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Isobel Kuhn - Letter - May 1929
[Note: This is the text of of one of the prayer letters
that Isobel sent to her supporters in the United States to keep them informed
about her ministry. She wrote about leaving language school (all beginning CIM
missionaries were required to spend several months acquiring a rudimentary knowledge
of written and spoken Mandarin) and as she journeyed to her first mission station
in Yunnan province. it was a trip that took her into what was then French Indochina,
today Vietnam. Along the way she traveled for a time with her fiance John Kuhn.
Punctuation and spelling has been maintained as far as possible as they were in
the original letter. Comments in brackets  are by the archivist. The letter
is in Collection 435, Box 1, Folder 2. ]
China Inland Mission,
Yunnanfu, Yunnan, China.
Station: North City.
Tennyson causes our old friend, Ulysses, to say:-
"I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees........
Much have I known and seen; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments"......
I felt I must echo this, for, since my last letter to you, I have journeyed many hundreds of miles, and you who have got me all nicely settled and pictured in your mental visions must dump me out again, and prepare me a new frame From Kiangsu, an eastern province of China, I have followed the coast line south, crossed the China Sea, and the Gulf of Tonquin [Gulf of Tonkin], traversed French-Indo China, and entered Yunnan, the most south westerly province of China, by its southern gates. "Cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments".
On March 29th, I left our dear Yangchow Language School, and came to Shanghai, where our Yunnan superintendent, Mr. J. O. Fraser, met our party and as we glided into the still waters of the cup-like bay, the sun was rising over the towering mountain peaks that circled us on all sides, a scene whose beauty will live in my memory. Our stay was but a few hours, then we boarded a small boat which took us across to Haiphong, Tonquin. From then on we left British rule and Chinese faces for French rule and Anamese faces.
The Anamese speech is very like the quacking of a duck, and another most interesting feature is their black teeth. French is the official tongue, ad it was great fun brushing the cobwebs off what remained of my study of that language We had to speak it from then on, if we were to be housed or fed.
At Haiphong, on the morning of April 14th, a great event took place in two lives-John [John Kuhn, her fiance] and I met, after separation of some tree years. He came down to the coast purposely, so that we could have the three days' journey through beautiful Tonquin and Yunnan together. It was a most wonderfully happy time, and we felt as if we were on our honeymoon. The scenery up through this 'Switzerland of China" is a series of gorgeous panoramas from mountain peaks, followed by plunges down into valleys shadowed by towering heights. We passed through 154 tunnels on the trip (which John and I did not object to!)
At Yunnanfu we met with a most hearty welcome from all the missionaries, a large party of them coming down the railroad line to meet us. For nearly three weeks John and I were together in the capital city, hiking over the surrounding hills, going on horseback through the lovely plain, and incidentally shopping and getting ready for our respective s tat. One evening's program may interest you. We were invited to the American Consulate to dine. It so happened that on that very day Colonel Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt arrived from a hunting trip in the west of the province, and made their home at the Consulate, so we met them persona1ly. But I am sorry to say that they were the worse for liquor.
John and I said goodbye on May 8th, and he went off to Tonghai with a new worker, Mr. Mulholland, while our senior missionary, Mr. Allen, escorted me to my station of North City (the Chinese name is Behcheng). We hope to come to the capital to see one another in the late summer or fall, for a few days, but although he is only about 40 miles from me, Chinese custom does not permit him to come to see me here. This is to be our life for the next year or longer, that is, until our marriage.
North City is a town of about 10,000 people, on a charming well-watered plain encircled by beautiful velvety mountains, with tempting paths winding up to their crests. Unfortunately these are forbidden to us, for it is a bandit infested region, and the robbers live in these hills. The danger is constant, although not so pressing at North City as it is at Tonghai where John is. My co-worker is Miss Florie McDowell, an American from Philadelphia, a charming, congenial young missionary, who has been most kind to me. We are the only foreigners on the plain, and have 365 villages and cities to our care. As long as my studies [of the Chinese language] tie me to home, Miss McDowell is going to do the country work, whereas I do this city.
I have at last had a taste of "real missionary life', and I think even Ulysses could not say "I am a part of all that I have met" so truthfully as missionaries in China. It was most astonishing at first, to me, to see people sitting by the side of the street, investigating their persons, exactly like monkeys in the zoo, and for exactly the same reason. The only difference is that they do not seem to eat them when they catch them! But I never can enter any of their homes without becoming "a part of all that I have met" and carrying some interesting specimens away with me. The fight with vermin is a part of our daily program, and I may add, the most distressing part of it to me. Disease is another call for pity, and also for watchful care. When you are preaching in the streets you will turn around to see a leprous face pressed near to you. Across the street from us lives a leper, and one of our church members lives at the back of his house. Surely we are dependent hourly on our Heavenly Father, and the knowledge that "He is faithful' was never more precious to us.
I want to thank you for your prayers that God would help me get off my first sectional
examination before leaving the Language School. I finished it on Wednesday and
was called to start for the coast on Saturday. I felt distinctly that special
power was being given to me day by day. And now I would bespeak your prayers'
for the work here. There is a church, but it is sadly backslidden and cold. Our
young evangelist, Mr. Plums, is an earnest preacher, and has an attractive personality,
but he will soon be totally blind, from one of the common eye diseases. He is
not strong in body and has asked us to pray for his physical condition. He has
three sons and a daughter; the boys are called Faith, Hope, and Love, and the
little girl "Precious Pearl". It was a nice thought, but think of a boy called
"Love Plums"! Wouldn't he lead a life in America?
And I would ask your prayers for my teacher in the language. Her name is Mrs. Dignity (Hsu Lao si) and she is a heathen. From the first, I felt God lead her to us, for she is a woman of a sorrowful spirit. She has no parents, her husband was killed last year, and her three children are all girls. She teaches school in the city for $20 (gold) a year, and is most competent and intelligent, but it is all she can do to live on such a wage, for prices are high just now. Last night she was reading with me, Matthew 6 - she has never read the Bible before - and when we came to the verse "Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye much better than they"? She stopped here, and I saw she was deeply moved, but being Chinese she just said, "I like the doctrine of this chapter" . It gave me an opening, and God led us into a heart to heart talk, wonderfully so, considering I was not able to speak or understand very much. But I told her that before I was saved I had much sorrow, but when I gave my heart to Christ, He had solved my problems and gave me daily peace and joy
"Ah", she said passionately, "What do foreign women know about heartache?" Then she poured out her heart to me, but I could only get the bits I have already told you, of her troubles. I can never forget, however, the bitterness of her voice as she said, "And my children are girls. . .girls... three girls"! I told her our problems were different, but that a broken heart is a broken heart all the world over, and if Christ can help one He can help the other. Then I gave her my testimony, and it was wonderful to me how the Holy Spirit enabled her to understand my broken sentences and gestures, but she did understand and was quite softened and stirred. This morning when she came, she told me she went over those verses in Mat.6 [Matthew 6] after she got home, and wept most of the night. Surely she is not far from the Kingdom She is unusually well educated and intelligent, do pray for her; pray daily that she may trust Christ and that He will strengthen her faith with answered prayer.
And please pray that I may have physical strength--the weather is very hot here, and it is my first summer in China--also that I may soon be able to speak so that the people will understand. My heart is so full of the message I see they need!
Your letters mean much more than you can know, away out here, especially those from the "soul that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me" in days gone by. If I cannot answer you individually, know that none of your confidences or requests for prayer are neglected. I always have time for that, and the memory of you is a blessing and spur to me.
And now may that Great Faithful Shepherd of the sheep, keep us close to Himself, the centre of peace and joy and life more abundant,
Affectionately your comrade of the Cross,
Isobel S. Miller.
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