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HEADLINE NEWS

Missionary to celebrate 105th birthday
By ANNA BROWN
Allie Candler said one of the things she plans to do as she observes her 105th birthday is to attend homecoming at her home church, Lockhart First Baptist.
They asked her to speak, but she declined.
“I told them I would say something,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. “But I want to hear their new preacher.”
Homecoming will be held Sept. 21. Morning worship begins at 11 a.m. The homecoming meal will follow in the church’s family life center. Rev. Delos Blanton is church pastor.
Miss Candler, a longtime Baptist missionary, has seen a lot of changes over the years, both technologically and in religious work itself. She can remember a time that as a woman, she was not welcomed as a speaker.
“Ever been anywhere you weren’t wanted?” she says. “Sister, I have. But it didn’t matter how they treated me. I knew God called me and I loved them anyway.”
Miss Candler said she does not feel 105.
“I feel as good inside as I did when I was 50 or 60 years old,” she said.
The former Lockhart resident and retired missionary is now a resident of Martha Franks Retirement Center in Laurens. She will celebrate her 105th birthday on Sept. 18.
Miss Candler was born in 1909 in Buncombe County, one of 11 children of George and Sallie Candler. She has one living sister, Dorsie Fowler of Easley, who is 103.  Two of her brothers, Charlie Candler and Cecil Candler, were ministers. Eight grandchildren of her siblings are involved in Christian work.
The family moved to Lockhart in November of 1917 and Miss Candler’s father went to work in Lockhart Mill. Miss Candler said a lot of their friends already were living in Lockhart.
Miss Candler attended Lockhart High School and went to work in Lockhart Mill. When she was 20, she said a knock at the door changed her life forever. The Freewill Baptist Church was having a revival and the pastor and a deacon from First Baptist Church were visiting in advance to invite folks to come hear the word.
“My brother and I were in the living room and neither one of us had been saved at that time,” she said. “They pulled out their New Testament, read some scripture and had prayer. Then they left. They didn’t say a word about us excepting Christ. But when they left, something got a hold of me. The word had found a lodging place in my heart. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I was convicted. I wore that conviction until Saturday night, July 16, 1930. I was saved that Saturday night.”
Miss Candler joined Lockhart First Baptist Church and went to work teaching Sunday School and leading the Sunbeams.
In 1932, Rev. J. Harold Smith came to preach during a revival. His message was “Stewardship of Your Life.”
“He said that you may be saved, but have you dedicated your life?” Miss Candler remembers. “I went down and dedicated my life.”
Not long after that, she remembers that she was singing in the choir and she felt God calling her to do Christian work, but she wasn’t sure what that work was to be. Later, Miss Candler was in a group who went with the pastor’s wife to hear Miss Neal Young, a missionary to Africa.
“I cried for days,” she said. “I had to go to Africa.”
Miss Candler went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, graduated in 1937 and also took some medical courses to prepare her for foreign missions. (She later also attended Southern Seminary.) A letter came that no more missionaries were being accepted for Africa. Miss Candler said she put the letter in a chair, knelt and prayed, and when she stood up she knew in her heart that God had closed that door for a reason. Instead, her career was spent mostly in the United States. Her first job after college was serving as educational director at Morgan Memorial Baptist Church in Greenville. She also served at Glenwood Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., and Temple Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tenn. (now University Park.)
She remained in Johnson City for six years. There she also attended business school. She remembers praying one morning before breakfast and God told her, “You are going to receive a call.” In less than a week, her pastor received a letter from First Baptist Church in Lyman saying officials were interested in her.
“I went for two interviews and everybody stood as one to call me, but I couldn’t go,” she said. “God wouldn’t let me go.”
Several months later she received a letter inviting her to become dean of girls ages 14 to 17 at an orphanage and children’s home in Franklin, Tenn. After going for an interview, touring the campus and praying, she still had no answer. She attended services at Lockeland Baptist Church in Nashville. A pastor there knew her and told her the church was looking for someone like her. She told him she was in town for a job interview.
During a fellowship after church, Miss Candler said she knew Lockeland was where God intended her to be.
“The burden rolled away,” she said. “Two weeks later I was called.”
Miss Candler served as assistant to the pastor and had other duties, including visiting others and organizing the WMU.
“I love to knock on doors,” she said.
She remained at Lockeland for seven years. While visiting in Houston, Texas, the chance meeting of a couple steered her life in another direction. She was eating alone in a restaurant when a man and wife from Virginia asked if they could share the table with her. She told them about her work and they told her their church was interested in a worker like her.
She got home and a letter came from the couple’s church, Northside Baptist in Newport News, asking her to come for an interview. Miss Candler decided to go. She would have a chance to visit her sister, Pearl, whose husband, Rev. Jesse King, had been called to preach at a church near the James River.
“When I walked in the door I knew I was called,” she said. “I remained at Northside for three years.”
Next, Miss Candler served at Copeland Park Baptist, now West Hampton. A letter came saying a missionary was needed in Independence. She went for an interview and was hired for New River Association on May 1, 1955.
“I opened churches, did Bible Schools, taught mission books and did everything I could to educate those mountain people,” she said. “The mountain preachers were good men, good dedicated men, but they didn’t know too much about missions.”
Miss Candler said in 103 years of living, she has been some places where she didn’t feel welcome and Independence started out as one of them. She attended her first associational meeting that August and was asked to give a report of her work. Some pastors got up and walked out.
“I turned to a woman next to me and said, ‘Where are they going?” She said, “They don’t believe in a woman saying anything in public. I thought, oh my goodness, the Lord has sent me here and they won’t listen to me.  “But that put fire under my feet. They didn’t’ call me there. God called me.”
Later as she made the rounds explaining about WMU, she met further resistance from some of the women.
“One woman got up and said, “Miss Candler, my mother died without knowing all about this and I don’t need to know it either,’” Miss Candler remembers.  “I cried all the way home. But I lived to see that church have a full WMU.”
In God’s time, all worked out well. The people of the association grew to love her and she remained there nearly 50 years.
“In mountain mission work you have got to have boldness to be a leader,” she said. “I froze to death in those old churches; I carried in wood to build fires on Sunday morning before Sunday School.  But the Lord let me live to see those churches with padded pews, Sunday School rooms, bathrooms and electric heat.”
While in Independence, Miss Candler also worked as a substitute teacher and did world mission conferences for the Home Mission Board.
After serving in Independence, Miss Candler was sent to Kobe, Japan, where she taught English at Friendship House. She was there about a year when she had a detached retina and had to return home. Because of her diminished eyesight, (she is legally blind) she resides at Martha Franks.
(Cards may be mailed to Miss Candler at Martha Franks Retirement Center, 1 Martha Franks Drive, Laurens, S.C., 29360.)

(Posted Sept. 15, 2014)
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