Erica Grace, ex-missionary to South America, challenges us to remember unsung Hebrews 11 type heroes!
Born in Sandviken, Norway in 1878, Marie Monsen became a schoolteacher. She went to China in 1901 to help the missionary couple sent there by her Lutheran church needing a teacher for their children.
But shortly after she arrived those missionaries left due to the national unrest and turn of events in China The mission agency back in Norway didn’t have the funds to send for Marie as well, so she stayed back waiting for her ticket to arrive.
Following Bible examples
Meanwhile, people kept coming to the mission home looking for help but Marie was the only one there. She would face squalid conditions of starving, sick children and not knowing what do, felt helpless and overwhelmed… the situations she faced each day seemed insurmountable. Marie’s only solution would be to pray.
One emergency would be followed by another, then another in a nearby town. Everywhere she went Marie (right) would just open her Bible and read especially the gospels where Jesus performed miracles. Then she would pray for people with all sorts of problems, diseases and oppressions. She hadn’t seen this being done back home in her church, but she followed the examples in the Bible.
Not quite sure where she even was, she was woken one day by pleas for help by distraught parents. When she reached their home, she saw their only son, around nine years old, lying on a mat – dead. They begged her to pray to her God.
With childlike faith Marie opened her Bible, read where Jesus raised a young son from the dead and prayed: ‘Lord, you are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Please raise this son from the dead.’
Then she put her Bible on the body. Instantly the boy’s eyelids began to flicker, he took a deep breath and opened his eyes! The people were jubilant, and pleaded that Marie stay there – which she did. Every day the house would fill with people wanting to hear about this man Jesus and his awesome power. Soon word got around about this remarkable woman that served a powerful God.
The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months.
A loose cannon, but true fruit!
Marie (left, in Chinese dress) returned to the mission house many months later to find letters waiting for her. Sent from the mission department back in Norway, they insisted she return home.
Word had gotten back to Norway that Marie was using ‘unorthodox’ evangelising methods, such as the laying on of hands! She had even been known to cast out demons… just using the name of Jesus! Such news only made the missions committee more irritated at this ‘loose cannon’ they had wandering throughout China.
Inevitably the town down the hill wanted her to visit them as well, and Marie would go on an evangelistic trail. Everywhere she went signs followed. Her simple faith moved God’s hand.
Before Marie could even address the letters, other emergencies arose, and she would be gone again for months. No one really knows how many kilometres Marie walked around China visiting home after home, holding countless Bible studies and prayer meetings. She saw healings and deliverances, and many raised from the dead. She was never interested in numbers, but rather in true fruit even sometimes denying new converts baptism as she wasn’t convinced of their true repentance!
This went on for 31 years… without financial support from home! And every year the letters from her missions’ department grew more hostile and demanding, sending her ultimatums. She felt torn: On one hand the letters distressed her but on the other there was too much to be done and she never swayed from answering every call for help.
But one day a letter arrived that made Marie reflect on her situation: Her parents were ailing. She knew she had to return to Norway to take care of them and leave her beloved China.
With a heavy heart Marie left China in 1932, sailing back to Norway. There was no welcoming committee waiting for her.
On entering her church, everyone gave Marie the cold shoulder as she had been ‘rebellious’ to the orders made by her missions’ department to return many years before. She would sit in silence in the back row. Then her parents passed away and Marie’s life quietly dissipated.
In 1961 Marie Monsen passed away, dying nearly penniless, nothing to her name but some notes of her time in China which later became a book. The church quickly buried her in the back of the cemetery and forgot all about her.
Appreciation – 38 years later!
In 1999 the Norwegian church received a letter from China announcing a group of Chinese delegates were to come to Norway to show their appreciation for the work this mission had done in China. The new young pastor was baffled.
The Chinese delegation arrived and said: ‘We’d like to see Marie Monsen’s tomb so we can show appreciation for her work in our cultural way.’
The pastor scratched his head – he’d never heard the name. This didn’t please the Chinese and quickly calling an elderly church member, he asked if she knew the name Marie Monsen.
‘Oh yes.’ replied the woman. ‘She went out to China and would never come back. She made a lot of people very angry.’ Asking about the burial site was he was told where… but overrun by weeds.
Marie’s name was barely visible on the old forgotten grave, and the Chinese delegation was not impressed! In fact, they were shocked! The group’s main speaker asked the pastor to call his congregation together. Everyone came obediently, but baffled – they had no idea who these men were or what they wanted.
Mother of China’s House Churches!
When the church was filled the Chinese leader got up to speak. His dramatic first words were: ‘Did you know who you had among you? You had the “Mother of the house churches of China!”’
He went on, ‘Yes, Marie Monson was our mother in Christ. I would be dead if she hadn’t come to our home and prayed for me with such faith and tenacity. I was brought back to life and am now the leader of our denomination.’
Taking turns, the Chinese men told stories Marie never had a chance to share with her congregation. By now there wasn’t a dry eye. Everyone felt convicted; at the same time deeply moved.
Finally the delegation said, ‘We will return in two years hoping that you will build a proper headstone to Marie.’ They even offered a donation, but the Norwegians refused. They were eager to do in death what they hadn’t done in life – honour Marie Monsen’s memory.
When the delegation returned as promised, they were very pleased to see a properly done monument in a prominent place to the ‘Mother of China’s House Churches.’
I wonder, how many disciples of Jesus Christ are out there today, forgotten by the church back home, but making a marked difference in the kingdom of God?
How many precious men and women of God are sacrificing comfort, wealth, security, safety to reach one more soul in some most inhospitable place?
Sometimes these people are misunderstood because they don’t fit the ‘mould.’ People have certain perceptions of what missionaries should look like or should be doing, but God has no mould! Each one has been given a task and sometimes they are more effective outside the mould.
Nearly two thirds of missionaries today are not from Western countries. Their stories are truly inspirational! Only eternity will tell what these heroes of the faith have done without media attention, or church recognition, but purely for the love of the Master!
God hasn’t forgotten them! Most of them wouldn’t want earthly rewards anyway, they are like the heroes of the faith found in Hebrews 11… and the world isn’t worthy of them!
The Heavenly Man’s Liu Zhenying aka Brother Yun,exile from China and devotee of Marie Monsen, wrote: ‘Miss Monsen was small in stature, yet a giant in God’s kingdom. The Chinese church was not only impacted by her words, but also deeply challenged by her sacrificial lifestyle. She was a fully committed, uncompromising follower of Jesus Christ, who showed us an example of how to suffer and endure for the Lord.’
In remembering unsung heroes who reach out to a world in need, may we be aware of our own calling to follow Jesus and contemplate Hebrews 11:31Message: ‘…that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.’
Erica Grace is author of Foundations for the Family, a biblical teaching series suitable for whole congregations. She and her husband, Chris, are warmly welcomed itinerant ministers. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com