How would you like to fight off giant spiders? How about eating lizards, rats and grub worms? Or perhaps be lowered from a helicopter into the arms of naked cannibals? Want more? How about staring down the business end of a rifle, encountering witch doctors and pulling teeth with pliers?
Margaret Stringer, a missionary for fifty years, forty of which were spent in the jungles of Papua, Indonesia, experienced all these things and more.
This past Saturday, Stringer's home church, Freedom Baptist, which is located in the Berea section of Greenville, held a special service in honor of her five decades of dedicated service unto the Lord. About 200 people were in attendance to help her celebrate her big day. Family members from as far away as Arizona came for the event.
Several local pastors spoke in praise of Stringer's faithfulness. They were all of the same mind that she was one of the most, if not the most, dedicated and faithful missionary whom they have ever known. They also remarked that her example and testimony had challenged them in their walk with and service for the Lord.
Stringer was born in 1939 near Gowensville, in northern Greenville County. Like many who grew up in the area, her family was poor. At the age of eight she became fatherless. When Stringer graduated from high school, her mother, cash-strapped and having no choice, asked her to find other living arrangements because she still had several other young mouths to feed.
One of Stringer's younger brothers, Rev. Stan Stringer, a missionary to the Indians in Arizona, recalled how his older sister was good at getting her younger brothers ready for church. Even at a young age, she had a heart for ministry. By the age of 12 she had already determined what she wanted to do with her life – be a missionary.
After graduating from high school she went to Furman University and then transferred to Tennessee Temple University to further her education, supporting herself all the way through.
Even as an adult, Stringer continued to maintain her goal of being a missionary. Despite being told that single women did not belong on the mission field, she was not dissuaded. When she came to the conclusion that the Lord was leading her to serve Him in the jungles of Papua, which is sometimes referred to as West Irian or Irian Jaya, she did not let visa problems and changes of political leadership stand in her way. (Papua, a province of Indonesia, is not to be confused with the independent country known as Papua, New Guinea.)
At the service on Saturday Stringer unveiled a brand new autobiography titled, Jesus Led Me All The Way. The 223-page paperback describes in detail the events in her early life that helped prepare her for mission work as well as the many obstacles she faced getting to the field.
The book is also chock full of experiences that Stringer had during the decades she spent ministering half way across the world to jungle dwellers. For some of the natives, she was the first white person they laid eyes on.
Although Stringer is not a preacher, she has ministered in many other ways. For years she labored away on translating the New Testament into the Citak language, a tongue that had never even been written down. She spent several more years translating the New Testament into another dialect called Tamnim.
Stringer has been retired from the foreign field for ten years now, yet she still keeps busy speaking at missions conferences, ladies retreats, missions schools and churches across the country. She is a ball of energy and, even though she is now in her mid-70's, she has no plans to slow down.
In her book, Stringer recalls meeting an elderly female missionary at a camp when she was a young girl and being inspired by the older woman's example. Even though Stringer is no longer ministering on the foreign field, she continues to serve the Lord and, like the missionary whom she met as a child, may very well serve as an example to young people who may feel led of the Lord to follow in her footsteps.