Last week I wrote about George Stott. As with many male missionaries, his story would not be complete without that of his wife, Grace Stott (born Grace Cigie) who lived from 1845 to 1922. She was a remarkable woman.
1. Her unusual beginning.
Grace almost never became a missionary. She wanted to serve the Lord in China after hearing Hudson Taylor speak in Glasgow. She was accepted to go but then she fell ill. So when the China Inland Mission pioneer group sailed on the Lammermuir she was left behind on the dock. It seemed that the missionary door had been closed. Then a letter arrived from George Stott whom she had previously met. He proposed marriage to her in the letter and she accepted! She travelled out to China arriving in Shanghai in 1870 on her birthday. They were soon married.
2. Her hard years of service.
George had started a boys’ school “which contained some converts and some aspiring evangelists. Grace created a girls' school in 1875.” “While Grace managed the schools and taught Bible classes, Stott would ride out on tours of the outlying villages, preaching and selling books. Often over a thousand listeners came to see the foreigner. He preached from the village theatre, or in the temple, or even from his horse’s back.”
It was not easy. “Few Wenzhou citizens had ever seen a white person, but the unequal treaties had fuelled hatred of foreigners. As such, the Stotts were the target of dangerous rumours. The most bizarre one accused them of eating babies and leading an uprising against the city. Then on 4th October 1884, the various missions in Wenchow were completely destroyed by rioters.”
There were also internal battles. George could be ‘direct’ and difficult. He increasingly came into conflict with Hudson Taylor, offering to resign in a protest letter. As a result, The China Inland Mission stopped sending recruits to his station. Grace had to learn to handle that.
3. Her latter years.
After they had returned home, George died in 1879 in Cannes where they had gone as a guest of a supporter of their work. “After the death of her beloved husband, most people assumed Grace would remain in Britain and lead a quiet life. Instead, she returned to Wenzhou and threw herself into the work with great vigour.”
The local believers of that generation commented: “Mr. Stott was called home to heaven; but Mrs. Stott, understanding the mind of the Lord, and in accordance with her husband's desire, again returned.... While in Wenzhou she set herself to teach the Church members and to feed them with spiritual food.... Now in Wenzhou, the ten counties and all the districts round about, there are many white-haired old men, besides young men, and numbers of women who have all heard the gospel and received her instruction.”
"Mrs. Stott and her husband were the first to come to Wenzhou to preach the holy doctrine of Jesus. When they had newly come, and the gospel had not yet been preached abroad, they were very badly treated by some, who, without any reason whatever, maligned them in every way possible - all of which they bore most patiently. Afterwards, trusting in God's help, they were able to reach the country districts with the gospel…. During these couple of decades, great grace has come to us from God.”
Grace herself testified: "The dark places of the earth are still full of the habitations of cruelty; and yet the missionary's life is one of surpassing joy, for who has ever tasted a delight more intense than that of seeing souls born into the kingdom, and perhaps no country has given larger results for the amount of labour bestowed than China. It is true that as a nation the people are dirty, treacherous and in many instances cruel; but while they have these and other unlovely national characteristics, I can bear testimony to a warmth of devotion, fidelity, and patient endurance, not exceeded by any country.... I still hope to spend my remaining years in their midst.”
Grace continued to serve in Wenzhou until 1909, when at the age of 63 she retired to Toronto, Canada. She had served in China for 20 years after her husband's death, and 39 years overall. “Of all the foreign missionaries who served in Zhejiang in the nineteenth century, perhaps none was more deeply loved than Grace Stott. Her husband and her own hard work and loving, truthful manner soon won the hearts of the Chinese. Grace was especially held in high regard by the women and girls of the city, whom she selflessly served for many years.
All of that, becoming one of the Wenzhou church planters because she responded to a proposal of marriage in a letter!