Healing and Revival


.. "Healing through Prayer"


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 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 Mrs Duncan kept the family in constant contention and emotional turmoil. After Reverend Duncan retired the contention 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, so they were asked to leave their church and 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.

Mary was saved in 1875 while at a revival meeting in a Methodist church. She was attending Lima Seminary, a private school for girls. Having no particular instruction on how to continue in her faith she soon lapsed and grew cold. She attempted to pray but it didn't go anywhere and she gave up the practice. She returned to Rochester, New York two years later. She met and married Charles P. Work, the son of a Baptist minister. They eventually had a daughter named Olivia. She did not officially join the church because of her Methodist affiliation, but attended with her husband. She became involved in social work and sang in the choir.

Mary's daughter Olivia was saved and gave her heart to God. God spoke to Olivia to join the Baptist church. Mary became convicted and she too joined the church. Mary watched her father and sisters begin the faith work God had called them to. In the beginning it seemed all loss and suffering. She could not see the value in it. Still she could see the relationship they had with God and was drawn to it.

In 1893 their oldest brother was killed in a railroad accident. It utterly devastated Mary. She began to cry out to God for Him to reveal Himself to her. Suddenly the power of God came upon her and moved from the top of her head throughout her body. Jesus became more real to her than those who were physically near. She felt that she was full of glory. She now knew that she was saved, not just a head understanding but from the deepest part of her being.

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. 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. Mary's husband was highly involved in church work with the Baptists and did not get involved in the Duncan's work. Later in his life he became more supportive. He died before Mary leaving her to work with her family, and with their daughter Olivia.

In 1898-1899 God called Elizabeth to India. The remaining sisters carried on the work of running the Home, Church, and School. In 1901 they began publishing a journal called Trust. 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 at one of their regular "Deeper Spiritual Life" conventions. Olivia and her husband Mr. Bruce worked with the Duncans in their ministry. They were helping to serve in the convention when the Spirit of God fell. Olivia's husband cried out for Olivia to come because her cousin Marguerite was speaking in tongues. She was busy and almost put it off until God said "You'll be sorry if you do not go." She dropped everything and went. The Spirit of God was hitting people throughout the room when she got there. She too came under the presence of God and fell to the floor. She was hit with holy laughter and then began to sing.

People received visions, sang in the Spirit, fell under the power of God, and saw angels. Their newly established training center became a key training ground for new 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. Susan, Hattie, 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. The sisters and their faith community had given over $100,000 to missions. Christ was their all for body, soul and spirit.


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