October 26, 1926 – March 13, 2011
Carolyn Shaw was born to a Free Methodist pastor’s family in Fillmore, Minnesota. She gave her heart to the Lord at the age of 4. She was enthralled with the stories and messages of missionaries the family hosted in the parsonage. When Carolyn was 12, she told her mother she wanted to be a missionary.
Carolyn said “yes,” to Robert Cranston’s marriage proposal, while both were students at Greenville College, Illinois. They married in 1947. Carolyn earned her bachelor of arts degree at Greenville and later, in 1969, earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Kentucky.
Carolyn described her missionary call in 1963 as a “deep ever-increasing conviction” that “has brought a thrill and a challenge beyond words as the Lord has led through open doors.” When the Cranstons pastored in Lake Worth, Florida, (1954 to 1957) Carolyn said it seemed ads run in Free Methodist publications for missionary applicants were meant for them. Carolyn left the magazines on Bob’s desk, open to the ads, sometimes even pointing them out to him. After three years in the pastorate, Bob was appointed to serve the Tampa Spanish Mission Church in Ybor City, Florida. Carolyn taught at the church’s day school. Six years later, in 1963, Bob and Carolyn were appointed to the Philippines.
The Cranstons’ work was principally centered in Butuan City, Mindanao, at Light and Life Bible College, and later Light and Life Graduate School of Theology. Over the course of her missionary service, Carolyn was a teacher, school registrar, and librarian. She also coordinated the International Child Care Ministries program in the Philippines and was active in children’s and women’s groups.
Even early in her missionary career, Carolyn had keen insight into her role. She wrote in 1967, “Teaching gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction, as I feel that each student we have has great potential for kingdom work. They will someday play a role in the conference program that I, as an American, will never be able to play, but I can share in their training and development.”
Bob was named Asia Area Director in 1975. They remained stationed out of the Philippines, except for two years (1978 to 1980) when they were appointed to work in Indonesia and taught for several months in India to fill in for missionaries who were on home assignment. They were then reappointed to the Philippines in 1982, where they served until retirement in 1995.
Carolyn reflected about her work, “I feel that working with the libraries and with the schools is a good way to permanently leave some of ourselves here on the field. They will be reading the books prepared long after I leave. … I think our work is especially rewarding now that we are finding that our students of former years are becoming the leaders of the conference and church activities. It is exciting to see that God’s work has taken root in their hearts and is now bringing forth abundant harvest.”
Carolyn’s Colleagues Write
Asia Area Director David Yardy writes, “Carolyn Cranston contributed significantly to Free Methodist ministries in Asia beginning in Butuan, Philippines, in Indonesia, intermittently in India, and in later years in Manila. This was all as a faithful partner to her husband, Bob, who served for many years as the area director. She was a gracious hostess and mentor to many missionaries. Her list of contributions were numerous, including launching International Child Care Ministries in the Philippines, developing seminary libraries and teaching. She and Bob co-authored a history of Free Methodist work in the Philippines entitled ‘Stars of the Baliti Tree.’
“Whatever she undertook, she not only did well, but she did with care. Carolyn took a personal interest in her students’ welfare and success. She was a steadfast and earnest Christian who proved her love for Jesus not with a lot of words, but over and over again in acts of kindness. Carolyn Cranston was family to more than her family. We will all miss Aunt Carolyn.”
Bishop Matt Thomas writes about Carolyn, “It was a privilege to serve with Bob and Carolyn closely for three years and then often from a distance for many more years. Carolyn loved serving on the mission field and offered her aid in many ways. It was a joy to celebrate with Carolyn during holidays and special occasions. Her heart was big and included folks from everywhere – in country and out. She loved the folks in Butuan and the children of all of the missionaries. Her passion with Bob to lead Marriage Encounters gave a venue for her to share her wealth of knowledge and experience with the attendees. I will miss her smile.”
Missionary colleagues for 15 years and long time friends, Jerry and Margaret Van Kuiken describe her as a “librarian par excellence, bringing to life the wonderful world of books to our young son, as well as to students of Light and Life Bible College and Graduate School of Theology.” She was also “young at heart in relating well with young ‘green’ missionaries.”
“Carolyn was a master as mission hostess both during her years serving in Butuan City and in Manila,” remembers missionary Barb Adams. “She was very capable at managing house help, menu preparations, and excursions guests need to make. At one time in the early 90’s, Carolyn hosted the Wilsons from Butuan City and the Adams’ from Davao City, as Deb Wilson and I both had surgeries within a two-week period. In addition to being hostess, Carolyn managed ‘sickbay’ for several weeks for both patients and their families. She was a great blessing to us when we needed this special care.”
Words from the India Free Methodist Church come through Bishop Narendra John and his wife, Jaya, who remember Carolyn as a “compassionate person wanting to help everyone in need. She was a good hostess. Mrs. Cranston also helped Jaya in library work many months while she was sojourning Yavatmal. We are going to miss her.”
Pastora Kits Monencillo, now a missionary in Hong Kong remembers meeting Mrs. Cranston in 1970 when she enrolled at Light and Life Bible College, Butuan City, Philippines. “She was my teacher in English and Research Methods. A very good teacher, Mrs. Cranston was well prepared and focused; firm but compassionate. Like her husband, I counted Mrs. Carolyn Cranston as one of my spiritual mentors.”
“I am just one of the many people whose lives were touched by Carolyn Cranston’s loving care,” writes Paula Guazon (Pol). “She always wanted her students to excel and not be mediocre. To me she’s an epitome of a godly woman. I can say she was a Proverbs 31 woman – Mom Carolyn was a model mother, wife, teacher, pastor’s wife, missionary, friend, mentor, motivator, and most of all, a special child of the King of Kings, who lived an extraordinary life. I will miss you and will always cherish your memory in my heart.”
Missionary colleague Jim Wilson recalls, “Deb and I served with Bob and Carolyn from 1989 until 1995. The memory I have never forgotten of Carolyn took place in Manila in 1993. We were teaching together at John Wesley Bible College. As I would visit her home, I often came across Carolyn personally tutoring her students. Teaching them computer, she gave 110 percent of herself to seeing them succeed. She set an example that said teaching was more than just delivering information. It meant tailoring it for every student to help them reach full potential.
“Today, in Manila, some of those students from 1993 are now my colleagues. Annual conference was held last week. Membership was up 10 percent for the conference year. Carolyn’s efforts were not in vain. God is being glorified today as a result of her sacrifice, both in 1993 and in her many years before that. May the Lord be praised for her life.”
“When we think of our experience as missionaries,” Deb Wilson adds, “thoughts of Bob and Carolyn Cranston are synonymous with the Philippines. From our first step off the plane and for many years thereafter, the majority of our activities involved the Cranstons. They immediately began to mentor us to the culture, teaching at the Bible College, etc. They regularly took us to exotic locations around the islands. More importantly, they offered us friendship.
“The Cranstons were often in our home over the years, staying as long as three weeks at a time. We would climb out of bed in the mornings only to find Carolyn up with coffee and breakfast on the table. It was during those times Carolyn showed me how to prepare meals, bargain at the market, clean squid, and do housework Asian-style. Weekly we shared meals at our favourite Chinese-style restaurant, where we were first introduced to fried rice with octopus tentacles.
“Having been on the field for a while, I now realize how many were our cultural gaffes, and how great the Cranstons’ patience. When ‘newbies’ arrive on the mission field, I look back and remember the time and energy and care that Bob and Carolyn invested in us and try to model some of the same. Carolyn holds a unique and special place in my heart. She is treasured and honoured, and I am thankful always for her life.”
Philippines FMC Bishop Jim Tuan writes, “Ma’am Carolyn, as we fondly called her, is one of the saints who served God in her generation. As one of the pioneer missionaries here in the Philippines for more than 20 years, with her beloved husband, Robert, they saw the early beginning of the Philippine FM Church. They made a great contribution in the development of Christian Education, church planting and leadership training, both in the Bible College and graduate school. Behind all these is also of course Ma’am Carolyn, a silent worker and supportive wife to her husband. Now, together with the rest of the saints in heaven and with her beloved Robert, she is eternally enjoying the presence of God. For us, the Free Methodist Church in the Philippines and the Light and Life Bible College, Ma’am Carolyn has a special place in our hearts for she had touched and blessed us in many ways.”