Following Jesus

Trials of Faith

Marcelle Page’s Story

February 18, 2021 by

My first wife, Marcelle, was born and raised in a Jewish family in Casablanca. She first encountered Christianity as a little girl when she accompanied her father to meetings held by Miss Benzakin, a Tunisian Jewish-Christian who had studied midwifery in London and ended up in Morocco as a medical missionary.

During her teen years Marcelle met Barbara, a young medical missionary sent out to assist the aging Miss Benzakin and take over the work in Casablanca. During Miss Benzakin’s last days, Marcelle lived with Barbara for a year while her parents looked for an apartment in a safer neighborhood, as well as to help care for the aging missionary.

Marcel PageMarcelle, age 13

When Marcelle was thirteen she made a profession of faith in Jesus at a Christian girls’ camp in El Jadida. She grew in her faith over the next few years with the help of Barbara and other missionaries. During her teen years she often came under attack at the Jewish school she attended. Because Marcelle always considered herself to be a Jewish believer in Jesus, she was in constant conflict with both the Jewish community and the school staff. But she persisted, and courageously proclaimed her faith in Jesus to her friends and her teachers. As a result, the Jewish social services organization in Casablanca refused to finance her education beyond secondary school.

We met and married in 1970. A couple of years later, we became interested in Christian community and formed a little community with two other families. During this time we discovered the Bruderhof. In 1975 we paid our first visit to a Bruderhof community with the first two of our children. Some years later, we became members. In our forty-seven years of marriage we were blessed with nine children and twenty grandchildren.

In November of 2016, Marcelle was diagnosed with an aggressive form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). During the trial of her illness, she never lost faith. At the time, she recorded her memories of conversion and the trials that led to a deepening of her faith as a young person. 

For me conversion was a gradual learning about Jesus that held me later on when I came to make a declaration of faith. I heard the stories of the Bible every Sunday when I visited Miss Benzakin. She would read me stories from the New Testament and pray with me, saying, “Jesus will always be with you. Just turn to him. Don’t ever think he will leave you.” This helped me, when I became a teenager, to realize that if I had a problem I could turn to God. I could ask him for help. For me, conversion was more of a gradual turning and trusting and believing that God was there in moments when I was desperate. So, conversion for me is really a process that takes a lifetime, which is why I keep saying it is God who is faithful, not us. I feel he is the one who held me in his hands during times when I struggled.
I prayed that God would give me the wisdom and the guidance to continue loving him despite what people were saying about Christianity – what the Nazis or the Inquisition or the Crusaders did in the name of Christianity. The Jews asked, “Why would you choose to go to the enemy camp?” But I know that Jesus held me. It was his faithfulness, not mine. He held me because it was around that time, when I was weak and suffering in my faith, that my husband came into my life. God knew who would guide me a little closer and closer to Him at each step of my life. And so that is why I say He was faithful, not me.
It was as a teenager that I had a real fight with my faith, during a time when a trusted missionary woman fell into sin. It broke the trust I had in her and hurt my relationship with Jesus. A Jewish friend asked, “How can you say you are a Christian when this is the kind of life this missionary is living and saying it is quite okay?” My friend didn’t want to lose me to Christianity. I spoke with Mr. Frank, a Swiss missionary, who was like a father for many of us. After speaking with him I felt that my faith had to hold not because of other people, but because I believed in Jesus. I had to follow Jesus on my own faith and not on the faith of other people. That was when it dawned on me that it is me before God, and not me before others.
God always brought someone into my life to help me. When I needed Miss Benzakin, she was there. When Miss Benzakin died, I had Barbara. When Barbara was gone my husband was there. It was like God said, “I will never leave you alone,” and that is really what happened.

Allen and Marcel PageAllen and Marcelle in 2016

On June 17, 2017, Marcelle died at Darvell, a Bruderhof in East Sussex, England, upheld by the love of her Lord, her family, and her community. Her final days were difficult both for her and her loved ones. Toward the end she was totally incapacitated and unable to respond with more than a yes or no. But the way she accepted the burden God had placed on her was a challenge to all who knew her, and it was life changing for the young women who cared for her. One of them married soon afterward, and was so moved by what she had experienced that upon the birth of a daughter, gave her the middle name Marcelle.

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Allen and Channah

Allen Page

Allen Page lives at Darvell, a Bruderhof in East Sussex, UK. He helps publish the French version of the Bruderhof and Plough...

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