Esther Mae Fraser, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumna, passed away at the age of 92, on February 14, 2021, in Camano Island, Washington. She was born on November 26, 1928, in Central City, Nebraska, the fourth and last child of Paul L. and Esther H. Gray.
While Esther was young, the family moved from Nebraska to Idaho and then during World War II, moved to Ogden, Utah where her father entered Civil Service. During World War II Esther was actively associated with a church. It was when her brother, who had been converted in the Navy, returned home and told the family of the wonderful grace of Christ that Esther gave her heart to Jesus. Esther’s greatest desire and aim in life would be to serve Him full-time. Missionary work was upon her heart.
Esther entered Whitworth College in Spokane in 1948 and majored in Christian Education. It was here that she met Brainerd (Bud) Fraser, a handsome GI. Esther and Bud were married on June 16, 1949. They felt led to do life together and for 71 years and 8 months, they did just that.
In March of 1953, the same year that Bud was ordained, Esther and Bud were appointed by the ABFMS designated to serve in South India. When the necessary visas for service in India did not come through, they were reassigned to the Belgian Congo. After intensive study at the Kennedy School of Missions in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Brussels, Belgium they sailed to the Belgian Congo, with their two young daughters (Joan and Sharon), in September 1956.
Esther and Bud were stationed at Kikongo, where the Bible Institute for the training of Congolese pastors was located. At the Bible Institute, the students entered as families, and both husband and wife took the required to study. Esther taught Bible classes at the Bible Institute and in the Women’s School. She nurtured and taught the wives of future pastors. Bud spent time teaching and directing the Bible Institute. He also wrote a three-volume commentary of the Old Testament in the Kikongo language. When Esther was asked to share a memorable moment from her time as a missionary she responded: “Realizing what a privilege it is to be a missionary.”
On March 7, 1959, the Fraser’s third child, James Brainerd, was born on the field in Vanga. Esther helped instill in her children the same love she had for Africa and the people there.
In the summer of 1971, while Esther and Bud were in the U.S., they sent a newsletter sharing that they had accepted a call to the White Temple Baptist Church in Walla Walla, Washington. After 15 years in the Congo, they felt it was the Lord’s will for their ministry at the time. As Bud pastored, Esther taught and cared for members of Baptist churches in Walla Walla, Washington, and Grand Junction, Colorado. She went out of her way to be friendly to those who were feeling awkward or having trouble fitting into the churches where they ministered.
Then came a series of interim pastorate assignments, 11 congregations in all over a period of 20 years. They bridged the gap of time until each church could install a new pastor. This gave both Esther and Bud joy as they prepared the church for a new pastor.
When they finally retired, they settled in Mt. Vernon, Washington, not far from their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Together they joined in the life of the First Baptist Church; Esther serving as the Mission chair and Bud teaching various classes. In the end, Esther and Bud stayed with their daughter Joan and family in Camano Island, Washington.
Esther made beautiful sketches and paintings throughout her life, creating books and books full of sketches that showed all the places she went throughout her life. She kept painting, even beyond the last church where they had pastored. Esther’s daughter Joan wrote: “When God gives us the gift of life, it’s as if He stretches a blank canvas in front of us and then lets us paint our story.” Esther’s canvas is now complete.”
Esther has left behind Brainerd Fraser (husband); Joan and Don Davis, Sharon and Barry Hall, Jim and Cynthia Fraser (children and their spouses); April and Ryan Beck, Rachael and Justin Baldwin, Brenda and Michael Ellis, Brian and Amy Hall, Michaela Fraser and Brynn Fraser (grandchildren and spouses); Jordan, Katelynn, and Logan Beck, Donovan, Audrey and Fisher Baldwin, Corban, Jack and Eden Ellis, Jayden and Brie Hall, (great-grandchildren).
The family is planning a memorial service to be held sometime in the spring or summer at Camano Chapel.