Florence Li Tim-Oi vs. Enmegahbowh

Hey, it's the final battle of the week and the second matchup of the Saintly Sixteen! Today Florence Li Tim-Oi faces Enmegahbowh.

Yesterday, Joanna the Myrrhbearer soundly defeated Augustine 65% to 35% to become the first saintly soul to reach the Elate Eight.

Oh, and if you're looking to refresh your knowledge by re-reading the first round information? Go to the Brackets tab and scroll down. Right underneath the updated bracket, you'll find links to all the earlier matchups.

Have a great weekend full of Lenten life, and we'll see you bright and early Monday morning as Bertha of Kent faces Edmund.

Vote now!

Florence Li Tim-Oi

Florence Li Tim-Oi had five brothers and two sisters. Her family lacked the resources to continue her education past age 14, but she resumed her studies at age 21 and finished at age 27. That’s determination!

Upon her baptism into the Anglican church, she took the name Florence because she was born in May, a month of flowers and blooms. Florence means I blossom, I flower, I flourish. Yeah, she did! She also chose it because of Florence Nightingale, which you probably remember from her bio. Both Florences felt a call from God - Nightingale to help through medical care and Li through spiritual care.

After hearing a priest issue a call in his sermon at the ordination of an English deaconess where a call for someone to step forward to be a Chinese deaconess, Li Tim-Oi knelt and prayed, “God, would you like to send me?” Call heard and received!

Li Tim-Oi served in the Portuguese colony of Macau as a deacon. One of the war refugees records this about Deacon Li: “Life in Macau at this time was not easy. We were very short of food and sometimes were unable to find any. Miss Li visited us and managed to bring us a little rice and dried beans and we could make soup. She also visited others who needed help.” Inspired by Deacon Li Tim-Oi, two of the brothers became priests in South Africa after the war. Not one, but two!

She visited a middle school in Macau, resulting in seventy-two girls asking to prepare for baptism. Her bishop reportedly said: “No other man pastor has yet had that experience in the Anglican Church in South China, but she is not primarily an evangelist; she is a quiet, competent, and sympathetic pastor.” It sounds like evangelism to me!

Reverend Li could not practice her priesthood for thirty years for political reasons. Someone asked her how she sustained her faith during that time. She said, “I just went up the mountain and nobody knew.” Nobody but God!

Even though Reverend Li suffered multiple indignities and hardships, she kept her focus on those she served. Ted Scott, the Primate of Canada, said: “She was never bitter, never harbored any resentment against those who caused her suffering. She had the resources to forgive all that had been done to her.” Reverend Li said this about herself: “I am just an earthen vessel with God’s treasure inside me.” She also said: “I know I’m not a diamond. Beautiful diamonds experience many cuttings and polishing.” Raw diamonds are beautiful!

After Reverend Li’s death, her sister Rita provided initial funding for  the Li Tim-OI Foundation, which “exists to  empower Christian women as agents of change within their own cultures.” More than 250 women are ordained priests, and many others live out their calls as social workers, teachers, legal advisors, diocesan secretaries, and many other service careers that people need. Amen!

Miriam Willard McKenney


When Methodists abandoned missions in Minnesota in 1840, Enmegahbowh had what the Rev. Jackie Bernacchi, who currently pastors the churches he later helped found on the White Earth Reservation, describes as his “Jonah” moment.

Enmegahbowh, who was Ottawa, had been working with the Methodists as a missionary and interpreter and said they had “failed to meet the wants of the Indians and failed to secure a single convert.”

Discouraged and missing his parents back in Ontario, he boarded a ship home with his wife Biwabikogizigokwe (also known as Charlotte), who was Ojibwe, and perhaps two children.

The ship encountered high winds, and the captain turned back.

“I believe, as I believe in God, that we are the cause of almost perishing in the deep waters. I believe that although poor, God wanted you to do something for our dying people,” his wife told him, according to Verne Pickering and Stephen Schaitsberger’s book, “Stands Before His People: Enmegahbowh and the Ojibwe.

Enmegahbowh agreed, but couldn’t imagine he could have success where “white missionaries with means, education, experience” had failed.

“To be recognized by my Heavenly Father and to be impeded on my journey to the rising sun, I am too small! Too poor! It is impossible!” he wrote.

The couple set out again for Canada. This time, their ship encountered a storm, and, Bernacchi said, Enmegahbowh had a “mystical sort of experience with Jonah, who kind of accusingly said, ‘Are you going to do what I did?’”

The wayward biblical prophet Jonah appeared to Enmegahbowh, telling him, “Ah, my friend Enmegahbowh, I know you.”

After telling Enmegahbowh he was doing the exact thing he had by running from the people God told him to serve – and cracking, “There is no whale in this lake, no fish big enough for your huge body” – Jonah tells him to repent.

“God is great. He knows of your every step. He governs the elements of the world and He has sent this wind to tell you that you cannot escape his notice. … May the Great Spirit pardon you and bring you to dry land,” Jonah said.

Enmegahbowh took the vision to heart and, without being cast overboard and swallowed by a fish like Jonah, decided to return to Minnesota and to the Ojibwe people.

He went on to become the first Indigenous deacon in the Episcopal Church and, later, its first Indigenous priest, remaining with the people when they were forcibly relocated to the White Earth Reservation and translating hymns that continue to play an important role in the culture and preservation of the Ojibwe language.

The ship went on to sink less than a month later.

— Emily McFarlan Miller


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68 comments on “Florence Li Tim-Oi vs. Enmegahbowh”

  1. Oh, I do love both of these saints. Both doubted their ability to carry out their calling but persevered anyway. Florence - “I just went up the mountain and nobody knew.” Nobody but God!" Enmegahbowh “God is great. He knows of your every step. He governs the elements of the world and He has sent this wind to tell you that you cannot escape his notice." I voted for Mr. "E."

  2. I started with Florence but then went to Enmegabowh after the write-ups and comments. I would honestly be elated for either to advance, but I had to make a choice. I have always been struck by a Nigerian candidate for a ThD in my seminary who celebrated that he and his family were Christians because of the Anglican missionaries. He was very clear that colonialism created many intractable problems and that abuse was rampant, so he wasn't naive. At the same time, his life with Jesus was so important to him that he gave thanks for that gift and those whose witness made it possible. In a typically colonial imperialist way, the Western judges of his dissertation defense were not happy with that approach. They ultimately begrudgingly approved his defense. I think there is something powerful about lifting Enmegabowh and others who found life in Christ so compelling that they could see the Gospel beyond the evil worked by many in Christ's name. I pray that I may have such eyes of clarity. After all, we will all be sitting around Christ's table not because of our worth but because of Christ's embrace of us from Cross following the words "Father forgive . . ."

  3. I vote for Enmegahbowh today because our parish just finished a study of the book of Jonah last fall. I found the significance of Jonah in his story intriguing.

  4. Having had the privelege of meeting Florence and spending a week in her presence I have to cast my vote for her.

  5. I remember my Aunt (Anne Davison) talking about Florence and the work she did. My Aunt was a missionary in China (at the time of the Communist take-over), in Korea (worked with widows and orphans after the Korean War, and finally in Vietnam (during the war) where she was the Head of Foster Parents Plan. Wonderful women doing the work of God!

  6. Today's vote was particularly hard because I voted for both in the first round. I ended up going with Florence because this is the month of the woman. Like many others, both deserve the golden halo. The next round of votes is going to be very hard because I voted for most of the contenders.

  7. This was an impossible choice for me, to choose between two such faithful and giving people who worked so hard and patiently. In the end I literally had to flip a coin (cast lots?) to make my choice.

  8. Both of their stories were very hard. Both had to face Empire against overwhelming odds. Both were faithful to God. To God be the glory for both these lives of faithful witness, and may we bow our heads in repentance for the sins of our nation toward the first peoples. As I write this, my heart is turning toward Enmegahbowh even though I am pulling for Florence for the Golden Halo. Prayer sometimes leads us in our vote!!

  9. I voted for both of these worthy saints in the first round but my heart goes to Florence Li Tim-Oi. I love these two quotes. “I just went up the mountain and nobody knew.” “I am just an earthen vessel with God’s treasure inside me.”

  10. I almost couldn't decide. Both are compelling figures. I'm somewhat regretful that Enmegahbowh is behind, because it would be a good Lenten discipline to learn how to pronounce Biwabikogizigokwe.

  11. I stuck with Florence here ( I am just an earthen vessel with God’s treasure inside me” !!! ) but that story of the Jonah visitation made it a tough choice! Great write ups by both bloggers! Thanks so much to all the bloggers for their compelling stories daily.

  12. It just gets harder and harder, doesn't it? I voted for each of them before, so it's really difficult to choose. I ended up voting for Florence, since she was the first woman priest.

    But Enmegahbowh is also worthy, so I won't be disappointed if he goes on to the next round.

  13. Tough choice again. I was torn, but the information about the Li Tim-Oi foundation pushed me in her direction. Having benefited from the witness and ministry of female clergy in our church and being a retired social worker myself I chose Florence today.

  14. What a pair of equals to pick only one! Went with one, but should have, perhaps gone with the other. WEM, Chico,Ca

  15. Oh, this was soooo unfair! They both seem so incredible, I couldn't really choose. I am sorry they both cannot advance.

  16. The Reverend Florence Li Tim-Oi
    5 May 1907 - 26 February 1992
    Feast Day - 24 January

    On 25 January 1944 history was made when the Reverend Florence Li Tim-Oi was made a 'Priest in the Church of God’. The Ordination in the Anglican Diocese of Hong Kong and South China took place in the Free China village of Shui Hing during the Sino-Japanese War. It was conducted by Bishop R. O. Hall in order that Anglican Christians in Tim-Oi's parish of Macao, the Portuguese island colony, could receive the sacrament of Holy Communion properly authorized.

    I was privileged to meet the Reverend Florence Li Tim-Oi who was a special guest at a party I attended on the eve of the consecration of Barbara Clementine Harris, the first woman to become a bishop in the Anglican Communion, on February 11, 1989, in Boston, Massachusetts. The party was in a home on the campus of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS). Florence was surrounded by many of those women for whom she led the way to the priesthood, Carter Hayward and others.

  17. Another tough decision. I voted for both in the first round, and reading the comments was no help. I ended up voting for Li Tim-Oi, probably because my grandmother was named Florence, and I have no ancestor named Enmegahbowh.

  18. Had to vote for Enmegahbowh, as Jonah is my favorite prophet. Really identify with someone trying to evade God’s direction

  19. Following the Holy Spirit's leading, can be both the simplest and most difficult discipline. A child can do it without thinking about it. A busy adult finds it difficult to sort out "the world" from "the divine leading". A person at the end of their life can relax in it. Ordained Priests (I am not one) seem to be those who have read, reacted to, and filled their brains with words about the Spirit of God. These two Saintly Priests must have had more space than many, to reflect and practice the discipline of following it. Could that be a gift that only the marginalized can fully receive?