Healing and Revival
"Healing and Missions"
Mattie Elmina Perry was born to the Rev. James A. Perry and Jane (Holden) Perry on May 15, 1868 in Cheohee, Oconee County, South Carolina. Her family was very devout and she had an amazing inheritance in Christ. Her grandmother was known for a life of prayer and her family held daily devotionals. Mattie learned to pray early from both her parents, and clearly had an intercessory call on her life. Her father James was a Methodist preacher and intercessor. He prayed for hours and led hundreds to Christ. Although surrounded by a godly family Perry describes coming under conviction to know God personally around nine years old. For the next three years she read the Bible and prayed and around the age of twelve gave herself totally to God.
In 1884 Perry lost her older sister and younger brother to illness. She struggled with why God had let her live and not her siblings. Her heart began to be stirred for Missions. Her grandmother died, and then her baby brother and the call of God for the lost intensified in her life. She struggled with the thought of giving up her family and going to a foreign land. In June 1887 Perry knelt by her bed and gave her all to Christ, no matter what the outcome was. She was sanctified in the power of God. Within a few months she traveled with her father to a camp meeting where she gave her testimony and led people to Christ. Her missionary work was just beginning.
Perry's education was spotty, sometimes she attended school and sometimes she taught herself. She cried out to God for a college education to prepare her for the mission field. The family did not have money for it, but God put it on the heart of a woman in her town to cover her expenses. Perry attended Williamston Female College and immediately began holding prayer meetings and leading people to Christ. Unfortunately Perry pushed herself so hard that she collapsed and needed to return home to recover. She struggled with blindness, neuralgia, and many other physical issues. Perry had been taught that the days of miracles were over. However she attended a divine healing meeting, probably through the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and was instantly healed of all her problems. She returned to school and graduated in 1892.
Feeling an overwhelming missionary call Perry began door to door visitation, prayed for and cared for the sick, handed out tracts, and brought many to Christ. She was not afraid to go into the poorest areas of town to minister to the broken and downtrodden. Her heart was burning to China and she attempted to attend Scariatt Missionary Training School but could not go. She tried to get the Methodist Missionary Board to support her, but they turned her down as well. She began to hold tent meetings throughout the area and did that for six years. Sometimes family members joined her, as well as other missionaries. She saw thousands give their souls to Christ. She traveled primarily through the Carolinas and Georgia, but eventually visited twelve states and thousands of miles. They made a point to have services for the local black community, because they were often excluded from other services. After three years in tent service God began to speak to Perry about teaching on healing. She had seen many healed, but had never taught on the subject. She promised God she would read everything in the scripture about it. They began holding healing services as well as salvation services and saw many people healed as well as saved.
Perry was profoundly affected by A. B. Simpson's heart for missions. She wanted to attend the New York Missionary Training Institute run by the Alliance, but did not have the funds to attend. Seeking God in prayer He assured her that she would be going there. In 1895 God made the way for her to attend. This was a time of remarkable answers to prayer, living by faith, and being healed by Christ. God met her day by providing everything she needed. Perry's heart was still burdened for China, but she could not go. God spoke to her that if she was willing He would send someone in her place, and it would be her job to raise the finances. Her heart was knit with another woman missionary and she supported that missionary as long as she was in China.
Perry continued her tent evangelism through the 1890s primarily working with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. She raised funds for Alliance Missionaries, helped coordinate Alliance Conventions, and handed out Alliance tracts. She was committed to the Four-Fold Gospel, including Divine Healing. One of the people she prayed for was F. F. Bosworth, who had been ill for 8 years and was instantly healed when she prayed for him. Then in the fall of 1898 God asked Perry to start a school. This would be a tremendous undertaking as she had no money, no regular support, and no obvious means of making it happen. Perry had been seeing many young people called to Christ. Over and over again she was approached by them asking how to get training when there was no money to go to school. It broke Perry's heart and she cried out for eleven years to her Heavenly Father asking Him to provide. She found an unfinished 125 room hotel in Marion, South Carolina and set out to start the school.
The cost was seemingly overwhelming, but God provided for each payment. They named the school Elhanan Training Institute. Elhanan meant "precious gift from God." because only God could have provided. The school started with 19 students the first year and 79 the second. The third year school grew to include children, many who were orphans or came from broken homes. The school was so full they eventually built another dormitory. Like George Mueller the school was a "faith endeavor" and they never knew where finances or food would come from. Perry and her staff often "prayed in" what was needed on a day by day basis. When Perry was called to travel she often had no money in her purse and no way to pay for the trip. God would miraculously provide through people all along the way and she would return home taken care of. One of her most famous students was Lillian Trasher, a woman who started an orphanage in Egypt.
Perry was also a strong prohibitionist. She fought to close down bars to stop the damage she saw alcohol doing to families. She would take people to the bars and seek to lead the owners to Christ. She held prayer meetings and even spoke to the state legislature on the problems of alcoholism in families. Due to her influence her county became a "dry county." She shared the work of caring for 140 orphans and students. The legislature voted and provided $1000 for the work she was doing. So much work was done through letters that Perry decided to open at Post Office at the school. She was turned down on every side but God opened the door to it through a local judge. The Postal Service paid Perry to mail her own letters! She said when that happened "the world became her parish."
During much of this time the stress of being responsible for all the teachers, students, and children was weighing on Perry. She experienced health issues and spent most of her time in a wheelchair. (The rolling chair as it was referred to.) Although she believed in divine healing she struggled for 14 years with her weaknesses and limitations. She was given up to die several times and every time God pulled her through. At the end of 14 years she was utterly and completely healed of every disease. She was so healthy that later in her life she describes the 14 years seeming as a dream, her life was so utterly different. From that time on she was an evangelist, revivalist, and a teacher on divine healing. Every meeting she held she prayed for the sick. Over the next several years she prayed for thousands of people and saw a multitude of healings.
The school lasted for 25 years, but Perry was feeling the need to focus more time on in her evangelistic ministry from 1920 on. God also called her to create a Bible Correspondence School so people at a distance could receive training. She also became ordained by the South Florida Union Pentecostal Association in 1922. Then one day Elhanan's children's dormitory burnt down and they had to give up their orphans, as they had no place to house them anymore. The decision was made to close down the school entirely in 1927. Her family tried to restart it a couple of times, but it had been carried by Perry's prayers and charisma. It simply was never successful after that. Perry became ordained in the fledgling Assembly of God Denomination in 1927. She retained her home on the Elhanan site, but while traveling in June 1928 the remaining buildings burned down utterly severing her ties with Elhanan forever. In 1928 God spoke to her to go to the Holy Lands. Starting with no money God provided for every step of the way. As Perry traveled she held evangelistic and healing meetings, including in the orphanage of her former student Lilian Trasher for seven weeks.
From 1929 until 1937 Perry averaged traveling 11,000 miles a year doing evangelistic and healing meetings, often starting with no money for her trips and no human way of meeting her needs. God always provided. In 1937 Perry became associated with God's Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was listed as a teacher in the school in 1940 at 71 years old. Her traveling slowed to a few thousand miles a year. Once again she had a home and was surrounded by loving brothers and sisters in Christ. She regularly produced material for her Elhanan Bible Course and wrote for "The Revivalist" magazine. She spent much of her day praying for the sick, when they came to the Bible School for help.
Late in her Life Perry returned to South Carolina to be near her family. She died November 2, 1957. Perry was well loved and respected for her life in Christ. Perry wrote a book about her life called "Christ and Answered Prayer," which was published in 1939.
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