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From Glory into Glory - Lois Price

April 12, 2021
by Sheila Leech

From Glory into Glory - Lois Price

April 12, 2021
by Sheila Leech

Lois PriceWho would have thought that such a gentle sweet smile, soft voice, and sensitive spirit, hidden inside a frail body, would belong to someone with such inner strength, courage, steely determination, steadfast commitment, and rock-solid faith? That was Lois Price, who on April 1, 2021 was promoted to glory and now beholding the face of the One she loved and served throughout her 82 years on this earth.

Who could imagine that the young fresh-faced nurse from New York City would have such an impact on so many people’s lives in a country far away and very different from her own? When Lois arrived in Ecuador to serve as a missionary nurse with Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB World Radio) she appeared to be an unlikely candidate for ministry in the Amazon jungle, serving the indigenous tribal people, and using not only her nursing skills but her powerful faith in Jesus Christ to bring about health and healing.

Born on July 19, 1938, Lois was the oldest of two children (sadly, her brother was killed in an auto accident during his college years.) She had a happy childhood and spent summers with family and cousins on Long Island N.Y., Rev. Paul Price, her father was a much beloved minister and Lois grew up in a faith-filled home where Jesus was the center. She learned about and understood the love of Jesus and about His sacrifice for her, and at an early age Lois gave her life to Christ.

Perhaps Lois had an inkling of the kind of pathway God had chosen for her when she went to study for her nursing degree at Columbia University in New York City. Lois became very active in Nurses Christian Fellowship and subsequently challenged other nurses to join her on the mission field in later years. One of these was Kathy Jo Estes: “I was working at Babies Hospital in 1972 (part of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center NYC) when I met fellow nurse Lois Price. She told me she was on furlough from Ecuador where she was a missionary. I told her I felt that calling too. She got so excited telling me about the summer intern programme and before I knew it, she had my application in hand and mailed it in herself. The next summer found us sloughing through the deepest mud I had ever seen on a medical caravan into the jungle. Lois was an inspiration to me. She was smart and hardworking, but full of joy and peace, no matter what the circumstances. It was my privilege to know her.”

Lois loved New York City and got to know the place like the back of her hand. She navigated the subway with ease and walked the streets with confidence. Her parents later located to Binghamton upstate where her father took on a Senior Pastor role. This is where Lois would spend time in later years on her times of furlough.

In 1964 in obedience to the call of God on her life, Lois exchanged her life in the concrete jungle of NYC for a very different one in the jungles of Ecuador. She exchanged her role as nurse in a modern 1500 bed hospital in New York City for one in a basic 23-bed wooden facility on the edge of the rain forest in Ecuador.  

Lois arrived in Ecuador in 1964 and began work as a nurse in Hospital Vozandes, a 50-bed facility in the capital city, Quito. Shortly after her arrival in Quito, urgent help was needed at the mission’s jungle hospital in Shell Mera on the edge of the Amazon basin. Getting to Shell in those days involved a grueling eight-hour journey from Quito. This meant navigating the tortuous Andean road south and then traveling on cliff-hugging, mist-shrouded gravel trails east which then plunged into the hot steamy climes of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Lois Price at Hospital Vozandes del Oriente in Shell Mera EcuadorLois accepted the challenge to go to Shell and subsequently made that journey by bus hundreds of times over the next 50 years. She witnessed the improvement in the roads and considerable reduction in journey time – but also noted how the increased speed of the vehicles contributed to the accident rates and death toll on that road. Lois would go on to care for many car crash victims during her time in Shell. It is testimony to Lois’ dedication and commitment that she continued to travel around Ecuador by bus despite the dangers, even well up into her 70s.

Lois had an abundance of stories of her early days in Shell, which, when pressed, she would tell with much giggling and gasping as she recounted some of those experiences, always marveling at God’s faithfulness and goodness to her and others involved. One of those stories was an event that took place only a few days after she had arrived in Shell. A light aircraft had come down near the Pastaza River into thick jungle just a few miles from Shell. Lois was assigned to the search and rescue party. Woefully unprepared in every sense for such a task, she showed up in her best spotless nursing whites, complete with cap! After crawling through mud and pushing through the jungle for hours, those whites did not stay white for long- and the cap- well- somewhere in the Amazon, maybe it still flutters in the breeze?

During the 11 years Lois served in Shell, she travelled extensively into the jungle to serve with medical brigades serving the Shuar and Achuar communities. Frank Mikell, then director of Community Development said of her, “Lois has a way of making you feel comfortable and at ease when you are around her. She has a missionary heart and loved the people she served for so many years. She was relentless in her persistence to provide guidance  in knowing the Christ who gave Himself for us. She gave herself, her all to the people of Ecuador without any reservation. She loved them unconditionally and completely. I’ll never forget her walking down the airstrip in Macuma in rubber boots in the rain, an elephant ear (leaf) over her head.”

Lois Price talks about good health practices in an Ecuadorian jungle communityIn 1975, Lois felt led to move out of hospital-based nursing and into one of the jungle communities. She had learned the importance of working more directly with the people she sought to serve, and training local people to become health promotors, taking more responsibility themselves for health needs in their own communities. Her years in the jungle base of Macuma were spent doing just that and as a result, many indigenous people from outlying communities were trained in basic health and hygiene and commissioned to serve their communities. The impact of her work was spreading.

Dr. Steve Nelson says, “Most of my memories of Lois come from working on training health promotors together. She was a tireless worker and very well acquainted with each one of the health promotors individually. I am sure she continued to pray for each and every one of them her whole life. One of the things I am reminded of is in spite of the fact that she was deathly afraid of snakes she would trek the jungle tirelessly from one village to another and of course lived there for a long time herself in Macuma and Yaapi”

Lois understood that health and wellness is more than physical wellbeing and in all her health teaching she incorporated the gospel message about the One who brought healing and wholeness through His death on the cross. Many in those jungle regions will testify to hearing the good news about Jesus from Lois Price.

In 1980, Lois and fellow missionary Mary Neidlinger moved to an even more remote area, a small Shuar community called Yaapi. They continued their work in health and development for two years until the missionary couple they had been working with decided to relocate to Quito. The mission felt it unwise to leave two single ladies living alone deep in the jungle with only twice daily radio contact. It was time for Lois to relocate, this time for the final time.

The “city” of Macas is slightly bigger than Shell Mera and is the provincial capital of Morona-Santiago Province, sitting high above the banks of the Upano River in the southeast corner of Ecuador. Lois moved into a pleasant, rented home near the local airstrip. Those who knew Lois in those days became familiar with the routine of trying to call her by phone. It required two calls. The first call was to her landlady to advise her that Lois would be getting a call. The second was to actually talk to Lois. This worked well for many years, but people still remember the joy of the day when Lois actually got her own phone number and direct line!

Lois became a valued member of the community and especially the local church in Macas- Columna de Verdad (Pillar of Truth), where she taught Sunday School to sixth graders for many years. Over time, Lois was involved with the youth group, ladies group, various prayer groups and the missions committee. In fact, she headed the missions committee for many years. She was passionate about seeing others grow in the faith and challenged church members to take the gospel from Macas all over Ecuador and into the whole world.

Lois Price with missionary ladies working in healthcare and community developmentLois remained connected to Reach Beyond after her retirement and right up until her death. She regularly met with missionaries involved in community development and was always willing to listen and give sage advice to younger missionaries. She was a prayer warrior, and many missionaries and church families would drop by her house to have her pray with them. Martha Craymer, herself a long-time missionary nurse said of Lois, “She was known as a lady of prayer and spent many hours praying and listening to people.”

Her humility and prayerful spirit made Lois a very special and valued friend to many. Her wisdom was legendary in the community development team.

Martha also said, “She always had a ready smile and a radiant face and very rarely complained. She always tried to see the best in everyone and was an encouragement to all.”

The fruit of Lois’ ministry and service in Macas is evidenced in the love and gratitude poured out by her Ecuadorian church family. One of those families, the Leons, cared for Lois with immense tenderness and love during her latter years and especially in the time leading up to her homegoing, enabling Lois to stay in her own home in her adopted hometown of Macas.

Lois Price was loved and respected by hundreds (maybe thousands) of people from many nations and languages whose lives have been enriched by knowing her. Lois leaves a legacy in her example of love, sacrifice and faithful service. Her sweet smile and kind heart, her wisdom and warmth will be missed by all who have known her. She is now “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” Well done, good and faithful servant!