With empty coffers and a faith promise, 30-year-old Mattie Perry opened the doors of Elhanan Training Institute in Marion, North Carolina, a sparsely populated farming community at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She confessed in her autobiography that she never expected, as a woman, to begin and oversee a religious training school:
“I was an evangelist and still hoped to go to China as a missionary, but during the three years of waiting on God for a man to open an institution of this kind, the call sank deeper and deeper into my own heart. No man seemed forthcoming to take up the work, although I met perhaps eight or ten people who claimed that God had given them a plan for a school like this, and had called them to it, but that they could not begin because they had not the funds.” 1
As she continued to pray, she believed that God entrusted her with the call to begin the school herself. She got to work quickly. Laboring alongside her father and brother, she refurbished 25 rooms of the former Catawba Hotel in time for the watchnight dedication service of Elhanan Training Institute on December 31, 1898.
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