Kay Mason was just a nurse, but the day came when she had to pick up a scalpel and perform an operation which saved two lives.
This is the wonderful story of Kay Mason, a nurse who was married to a surgeon, Dr Stanley Mason. They worked as a medical team in the Congo, central Africa, for many years, sent out by the Brethren missionary society Christian Missions in Many Lands (CMML). Dr Mason went to be with the Lord Jesus in 1984. Kay told me her story from her home in Bentley, Hampshire, England, in December 2002, where she was recuperating from a hip replacement at the age of 91. Here is Kay’s story in her own words.
As a child I lived with my parents and grandparents on a farm at The Quarries, Mannings Heath, West Sussex. They belonged to the Brethren. They had a huge kitchen and people from farms around the area used to come on a Sunday afternoon and sing hymns in this large kitchen while my mother played a harmonium.
I can remember singing: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.’
These things stuck in my mind and my heart. I really, truly believed that Jesus did love me and, later on, when I left home to do my nursing training, some of these things still stuck in my mind, that Jesus did love me and that He would never leave me or forsake me.
It was His promise that He was always with you in every circumstance and some of those circumstances you realise you got yourself into because you’d been pig-headed and not listened to what people said! I’m afraid I was a bit like that; I was a bit strong willed. I would do it my way, but then I would have to humble myself before the Lord and say: ‘Lord Jesus, I got myself into such a mess; please get me out.’ Somehow or other, through friends and people who said things to me and verses from scripture that stuck in my mind, I knew that God could save to the uttermost those who come unto Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. And I thought if other people could be saved to the uttermost, I must be the uttermost at that point, and I believed! I had such peace in my heart at that time.
My life was in a way steadfast on the Bible because that’s what my parents and grandparents used to read every day. They would read a portion of the Bible and have a time of prayer. I didn’t always appreciate it. Later on, when I did my nursing training, it was a completely different life and I realised how easily I could have slipped into the world. I was popular and we used to have singsongs, singing all the songs of the day and I loved singing. I couldn’t tell you any of those songs now, they’ve all gone, and I praise the Lord that in their place it is His words that I sing and His choruses that I remember. The foundation was there, but I have to confess that I could easily have gone astray when I was nursing.
Then in my last year, I met a young medical student who was going through the same spiritual struggles that I was, because he also came from a Brethren background. He became my husband, Stanley Mason. He took his doctorate in 1937 in gynaecology and obstetrics. He knew I was going to Africa. He thought he was going to China, but I landed out in Africa and he followed shortly afterwards and we were married out there.
We were married in northern Rhodesia by the district commissioner in 1938.
We worked at a mission hospital in the southern part of the Belgian Congo, which is now Zaire. Stanley was a surgeon and I had been doing surgery with a doctor in my training, so I had experienced surgery, which I think was God-devised. So we worked together in the Congo for many years. We were the only doctor and nurse for 200 miles and the only white people in our immediate area.
Our first two children were born there, Philip and Christine. Alan and Pauline were born later. I praise the Lord that they all know Him, and that is all His doing!
We had to send them to a Christian boarding school 2,000 miles away. We would take them to Elizabethville to meet up with other missionary children and then they would have to go in a lorry to the border of Angola and Zimbabwe. Depending on whether it was the rainy or dry season, we used to have to go over two pontoons. Today a pontoon bridge is quite sophisticated. Our pontoons were usually four dug-out canoes tied together with bark rope and manned by Africans. There was a lot of prayer! It was quite a wrench parting with the children, but they survived.
Kay had quite a few adventures at the bush hospital, but none quite so hair-raising as the day she had to pick up a scalpel and perform an operation herself. Here is the story:
I had assisted my husband in the operating theatre over many different operations including Caesarian sections. One time Stanley was away and a girl was brought in, in labor. We’d been nurturing her, because she’d lost so many pregnancies, so this was a very precious pregnancy. Stanley thought he’d be back in time for the birth, but he was hindered, so I got this girl into the operating theatre. I knew that if I left her, she would not only lose her baby, but her life as well. I knew the only alternative was to do a Caesarian section.
I went into Stanley’s office and got out the books to have a look and see if I had forgotten anything about the procedure. Then I stuck the books on one side and got down on my knees and said: ‘Lord you’ve got to take these hands of mine and help me through this, because it’s for Your honour and glory. These books are no good, not for me at this moment. It’s only You alone who can do this and it will be for Your honour and glory that that girl’s life is saved and she has a live baby.’
I praise the Lord that God heard that prayer and answered it. Mother and baby were fine.
When Stanley came back, he said: ‘What did you do?’ I said: ‘Got on my knees in the office! (At which Kay and I, decades later as I interviewed her, roared with laughter in delight at what God had wrought that day in a remote part of Africa.)
Wild animals are a part of every missionary’s life in Africa and Kay and Stanley were no exception.
If we were called out in the night, it was over a mile to go across a grassy patch on to a sandy track up to the hospital. The Africans usually came with a gun (for our protection), but with the Tilly lamp lighting the path, you could see eyes shining out of the darkness as you were being escorted up to the hospital. I was always worried, because we had a cat that would follow us, and I thought a hyena would easily pounce on that cat, but they never did. I believe that was because Jesus covered us every step of the way. We could hear the lions and the hyenas grunting going round the bungalow that we lived in.
We used to start the day at the hospital at 6am and people would already be there, crowding round the veranda. People from the church would take it in turns to take the morning service and we never started without having a service. We used to get together, before the windows were opened for people to come and get their medicines. We used to give the day to the Lord and say: ‘Would You lead and guide us and give us wisdom to distribute these medicines,’ because every day we needed His help.
We started early because it was cooler for operating. If you left it till midday, your gown would stick to you in the heat.
We had to come out when the troubles started in about 1973 when the Mau Mau rebellion got underway.
We left with one suitcase between us in which we had all our treasures. We had to go through nine roadblocks manned by Africans with rifles. They were anxious about us leaving, since there was no other doctor, and we told them we were going to collect our children from Elizabethville, which was 400 miles away. This was true and it quieted them down. They concluded that we would be coming back, so they let us through, although some of them fired into the air just to show us that they had live ammunition and were prepared to use it.
We went to northern Rhodesia and the Christians there were wonderful. We arrived in summer clothes and, as the weather there was colder, they gave us warm clothes and really served the Lord in wonderful ways at that time.
The Masons returned to Britain to live in 1973 after their son Philip broke his neck in an accident. It was a very different country than the one they had grown up in. Medicine and morals had both changed and abortion was a fact of life. Dr Mason turned down a chance to practise medicine in Hampshire and instead devoted the rest of his life to looking after his son and preaching the gospel. He said that God never intended denominations and he was happy to go anywhere to preach the good news of salvation. Dr Mason died in 1984.
Kay, who had nursed so many people in her life, was herself in need of nursing care when she fell and broke her (second) hip in November, 2002. It did not shake her faith in the Lord, nor stop her witnessing of His goodness to other patients at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. I had not known Kay long when this disaster befell her. You might think that she would be entitled to feel pretty sorry for herself at the age of 91, having had so many trials in her life, to have to cope with a second hip operation. But feeling sorry for herself is not Kay’s way. When I went to visit her, she was still in the intensive care ward, and I was genuinely surprised that she was the same joyful, buoyant lady I knew from church. No griping, no grumbling, no sadness. Incredible. Instead of wasting time feeling sorry for herself, she was lighting up the ward with her humor, smiles and light-hearted goodness.
She told me: ‘One woman said to me I was different from everyone else, that I was so good. I said, ‘Oh no, I’m not, you don’t know what goes on in my mind and you can be just as bad in your mind as you can in what you say.’ Then someone said one day, ‘Oh you’re so good, I could never be as good as you.’ I said you wouldn’t have to be; Jesus didn’t die for the goodies. He died for those who knew that they needed to repent because they were sinners!”
One lady showed Kay her church magazine and Kay questioned whether the woman really understood the way of salvation – by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. ‘People today have no idea,’ she said. ‘They have not been taught that Jesus is our mediator and that we are only saved by the power of His precious Blood. People feel that you only need to go to church every Sunday. Even the Church of England bishops do not give much spiritual guidance and it is not their fault; they have never been taught.’
I asked Kay for her advice for the young:
To young Christian people today, I would say, seek the Lord and He will show you. Seek Him seriously without any preconceived ideas in your mind as to what you want to do with your life. Give it to Him and He will lead and guide you, not always where you want to go, but where He wants you.
Even if they’re not Christians, when they start thinking about what life means, most students get a New Testament given to them, a Gideon Bible. In the front they will find sections marked – where to find help in time of need, guidance in life, etc. Most students are given one. They can read the Bible and find the truth for themselves, even if they have not had a Christian family background.
Kay’s general words of advice
It’s no good being so holy that nobody else can come near you! You’ve got to understand the people of today, because the world today is so different from what it used to be. We have no idea of how young Christians struggle in schools and colleges to keep their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ when they’re being taunted as well as tempted. It’s so much easier to go with the world than to take a stand.
I’m very thankful for everything the Lord has given me, and I can look at so many others and say to myself, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’ I think each one of us can say that. You see people who make mistakes and live lives that are so contrary to what the Lord would have had. We mustn’t forget His grace. It is abundant; it never ceases. It’s always overflowing towards those that take a step towards Him.
Only by grace can I enter, only by grace can I stand.
Not by my human endeavour, but by the blood of the Lamb
Lord if we count our transgressions, who would be saved? No one, except by the blood of the Lord. Nothing but grace can save us.
It’s never too late, never. Jesus didn’t die for the goodies; it was for the sinners that He died, and I’m so thankful, because I’m one of the sinners.
I marvel at the way He has His Hand on us and answers our prayers, sometimes years later. We feel sometimes when our prayers are not answered straightaway, Lord, I wonder if You really heard that prayer? But He so often says to us, ‘Wait. Wait on Me and wait for Me.’ I think that’s the crucial thing about living under the power of our mighty God and Father. We should wait upon Him with all our hearts and minds. There’s a verse in Isaiah, 26:3 ‘You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast on you.’ In place of ‘mind’, I put ‘imagination’ because I’ve got a wicked imagination. I can imagine all sorts of things, but we have to ask His forgiveness for coming to conclusions that He hasn’t made.
It’s so important to keep our eyes upon Jesus, because God can do things that we couldn’t imagine. God can answer prayers in a way that we would have never thought. That is because His ways are not our ways. Praise the Lord they’re not! Neither are His thoughts our thoughts. I know without a shadow of doubt that God will guide and lead you every step of the way, whatever your circumstances and whatever you’re feeling, either in mind or body. He has His hand upon every situation.
He has said ‘You are mine’ and some of these things that come into our minds are not from Him, but from the enemy who seeks to give us doubts and bring us down.
We can say ‘Father I’m so thankful that I’m yours. Stop this imagination of mine from running away into things that are not of You. Help me to keep my eyes upon You, Lord Jesus. You will never fail me; you will never forsake me.’ I am now in my 91st year and I can praise the Lord for every step in which He’s led me and know that His way is always best. And I ask that in the eventide of my life I might be salt and light to those that come into contact with me, not having selfish thoughts, but only to glorify Him.
So Father I say at the end of this little interview, may Your light shine through each one of us, your children, although we slip, we slide and our minds go to different things that are not from You. I just thank and praise you that You do have Your Hand on us and when we come to the end of the day we can say: ‘Thank You, Lord, for all that has happened today. PraiseYou and thank You for the people I’ve come in contact with. I just ask that there may be something of Your salt and light that has shown through, not to give any glory to myself, but to give all the glory to You. Thank you, Lord, Amen.’
Kay had a birthday after that interview and, at age 92, she was still a shining light for her Lord. I (Pat) was 59 when I did the interview and how I wish I had lived a life like hers instead of my selfish, sinful life, not accepting the Lord as my Savior until the age of 36. Take heed, young people, think how you want to end up. If you live to be 91, what sort of life do you want to look back on? You are forging the links of your life now, whatever your age. Will you be ashamed in 15 years’ time of the things you are doing now? Or will you be so glad that you chose to go God’s way? Kay was glad, and what a delight it was to know such a great lady. She is with the Lord now, and I am so grateful to have known her and be able to pass on the story of how the Lord Jesus made her life bloom like a beautiful flower. I will be seeing Kay again, of course, and you too, dear reader, will meet her one day – if Jesus Christ is your Lord.