Miss Isa Arthur
Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, 1956 – 2001
Shotts has produced its fair share of people who have made an indelible mark on the world in its time. Some are household names, whilst some are unknown and unsung heroes and heroines.One such person is Isa Arthur, a quiet modest unassuming figure who has carried out a task of Herculean proportion!Isa has worked as a missionary in Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea) her adopted country since 1956, with the Wordwide Evangelical Crusade (WEC). Born on 10 October 1924 at 214 Torbothie Road, one of 7 children, the family later moved to Clyde Drive. Isa was educated at Stane Primary School from 1929 – 1935, then at Calderhead until December 1938. Whilst at Calderhead, in June 1938, Isa was crowned as Queen of the Shotts Pageant.On leaving school she worked in the general office of the Co-opertative society. From there she left to begin her nursing carer. She worked in Belvidere Fever Hospital, Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital and the Victoria Infirmary, rising to the position of Theatre Sister. Isa felt called by God to work as a missionary in Portuguese Guinea. In 1953 she began preparing for this task by studying at the Glasgow Bible College. A candidate’s orientation course at WEC headquarters in London and a linguistic course at Wycliff College followed this.
click for larger image Prior to her departure for Portuguese Guinea, Isa spent time in Lisbon continuing her language studies and re-validating her nursing qualifications in Portuguese. (This was a legal requirement for anyone nursing in Portuguese controlled territory). In November 1956 Isa finally arrived in Portuguese Guinea and went to work on the Bijago Islands. Her task was to translate the Bible into the Bijago language. A big enough task in itself, but first she had to reduce the oral language to a written form! As well as her translation work, Isa was responsible for running Health Clinics including Leprosy Control Clinics throughout the Islands AND caring for and educating orphaned boys who lived in the Mission House. Well if you want a task done well, just ask a busy woman!!!!! Later Isa officially adopted an 8-year-old boy called Papa who had been abandoned by both his parents. Papa is now happily married and has presented Isa with 4 granddaughters. After 16 years of painstaking work, many revisions and proof corrections, Isa had her translation of the New Testament and a book of Old Testament stories accepted by the Bible Society for publication in the Bijago Language. In 1974 Portuguese Guinea ceased to be a Portuguese colony. During the colonial days Portuguese was the ‘official’ language and it was forbidden to promote the Creole language, which was the universal dialect understood by all throughout Portuguese Guinea. Portuguese Guinea was renamed Guinea-Bissau. Under African government Creole became the official language throughout Guinea-Bissau. Isa then moved to the mainland and set about translating the Bible into Creole! By 1989 the New Testament had been published and by 1998 she had completed the translation of the whole Bible. In 1989 Isa was nominated for the Robert Pierce (World Vision) award. Isa did not win the award but to have been nominated was a wonderful recognition of her dedication and an indication of the enormity of her achievement. (Needless to say Isa did not inform her friends about her nomination.). Now a youthful 77-year-old, Isa continues to serve God in Guinea-Bissau. Her current workload includes producing a Reference Bible, a Concordance and a Children’s Bible in Creole. This intrepid ‘Shottsonian’ has spent her life living and serving amongst the poorest of the poor. One lovely story tells of Isa getting her modest store of dresses made in identical material and style, as she did not want to flaunt her wealth to others. This from a women who lived in a mud hut!! One of the ‘bravest of the brave’, she has faced journeys of hundreds of miles in wild sea in open dug out canoes, survived a civil war and defended her faith at no thought to her personal safety. Her life is one of dedication to God, service to others and self-sacrifice. Add to this a lovely smile and a dry sense of humour and you have a person Shotts should be very proud of. Should you wish to find out more about this amazing lady, please contact her Home Church – Shotts Baptist Church, Dyfrig Street, Shotts.