Authoress Isobel Kuhn was a dedicated missionary to the Lisu people of China in 1950 when she was warned to evacuate the country due to a new political situation. The Chinese Civil War ended the year before, in 1949, and the People’s Republic of China took over, sending down a “Bamboo Curtain” of hostility toward foreigners, including well-meaning missionaries.
More than six hundred missionaries were evacuated from China by the China Inland Mission (CIM) and Isobel was among them, but a few missionaries were denied exit passes. Among these were Arthur and Wilda Mathews, and their one-year-old daughter, Lilah.
The Mathews family moved to the far-inland province of Qinghai, to a small town called Huangyuan. Their intent was to live near Mongolia and teach Christianity to Mongolian people, as well as to any Chinese people who wanted to learn more.
After a harrowing trip to their mission post they were surprised to receive no friendly greeting. Instead they were treated as unwelcome problem-children. The political situation had already infected Christians in that area with the scent of fear, and as Christians hosting foreign imperialists, they worried about the implications for their church, their families, and even their lives.
Arthur and Wilda expected an apartment that had previously been used by another missionary family. When they arrived they were informed that a doctor had taken that place, and they were shown to a small kitchen that was to be their day room. They were also given a bedroom upstairs that was inconveniently located far from the kitchen. That was all that was available; the Chinese Christians didn’t mean to be cruel after inviting the family to be missionaries at their church, but their situation had changed, and they did the best they could under strained circumstances.
Later that year CIM issued an advisory for all missionaries in China to evacuate. Early in January 1951 the Mathews submitted their requests for exit permits, but while more than six hundred other missionaries were allowed to leave, the Mathews family was not. In fact, Arthur was interviewed by a bureaucrat know as “The Kingfisher” and conned into signing a statement saying he was in favor of peace. As soon as he did that, the government agent wanted him to work as a spy in India!
From the book:
“The Kingfisher looked pleased and then said, ‘Now what contribution are you ready to make for world peace? You have signed a petition for it. I would suggest that since you were in India while you were in the British army, that you ask your mission to send you there as a missionary. We would give you an alphabet number, say, Mr. X, and, once a year or so, you could make secret reports to another, say Mr. P. Both you and he will be carefully guarded as to your identity, and it is just a little matter of helping forward the cause of peace.'”
Of course, Arthur Mathews refused to do that, and consequently he and his wife and daughter were detained in China for months while being kept in dire poverty and given the run-around by the local policemen.
This book shows how two dedicated missionaries coped with a desperate and difficult situation thanks to their lives of prayer, worship, and faith in God. Their story inspires many thousands of Christians, especially those who may also be living in deprived circumstances.
Here’s the video I made about Green Leaf in Drought Time by Isobel Kuhn:
Things I learned through research:
Isobel Kuhn wrote other books, some of them, autobiographical.
She passed away in 1957 at about the same time this book was published.
Arthur Mathews wrote two books before he passed away in 1978.
His wife, Wilda, passed away in 1988.
All three are buried in the USA.
About Isobel’s early life:
She was raised a Christian but strayed from the fold when a young adult.
She had a devastating relationship meltdown when her fiance cheated on her and told her to expect more of the same after marriage.
She returned to Jesus Christ, and attended a college for missionaries.
She became a missionary in China where she married John Kuhn.
After the events of this book, she served as a missionary in Thailand until she was diagnosed with cancer in 1954.
She died too young, at the age of only 55.
Arthur, it is beginning to sleet! See how Lilah blinks her eyes when the wet snow hits her lashes.” – page 13
Arthur and Wilda had longed to serve Him; but human-like they had put their own interpretation on what service is. They thought it meant preaching with their lips. Amy Carmichael once replied to a Tamil Christian who took this meaning of service: “God didn’t make you all mouth.” The most potent way to preach is by life, by living it. This was the service which the Mathews family were to render to Him. – page 63
The first sign that a new “Heat Wave” was advancing on them came in the spring of 1952 when the accusation meetings began. Every single Chinese was forced to “criticize” himself and his neighbor in order to prove his loyalty to communism — especially anyone who had had any connection with a foreigner. The Red regime will not allow the belief that you are revealing the fact that you are pro-imperialist in your heart. You must accuse the foreigner of your acquaintance with some sin against the government in order to clear your own skirts of the suspicion that you are pro-imperialist. And to be pro-imperialist means death. – page 65