As a teenager, while attending an associational youth meeting, Delilah Canning was challenged to seek God’s will for her life. She accepted the challenge and every day she prayed that she would come to know God’s will for her life. During this time, she felt called to serve as a missionary in Africa. Her next prayer was that God would show her how to be a missionary. She says, “I had never seen, heard or known a missionary.”
Over the next few years, God opened doors to prepare Delilah to serve as a missionary. First, she attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Upon her graduation, she learned that the Illinois Women’s Missionary Union had funds to help mission volunteers attend seminary. Delilah began studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and graduated in May 1956.
After completing seminary, Delilah was gifted with the opportunity to study nursing at the Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in San Antonio, Texas. Nursing training would put Delilah on the path to fulfill her dream of serving as a missionary nurse.
Nine years after hearing the challenge to seek God’s will for her life, Delilah was appointed to serve as a missionary nurse to Nigeria in West Africa in 1960. She says, “The only thing required of me during those nine years was to walk through doors God had opened.”
Delilah’s first year as a missionary nurse was spent in Joinkrama. Joinkrama was a remote location, only accessible by a twelve-mile canoe trip on the Orashi River. In a letter dated November 1960, Delilah wrote, “Undoubtedly it [Joinkrama] is one of the loveliest spots on the earth.” Delilah served at the mission hospital which included in-patient, out-patient, surgery and obstetric departments. She says, “This was a special year for me as I saw so many come for physical healing and also found spiritual healing.”
For the next two years, Delilah served in Eku. In Eku, there was a large mission compound with a hospital and school of nursing. During her time in Eku, Delilah taught at the school of nursing. She says that teaching in the school was one of her favorite activities while in Nigeria. “I enjoyed most teaching student nurses. The students were eager to learn. Each year, we received about 400 applications for only 25 spots in the school.”
Following her three years in Nigeria, Delilah came home to the United States on furlough. Following her furlough, she took a leave of absence to have surgery. Her leave was extended when her mother had surgery. She took a “temporary job” at the Missouri Baptist Hospital School of Nursing, which lasted 29 years. In 1989, Delilah retired from the position of Director of the School of Nursing.