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August 16

Herb and Mary Bird

Former Orthodox Presbyterian missionaries Herb and Mary Bird first met as students at Wheaton College in the 1940s. Mary had accepted Christ as her Savior in her teens, then learned about the Reformed faith from a fellow student who was heading to Westminster Theological Seminary. After graduation, she taught at two different Christian schools and joined Memorial OPC in Rochester, New York. Dr. Cornelius Van Til preached at the church and recommended that seminarians also preach there. When seminarian Herb Bird filled the pulpit, Mary renewed her friendship with him. They were married on this date in 1947—the same year he graduated from WTS. Herb was ordained and served as pastor of Faith OPC in Lincoln, Nebraska, for five years.

While in her teens, Mary had wanted to be a missionary after reading missionary books. Herb had volunteered in college to go to China as a missionary, but was prevented because of World War II. Herb and Mary hoped to go to Korea, but the Korean War interfered. Then the OPC’s Committee on Foreign Missions called them to serve in Eritrea in 1952. Their service began with a month-long trip to Eritrea with son David. Herb, a linguist, learned the Tigrinya language well enough to preach in it after a year. He also translated a commentary on the first six chapters of John and the Shorter Catechism. Mary taught the women to sew, explained Bible verses to them, and, at times, homeschooled the children.

After 19 years on the mission field, the Birds returned to the United States in 1971. Their sons, David and Steven, both graduated from Trinity Christian College and daughter Ruth from Gwynedd Mercy College. In 1971 Herb became the editor of Great Commission Publications. In 1975, he also served as assistant general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions. Herb died in October 1976. At 94, Mary lives with Ruth and is an active member of Trinity OPC in Hatboro, Pennsylvania. She has six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Picture: Herb, Mary, David, Steven and Ruth Bird

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