacle was born. In 1906 they founded the Rochester Training School for missions. The sisters sought God when they heard about the Pentecostal outpouring. They had a Pentecostal experience in 1907 in their June "Deeper Spiritual Life" convention. Hattie's niece Margerite began to speak in tongues convincing them that this was nothing of man's invention. People received visions, sang in the Spirit, fell under the power of God, and saw angels.

The Duncans newly established school became a key training ground for Pentecostal leaders. Over the life of the school over 400 missionaries were trained. Elizabeth, who had been the leader of the group unexpectedly died in 1915. Hattie, Susan, Mary, and Mary's daughter Olivia continued the work, with even greater success as the Pentecostal outpouring spread across the country. God had them close the school in the early 1920's and move to a smaller facility in preparation for their own home-going. In 1924 Elim Memorial Church was founded and by 1935 they had sent out over sixty missionaries and the sisters and their faith community had given over $100,000 to missions. Christ was their all for body, soul and spirit. After Susan died Hattie continued the work until her own death on September 16, 1940. A book titled "Chronicles Of A Faith Life" was published in 1915 with Elizabeth V. Baker as the primary author. It was published shortly after her death by her sisters.


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