Nurses Christian Fellowship Australia

Obituary Blanche Lindsay

Blanche Lindsay
Australian NCF Staff member, NCFI Pioneer in the Pacific and East Asia

Australian nurse Blanche Lindsay and Scottish nurse Johan Allan first met at a conference for Christian nurses held in Denmark in 1961.  For Blanche, the conference was a thrilling introduction to a new work God was doing among nurses around the world. For Johan Allen, the first Nurses Christian Fellowship International President, it was the ultimate fulfillment of a long-held dream; an organisation that would connect National Nurses Christian Fellowships around the world, to encourage each other and reach out to nurses in countries where no such fellowships yet existed.

The oldest of those National Fellowships was the Australian NCF, formerly the Australian Nurses Christian Movement.  Established in 1913, the Movement was a pioneer ministry established to meet the spiritual needs of nurses in the days when nurses worked very long hours and lived in Nurses’ Homes, and so had limited opportunity to attend Church Services or other Christian activities. The Movement quickly grew to become a national organisation with Branches in every State of Australia.  Similar work was beginning in other countries around the world, and by the 1950s there were a considerable number of national groups organised by Christian nurses.

Ambitions and God’s call

Blanche had become a Christian during her last year in high school and entered nursing with high ambitions. She hoped eventually to become a Hospital Matron – the peak of the profession in that era.  Unexpectedly, soon after completing her nursing training Blanche (known as Bloss to her friends and colleagues) gave up her career ambitions and agreed to join the staff of ANCM in NSW.

She soon became involved in the various ministries of ANCM which at that time was focused mainly on student nurses, and the Bible study groups held in most hospitals in Sydney as well as many country areas. She was also a part of the team charged with the vital task of following up the many nurses converted during the Billy Graham Crusades in the 50s and 60s, to establish them in their faith, and its application to their nursing experience and practice.

Sharing the vision

Blanche’s role in the Federal work of ANCM was an important precursor to the part she would later play in the development of NCFI, especially in the Pacific and East Asia. Her position as Travelling Federal Secretary for ANCM began in 1954 and was aimed to strengthen the ministry of the State Branches. Six weeks of every year were spent in each of the States where ANCM Branches had been established. In that role, she trained nurses in outreach and evangelism, while giving the NCF It was during this time that the vision for a wider work grew and opportunities came to connect with Christian nurses in nearby countries. Through her links with missionary nurses and NCFs in countries in the Pacific and East Asia, she regularly shared news and prayer needs with those of us working on ANCM staff, and with our members generally. We often spent time praying with her for the emerging NCFs in those countries.  In 1961 Australia adopted Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and Singapore as partner countries in Christian ministry to nurses. 

During the conference and Executive meetings in Denmark, Blanche learned of the partnerships that had been formed between countries where a stronger or more established NCF encouraged and supported an emerging one, and in some cases helped to establish a new NCF. One example was New Zealand NCF helping to establish an NCF in Fiji.  She was challenged that although there were many reports from European countries, there were only two from the Southern Hemisphere, those being Australia and New Zealand.  She reported to ANCM that NCFI had received requests for help from individual nurses in India Japan, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Sarawak.

Travelling for NCFI

At the conference in Denmark, Blanche caught a vision for a worldwide work of which she had been previously unaware. She was invited to attend the Executive Meeting as an observer, but before the meetings concluded she was invited to join the Executive Committee.  So began an era for Blanche that eventually led to her pioneering the work of NCFI in the Pacific and South East Asia.

During the 1960s Blanche visited several countries in South East Asia, and Papua New Guinea forming strong relationships with national NCFs, providing leadership training and other help needed to grow and extend their ministries.  In 1964 she visited groups in Singapore and Malaysia before attending NCFI Executive meetings in Austria and afterward traveled to Switzerland, England, Hong Kong, and Thailand. In Malaysia, she spoke at the first NCF Retreat and advised on the forming of a Constitution for the National NCF.

Her travels for NCFI in 1968 were even more extensive. Following the NCFI Conference and Executive meetings in Scotland, there were visits to England, Switzerland, and West Pakistan where she provided leadership training, and on to Malaysia where she found great progress made in the NCF there. Then followed Singapore, Hong Kong and a first visit to the Philippines. It was there she met Naty Lopez an NCF staff worker who would later serve as a PACEA Regional staff worker. The outcome of these visits was the building up of NCFs in the region, and many connections formed that would prove valuable to the establishment of the NCFI Pacific and East Asia (PACEA) Region.

A new strategy

At the Executive meetings in Scotland in 1968, Blanche suggested the possibility of developing the work of NCFI regionally.  As this idea was explored and prayed over, a strategy began to take shape. One that could potentially further and deepen NCFI ministry by sharing responsibility and leadership for fulfilling NCFI’s aims at a more local level.  Blanche was invited to form a pilot region in the Pacific and East Asia so it could be seen if and how this model would work.  She took up this challenge with her usual vision and passion.  Using the already planned visits to countries in the region, the vision was shared with the national NCFs. This first region would be known as PACEA. and a conference was planned to bring together representatives from as many countries in the region as possible.  When she was invited in 1970 to take up the position of Regional Coordinator Blanche was still working for ANCM as Federal Secretary, so it became aan extra voluntary role for her.  In that same year, Blanche was appointed as Vice President of NCFI.

The PACEA Region established

Through the established links in the region, contact was quickly made with as many countries as possible to invite them to send representatives to a conference planned for October 1970.  The first PACEA Conference was held in Singapore at Labrador Villa, the nurses’ holiday home situated in a lovely area overlooking the sea. Twelve countries in the region were represented – Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Sabah, Malaysia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Korea, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, and The Philippines. The conference was a great success and plans were made to continue with outreach and development of the region.  To do this in the most effective way possible, it was decided by NCFI Executive to appoint a staff worker, Naty Lopez who had been recommended by Blanche.  As she supported Naty in this work, strong foundations were laid and the region began to flourish. Naty appointed a small team representing a few different countries to assist her in the work (a forerunner of Regional Committees). New groups formed and established national NCFs were strengthened.

As Blanche continued as Regional Coordinator a further conference was held in Penang in 1974, beginning a pattern that still exists, with Regional Conferences and leadership training held in a different country every four years.  More partnerships were formed between countries for mutual support, and the work continued to grow. Even then, there was a strong feeling of connectedness between countries throughout this large region that still exists today.  Blanche held NCFI positions of PACEA Regional Coordinator to 1979, and NCFI Vice President until 1980.

Blanche’s legacy

Blanche Lindsay’s legacy in the Pacific and East Asia is an NCFI Region of 13 member countries  (the largest Region of NCFI) with conferences held every four years preceded by leadership training, plus conferences for leaders from time to time. The qualities for which she is remembered by those whom she served as well as those who worked with her were her spiritual insight, vision, passion, dependence on God, and her humility, which among other things was evidenced in her willingness to admit when she might be wrong, and to change her mind when given a good enough reason!  She was gifted in organising, teaching, mentoring, and in cross-cultural connections. The experience and skills that were developed during her service to NCFI have been used throughout her life in church ministry, the Australian NCF where she served as NSW President and National President for a time, and in many other areas.  Her ambition to become a hospital matron was more than fulfilled when she became the Group Director of Nursing for four Sydney hospitals dedicated to palliative care and rehabilitation.  Blanche reached her 100th year.

Margaret Hutchison

1 In 1970 the name ANCM was changed to Nurses Christian Fellowship to come into line with National Fellowships of Christian nurses in other parts of the world