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October-November 2021

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Celebrating the Remarkable Life of Carlisle Hanna...


"I Gave Him a Ham!"

By Clint Morgan


Carlisle Hanna was born August 3, 1929, in Lake City, South Carolina. During childhood, he was greatly influenced by his parents, especially his loving mother who made a big breakfast for him every morning—biscuits and eggs with ham or bacon.

His mother loved books and shared this love with her children. Carlisle began reading the Bible before he ever went to school. To the best of his memory, he read the Bible through at least once a year since he learned to read. That means he has read the entire Bible more than 80 times!

His dad was a quiet farmer on a “one-horse farm” as Carlisle describes it. Though small, the farm provided the family’s needs. His father loved music and could play many instruments. As a young boy, Carlisle wanted to take lessons, but his dad said he wouldn’t pay for anyone to take lessons; either you could play, or you couldn’t. Carlisle learned to play because he could.

Brother Carlisle has a good sense of humor. He laughs at what is appropriately funny and often says things that make people laugh, though he doesn’t intend to be funny. For example, when recalling his home in Lake City, South Carolina, he said, “Sometimes during the winter, it was cold as scissors.” I’m not sure how cold scissors are, but the expression made me laugh. And, when I recently asked how old he was, he quickly quipped, “Too old to buy green bananas!”

He recounted one night when he was nine. The family heard a noise behind the house, and his dad went out to see what was going on. When he came back to his anxious family, he told them a man was trying to steal some meat from the smokehouse. When they asked what he did, he said, “I gave him a ham.”

Hanna chuckled as he recalled, “not only did Dad give the man something to eat; he gave him a choice piece of meat—a ham!”

After graduating from eleventh grade in 1946, he continued his education, first at Newberry College, then Columbia Commercial College, Welch College, and finally, Columbia Bible College. But his education is not the whole story.

On August 15, 1948, his life changed radically. He attended a youth rally where God’s Spirit moved, and Carlisle answered the call to serve as a missionary in India. He told his parents he was quitting work and going to Welch College. There, he met Marie Wright, who already had answered the missions call to India. The first time he saw Marie, she was on her knees praying with the Missionary Prayer Band. These two like-minded individuals soon fell in love and were married May 30, 1949. It seems fitting the Hannas were appointed missionaries to India two years later, at the Bible Conference hosted on the Welch campus in 1951.

In October 1952, Carlisle and Marie told their families goodbye and drove to New York City, to board a ship to India. The U.S.S. United States embarked at noon, October 17. After docking in London, the Hannas took a long flight to Karachi, Pakistan, at 4:00 a.m., October 26. A final leg of their journey took them from Karachi to Calcutta, India, on October 27. They made this last flight at night, unusual in those days, but a brilliant, full moon made it possible. Hanna recalls people “rolling out the red carpet” when they arrived in Calcutta. But after a dramatic pause, he adds with a chuckle, “Because the governor of West Bengal was on the plane.”

They soon made the long journey to Allahabad to begin Hindi language school. Imagine that trip: three days on a train, traveling 700 miles at only ten miles per hour. They arrived in Allahabad after dark—no food or water and without the language skills to ask for what they needed.

A few weeks later, the Hanna’s eight-month-old daughter Sheila became very ill. Although the first doctor to examine her was not overly concerned, Sheila quickly worsened, and by her next examination, it was obvious to the doctor Sheila was dying. Carlisle and Marie buried their precious baby in a cemetery where other missionaries had been buried since the 1850s. What a tremendous blow for this young missionary couple! Carlisle describes the tragic loss. “We were very, very empty at this time. We did not think about quitting. We thought we might not live, but we did not think about quitting.”

The couple eventually had three more children: Brenda Kay, Mark, and Don. Both boys experienced their own severe illnesses that could have ended in death. Hanna recalls one particular moment when both boys were suffering at the same time: “We thought if we lost both boys, we would never return to the States again—just live and die in India. Then, we learned all the people were at church praying for the boys. And, they got better, praise the Lord!”

Life and ministry were extremely tough for the Hannas, especially during those the early years. They made $75 a month—not an hour, day, or week—a month. During their first stateside assignment in 1958, they essentially lived out of their car and only averaged about five dollars per service.

Back in India, ministry opportunities were innumerable, and they tried to walk through every door God opened. They settled in the village of Sonaphur in northeast India. They opened a hostel ministry for young boys to stay and learn—first about God’s Word but also important life skills. Bro. Carlisle recalls, “We had more boys than we could say grace over.”


Though destroyed by an earthquake at one point, the hostel was quickly reconstructed, and the flourishing ministry continues today.

Family tragedy struck again with the passing of Marie, April 23, 1998, at age 70. All three of the Hanna children and their families were in the U.S. and unable attend the funeral. However, every shop in town closed, and thousands—Christians, Hindus, and Muslims—attended the funeral. What a true reflection of the impact Marie made on the community.

Even in the face of loss, Hanna pressed on, unwavering and determined. He once remarked, “I don’t know the future, but I want to go as long as I can. It is a lifetime call, yes?”

And he did keep going! For 70 years, he stayed true to his calling. Through trials, tribulations, and testing he proved faithful. And through Carlisle and Marie’s devoted service, along with the work of many national believers, we have rejoiced over an impressive harvest in India.

Today there are:

  • 120 church planters and evangelists

  • 30 ordained pastors

  • 300 FWB churches in northeast India

  • 13 churches and 11 ordained pastors in southeastern India

  • 35 churches in Nepal

  • A congregation of Bhutanese believers meeting in India

  • More than 17,000 believers

  • 5,000–6,000 attend the national conference

Carlisle Hanna’s unquestionable commitment has been recognized at many levels. In 2000, he was recognized by his home state of South Carolina. Governor Jim Hodges presented him with South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, stating, “Reverend Hanna has been a humble servant of his faith, his God, and his fellow man, and, as such, has been a great ambassador for South Carolina. He is truly deserving of South Carolina’s highest honor.”

He also was honored at the MissioNexus meeting in September. MissioNexus unites over 300 evangelical mission agencies and churches with more than 30,000 missionaries and staff members. Each year, they choose a single person for the Lifetime of Service award. This year, they honored Hanna.

Several years ago, I was honored to attend the National Conference in India when they honored Bro. Carlisle with heart-warming speeches, gifts of great personal and cultural value, and words of encouragement. For me, the most moving moment was when a document was read declaring Carlisle “Uncle,” as the Indian believers call him, literally “one of us,” truly a man of India, one of their people. I don’t think any of us doubt that Carlisle Hanna is Indian in the deepest recesses of his heart.

We honor Carlisle Hanna for giving more time in service to God through IM than any other missionary in our history. As Free Will Baptists committed to the cause of Christ, let us live our own lives and carry out our own ministry in a way that follows the example of Carlisle Hanna…Uncle!

About the Author: Clint Morgan has been director of IM, Inc. since 2011. Learn more:


©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists