Missionary Stories for Kids: Jennie Atkinson Goes to China

Missionary Stories for Kids are written for preschoolers or young readers and are suitable for family devotions, Bible clubs, or Sunday School.

Jennie Atkinson was a shy girl

Jennie Atkinson was a shy, timid girl who lived a long time ago. When she was very little her mama died and her new stepmother OldDesignShop_OscarPletschShynessloved her and took care of her. But one day her stepmother also died and soon Jennie’s father was going to marry again.  For some reason that Jennie did not understand, her father and his new wife decided to send eight-year-old Jennie away to be adopted by some distant cousins. “What is wrong with me that my own father does not want to keep me?” Jennie asked herself. 

The child was sent away alone on a big train. Before she left her father placed a nametag on her coat so the conductor would know her name and the train stop where she was going. Jennie got on the big train and left everyone and everything that was familiar to her.

The train conductor helped her get off at the right station. Jennie squinted as she stepped off the dark train into the bright sun. She looked around and waited expectantly but no one was there to meet a little girl.  Now she felt even more alone and insecure.  She waited as the depot agent contacted her cousin who finally came to pick her up after a long wait.

Would anyone ever really want little Jennie?

Jennie’s cousin and his wife were kind to her but they were very surprised that this little girl had been sent to them.  There must have been some mistake.  They were willing to adopt one of Jennie’s brothers, but they had not wanted a girl.  After talking it over they decided to keep her, but Jennie knew they were disappointed.  Would anyone ever really want little Jennie?

A few years passed when one day Jennie read in the newspaper that her very own father was going to be in a nearby town as a special speaker.  Oh how excited she was that she could see her father again!

After the lecture she went up front with other well-wishers to speak to her father. He reached out to shake her hand and casually asked, “Whose little girl are you?”  Jennie’s own father did not even know who she was.  How lonely and abandoned she felt!

God will never leave us or forsake us

But God was working in Jennie’s life and she opened her heart to the Great Heavenly Father Who would never leave her or forsake her.  She confessed her sins and asked Christ to save her.  Soon she began to understand that God was leading her to be a missionary to China.

After graduating from college Jennie was qualified to be a teacher.  She began teaching at a small school near her cousin’s home and was in charge of a Sunday School class of children.  She knew God had spoken to her about serving Him as a missionary in China but in spite of her love of teaching, she was timid and afraid at the thought of going to such a distant country as China.

Finally some leaders in her church asked for several highly-trained unmarried women to volunteer to work as missionaries in China.  God again whispered to Jennie that He wanted her to serve Him in China, and Jennie said “Yes” to God’s call.

The first time she saw a Chinese person was when she traveled to the west coast to meet the boat traveling to China.  Jennie was so shy and fearful she could not even speak to the man!  Soon she was aboard the ship that was taking her to China, but Jennie still struggled with timidity, insecurity, and fear.  How could she help the Chinese learn about Jesus if she was this shy?

Going to China

The ship docked in Shanghai where missionaries and Chinese Christians greeted the ladies with such kindness and warmth that Jennie no longer felt afraid.  She looked around at the thousands of people crowding the docks and streets of Shanghai.  Her heart was overflowing with compassion as she saw the Chinese people surrounding her. These dear Chinese needed Christ and God would help her tell them.

Chinese people find western names strange and hard to pronounce.  The Chinese place the surname first.  Where we would say Jane Doe, they would say *Doe Jane.  Jennie was given the name Kyung, which means gold.  Her first name became Tsung-sung, meaning Arouse-Music.  So Jennie Atkinson was now named Miss Kyung Tsung-sung or Miss Gold Arouse-Music!

Virginia Atkinson (Jennie)The Chinese language is intricate and complicated but it needed to be learned in in order to communicate with the Chinese people around her.   God gave Jennie the idea to learn Chinese like she had learned music – using rhythm and tones.  Because of this she became conversant in the Chinese language much more quickly than her fellow missionaries.

As her language skills improved Jennie was able to visit the different schools she was in charge of and teach the children hymns.  Her students loved her and soon she was invited to visit their homes where she could practice speaking Chinese with her students and their families.

Loved by her Chinese family

Over time many students came to know the Lord and became Bible-teaching women, pastors, school teachers and church leaders.  God used Jennie to help establish a church, to build many schools and to arrange training for many pastors and teachers.

Jennie’s students loved her and her shy ways and accepted both her and her teaching.  They could tell that she loved them and wanted to help them.  When Jennie returned to America for furlough her Chinese friends and family wept and begged her to ‘come back home’ soon.  She finally realized that God provided a home for her among the Chinese people she was called to serve.

Bible verse

Verse:  Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you nor forsake you (based on Deuteronomy 31:6)

Ten questions for young readers:

  1. What does the word timid mean?
  2. What happened to young Jennie that made her feel unwanted?
  3. Who will never leave or forsake us?
  4. What job did Jennie train for?
  5. Where did God want Jennie to go as a missionary?
  6. Who would help Jennie tell the Chinese people about Jesus?
  7. What language was Jennie able to learn quickly?
  8. Where did God finally provide a home for Jennie?
  9. Can God use shy people to be missionaries?
  10. Where was Jennie’s true home and family?

Bibliography:  White, Mary Culler.  Just Jennie:  The Life Story of Virginia M. Atkinson.  Atlanta:  Tupper and Love, 1955.

*Suggestion:  When reading this to your children substitute the child’s name for Jane Doe.

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A Passion for the Impossible – Biography of Lilias Trotter

Miriam Huffman Rockness has written A Passion for the Impossible, an excellent, well-researched biography of Isabella Lilias Trotter, missionary to Algeria.  The book is full of quotations from the rich diaries of Lilias along with memories from earlier biographies by co-workers and contemporaries.  Her story is amazing and inspiring, an enlightening and encouraging book for today’s reader.

Refined and artistic, Lilias Trotter lived during heart of England’s Victorian era. This privileged young lady spent part of each year “on the continent” exploring, resting, drawing, and visiting. Selected to study under famed art critic John Ruskin, she was a gifted and insightful artist.  Lilias Trotter would not be someone we would automatically consider as an ideal missionary candidate, yet the Lord chose to use this dedicated lady as the means of getting the gospel to many Bedouin Muslims in Algeria during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Lilias grew up in a Christian home and was religiously devout as a child and a young person.  She came to a saving belief in Christ as her saviour from sin sometime after her father’s unexpected death.  Lilias and her mother attended many Keswick Christian conferences and meetings. It was after a series of these meetings that Lilias felt a specific call from God to give her life to missionary work.  But her willingness to follow that call was not without conflict.

Lilias’ talent as an artist was so remarkable that she was hailed as one of the upcoming great artists of her generation.  Lilias understood that she could not be a great artist and a dedicated missionary at the same time.  After a short time of struggle, Lilias Trotter surrendered to God’s call on her life.  Delicate health and her obvious artistic gift caused many of her friends to object to Lilias’ call to take the gospel to the Muslims of Algeria, but Lilias had no doubts concerning God’s will in this matter.

Lilias’ life was marked by patient continuance.  Beginning her ministry at age thirty five, Lilias learned Arabic, studied the culture and habits of her new countrymen, and eagerly sought ways of taking the gospel to those who had never heard of Jesus.  Because of a serious heart condition, Lilias was required to rest several months of the year.  She used these times to write and illustrate devotional books and tracts specifically designed to reach the beauty-loving Arabs.

Burdened for Bedouins in the desert regions, Lilias made treks to places no Western woman had ever visited before.  First by rail, then horse-drawn carriage and finally hired camels, Lilias and her co-worker penetrated the dry, hot desert, trekking by day and camping under the stars by night to reach Christless communities.  Lilias would paint literal and verbal pictures for the desert dwellers, hoping to get them to begin to understand the love of a God they did not know.  Few responded, but many listened eagerly to this earnest, artistic woman and readily accepted the booklets she left with them.

Lilias was deeply burdened for men to come and serve in the fledgling mission. The first few men who answered the call were turned back by illness, death, or governmental restrictions.  Distrust of these westerners and their new ways increased as political unrest grew in Northern Africa. It wasn’t until years later that Lilias’ mission had men as well as women serving in Algeria.

God allowed many disappointments and discouragements throughout the years, but Lilias kept her heart fixed on the Lord.  She embraced the seemingly impossible task of reaching Muslims for Christ and took as her verse of promise, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: Is there anything too hard for me?”  (Jeremiah 32:27) Though the outward results of her ministry were not abundant, Lilias walked with the God of the impossible and trusted in Him throughout her life.

Rockness, Miriam Huffman.  A Passion for the Impossible. Grand Rapids:  Discovery House, 2011.   346 pp