“The first time I ever saw Thelma Chandler was on August 28, 1935, when she was the student hostess at Fess Blackwell’s table in the dining room,” says Marion Moorhead. He remembers that “there was always plenty of cornbread, peanut butter, and molasses. No one had to go away hungry.”
Thus began five years of courtship that led to a wedding on June 8, 1940 in the Connie Maxwell Children’s Home Chapel.
After 42 years of marriage and a ministry of teaching, preaching, and missions the Moorheads have “retired” – but haven’t quit – and are living in Easley, SC.
Born in Pickens County, Marion came to North Greenville Academy and graduated in 1934. His plans to attend Furman in the fall were interrupted when he and a friend decided to “see what was taking place at North Greenville.” Dr. M.C. Donnan “put the pressure on” and persuaded him to register at N.G. instead. He graduated from the college in 1936.
Marion first sensed the call of God to missions at North Greenville. Miss Hannah Plowden, the first missionary he had ever heard, came to the campus and her speech made a profound impression on the young man. He was later licensed to preach the Gospel by the North Greenville Baptist Church. Dr. Sam Lawton was the pastor.
A native of Hopewell, VA, Thelma went to live at Connie Maxwell Children’s Home in 1924 where she lived for seven year. Moving to Baltimore, MD, she completed the 11th grade. She came to N.G. in 1935 and registered as a college freshman. “It was,” she says, “at Connie Maxwell that I felt God’s call to the mission field at the age of 13.
Before seminary days, Marion was pastor of Columbia Baptist Church, Princeton, and Principal of Princeton School. Thelma taught in the public school at Whitmire. In 1940 he was called to the Lydia Mills Church in Clinton. The same year they married and as a married woman she could no longer teach in the Whitmire school so she accepted a position with the Laurens County Schools to teach at Wadsworth, a one-room school near Clinton.
After graduating from the Seminary in 1943, Marion served as BSU secretary at the University of Oklahoma at Norman before coming a Chaplain in the Navy for two years. Thelma completed her MRE degree at the Seminary in 1944 and became Education Director of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, while Marion served his country.
Their appointment as missionaries to Japan came in 1946. They went to language school at the University of California at Berkley and on to Japan in December 1948. They taught in Seinan Gakium, Fukuok, for three years before becoming evangelistic workers in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
It was a pastor of Tokyo Baptist Church that Marion “felt very much the fulfillment of the call to missions I experienced at North Greenville. The call to missions is a call to commitment,” he explained as he talked of finding God’s will. “We must learn the day to day will of the Lord then we will come one day to the realization what we are in the place where the Lord has been leading us.”
During Marion’s 15 years as a pastor, Thelma was busy serving as Education Director and for the last ten years as Minister of Counseling in the church.
The Tokyo Church was an international church. There were at time as many as 25 nations represented in the worship service. In addition a Japanese speaking Shibuya Baptist Church was organized within the Tokyo Church.
Upon leaving Japan, the church honored the Moorheads with a money-tree and the Japanese speaking congregation awarded him with a plaque of appreciation.
Reflecting upon his missionary career, Marion says, “If I had the opportunity to do the work again, I would more thoroughly master the language, give more attention to the training of Japanese Christians to win their countrymen to Christ, and spend more time with my family.”
The Moorheads have three children. Michael, a graduate of Furman and Columbia University, in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he is employed by the State to work with disturbed youths. Douglas, a graduate of Furman, hold a medical degree from Emory University and has completed his work in Psychiatry. He is Medical Director of the Mental Health Center, Berkeley, California. He and his wife, the former Peggy Heathcock, have the only two grandchildren of the Moorheads, Heather and Laurel. Margaret, the only child born in Japan, studied at Elmira College, graduated from Princeton University and completed her master’s and doctor’s degrees at Boston University, Cambridge. She is a licensed Psychologist and in 1981 was named among the Outstanding Young Women of the Year. She lives in Cambridge.
Their love and appreciation for North Greenville are strong and evident. It is certain they will find positive ways to express it in retirement.
Printed in June 1982 North Greenville College Alumni Newsletter