Two weeks before her thirteenth birthday on September 29, 1874, Mary sailed from Boston, Massachusetts, with her dad (J. N. Andrews) and her 16-year-old brother, Charles, for their mission assignment in Switzerland. You might have heard that John Nevins Andrews was the first official missionary sent overseas by the Seventh-day Adventist church. But maybe you didn’t know that young Mary was also a missionary.
Mary’s mother died when she was 10, so Mary took on the responsibility of doing the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and other housework once they settled in La Coudre, Switzerland. In addition, she and her brother studied French with a tutor for hours every day except Sabbath. The little family decided they would learn French faster if they spoke English between only 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. During that one hour she and Charles talked in English to each other just as fast as they could!
After the Andrews family had been in Switzerland about a year, the grocery money began to run out. Throughout the year Mary’s dad had written six different tracts (little booklets) in French, and spent most of their funds in printing those missionary journals. So in addition to all of Mary’s other responsibilities, she began to pick grapes for vineyard owners, in order to earn a few francs for groceries. It was hard, backbreaking work, but Mary was determined to do all she could to help the people of Switzerland learn more about Jesus and His soon coming.
In 1876 the Andrews family moved to Basel. With the rented house came a maid! Her assistance with cooking and cleaning gave Mary more time to help her dad with his publishing projects. Over time, Mary’s French had become so good that she was able to serve well as copy editor for the French Signs of the Times. Professor Aufranc, who had been a French teacher, even told people that “Mary speaks French as though she were a French girl.” Mr. Aufranc’s praise made Mary happy that she had studied French so diligently.
Unfortunately, Mary contracted tuberculosis and died when she was 17. She was the first Seventh-day Adventist missionary to give their life in mission service.
Adapted from Mary Andrews: Companion of Sorrows, by Carolyn Byers