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Laura Elvira (Elvie) Nicoll

1922-1923 / NZBTI Diploma (Hopetoun Street Campus)

Twenty-year-old Laura Nicoll, more commonly known as Elvie, was among the first intake of new students at the NZ Bible Training Institute (NZBTI) in 1922. Health problems prevented her from going to the mission field as planned. Her sister, Gwen, followed her to NZBTI (1926-1927) and served as a missionary in India for over a decade.[1]

Elvie moved to Melbourne in 1932 to care for an invalid aunt for the next 22 years. There, she became involved with Unevangelised Tribes Mission and Wycliffe Bible Translators, represented the Chinese Foreign Missionary Union, and hosted missionaries in her home.

One such missionary was Joy Ridderhof, the founder of Gospel Recordings (now Global Recordings Network) whose vision was to record and distribute the Word of God in peoples’ first languages. The two women became friendly and during her second stay with Elvie, Joy asked if she’d consider working overseas with Gospel Recordings. By this time Elvie was in her 50s and had given up on the idea of being a missionary thirty years before due to her health issues. Joy encouraged Elvie to pray about it. As Elvie prayed, her health improved remarkably, and a conviction deepened that she should go. Relinquishing her commitments in Melbourne, she headed to Singapore in 1956, aged 54, to establish a base for Gospel Recordings. There she reconnected with one of her Bible Training Institute contemporaries, J. Oswald Sanders, who was now the General Director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Oswald and his wife, Edith, were very supportive of Elvie as she launched into her new work.

After the base was up and running, Elvie moved to Calcutta in India in 1957. Due to the high import duties on all recording material coming into India, the decision was made by Gospel Recordings to set up a factory to produce records. This job fell to Elvie, who had to seek permission from the Indian Government and find a site in Bangalore. The factory opened in 1961. In a Reaper article written at the time of Elvie’s death in 1989, it was reported that “over a million records have since been produced, in hundreds of languages”.[2]

Once the factory was established, Elvie moved on to Cape Town, South Africa, to bring the work of Gospel Recordings up-to-date in that country. Once this was done, she went to Java, Indonesia, where she was based for six years. Indonesia had no commercial gramophones, so Elvie and others made “boxophones” (small record players). Elvie, now in her 60s, assembled over 2,000 of these boxophones herself.

She turned 73 in transit to Australia where she retired to Willandra Village in Sydney and wrote a book about her missionary service called What Price Obedience. [3] Her last years were spent in Shalom Nursing Home where Elvie continued to pray for missions and to entertain visiting missionaries in her room. She testified to the miracle working power of God in her life.

Elvie died aged 87 on 25 May 1989.

[1] Gwen sailed for India in May 1931 where she assisted Brethren missionaries in literacy and printing work in Bangalore, teaching Bible in schools and in literature distribution. In 1940 she went to Coonoor to teach at Hebron Girls’ School for several years before returning to NZ.

[2] “A full and varied missionary life”, Reaper, Oct/Nov 1989, p. 27

[3] E. Nicoll, What Price Obedience: How could I start a record factory in India? (Global Recordings Network, 1982)

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