April 9, 1927 – August 16, 2012
Caroline Davis was born on a farm near Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. From the time she was a young girl, Caroline sensed a desire for full time Christian service. While attending Wessington Springs Junior College, South Dakota, Caroline met Donald Crider. They were married June 18, 1948. Following Don’s graduation, they served several pastorates in Minnesota. They also went to Haiti on a three-week youth crusade. In the fall of 1954, sensing God’s direction, Caroline entered nurse’s training in Lexington, Kentucky. She and Don applied for missionary service in 1957 and were approved.
In 1958, the Criders began their service in South Africa – at that time called Transvaal-Orange Free State. Much of their ministry involved establishing churches in urban centers and working through evangelism in the large gold mine compounds. The Criders also provided leadership to a unique farm-Bible school, Baker Memorial Bible School and Farm. Students supported themselves and their families by working part time on the school dairy farm.
Caroline assisted at the school in a variety of ways, including clinic work. She had to be a resourceful nurse. The clinic had formerly been a storeroom, and at one point, her cupboard consisted of wooden egg cases reclaimed from the junk heap.
Through the Bible school and mining compound work, the Criders’ efforts were multiplied many times over. The people with whom they had contact returned to their homes, taking the gospel to distant areas where a missionary could not go or where they would be hindered by cultural differences. During their three terms of service, Don and Caroline worked in four languages – Sheetswa, Zulu, Afrikaans and English.
The Criders returned to the U.S. in 1977, taking a leave of absence. They served pastorates in California and focused on education for their sons David and John. Caroline supported Don’s ministry and put her nursing skills to work in the communities where they lived.
The thought of returning to Africa remained in Don and Caroline’s minds, and in 1990, an invitation came from the South Africa conference requesting the Criders’ help with the ministerial training program. Most of their time was spent in Zimbabwe, teaching at Lundi Bible School and helping to start Wesley Bible College. Caroline taught health classes to pastors and their wives, as well as sewing to student wives. She also helped start a preschool class at the local church and trained workers for the class. Don and Caroline returned to the U.S. in 1993 for retirement.
Caroline’s Colleagues Write
“Caroline Crider was a valued colleague and a committed Christian sister,” write fellow missionaries, Dean and Faith Smidderks. “After serving as a pastor’s wife, then fellow seminary student with us, she served as the wife of a mine chaplain in South Africa and Bible school principal. As a registered nurse, Caroline opened a clinic at the Bible school. During our first term when our eldest daughter, Angie, was bitten by a puff adder, Caroline administered the anti-toxin which adequately cared for the situation and later brought the praise of the doctor in attendance.
“Caroline was always ready to respond to mission assignments and later returned to the United States for the benefit of her sons’ education, serving as a pastor’s wife. Caroline’s last years were spent in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California. As her comrades in the work, we recall the words of Jesus, ‘Servant of God, well done!’.”
Former Africa Area Director Henry Church writes, “Caroline and Don returned to Africa after their retirement and helped get Wesley Bible College started in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. Some of their students remain in the work to this day.
“Caroline maintained a wonderful home with outstanding hospitality. We passed through Masvingo often and always found a welcome with a place to sleep and good meals. She went out of her way to do special things for our children when they were with us. Caroline was a full partner in all the work Don did and their work together was a blessing and a benefit to the Church in Zimbabwe. We thank God for her life and ministry.”