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LETTER FROM CHINA: Ignorance about Chinese is inexcusable, Lottie Moon said

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.

TUNGCHOW, China–In working recently in the country near Tungchow, I have been much encouraged by the manifest change in the attitude of the people towards foreigners. Everywhere I have been met with pleasant words and smiling faces. At only one village this spring have I witnessed any manifestation of the old hostility.

I was talking with some women when an elderly man of respectable appearance came on the scene and spoke in an undertone. He passed on and immediately they began to make excuse that it was cold and to go into their houses. I comprehended at once what had taken place and looking at the cause of the interruption as he disappeared, I thought ‘Poor old man, you have not many years in which to do this bad work. When you are gone, there will be none here to oppose.’ We met him as we were leaving the village. I suppose he had gone on that street to see that I should get no audience there.

I was much gratified to find in two villages where I am accustomed to stay evidence of real progress. There seemed to me to be a beginning of genuine interest. One should not be discouraged by the extremely slow progress of the Gospel in heathen lands. To be impatient of early results is as if pioneers, in an unbroken wilderness, with forests to be cut down, houses to be built, lands to be cleared, the soil to be plowed and sown, should be dissatisfied that houses do not go up by magic, nor broad acres, in a moment, wave with golden harvest. The hardy pioneer plods on patiently year after year and in time he reaps the reward of his labor. So in heathen lands we must wait patiently during the time of seed-sowing.

The harvest will come in time and, in China, what a harvest it will be! We should remember that the Chinese are not a small community of savages who gape in astonishment at Western civilization. On the contrary, China had a respectable civilization when our ancestors had not emerged from barbarism. Proud of her government, proud of her ancient civilization, proud of her literature, it is no wonder that China has striven to keep out influences from the West. She has striven in vain and is being more and more drawn into the current.

China and the West have misunderstood each other. China has judged the West from having opium forced upon her by a Western power. The West has judged China by its emigrants, forgetting the fact that, as a rule, the best representatives of a nation do not emigrate. It is time that this mutual misunderstanding should cease.

In China we see many multiplied proofs of a deep and abiding change. Much of the former hostility to foreigners was due to ignorance, an ignorance which is rapidly passing away. In the West, a similar ignorance exists with regard to China. Many intelligent people still look on the Chinese as barbarians. It is to be deplored that they do not read and inform themselves as to the real facts. With such a work as Williams’ ‘Middle Kingdom’ accessible to all, ignorance about China is inexcusable.

L. Moon.

Apr. 15, 1887

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  • Lottie Moon