Missionary stalwart, and aide to Billy Graham, dies
She was never featured on the cover of any Christian periodical; she deliberately kept well below the radar. But around the world of Gospel enterprise ‘Queen Jean’ - as she was affectionately known in America, Europe and across Africa – underpinned, administered and supported servants of Jesus Christ, the prominent and the unknown alike. She passed from this life on Sunday, 13 January, 2013.
It appears Jean Wilson never had more than three or four hours sleep. If she was not phoning across the world, she would be checking the proofs of Decision Magazine – or waiting at Heathrow’s Arrivals – having already arranged London accommodation for an incoming American… a Jordanian… a Nigerian… a Pakistani, on behalf of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. For Jean Wilson spent 50 years with BGEA (and later, Samaritan’s Purse). At the age of 26 she had been asked by Billy Graham to set up a London office for him in the wake of his momentous 12-week nightly campaign at Harringay Arena in 1954.
Or… she might have been checking the accounts of any one of a score of Christian organizations. The late George Hoffman once confided: “Jean – I’m hopelessly late finishing the accounts for TEAR Fund!”
“Come on!”, came the reply. “Sit down with me, George, and we’ll get it done together!”
Jean Wilson was honorary global treasurer and secretary of African Enterprise, serving the mission affairs of 10 African nations. Spirit-filled, one-eyed AE evangelist with African Enterprise in Zimbabwe is widower, Orpheus Hove. Learning of Jean’s passing, he writes, ‘God had given her a gift of knowledge which was beyond simply human knowledge. I would meet her in Nairobi, Cairo or Kigali, and she would remember all three months money transactions between my office in Zimbabwe and hers in UK without mixing with all other organization accounts. Brilliant woman of God; personally she had become a sister and a mother… a woman of love and passion for the work of the Lord.’
Jean has baby-sat for Billy and Ruth Graham, set up bookstalls for 12,000 evangelists in Amsterdam, and driven visiting evangelists around the UK. Stories have poured out of these adventures.
No Sunday attender in London’s All Souls Church would ever have suspected that the neighbouring dark-haired worshipper, whose hymn-singing was hopelessly out of tune, was one of the great Christian workers in the world.
Musical or not, Cliff Barrows, choir and hymn-director for Billy Graham across 60 years, aptly writes, ‘Our Jean has left the land of the dying for the land of the living.’