by Valerie Griffiths
In 1900, two-thirds of the missionaries serving in China were women. Not Less Than Everything by Valerie Griffiths details the stories of such women, mostly serving with the China Inland Mission, who took the gospel message to China from the 1820s to the mid-1900s.
Monarch Books, Mayfield House, 256 Banbury Road, Oxford, England OX2 7DH, 2004, 350 pages, $13.99.
—Reviewed by Alice Chen, medical training and member care coordinator for NGO Shanxi Evergreen Service, China.
In 1900, two-thirds of the missionaries serving in China were women. Not Less Than Everything by Valerie Griffiths details the stories of such women, mostly serving with the China Inland Mission, who took the gospel message to China from the 1820s to the mid-1900s. Following the call to serve God overseas at a time when even homeland churches did not approve, especially for single women, these women quietly and persistently challenged Victorian views toward women.
The stories of their faith and perseverance in the face of physical hardship, hostility, criticism, loneliness and illness as they served in regions previously unreached are truly moving. Single and married women, not well-educated but highly committed, visited homes to share the gospel with Chinese women confined both by their bound feet and social norms. Women such as Nellie Marchbank defied expectations in her own country and correspondingly brought the hope of the gospel to Chinese women equally bound by social restrictions in their own country.
These gifted women pioneered and made remarkable inroads in ministry to the blind, education, Christian literature, publishing, literacy work, Bible translation, theological education, evangelism and discipleship.
Griffiths also notes the highly effective role of women missionaries in helping Chinese evangelists in the early church. Women missionaries became a source of support, encouragement and counsel to male Chinese evangelists, without threatening their leadership as male missionaries may have done.
Also touching were the accounts of the devotion of Chinese Christians who played key roles in helping the missionaries to adjust to life in China.
It was also important that Griffiths noted the vital role female missionaries played in China revivals in the early 1900s. Jessie Gregg, Marie Monsen and others were powerful instruments of the Holy Spirit in bringing renewal in many parts of China, despite prevailing theological restrictions placed upon women in ministry. There are valuable lessons to be learned today from this segment of history.
This is a highly readable and engaging book. The accounts of the call, personal struggles and reflections of the women alone make the reading of the book worthwhile. A few well-labeled maps would help the reader trace the extensive travels of the itinerant missionaries mentioned, but the reader will be sure to find this account fascinating and inspiring.
Check these titles:
Burgess, Alan. 1957. The Small Woman. New York: Dutton.
Price, Eva Jane. 1980. China Journal: 1889-1900. New York: Scribner.
Tucker, Ruth A. and Walter L. Liefeld. 1987. Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to the Present. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Academie Books.
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