Catherine Picken, aged 55
A tribute by Nick Whipps, pastor of Norwich Elim, great-nephew of Catherine:
Although I was only seven years old in 1978, I can recall the events of June 23. It was Saturday lunchtime and my two older brothers and I had been glued to some sort of sports programme on TV which we knew always broke for 15 minutes of news at the top of the hour.
My mum had been working nights at a local hospital, so daytime for her became sleep time, assuming of course three boys less than eleven years of age could keep sufficiently quiet long enough. I recall the telephone ringing at about 12.50pm and one of my brothers went to answer the phone in the hall. He then woke mum up explaining how there was a call for her.
The door to the living room was closed once my brother had passed on the phone to mum. We had no idea of the content of the call, so just heard mum’s voice occasionally as the TV programme was winding up prior to the news. The news bulletin started and the headline reported of the massacre of Elim missionaries in the Vumba valley of Rhodesia, naming the lives of those lost.
Not long through the newsreaders list was the name Catherine Picken, my great aunt. To be honest, as a seven year-old I couldn’t properly grasp what I’d heard; not numbness or shock, but just a lack of ability to comprehend. Within a very short space of time, my mum came into the living room to explain what had happened in the Vumba, only for her words to somehow echo those of the news.
Forty years have passed since Great Auntie Catherine was ‘promoted to glory’, and yet only in recent times have I tracked my own journey to discover that my decision to follow Jesus came within five weeks of her passing. I can say with a strong degree of confidence that Catherine’s passing hadn’t even entered my mind when I responded to the call to follow Jesus in a children’s summer holiday club at Chelmsford Elim Church.
That said, since responding to the call to enter the Elim ministry in 2007, my thoughts are regularly drawn to those who have run the race, fought the fight with courage and now cheer us on as ‘the great cloud of witnesses’. I’m deeply honoured to humbly play my part in continuing to fulfil the legacy that my great aunt gave her life for. The Vumba massacre is quoted as one of Elim’s darkest days, yet only eternity will fully reveal, despite the tragedy of lives lost, how many lives have been saved through it.