Elizabeth B Mantell, missionary; born June 24, 1941, died January 27, 1998

Elizabeth Mantell was born in Zambia, and a love for Africa was a characteristic of her life. As a small child, she expressed the ambition to go back to Africa to look after African babies. This she did, and her whole life was an expression of compassion for others.

During a visit to Malawi in 1996, my wife and I walked with her to a village where Elizabeth wanted to visit a lady who was dying of Aids. We were unable to follow the conversation, but we understood when Elizabeth took from her bag two things: her Tumbuka Bible and some provisions which she had brought. As she read from the Bible, prayed for the lady and gave the gifts, we almost felt like intruders on a very sacred moment.

It seemed typical of a woman who had sacrificed career prospects and the comforts of home in order to give her life in service for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of the people of Malawi.

After her upbringing in Macduff, followed by training as a nurse, she sensed a calling from God to serve as a missionary with the Church of Scotland, and was accepted for service in Malawi. She served for six years at Mulanje, and then, after a period at home when her late mother needed help, she served for the past 15 years as a Sister Tutor at the Ekwendeni station of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian.

Through her efforts, the work of the Nursing School there was upgraded in General Nursing and Midwifery, and one of her own delights was to see Malawian staff taking over the key positions in this training work. She had a great concern for the wellbeing of the girls under her care, and earned widespread respect for the genuineness of her love for them.

She was a much loved and highly regarded member of the community at Ekwendeni. She was an elder of the Church there. She maintained contact with a wide circle of friends all over the world. Through the Church of Scotland's partner scheme, she was linked with congregations in Buchan and Dunoon Presbyteries, and the large attendance at her funeral witnessed to the high regard in which she was held.

Her service was marked by a high degree of professionalism and a strong sense of duty and responsibility. Although she has occupied a special place in the long missionary link between Scotland and Malawi, following in the footsteps of many illustrious forebears (Dr Livingstone, Dr Laws, and others), she was characterised by an endearing lack of any realisation of how special she was. When, for example, it was suggested to her that she might write a book about her experiences, her response always was: ''And what would I write?'' She has made her own unique contribution to the ongoing story of the Malawian Church, and to healthcare in the area in which she served.

In November 1996 she took ill and had to be flown home for urgent medical attention. The last 14 months of her life were difficult, but she bore great courage and calmness, testifying to the strength which came to her through her commitment to Jesus Christ. Her desire was to serve Him and her service in Africa was set in that context.

Few people have been so respected and loved as she was. When news of her death reached Ekwendeni, the hospital staff immediately gathered together and held an impromptu service of thanksgiving for her life. As one of the senior elders of the Church there said: ''She was our mother.''