My mother was a good Christian. She held church services regularly in our home. But I was not interested in church.
I wanted to be a teacher. So when I got older, I went to Virginia Female Seminary. After that I went to Albemarle Female Institute in Charlottesville.
I used to play tricks on people. One April Fool’s Day, I wrapped the school bells up so they wouldn’t ring. Everyone was late to class. I’m afraid I got in trouble.
One day when I was eighteen years old, some of my school friends invited me to go to church to hear about missions. It didn’t sound too interesting to me. But I liked being with my friends, so I went.
That night I heard a wonderful sermon. The preacher told about God and Jesus. He talked about missions, too. It was very interesting. I decided right then that I wanted become a Christian and follow Jesus wherever he would lead me.
After I became a Christian, I finished college and started to teach. First I taught children at a school in Danville, Kentucky; then in Cartersville, Georgia. But I kept thinking about missions. I wanted to know about the other side of the world. Who was telling the people there about God and Jesus? Should I be a missionary, I wondered?
Finally, in February 1873, when I was 32 years old, I made up my mind. I would become a missionary. Six months later I was appointed to China. China! I was so excited! That’s where my sister Edmonia was a missionary.
In September I boarded a ship for China. I did not know at all what it would be like. But I knew I wanted the Chinese people to learn about God and Jesus.
Living every day in China was very strange. Making friends was hard. The Chinese people seemed to be afraid of me. They did not trust a foreigner.
I also did not know their customs. One thing I did notice was that the women and girls, even little ones, wore tight cloths on their feet so they would stay small! I thought that must really hurt because they walked very slowly.
Then one day I had an idea. I would bake cookies for the children! So I did. They smelled so good. At first the children would not eat them. Someone said the cookies would make them sick.
I just kept on baking cookies anyway. Soon the children came to my house and began to eat them. They started to call me the “Cookie Lady.” As they ate the cookies, I told them about Jesus.
I began to tell more people about God. But the job was huge! So many people wanted to hear. I wrote letters back to the States. I asked the people there to pray for the Chinese people. I asked them to send more money and more missionaries.
At first I lived in the city of Tengchow. Then I decided that the people in rural areas might be friendlier. So I began to visit nearby villages.
I soon realized that the Chinese girls also needed to go to school. So I started some schools just for girls.
I lived the rest of my life in China. I was happy there. I knew that God wanted me in China to help the men and women, the girls and boys, know about Jesus.