George and Grace Stott were instrumental in bringing the gospel to Wenzhou, which today is nicknamed the 'Jerusalem of China' due to its massive Christian community.
As Christian influence began to grow throughout the 1870s, the missionaries and Chinese church leaders saw an explosion of interest in the gospel. One of the most prominent missionaries was a Scottish amputee, George Stott, who had lost one of his legs as a teenager. His wife Grace later shared that story:
"Mr. Stott had been brought up in farm work, but when he was about 19 years of age he slipped on the road and knocked his knee against a stone. This simple accident resulted in white swelling, which, two years later, necessitated the amputation of his left leg. For nine months he lay a helpless invalid, and it was during this time that the Lord graciously saved his soul. He had previously been careless and indifferent to the love of God in Christ Jesus, but now, in his helpless condition, and what seemed his ruined future, how precious that love became! After his recovery he began to teach in a school, and had been thus employed several years when he first heard of China's needs."1
Most mission societies of the era would not consider an amputee for service on the mission field, but Hudson Taylor was impressed by Stott. When Taylor asked George why he, with only one leg, should consider going to China, Stott dryly answered, "I do not see those with two legs going, so I must."
After being fitted with a new artificial leg, George Stott sailed for China in November 1867. Soon after arriving in Wenzhou, he encountered problems with the locals, who did not want a foreigner residing in their city. Several times Stott agreed to rent a house, only for the landlord to change his mind under pressure from the community.
After finally finding a wealthy man who was bold enough to go through with the deal, Stott quietly moved in, but by the next morning news had spread and an angry mob assembled, determined to drive the missionary out of the house and the city. As the townspeople smashed down the fence around the property, Stott courageously detached his artificial leg and came out to calmly address them, saying:
"'You see I am a lame man. If I wanted to run from you I could not. If you kill me you will, perhaps, get into trouble. If you let me alone you will find I shall do no harm; anyhow, I have come and mean to stay.' They were taken aback by his quiet, strong words, and contenting themselves by throwing a few stones, they dispersed and left him in peace."2
After establishing a free school for boys in the city, Stott felt that everything was going well until one day he turned up to find an empty classroom. A rumor had circulated throughout the city that the missionary was intending to kill the boys and use their hearts and livers for medicine, and for months the local people stayed far away from the school. George Stott was not the kind of person to give up, however. Full of determination and faith, he
"limped from one village to another, living in abandoned temples and pagodas. He labored for the Lord unceasingly, preaching the gospel of Christ. He bore shame and scorn and never gave up.... After a while, he thought the village people might be simpler and more open to the gospel. When he arrived at a village, he caused quite a stir because the villagers had never seen a foreigner before. When he began to sing, the people stopped whatever they were doing and listened. Then Stott would preach the gospel. Without warning, the children pelted him with stones. He fled to another village, where he met with the same reception."3
The first years of Evangelical Christianity in Wenzhou had been anything but smooth sailing, and nobody imagined the great plans God had that would one day turn the city into a powerhouse of Christianity in Asia.
In 1870 Stott traveled to Scotland to marry Grace Ciggie of Glasgow, and the newlyweds returned to Wenzhou. Western women were rarely seen in China in those days, but George noticed that when he visited places with his wife, many wonderful opportunities arose that didn't occur when he traveled alone. In 1875 he wrote:
"I took my dear wife with me into the country on a visiting and preaching tour. Crowds came running from every direction to see her (they had seen me often), and their curiosity was highly excited.... I had many hundreds to hear me at some places, and Mrs. Stott spoke to many women. Some listened attentively, and asked intelligent questions as to how they were to serve the living and true God."4
When the Stotts stayed at the rural home of one of their church members, 11 people joined the family in prayer each morning and evening. One by one the villagers threw away their idols and trusted in Christ alone. On the day the Stotts returned to Wenzhou, an elderly woman grabbed their hands and declared:
"Oh, how kind of Jesus to send you here to tell us of salvation! We knew nothing of His precious Name until you taught us. I love to hear you speak; but my poor eyes cannot see you, but as a shadow.... I was not blind the first time you came here, some years ago; but I did not love the doctrine or know Jesus then, and did not care to look at you. Now I love the doctrine and love you for bringing it, but I cannot see your face no matter how I try; but I will feel your hands."5
In 1888 the Stotts returned to Britain on furlough, but George's health took a turn for the worse and he was diagnosed with cancer. For more than a year he struggled to regain his strength, but God wanted him in heaven, and he entered into the glorious presence of Jesus Christ in April, 1889. The doctor who was with Stott in his last moments said:
"With every moment's respite from pain he collected his little strength to give forth some word of testimony that the Lord was near, and doubt and fear far away. 'It is only the poor body that is suffering,' he said; 'the soul is happy.' Early in the evening he said,' I bless God that 30 years ago He washed me from my sins in His precious blood, and now the sun is shining without a cloud;' and thus with unfaltering faith, and with unwavering hope, he went down into the valley."6
1. Grace Stott, Twenty-Six Years of Missionary Work in China (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1904), pp. 2-3.
2. Stott, Twenty-Six Years of Missionary Work in China, p. 11.
3. Danyun, Lilies Amongst Thorns: Chinese Christians Tell their Story through Blood and Tears (Tonbridge, UK: Sovereign World Books, 1981), pp. 288-9.
4. Mrs. Meadows, "Gathering in Sheaves," China's Millions (August 1875), p. 23.
5. Mrs. Meadows, "Casting away Idols," China's Millions (August 1875), p. 24.
6. Stott, Twenty-Six Years of Missionary Work in China, p. 154.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon