Friday, September 20, 2013

Women of the China Inland Mission: Elizabeth Wilson

Today someone came across and commented on one of my 2008 posts - one that tells the story of Hudson Taylor's little sister Amelia and her lesser known contributions to the formation of the groundbreaking China Inland Mission.

Amelia prayed for her brother, was his faithful friend and correspondent, and helped raise his children along with her own. By the time she was my age she and her husband had stepped into a crucial role in the young mission's home office. They hosted many mission candidates and missionaries in training as well as those transitioning into home assignments. Even when she was an elderly, crippled widow, Amelia would take tea with the young people who applied, encourage them, and help the candidate committee size them up as potential CIMers. As CIM/OMF popular historian Phyllis Thompson put it, "Without the root under the ground, there would be no tree. Without the Amelias, there would be no Mission.”

Today I came across an essay about another great woman of the CIM, Elizabeth Wilson. Just a few years older than Hudson Taylor, Elizabeth met Taylor at prayer meetings in London when both were young. She became an enthusiastic supporter of his work and the China Inland Mission. Committing her own life to missions at the age of 20, she wanted more than anything to go serve in China herself. But as the only unmarried daughter in her family, she had to stay home and care for her invalid parents. It was decades before she was free to leave.

Did she give up her intention? She did not. Three weeks after her last surviving parent died, Elizabeth  contacted the agency and offered her services as a self-funded missionary. She was 46 (one source I found said 50). Starting so "late," she never gained the fluency in Chinese that some of her colleagues achieved, but she did her best, and she could keep up with the rigors of travel.

At the time they described her as being "well past middle life." But that had its advantages. "As a senior person in a young mission, she had a unique ministry of support and encouragement to the younger workers," says Valerie Griffiths in Not Less Than Everything: The Courageous Women Who Carried the Christian Gospel to China. Her silver hair was an asset; Chinese Christian women hobbled miles on their bound feet to meet the "Elder Sister," convinced that she was old and wise.

Elizabeth was committed to going where the need was greatest and coming alongside overworked coworkers. At one point exhaustion threatened to overtake George and Emily King, far inland and away from any other workers in Shaanxi Province. Elizabeth and a young recruit Emily's age, Annie Faussett, set off on an arduous, thousand-mile, three-month trek to join them. Emily King was newly married and expecting her first child, and she was overwhelmed. The church was growing fast. Many Chinese women crowded into her house to get a glimpse of the first foreign woman most of them had ever seen, and they stayed to listen to what she said. But she could not keep up with the ministry opportunities; she needed help. In come Elizabeth and Annie, accompanied by two Chinese believers. In the next year 18 Chinese women were baptized there.

See also Going Where the Need Was Greatest: The Story of Elizabeth Wilson.  

1 comment:

Dianne said...

Dear Friend I wanted to tell you that I have been spiritually encouraged by your blog.
I like your comments and postings about missions and I liked the one about Elizabeth Wilson.
And I like any reference to dying to self as they do in missions.
I like the pic of you and your mom. Are all the posts yours or do you post what others say, like the lady that was called in on a domestic violence case.

Thank you,
Dianne Barrouk