Margot Longley was a high-school dropout whose encounter with Jesus took her around the world to share the good news that she found in faith from an Anabaptist perspective.
Margot Sylvia Kottelin-Longley, artist, Anabaptist theologian and woman of prayer, served with Mennonite Mission Network and its predecessor agency, Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM), in Nepal and Finland from 1985–2017. After suffering with frontotemporal dementia for 15 years, Margot, 67, died in Turku, Finland, October 9, 2023.
Margot and her husband, Stephen, served in Nepal from 1985–1992. However, Margot worked alongside MBM ministries from 1976, long before she accepted an official assignment. She was one of the founding members of the London (England) Mennonite Fellowship that grew out of the London Mennonite Centre. This congregation grew with Stephen's leadership and, later, became the Wood Green Mennonite Church. When the Longleys followed God's call to Nepal, the Wood Green congregation helped to support them.
Alan and Eleanor Kreider, who served with MBM in the United Kingdom from 1974–2000, were mentors to Margot when she lived in London. It was during this time that Margot developed a strong Anabaptist identity.
"We knew Margot from age 19 throughout her life — the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) years, her marriage and children, their Nepal service, her academic accomplishments, and their eventual return to her beloved Finnish island life," Eleanor Kreider wrote in an email tribute to Margot. "Beautiful calligraphy and watercolor greeting cards, that she sent to us several times each year, are her visual legacy. She had simple trust in God. I, especially, remember Margot as a woman of prayer."
Some of Margot's hand-painted cards that she sent to Alan and Eleanor Kreider. Photographer: Lynda Hollinger-Janzen.
Stephen remembers that Margot liked to joke that it was Finland's Lutheran state church that made her an Anabaptist by baptizing her twice. Margot was born so prematurely that hospital staff arranged for an emergency baptism. When it was clear that she would live, Margot was officially baptized in the Lutheran Church.
At the age of 16, Margot encountered some street evangelists. Soon after, she watched the 1961 Hollywood production, King of Kings.
"As she listened to the words of Jesus in the film, she realized that this is what she wanted," Stephen recalled. "So, she came to faith in a secular cinema. Later that year, she was baptized [for a third time] on profession of her faith."
In 1974, Margot dropped out of high school and went to England to work at a Christian conference center and then, did a summer of service with YWAM, where she met Stephen. She attended a YWAM Discipleship Training School in Finland, before returning to England, where she and Stephen were married in 1976. Following their marriage, they served with YWAM in the Netherlands for two years.
In 1981, the Longleys returned to England where Margot worked as an untrained auxillary nurse and attended a three-month medical course for mission workers. They brought vitality to the Wood Green Mennonite Church and their children, Maria and Timothy, were born in England. After four years, the congregation blessed the Longleys in their calling to minister in Kathmandu, Nepal. Stephen worked in administrative support capacities and Margot was kept busy with their two young children. However, she also found time to complete an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree through distance learning.
In 1993, the Longley family moved to Finland where Margot studied theology at Åbo Akademi. She won first place in the John Horsch Mennonite History Essay Contest, for her Master's thesis about the Schleitheim confession, An Anabaptist Confession of Faith 1527. In 1999, Margot was accepted in a doctoral program.
When they returned to Finland, the Longleys served as International Partnership Associates until 2017. Through Stephen's development of the Turku Mennonite Library (while working fulltime as a bookkeeper for a children's home) and Margot's academic work, they offered the Anabaptist perspective as an alternative to the country's Lutheran state-church or free church dichotomy. At the time, there was little interest in Anabaptism in Finland. Some of Margot's university colleagues considered the movement to be "the lunatic fringe of the Reformation." But in 2004, Margot taught her first course on Anabaptism and many more followed. Margo was working on her doctoral dissertation, Anabaptist Ecclesiology: Its emergence and nature among the Swiss Brethren, when the progression of dementia forced her to give up her scholarship.
Upon their return to Finland, Longley family lived in Mäntyharju for two years, before moving to Turku in 1995. Ten years later, they moved to Korpo, an island that is part of the Finnish Archipelago, where they attended a small Pentecostal church.
Margot was born to Erik and Sylvi Kottelin in Rovaniemi, Finland in 1956, who preceeded her in death, along with brother, Jari. Margot is survived by Stephen and two adult children, Maria Longley (Tim Harris) and Timothy (Hannah Evans) and a brother, Kenneth.
The memorial service for Margot will be Nov. 3 at Korpo Church. Condolences may sent to: Korpoströmsvagen 8, 21710 Korpo, Finland, or StephenLongley@outlook.com.