EDITOR’S NOTE: Each day during Baptist Press’ coverage of the Beijing Olympics, we are publishing a letter from a Southern Baptist missionary who served in China during the years before the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. Some of the letters reveal these missionaries’ great love for the people of China; others provide glimpses into what life was like for an American living abroad in the 19th century. We hope the collection helps Southern Baptists capture the passion of these great souls and understand the sacrifices they made so the good news of God’s love could be taken to what was, for them, the ends of the earth. The letter below was written by the venerable missionary Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Moon, who served in China from 1873 to 1912.
PINGTU, China–Our visit was timed so that we might be present on the occasion of the departure of one of our young Christians, recently baptized, for the home of her heathen mother-in-law. Some of her friends had urged my going on the ground that my presence would give her necessary encouragement. I replied that I had no doubts as to her firmness, that I felt assured she would be faithful, even unto death if need should be, but that I would go simply because I loved her.
The day for the wedding had been set for Sunday. We arose early on that day and held a service of prayer with the bride and her friends before the bridegroom came to claim her. Her face was radiant with a holy joy that now the time had come for her to suffer for her Lord. None of us knew to what she was going, and many tears were falling as the prayer went up for a blessing on our young sister.
After her departure, the usual Sunday service was held in the chapel. The brother who led in prayer broke down into uncontrollable sobbing as he prayed for her who had just left us. She is greatly beloved, and many fears were felt that she would be persecuted on account of her faith. We knew that on the third day, according to custom, there would arise the question of worship at the ancestral graves. What would be the result of her refusal none could say.
That evening I received a message from the bride to be “at peace” concerning her. She was reported as cheerful and confident. Next day, how glad we were when she came back and told the story of the triumph of her lovely Christian spirit! The young husband, in his first conversation with her, inquired why she would not worship at the graves. In her beautiful, modest way, she told him her reasons, and he said it would displease his elders, but that she must speak to his mother on the subject. Finally he said, “It shall be as you wish.” “Not as I wish,” she gently answered, “but as the Heavenly Father wills;” and she told him her pity for him, and her earnest wish that he, too, should not worship at the graves.
In her first talk with the new — the always dreaded — mother-in-law she showed the same gentle tact and unwavering firmness. The result was that everything was yielded to her wishes, and no sinful conformity was demanded of her. On the third morning, as she was to take her final departure from the home of her childhood, she came to ask for Christian books, that she might teach her new relatives. Her whole soul was flooded with joy. She had given herself up to suffer for her Lord, and lo! His mighty hand had made all things smooth before her.
Before her departure, we had a few delightful moments of prayer and praise in her old home, which was crowded with relatives and friends. I have since heard that wherever she went that day, to the various feasts spread for her according to Chinese custom, she spoke out fearlessly, urging upon the heathen women the holy doctrine in which she believed. She felt herself inspired by the Holy Spirit; and looking upon the almost angelic loveliness of her sweet face, one could not doubt that she was right in this belief.
As I have mentioned before, one of the most pleasing features of the movement at Saling is the zeal with which the converts and inquirers make known the Gospel to others. At home, abroad, wherever they may be, the chief thought of many of them seems to be to tell the glad tidings. Men seek out their friends and urge them to accept this doctrine that has come down from heaven; women carry it to their relatives on their visits to them; little children learn Christian prayers and hymns and become missionaries to their parents. So from Saling a power is radiating that shall, in God’s good time, bring light and peace and joy into many a home now dark in the blackness of heathenism….
The Christians at Saling seem to have increased greatly in spiritual strength since their baptism. The influence on the inquirers has also been excellent. One woman went off to herself and wept that “these children” (the two young women who were baptized) should precede her into the kingdom of heaven. Another woman told me that the sight of the baptism had made her very anxious. Her husband bitterly opposes, and he persecutes their son who is interested. He threatens to turn him out of doors — an appalling threat to a man with wife and little children to support. Another case of persecution is a young woman — a strong, brave, noble girl — whom they have threatened to sell off into Manchuria. She says she is not afraid, that if we meet no more on earth, we shall meet in heaven….
The gratitude of these women brought out from heathenism, is often touchingly expressed. They say, “If you had not come to tell us, we should never have known this great salvation; but for you, we should go to hell.” Surely there can be no deeper joy than that of saving souls!
Miss Knight, in her two visits to Saling, has greatly endeared herself to the Christians and inquirers by her kind and affectionate manner. I hope that in a few months I shall be able to resign the work there entirely into her hands.
Nov. 1, 1889