Letters - 1898.02.18 to Mr. Baring-Gould


Keng Tau
Feb. 18 1898

Dear Mr. Baring Gould;

I did so appreciate your exceedingly kind letter which I rec’d today and altho’ it is the close of a very long day I hasten to answer it. I am really getting quite strong again thank God and now that my examination is over & I am in full work I hope to keep well — an active life is so much better for me than “student”-life altho’ I just love study I never find it a trial.

I am sorry to tell you that in consequence of Miss Oatway’s & my own illness & also in consequence of the fact that directly we arrived here with Miss Suttor, our new fellow worker, we all three developed a case of skin eruption, we came to the conclusion the house must be in an unhealthy situation and feel obliged to ask to have the opinion of a medical man about it. We did this because all last summer fellow missionaries assured us that our house could not be healthy from the fact that it was situated in a hollow & was built upon drainage & we felt that, could that idea be exploded [?] we could live here with a clean conscience whatever happened whilst, on the other hand, did we not get a second worthy opinion, we would feel blameworthy if either of us was again laid aside through illness. Dr. Taylor was requested to come & see our house and arrived on Monday last. After most careful & conscientious examination of our surroundings he came to the conclusion that we were certainly in a most unhealthy position, and that the house was unfit for Europeans. This decision you will probably receive by this mail. I only hope that we shall be allowed to stay here until we can move into healthier quarters & not be sent away from Keng Tau Where there are such lovely openings for work and where God is richly blessing our labors. I am very anxious about Miss Oatway. She has some slight return of the symptoms of her previous illness & if she does not write to Dr. Rennie about it I am in honour bound to do so. She suffered last summer from inflammation of the nerve extremities—excuse the very untechnical form of expression—and a return of this will probably result in her being ordered to England.

We three are exceedingly happy & united and we shall be grieved indeed if anything should separate us from one another or from the work here. “The Lord reigneth” and we can & do rejoice in the perfect peace He gives. Miss Sutton is a great blessing to us both and we thank God for her. Thank you so much for that helpful thought about “all the saints” being in His hand. Life in the mission field reveals oneself to oneself—one finds out one’s own great weakness & faultiness—praise God if is all a fresh cleansing & revelation of our Saviour’s Almighty power to love & bless—& one does also have to claim that love which “beareth all things” “hopeth all things,” where one expected only to honour & loyally and gladly obey. You understand me I am sure. Now I want to tell you a little about my work & that of my fellow workers.

I had permission from the Ladies Conference to start a Station Class on my return to Keng Tau. I returned last Dec. 17th but could not start the class until after Chinese New Year & then I was prevented from starting it by inability to get any of the furniture from Foochow by the time promised. We opened the cla[ss] last Monday however. I did so thank God for the privilege of being able to welcome the dear women into the school. I have twelve women, several of them were obliged to bring a baby with them and this is a hinderance to their progress but it is more delightful to match their real eagerness to learn and to see the progress they have made in these few days. I have to insist upon books being put away and in order to attract them from their books am teaching knitting, & crochet from 4 to 6 every afternoon. Some of these women have, to me, very interesting histories.
One dear young women could not even tell me who Jesus was when I visited her in her own home but now she can say The Lord’s prayer & The Creed and best of all, is really, I believe learning to trust the living loving Saviour. She said to me yesterday “Is it really a sin to scold, why I am always doing it?” I saw her today lifting her hand to strike her little child & then instead she let her hand fall by her side and looked softened; by some memory doubtless of something she had heard of the love God shews to us & expects us to shew to others. Little things, oh; so little are they not!; & yet these are the things which cheer us in our daily life amongst the heathen!! Another dear woman was rescued by Miss Andrews from being sold by her husband. He—the husband—said to Miss Andrews ““Kuniong I don’t want to sell her but what can I do, we can’t both starve and anyone will be glad to buy her she is so handy with her needle.” Miss Andrews took the hint and gave her some needle work— I saw the woman at Ko Sang Che— & talked to her of Jesus & was so pleased with her readiness to learn that I invited her here. She is getting on so nicely & I hope to have the joy of seeing her baptized as a real member of the Saviour’s true church—.

I would like to tell you more about these women but I must not take more of your time. Miss Oatway is studying and visiting in the villages round as she gets since Miss Sutton takes a class in the school each morning form 9 till 10:30 and studies the rest of the day.

We were delighted—or at least I must say I was as Misses Oatway & Sutton were in Foochow at the time—to welcome Mr. & Mrs. Howe here— Mr. Howe addressed our weekly prayer meeting & the people are longing for him to come and live here amongst them & be able to teach them always as he did that night. His words were earnest & so loving. I do praise God for two such devoted workers for dear Hochiang [Hokchiang]. May God use them mightily.

My teacher translated for Mr. Howe. He, Mr. Ung, was teaching me 10 days during his holidays. I hope he will one day be a Catechist. He belongs to our church and is a very earnest & consistent Christian. We have much to praise God for He is working & “He will work & who shall let it.” Please give my kind regards to Mr. & Misses Baring Gould. I think I have written already to thank you for the New Year motto which I duly received & which is before me as I write.

I am yours Sincerely with kind regards & many thanks for your sympathy.

Margaret E. Barber

(On the left margin of the first page of this letter is written “Extract sent to the Medical Dept: April 7th 1898”)


Before Miss Barber wrote this letter, she likely received two letters from Mr. Baring-Gould— two letters that have become illegible over time, though it is clear that the last was penned in January of 1898. It typically took about around five to six weeks for a letter to travel across the continents, as indicated by the Mission Precise books. Therefore it is likely that this lengthy letter of Miss Barber’s is in response to those two letters.

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