This article was originally published for Living in the Kingdom by
Green Leaf in Drought-Time (1957), by Isobel Kuhn tells the true story of Arthur and Wilda Matthews, and their daughter Lilah, missionaries to China held under house arrest for two years from 1951 to 1953. It is part of the larger story of the evacuation of all 601 adults and 284 children that were in China Inland Mission at the time.
This larger story and the miracles involved in it can be discovered in China: The Reluctant Exodus (2012), by Phyllis Thompson. The Matthews were the last ones from China Inland Mission to escape, thereby concluding the safe evacuation of all China Inland Mission workers. Green Leaf in Drought-Time chronologically outlines the narrative of the Matthews’ experience of faithful trust in the Lord in the midst of suffering during these two years. It shows God’s faithfulness to provide just what was needed for this family.
American citizens among other foreigners are being detained by police indefinitely and not permitted to exit the country
In China Today
The book has tremendous value for the believer today for several reasons. First, the things that happened in this book are happening in China right now. As the saying goes, “history is destined to repeat itself.” Although many missionaries today have been evacuated, there are still some in country undergoing interrogations and house arrest.
Just a few weeks ago I read an alert from the U.S. Embassy in China cautioning U.S. citizens to be aware of risks of traveling to China including what they call “exit bans.” This policy is now being enforced sporadically all over China and means that American citizens among other foreigners are being detained by police indefinitely and not permitted to exit the country, thus the “exit ban.” Those that do remain in the country are facing many of the same obstacles that the Matthews faced including tight censorship controls, police harassment, and government policies resulting in social isolation.
All of his belongings were confiscated, his head was shaved, he was issued prison clothes, and shipped off to a prison
Recently, I spoke with a friend from China who is now a U.S. citizen that is from an oppressed ethnic group in China. He recounted to me the experience of a friend who was born in China but emigrated to Australia and became an Australian citizen.
In 2017 he visited China on business. He was met by police at the airport where he underwent hours of intense interrogation. All of his belongings were confiscated, his head was shaved, he was issued prison clothes, and shipped off to a prison where he spent a month. Business colleagues and friends in Australia panicked, fearing the worst. They began to scrape together massive amounts of money and to re-trace the steps of their friend. Miraculously, they were able to locate his prison and successfully bribe the right people to get him released. At the time of his release, he had not yet been charged with any specific crime.
Second, the book is a great picture of what it looks like for Western Christians to endure suffering for the sake of Christ in the spirit of Christ. The Matthews never wavered in their looking to Jesus for help.
They trusted that He had lessons for them to learn through these trials and that they always had much cause to rejoice. They relied on the prayers of supporters back home and miracles from the Lord in answer to prayer. They learned to look to Jesus rather than to their nationality or social status. They learned to rely on the very people they came to help and that God himself would provide for their toddler, who would often break out in hymns of praise at the very lowest points in the whole ordeal.
These themes can be seen in the verse that the book title is taken from, Jeremiah 17:8 which says:
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.