Happenings, News

Of Bible women with those black umbrellas

In the early days as a Methodist Mission, the Bible women played an important role in spreading the Gospel among Chinese women and girls. Describing their labours, Sophia Blackmore told how they faithfully went out on their mission, rain or shine, with a black umbrella.

homepage-Nov 2004

‘WE HAD our Bible Woman’s Conference in Malacca early in September (1925) when the women came together from all over the field. Faithful women, some of whom for many years, have carried the Gospel to all sorts of out-of-the-way places.

See one of them as she sets off on her daily round. Before she leaves her neat room she has asked God’s blessing on her going.

The Bible and hymn book and a few picture cards are securely tied in a handkerchief, and a black umbrella accompanies her on her rounds – so that the umbrella has seemed to become part and parcel of a Bible Woman’s humble outfit, humble and often despised but so useful, for she has much walking to do and the sun is hot.

To go everywhere in a rickshaw would encroach too largely upon her modest income.

Then for the days of heavy rain the generous black umbrella is certainly needed. The humble black umbrella will be one that will shine with glory when the fashion of those of painted silk and lace-trimmed satin has passed away.

Look at that congregation of women and children in the Chinese Church, Penang. Miss Martin and her Bible women have gathered them from back rooms up many flights of stairs, from small houses and large ones, from streets and lanes. Many visits paid before the one visited has been induced to come to Church. One such visited is now a Bible Woman herself.

Pek Inn has gotten so far along as to be reading the Bible in her home confessing her desire to be a Christian and had to submit to unmerciful persecution from her mother-in-law.

One day after a most exasperating time she tore up her Bible and when visited next time explained “I can see my mother-in-law but I cannot see God.” The doctrine was cast aside for a time only, faith returned, help came and Pek Inn Chi (Sister Pek Inn) now carries a black umbrella.

For many years in Penang, Cha Kaw worked so enthusiastically as a Bible woman.

To her listeners she would say, “I am here today. I may be gone tomorrow, so I must tell you the doctrine while I am here. When I come to the judgment I will be asked ‘Did you know the doctrine?’ ‘Did you tell it to others?’ Yes, I will say, but they would not listen. Then I will not be punished but I will not get the reward.”

When in Ipoh I found Mrs Kuan at work. For thirty years she has told the Gospel story. I watched her singing so heartily in Church and said to a friend, “All these years Mrs Kuan has sung with vim, my throat would have given out long ago.”

At the women’s meeting that Mrs Horley took me to, Mrs Kuan came late but quite a number of women she had gathered came too.

In Taiping, Se Chi liked to have the children too, and have them sing. When she visits the women, no matter what interruptions come, she gives her lesson. Visitors are greeted, drink their tea – Se Chi abides her time, and the visitors too are gathered into her audience.

In Malacca is a young worker with better education and newer methods who visits outstations, has a little group of Sunday Schools in villages and makes friends with all.

We hope the day will come when many of our educated women will follow Ki Keau’s example and decide that life’s best investment is to win women and girls for Jesus Christ, for to the Bible Woman with her black umbrella surely the Master will say, “She has chosen the better part.” ’ — MM, November 1925, page 85.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.