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Text Illustrations
ILLUSTRATION: “No Use but Useful”


Elderly Sister Ann in China was born into quite an educated family. She had four brothers who all became doctors. She, however, was not even taught how to read and write. She began to train as a nurse, but her father fell ill and she was required to nurse him. Then her mother fell ill, and she nursed her. That illness lasted twenty years. During that time Sister Ann hardly ever left the house.

No sooner had her mother died, than her brother fell ill, with consumption. So she nursed him, and so it went on. She was 82 years old when the final brother died, and all she had done with her life was to nurse her family members at various locations in her home town of Shanghai.


As her final brother was dying, she wondered how she would live after he died. She had no savings. All the wealth of the family had been taken by the Communists. But her brother said to her, “After I’m dead, look under the flagstone in the corner of this room.” She found many gold coins there. A fortune in fact. Her future was assured.


So, at 82, Sister Ann was suddenly free to do anything she wanted. Trouble was, she was old, illiterate, and beginning to feel ill herself. She was a Christian, and approached some house church leaders, but they had no use for her. She offered to give out tracts, but since she could not read, she might not hand the appropriate ones out to the right people. She could not teach the Bible, because she had never read it, though it had been read to her many times, and felt she knew it quite well. But the leaders were not interested. She was just an old woman. “Just hand over the money,” said one, “and we’ll make sure it builds the kingdom.”


She felt useless. Suddenly she made a decision. “The one thing I always wanted to do was to travel,” she said. “All my life had been spent inside houses by the bedsides of dying relatives. I had never been outside Shanghai.” She also thought, “Since I know the Gospel so well, I can at least talk about it as I travel.” So Sister Ann became a traveling evangelist. She used the money to travel by train all over China. No one ever challenged her. She was just a harmless old woman. But she would travel first class, or “soft sleeper” as it was known, and just talk about Jesus to her traveling companions. Many of them were high Party officials. Some were outraged at her attempting to witness to them. But she just said, “Well, what are you going to do about it? Throw an old lady in jail?” Far more of her companions smiled at her and engaged in her conversation.


Sister Ann died aged 87. In the last five years of her life she must have covered hundreds of thousands of miles. She went to the desert of the far north-west, ending up in Urumqi. She made it by bus to the 12,000 feet high Himalayan plateau in Tibet, and all the way down to the steamy jungles of the south, sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen. In that entire time, she rarely slept more than three nights in the same place.


How many came to the Lord through her witness? No one has any idea but it could have been hundreds. She was so winsome. Her face was friendly and bright, with an unusually soft voice and a way of looking you right in the eye as she spoke. Yes, this woman led people to faith in Jesus. She was too old to work for the house churches, but she was not too old to work for God. Who else would have had the time just to travel on trains for five years? Who else, but an old woman would have escaped arrest for witnessing about Christ all the time in public places, which was against the law? Yes, she did a unique work. (Source: IDOP 2007 Illustration kit).