Mary Elizabeth Gilbert Ray, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among East Asian Affinity Peoples in Japan and Thailand died Nov. 29, 2020. She was 96.
She was born June 29, 1924, in Progress, Perry County, Mississippi, to the late Martin J. Gilbert, a Baptist preacher, and the late Pearl Lewis Gilbert. After graduating from Mississippi College with the Bachelor of Arts, she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she married Charles A. Ray in 1948. Together they served churches in Mississippi—Bala Chitto, Bluff Springs and Price Street in Pike County, Moorhead Baptist Church and North Greenwood Baptist Church.
Ray wrote when seeking to become a missionary that she made a public profession of faith at age 9 and was heavily involved in church throughout her youth.
While she was in college, one Sunday morning the invitation hymn was “Have Thine Own Way.” She wrote, “I felt a compelling desire, to make public a commitment that I felt I had already made in my heart. This was a commitment to let the Lord use my life and whatever I may have in any way that he would the rest of my life.”
That meant serving in churches where her husband was pastor and feeling special joy in working with youth in her church and association and serving in the missionary organizations in her church, association, district and state. As she heard missionary speakers, she felt a growing awareness of the great need and an urgency to do something about the need in a personal way. After the foreign missions emphasis in their church in 1970, Charles told her he felt God was calling them to missions
The Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) named the Rays missionaries to Asia in 1971. There, they served churches in Thailand and Japan.
In retirement Mary Elizabeth and Charles taught English in East Asia for three years. When they settled in Purvis, Mississippi, she became active in supporting the treatment of mental illnesses. In 2004 she received the Hero Award from the South Mississippi State Hospital for her volunteer work. In addition, she worked with women transitioning from jail to life outside. She and her husband were also hospice volunteers. In her later years she continued to participate actively in her church and community.
Mary Elizabeth was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, Charles A. Ray, who died in 2016. She is survived by her three children, Charlie Ray Jr. (Sheryl), Betty Ray and Gil Ray (Marilyn). She is also survived by six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held December 5, 2020, at Evergreen Cemetery in Carrollton, Mississippi.
Read an obituary here.