She was described by her son David, as a ‘Gift of God’
By Dan Wooding, Special to ASSIST News Service
BIRMINGHAM, UK (ANS – December 28, 2016) — Dorothy Laura Orton, wife of Edwin Orton, the founder of the Birmingham City Mission, passed away in the early hours of Friday, December 2, 2016, at her Birmingham home, after a short battle with cancer.
A number of her family were with her at the time.
Dorothy was described by her son, David, at her memorial service, on Friday December 23, 2016, at Kingshurst Evangelical Church, as a “Gift of God.”
Dorothy Orton was in at the start of Birmingham City Mission (BCM), a Christian charity established in 1966 by her husband, Edwin Orton, that was committed to helping the needy and marginalized of England’s second city, and also to sharing the Christian message. The Mission runs many projects throughout the city where there is need, offering friendship and support to the homeless, elderly, young and those struggling with poverty. It is a Christian mission, but offers its services without test or condition.
Speaking on behalf of his siblings, Esther, Ian and Martyn, David recalled those early days of the mission and described her as “a model mother — always there for me, and equally for my siblings, always patient, listening, understanding. Always plying us with good things. Always ready with something when we were hungry or thirsty. Always soothing and practical if we had bumps and bruises (especially when we were young!).
“Apart from being intelligent and knowledgeable, Mum was extremely hard-working. Actually, she never stopped. I well remember her holding the family together when Dad was working all hours to set up the Birmingham City Mission. She had four children to look after as well as her husband, and she was working and studying at the same time! Her career alongside all this took her from being a hospital nurse to a district nurse, midwife, health visitor, and finally many years as a college lecturer.
“Of the many things I could say about Mum, they boil down to one thing: to me my mother was a saint. I’m not exaggerating or being mawkish when I say she was a saint. Her life was devoted to God. That doesn’t mean she was necessarily perfect. Though she probably wasn’t far off. She was always serving others. Those who know her at Kingshurst Evangelical Church and at BCM can attest to the effort she put into them. And as has been said, she loved her Bible and in recent years she read it from cover to cover several times. And she loved to witness to her faith.
“A few days before she died, when Annette [David’s wife] and I visited her in hospital with Dad she greeted us enthusiastically with the words: ‘It’s wonderful here! I’ve been having so many opportunities [to witness to her faith, she meant] — opportunity after opportunity!’ And she knew precisely what was ailing the other patients in her ward, constantly encouraging them.
“You could say Mum’s whole life was an offering of worship. You will know that she was a singer. She sang constantly, while cooking, washing up, doing the housework. Always hymns and choruses. She had a very strong, beautiful alto voice. She also sang solos, and would often sing a solo at a church service when Dad was the speaker.”
He also told the family and friends at the Thanksgiving Service, which included Operation Mobilization Founder, George Verwer, and Peter Conlan, who for years has worked alongside Verwer, “Mum never really grew old — physically, yes — but never in her mind, never in her speech, never in her humor and never in her heart. Each of us siblings would say she was ‘the most solid, stable, reliable, positive, wise and joyous person in my life.’”
He then spoke about the lasting blessing of his mother’s example, saying, “Of course we get emotional about mum’s passing. But this is not a tragedy. This is, after all, a Thanksgiving service! We will miss her terribly, but we’ve been so blessed by her for so many years. Those blessings will remain with us. She taught us all many things about the loving nature of God. Not only in what she said, but in her whole attitude to life.
“My mother Dorothy was by a distance the most cheerful person I have ever known. Always positive. Always seeing the best in people. Never a bad word about others — and I never heard a bad word about her from anyone else. Always giving: her generosity of spirit to others was amazing — first and foremost to her family — to Dad, to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but as others have said, also much, much further afield than that.”
David Orton concluded by saying, “My Mum was a mother, if not a matriarch, to many, not just within the family. And I, for one, think she reflected the motherly face of God. God has extended peace like a river to Mum. It is well with her soul.”
For more information on the Birmingham City Mission, please go to: http://www.birminghamcitymission.org.uk/.
Note: I would like to thank Peter Conlan for supplying much of the material in this story.
Photo captions: 1) Dorothy and Edwin Orton. 2) Birmingham City Mission witnessing in the center of the city. 3) Dan has been a fan of Birmingham City FC for many years, and here he is presenting John Bond, the then manager of the club, and some of its players, with a copy of his autobiography.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder of the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts a weekly radio show and two TV shows, all based in in Southern California. Dan also is the author of some 45 books and was raised in Birmingham, where his father, the Rev. Alfred Wooding, pastored The Sparkbrook Mission for some 30 years. Dan, his wife Norma, and sister Ruth, also launched The Messengers, an outreach group in the city.
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