[The following transcripts of letters by Sarah Alice (Troyer) Young (along with a few letters by others) were made by Mrs. Carol Whiting in the 1990s from the originals, which in many cases were very faded and difficult to read. The originals are often on very thin or poor quality paper. A very few minor revisions were made by the archives staff, including Laurie Ellison, a Wheaton College graduate student working under the supervision of the BGC Archives staff.]
[Comments in brackets were added by an archivist, except those in italics, which are by Mrs. Whiting. The full text of Bible verses mentioned in the letters were also provided by Mrs. Whiting. No attempt has been made to maintain the layout or page numbering of Young's letters or to indicate page breaks, except to have paragraph breaks at the same points as they occur in the correspondence. Misspelling in the correspondence have been left as is, as has punctuation and capitalization.]
[Many letter start on one day and then have a new section added on, headed by the date of addtion. In this transcription, a row of five asterisks "*****" separate indicate the start of a new letter.]
[Preface by Carol (Mizer) Whiting, a relative of Sarah Alice Troyer Young and the transcriber of the letters and diary:
Sarah Alice Troyer was born in 1871, one of 11 children of John D. and Catharine (Egly) Troyer. She was my Grandmother's sister. These are letters she wrote to her sisters and brothers before she became a Missionary and while in training and when she was in China as a Missionary. Her siblings were Daniel, Marietta, Anna (my grandmother), Lydia, Joseph, Emanline, David, Ellen, Martha, and John. ]
Thank you for the box of photos, hd'k's and Christmas card from Clifford. They came late but were just as welcome. I am so glad for the photos and letters. Think I did not forget to thank you for Clifford's photo in my other letter. If so I thank you now. Dear little fellow! but he isn't the same Clifford who insisted upon calling me grandma. It is such a nice photo. Mrs. Smith fell in love with him too. I have sent you a group of Chinese and we three missionaries with the name of each on the back. Last week was the first American mail I have had for six weeks then came enough late in the evening to keep me reading until about midnight. It was so nice to hear from you all. If I can find time to write it, will inclose a note to Mr. Bixby to thank him for the $1. C.J. I won't write you a special one but thank you very much, for the help you thus give to China dying millions, Anna, have already sent you a letter thro' the mission in the usual business way, but thanks you again and also for the wish that you might send two or three times that much. Am glad you enjoyed the "China's Millions" so much. I hope others in your home do to.
I am very much interested in your young lady pastor. What a reward awaits her for spending her whole life in the Master's service! I often regret the years of my life that were wasted because they were not spent for Him. No Anna I do not expect to become discouraged in the work. I believe the Lord has carried me by that place. When in Kansas C. I knew what it meant to be discouraged because not seeing any fruit of my work but just before leaving there the Lord gave me such a revelation of Himself and His Almighty Power that I believe He will keep me looking off unto Him and not let me get my eyes fixed upon myself as before. What need is there of becoming discouraged when we have this promise-"All power is given unto me--lo! I am with you even unto the end"(R.V.) [ Revised Standard Version, an English translation of the Bible.] This promise, too, is specially to those who are sent by Him to preach the Gospel to all nations. Discouragement is not of the Lord but of Satan himself. Mr. Fisher used to tell us "The devil wants nothing better than to get us discouraged for then we are unfit for the Master's work. Mr Mc Carthy who has spent thirty years in China and was our escort from Toronto to Tacoma said "If you become discouraged in the work in China get down before the Lord and find out what is the trouble for there is surely something between you and God--it is the work of Satan not of the Lord". All we need is just to be, nothing, to do nothing, only let Him who is Almighty take us into His hand to do His work as we take an instrument into our hands to cultivate the garden, to sow the seed, to gather the harvest, etc. The instrument does nothing except as we cause it to move, so we can do nothing in His vineyard except as He just takes us up after we have ceased to work, try to, in our own strength, and uses us to sow the seed, to water the garden or to gather the harvest.
As we have in(Heb. 4:11) ["Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." Hebrews 4:11, KJV] " Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest". "Labor to quit laboring" Rev. Middlecough used to say. Then what need is there of our being discouraged when our God wants to do all for us. A message He gave me before leaving Sang cheo was(2 Chron 20:15,17) ["And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but Gods. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out aganist them: for the Lord will be with you." 2 Chronicles 20: 15,17, KJV]. "The battle is not yours but God's---ye shall not need to fight in this battle---stand ye still and see the salvation of the Lord with you".
Our first woman was called home today by her mother-in-law. She is very valuable to us Having been with foreigners so long she knows their ways and we believe is a Christian and perfectly trustworthy. Her people have long tried to get her away from us but somehow the Lord has not allowed them to do so yet. They want her to go home and be one of them in their heathenish idolatry and customs. Her husband left her some years ago and has never been heard from since but according to Chinese custom and law the elder brother has taken her affairs into his own hands and can make her do anything he likes, sell her, beat her, take her home or leave her here, according to his mind she must do. She is very sad, poor woman. The Lord may send her to us again for this elder brother has just come home and wants to see her. She expects that he will compel her to go home to live but our God is Almighty. He will do what is right in His sight for her. If she goes it may be it is only to strengthen her and make her come out for Him. She has been fearing them so much that she has not gone full strength with Him. She is not baptized because her feet are still bound and unbinding the feet is a qualification for church membership in this district. Poor little woman! Won't you pray for her in your missionary meetings! Her name is Kuo Ta Sao.. The "Ta Sao" is the title of married women in the middle class and means great sister or elder sister.
You wonder whether I know how many hearts and minds are with me sometimes. Yes, I am sure I, at least feel the effect of praying minds coming over to China. It does strengthen one so much to remember that there are prayers going up from America for us here on the other side of the world. Between the hours of seven and eight o'clock in the evening you say those minds were carried over here --that was just about my getting up time--just a strengthening preparation for the days work. How nice I was glad to hear from Joe Montie. Have often wondered what had become of him. I am so glad he is doing well for he was doing anything but well for a time after leaving Arcona and I am afraid his life at Arcona was just a gradual going down, down. It was good he left as soon as he did. (please don't read what I write on this subject to anyone) No, Anna I am not "looking for someone still" I believe I am chosen to work without a helpmate. It seems to me a woman 's work in China is so much hindered by marriage. One is so much more free to the work when she has no household to look after, but the poor young men really have a hard, lonely life and do not stand it for more than a few years as a rule, before they begin to look for a housekeeper. The Lord may send the right one along sometime but it seems to me if I want to have unhindered work for these dear people I must remain as I am. He will guide in this as in anything else if we let Him. The dear friends at home thought it would be so much better to have married before coming and some of them had me married in Lincoln. Others in San Francisco (where I have never been) just before I left and even Father once said he would never give his consent to my coming except I marry first. How little they realize how much better off we are unmarried. In illness we have the best of care in health we have the least care and anxiety, and are the most free to the work.
In some countries I think it would be better the other way, for instance in Africa but in China there is a special work for unmarried women and as there are so many of us we can take good care of each other. However there is a work for married women too, they are needed as well as the unmarried and our great family of nearly seven hundred persons couldn't get along without the mothers. We really are as one great family through of almost every denomination there is such unity. Now this must do for this time. With much love to you all.
I am your Sister
Tell Clifford the Chinese children do not know what a sled is.
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Lugan Fu, Shansi Prov.
May 5, 1897
My Dear Children:
I have not been forgetting your letters but have them all piled up to answer. There so many things to take up the time so that I can only give you an occasional letter. Thank you for the letters you have sent me. I always enjoy them. If I remember rightly my other letter told you of the way the Chinese dress, eat and about their houses, this time I'll write mostly about their work and how they do it. It cost them little to live because they do all their work themselves that is those who have ground to raise their grain and material for making what they need. They raise their own grain, thresh it make into flour, etc, etc. From the straw of different kinds of grain they make hats, paper, and string. The ground is cultivated with a little plough drawn by a donkey, or a cow, or an ox, or a mule, or a pony, or any two of these hitched together: or by the use of a grubbing hoe; The seed is sown, grows up until harvest time when men, women, and children all turn out to gather the ripe grain with sickles cut down. Next it is taken to the trashing floor which is a patch of ground rolled smooth and solid by the use of large, heavy stones, here it is trampled out by an animal's feet or flailed out. The women are very good at throwing the grain up into the air catching it in a pan-like thing made of reeds woven tightly together in this way they get the chaff all out. Next it is taken to the grinding stone where it is made into flour. The grain is placed upon a large flat stone resting on the ground and crushed by another stone which is round and has a heavy piece of timber through a hole through the centre of the stone. One end of this is fastened to the perpendicular piece of wood or stone from the centre of the large flat stone and the other end an animal is hitched which goes round and round rolling the heavy stone over the grain to crush it into fine flour. Sometimes men or women push it instead of hitching an animal to it. When crushed very fine it is sifted through a small sieve. The bread made from it is not so white as your bread but is very good.
Now I want to try to describe a saw-mill to you. There is one at nearly every carpenters shop-in front of the shop right in the street. The first thing is a high post firmly fastened in the ground to this is firmly tied the big log which is to be made into boards. As it is placed upon the end on the ground the men have to build a scaffold on either side so as to be able to get to the top to begin sawing. The saw they use is something like the small saws used for fire-wood at home, but this is much larger and a man at each end to pull it through. I don't know how long it takes them to saw from one end of the log to the other but judging from what I have seen of their speed I should think it takes them a day. Not much like the mills at home is it?
Another thing which has been interesting to me is the rope-making. This, too, in the street. The parts of the rope are at one end fastened to a stationary block of wood at the other end a man sits on his little stool twisting them. The end of each of these strings (perhaps a dozen or more of them) is fastened to a small iron crank. These little cranks are all fastened into one piece of timber,(I hardly know how to describe it so you will understand) and with one hand the whole lot of little cranks are moved and thus the rope is twisted. Their spinning and weaving is all done by hand and every where we go we see women and children sitting out making string from the fibers of hemp straw. Fibers are added as they are needed and the string is twisted by spinning the large spool upon which it is wound, around and around. The string is fastened by a little hook to the spool so it cannot unwind so they just hold up by the string and twirl it around and around with the hand that is free.
Heavy paper which they use for making their shoe soles is made from straw which is ground into a pulp then pressed into sheets-I think on their grinding stones. After this it is stuck up against a wall, door or the perpendicular side of a hill, purposely prepared, to dry.
All their dyes are made from herbs, leaves of trees, etc. The principal colors are different shades of blue, red, green and purple. Every spring and autumn they,(if they can't afford new ones) have their clothes redyed so that they look quite like new, and when we want a new dress we send an old one to be dyed.
Now I think this will do about the work of the Chinese but I want to tell you about two little girl babies who came to the homes of two of our neighbors. One was about four months old when it died a few days ago and the other one was only a few hours old when it went away again. The first one after it died was wrapped in a rag and thrown out to the dogs and pigs as is the Chinese custom with such little bodies. The second one was killed by its own mother she did not want a girl baby. This was our next door neighbor and a woman living in the same courtyard with her told us about it. This is all because they do not know Jesus. I know you all wish these people could know Jesus and perhaps you wonder what you can do to help them. You can all do something- you can all pray for them and you can, instead of buying candy and other things you like, put your pennies into the missionary box. Each cent will help for it takes cents to make the dollars which are needed for people to go to the heathen.
Edith asks if the poorer class bind their children's feet. They do in this province. In Hunan Province none bind the feet, in other places again only the better classes do it. There is also much difference is the size of the bound feet. In the west they are smallest I have heard. I saw one pair of feet once which were only about three inches long. They are smaller here than in some places-yes, smaller than in most places. In the capitol Pekin, they do not bind the feet because the present Emperor and Empress are not Chinese but Manchurian and do not bind them.
But I must close now hoping to hear from you all again.
Much love to you all.
[On back of letter is written]
Anna, please forward to Mrs. Smith [sp?]
[Also on back of letter:]
Please forward to Lewis and Flossie.
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[Written in the upper left hand corner of the first page] To Lydia, Anna + Joe Lugan Fu Shansi, China
Aug 6 '97
My Dear Ones:
In order to save time I'll write a double letter describing my last outing from which I returned yesterday. I went with Mrs. Chang to Uang fang to a three day fair which was given in honor of their gods who gave them a good harvest. We stayed at Mrs. King's home where we received the people in great crowds especially so on the second day of the fair when the small courtyard was filled with men, women, and children. Mrs. C. was in one part and I in another and both were kept busy preaching to the people as well was Mrs. King in the house. They began crowding about us so closely that I thought it best to disappear for a while until some had gone fearing they might become excited and unruly. In less than five minutes enough had gone so that I thought I might venture out again. I have never seen such a crowd of people so nice and attentive as they were here. There was not a bad word said to us at any time which is very unusual in such a crowd. The Lord blessed us and I am sure some work done there will be revealed in eternity for I had such a definite word from the Lord just before starting. I was uncertain about going because it looked so rainy and I was not well but I was ready to do his bidding and asked Him to let me know what it was and He said "Go, I am with you" and I said "That is enough Lord, I want no more than Thy presence to go with me". The boys took us up on animals and returned the same day. The road was very bad and before I got to the city gate the donkey fell and landed me in a mud puddle so that I had to come back and change some of my clothing. From that on it was alright and not a bit of rain fell all day which was the first day for about a week that we had no rain. The Lord graciously gave us good weather while we were there too. They brought us back in a little cart with a cow hitched to it . The poor old thing got so tired before we got home and went so slow that I preferred to walk and did so the last ten li getting in some time before them. It is really wonderful how well one can get on with Chinese living. Mrs. Chang and I slept on the same beds of course she was rapped in her own "pi ysi" with her head down at my feet. Five other women slept in the same room . The first night I waited for them to go to their part of the room after I had spread my bed but one of them said "We have heard about your wearing a garment at night but have never seen it. Prepare for bed so we can see you I told them what every article was for and then knelt to pray telling them also what this meant. They were very much interested in all. The next night I (to my great joy) was left alone. The food I really enjoyed. I knew it was clean for Mrs. King is a clean woman and she took particular pains to get what I liked. The food in the inn is not very tasty and would be hard to get along with but in the homes of the Christians we always get the best they can afford. I left some money to pay for my food but when I got home I found it in the cash bag.
A number of Taoist nuns came to see us and seemed to want something which they failed to find in their own religion. They listened so attentively and asked questions. They seemed so sad. Their dress is odd, half like the mens. Their feet are unbound and dressed like a man's their head's are half shaven and they wear a mans cap. Poor things! I longed for the light of the glorious Gospel to shine into their hearts. One old woman just on the verge of the grave seemed so eager to hear.
Friday Morning, Aug 12, '97. A man has just come for something to give a woman who drank opium to kill herself. These cases are not so frequent here as in the South. We have only attended about five since I came.
The day before yesterday I went to Huan Ts uen to take the women's class. It is just a nice ride on the donkey. We came home late starting just before sunset and had full benefit of the glorious sunset. On the one side far in the distance the sun like a ball of fire was dropping behind the blue hills tingeing the small fleecy clouds with gold and reflecting this glorious rays in the range of high hills, capped with temples on the other side. A fine breeze was blowing and the donkey went along lightly. As we passed thro' the city from the North Gate to near the South Gate, where we lived, it became quite dusk and I wondered what the procession just starting out with the rain god would do as we passed for so often they try to injure the native Christians and foreigners if they come across them. My donkey frightened a little and went to one side but the people did nothing but raise a great cry of "foreign devil! foreign devil!! foreign de----vil!!!" with more strength than I had ever heard them do before. Yesterday Miss Gates was out in a village and got into another procession to a temple out in the country. They beat up their drums and kongs so hard that the donkey got frightened and soon got out of their way. It is said they will beat even the native women if find them on the street at such a time. Our God is a wall of fire round about us, and we need fear no evil "for Thou art with me". I have not told you yet about my last months outing-- my first itinerating journey. It occupied a little more than a weeks's time. During this time I had a varied experience. The first day we went only thirty li to a walled, but small city up in the hill's. Going on donkeys we could go by the near way which was a path over the high rocky mountains. Mrs. Chang and I had to dismount and walk for about 10 li. At first I enjoyed it immensely but soon got so warm and tired that I lost my friskiness. But the view from the top was just grand. The great wall of Lugan looked like a fence about an enclosure and we could see many villages dotting the valley. Going down the other side was so delightful-- the sun was low and the air cool. At sunset we reached the city and were directed to the only "good" inn which was out side the opposite gate. On arriving there we found "no room in the inn" or at least were told so. I doubted it at the time and after ward was told they did not want the foreigner. It was now dark and as we turned our steps to go to the city again. The boys faces looked troubled for we had stopped at several places in the city and found none where we could put up. I asked the Lord to lead us to a resting place and the next place we stopped at was the one tho' not very comfortable even for a Chinese inn. A great crowd followed us into the courtyard and while the room was being swept and the straw gathered up and piled on one side of the Kang (brick bed) I sat out side talking to the women of the way of salvation. It was now dark and soon our bowls of tang (soup) were brought us. The women kept coming and going until late when at last I invited the last one to come next day as we were tired and wished to rest. I did not like the appearance of the pile of straw on the bed. I thought it looked as tho' it were full of fleas so I asked for a door which was brought me and placed across two forms upon which I placed my small mattress and was soon on it, but a band of opium smokers who been a sleep all day soon aroused to take their opium and made so much noise that I could not sleep for a long time. Next day we had people in all day and many heard the "Gospel". in the pm a heavy rain came on which made our room so damp that I concluded not to stay over Lord's Day, as at first I thought of doing. On Saturday at about 10 o'clock we started for Li nai nai's home 25 li away (She is the eldest member of the church in this district). This ride was over hill's, thro' valleys and gorges and once over a very swift mountain stream. The boy first lead Chang Ta Sao's animal over than came back for mine. Fortunately the water was not very deep so we got over all right tho' Chang ts Sao's animal not being a strong one was quite turned around in the water. To cap all we were caught in a heavy rain just before getting to the village and Chang Ta Sao animal fell and landed her in a puddle of water so that she had to put on some of my clothes I was walking a head and got to a temple where I took shelter from the rain before getting much wet. We spent Sunday in a nice cave with Mrs. Li and early Monday morning before breakfast started on a 60 li journey to another Christian's home reaching Hu Kuan, the city in which we had before spent a few days, we breakfasted at the door of an inn on some hard biscuits and a bowl of tea which looked like water dipped from the street. It is needless to say a look at it was sufficient for me. Good water in this city is very scarce there being only one or two wells in the whole city. The people use water from a pool into which the water from the city and surrounding fields is drained. I don't know whether that bowl of tea was made from pool water or from water dipped from the street but it is much the same I suppose. Before we reached Sin-tsae we were again caught in a heavy rain and I had a funny experience in trying to wall up the muddy hill. I had dismounted and given my animal to Mrs. C. because hers was so slow when it had a burden on its back and I tho't I would walk on quickly but soon they got on a head and I could get no farther because my shoe pulled off in the mud at every step. I knew it was not far and that Sheng ming would soon be back to help me on and so he was. A warm welcome awaited me from Mrs. Li and her daughter who used to be schoolmistress at "The North Street". At this house I stayed four days visiting a number of villages with Mrs. Chang and the ex schoolmistress going back to Mrs. Li for the nights. I really enjoyed it and the food wasn't a bit hard to take. These villages are delightfully situated between the hills. Many homes are large caves in the sides of the high perpendicular walls of earth.
Letters came today. As I read Ella's letter telling about finishing up the house and arranging it I felt guilty of the longing for the "leaks and onions of Egypt". How glad I am that they are at last out of debt and straightened up. I have prayed much for it.
A few nights ago I was startled at seeing a scorpion creeping along the ceiling just above my head as I lay in bed reading. They are quite common and now and then some body gets stung but I have not yet been.
Anna your letter of Apr. 22nd is at hand, Mary's of Apr. 6th and Etta's of Apr. 7th. Dan's of May 27th came today. I am
glad you have your state certificate, Dan. My brothers and sisters at home are getting to be great public men and women judging from the letters of Dan and Ella.
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