Anneli Dotson grew up in Finland and, afterward, extended her nursing studies to include counseling, community outreach, and education. Her teachers encouraged her to live and work among them, but she longed to help the sick and carry the gospel to others. Fortunately, her parents understood her desire to become a missionary and supported her decision to go, first, to Africa and, later, to other parts of the world.
Anneli lives in an apartment in Anniston and spends even her retirement years sharing her testimony about why and how God called her to mission work. She spoke a couple of weeks ago at Fairview Heights-Northside Baptist Church in Anniston. Anneli, who will soon be 89 years old, has spoken at several churches since settling in Anniston close to where she and her late husband retired. His name was Clyde; and he, too, was a missionary.
Anneli grew up as a Lutheran like most residents at her hometown of Uusikaupunki (is pronounced oo-sick-ah-poon-ki and means new town). It is on the west coast of Finland.
While visiting in her home recently, Anneli told me why she wanted to be a missionary.
“I remember a special missionary meeting when I was 10 years old,” said. “An old missionary who had been to China said a little boy once asked him how many years others had known about Jesus. ‘Hundreds of years,’ said the man.’ I feel very sad that no one has ever told people in my country,” said the boy.
Anneli said the story stayed in her mind.
By about age 26, she had aligned herself with the Lutheran Missionary Board. While traveling on the ship to Africa, she met Clyde Dotson from Tuscumbia. He was a Southern Baptist missionary who began writing her. The two married a couple of years later.
Anneli loves to share stories about serving as a midwife and teaching the women in villages and towns throughout Africa, Norway, the continental United States, Hawaii, and Finland. She and Clyde worked closely to teach the gospel. They remained childless, and she gradually came to know his children from a previous marriage. She does not like to call them stepchildren. All of them live in the Southeast. She and Clyde chose to settle in Calhoun County to be in the middle of where three of the children lived. No matter where Anneli lives, though, she says she misses the African people and their country.
“I think missionaries feel that the country they served the most is where their heart is,” she said.
Listening to Anneli’s stories is inspiring. She speaks lovingly of the African people, their needs, and their openness to the gospel.
In 1982, Clyde died. Their children correspond and come to visit. She has grandchildren from three generations. One of her daughters, Joy, recently painted a picture of Anneli dressed in her deaconess clothing. Also, she painted another picture of Clyde as though he were on a ship. Anneli prizes both paintings.
She has one sister still living in Finland. She said the sister is upset because rain is falling instead of snow. She hopes more people start taking global warming seriously.
Anneli fills her time crocheting, a skill she was taught before entering first grade. When the other boys and girls took their sewing class, they often had to unravel their threads and start over.
“Not me,” she said.
She can make lace the way her mother did using handheld bobbins. Even her father worked with needle and thread. He made tapestries with a straight needle that pulled short pieces of yard through mesh fabric.
Anneli has lived a life different from most, one whose love for God and others has taken her across the world. She chose to settle in America, and her friends are glad she did.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.