J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), In China For God (Part 6)
Missionary J. Hudson Taylor would sometimes say: "There are commonly three stages in work for God: first, impossible; then difficult; then done. How many estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt! All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them…."
After ten years of work in inland China, Mr. Taylor could point to 28 mission stations in five provinces with six hundred converts having been baptized. Of these converts, more than seventy were preaching the Gospel. Sixty-eight missionaries had gone to serve with China Inland Mission.
In 1876 when Mr. Taylor was ready to return to China from his homeland of England, relations between China and England were strained. War seemed imminent. Mr. Taylor was advised against returning. War could close the door to all missionary activity. Fervent prayer was made. At the last moment, a change came and doors to the western provinces opened. Missionaries had liberty to travel in any part of China.
The China Inland missionaries took advantage of this liberty to travel about 30,000 miles in the next eighteen months. Scriptures were sold or distributed everywhere, and the Gospel was preached all along the way. Travel was by foot and wheelbarrow over rough roads. Accommodations were poor. Food was simple and sometimes coarse. But for Jesus’ sake, it was all borne willingly, and later journeys proved that converts made had been real.
Busy though Mr. Taylor was with his traveling and preaching and doctoring and correspondence, a fellow missionary recalls that it was his daily practice to remember the seventy or so missionaries three times a day, at least once mentioning them by name. He, too, remembered the national workers.
The next time the Taylors were in England word came of famine in the western provinces. There was urgent need of a woman leader who could accompany the pioneering women into the West to help care for the famine orphan children. The Taylors agreed that while he remained to care for matters in England, she would return to China to assume the leadership. Mrs. Taylor was one with her husband in the belief that they must never let the pressures of the work rob them of their communion with the Lord. She saw the most important part of their work as intercession, battling through in prayer for their fellow workers. "They fight the seen, and we must fight the unseen battle," she said.
Soon Mr. Taylor had also returned to China and had thrown himself into the work again. He became quite seriously ill and together the Taylors journeyed to a northern province where the climate was more agreeable, in order that his life might be spared. While recuperating here, Mr. Taylor came to the conclusion that this would be a very satisfactory location for a sanitarium and a school for children of the missionaries.
Unexpectedly they were offered good land at a reasonable price. With wood secured from two wrecked ships on the nearby beach, and with bricks which they made themselves, Mr. Taylor and a fellow missionary also there to recover his health built a house. They were joined by two newly arrived young men missionaries who found it a good language school and an opportunity to "live Christ" before the Chinese. The building put up by those inexperienced builders served as a school for missionary children for many years. Eventually a hospital, homes, other schools and a sanitarium were built there.
A New Step of Faith
As soon as Mr. Taylor was able, he left the building operation to others and set out for the western frontier to give himself to a new responsibility. It had become apparent that the Chinese women of the western provinces could be reached only by women missionaries. But it would require a giant step of faith to send young, unmarried women "into all the dangers and privations, the hardship and loneliness of life in the far interior of China. Let them take those perilous journeys of weeks and months at a time, and condemn them to isolation in crowded cities, hundreds of miles from any other foreigner?"
Still if there were those willing to go, and if the Lord was sending them, Mr. Taylor, after much thought and prayer, was willing to accept the responsibility even for that. As he journeyed into this area, his accommodations were so poor that at times he had to share them with the mules, which occasionally disturbed his sleep by eating the straw from his pillow.
Through Mr. Taylor’s prayers and efforts, there eventually grew up a string of thirty ladies’ mission stations with churches and schools and hundreds and hundreds of baptized believers. Thus was proved how God uses the weak things to confound the mighty. Missionary wives showed themselves to be true heroines of the faith also. One was the only foreign lady in all the province of twenty-one million people, the first Christian woman who had lived and worked among the Chinese women of the area. How gladly she was welcomed! She had access to rich and poor women alike. Sometimes she so extended herself to help them that she fainted away from weariness.
Back in the homeland, prayer meetings had been organized especially for the women’s work. No doubt the success and safety of this part of the missionary endeavor was in no small part due to the prayer focused upon it. But it must be told, too, that along the trail of the pioneer stations were found lonely graves – little graves of children, larger graves of mothers, or single ladies. "Others will come after us…," said one missionary mother as she neared the end of her hard and seemingly fruitless toil. She was right. Years later there were thousands of baptized believers in the area.
(To be continued)