Archaeologist and missionary Marcia Bass digs deep

Experiences, Stories | May 30, 2022

“Kids who had turned eyes. Kids who had eyes that they couldn’t use,” recalls CBM supporter Marcia Bass of her encounters with children with vision impairment during her mission work in Africa.

Growing up in the Blue Mountains, Marcia attended a Catholic convent for her education by her father’s choice. She later married a man of Anglican background. So when she brought her daughter forward for Christening, a local curate was happy to help as long as she believed. “He led me to the Lord,” says Marcia.

At 14, Marcia’s son was diagnosed with a brain tumour and lost sight in one eye. Marcia’s voice trembles as she recollects how her son, in his strength, encouraged her through this difficult time.

A little later, Marcia lost sight in her right eye. She needed to train her family not to approach her on her right side. “We had a couple of years of broken things,” she admits. Her church also helped her through this challenging period of life.   

Marcia trained as an archaeologist working on dig sites within Australia, pursuing a particular interest in Indigenous women.

Her endeavours extended overseas in mission work, initially in Djibouti. Being a former French and Italian colony, few spoke English. Local Muslim women helped her with food even though they could not talk together.

The poverty of the people confronted Marcia. They didn’t have the basics like electricity or fresh, running water.

At a market, she met a girl selling matches. The girl’s mother wanted Marcia to help, but one day the girl disappeared.

Her mission work continued in Uganda and Kenya. “I taught at schools; I did all sorts of things. Built huts, cooked”. 

Her work extended to East Timor. The war had devasted the society. Much infrastructure was destroyed, but the Catholic Church stepped in to support it. As she had been raised a Catholic herself, Marcia was able to work alongside the organisation. Still, however, she found it difficult, as a more mature lady, to gain acceptance in the community.

One man invited her to join worship with the Seventh Day Adventists, who also undertook significant work in the region.

While seeing children with turned eyes, Marcia notes there were very few with total blindness on the streets. However, the occasional person with such experience would be flanked by others who could look out for them.

Marcia appreciated CBM as she believes it operates true to its mission and is financially responsible. “It’s got a spot in my heart.”

We are thankful that Marcia can dig deep – not just in archaeology – but in showing care and support – and we’re grateful that she can see and respond to need and continue to place hope in those children’s eyes.

CBM acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) for this project.

Story by CBM Contact Centre Star, Graeme Turner.

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