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Review: Through the Valley of the Shadow by Linda & Robert Banks

Through the Valley of the Shadow. 2019. Pickwick Publications; Eugene, OR.

Review by Evangeline Hester
Communications Assistant at CMS Australia

“Over the six decades between Hudson Taylor’s visit to Australia and the Communist Victory in China, missionaries began to go from one of the newest countries in the world to one of the oldest… Among those who went, eighty percent were women.”  (page xix)

Through the Valley of the Shadow is a deftly painted collage of the unsung stories of missionary women—every one of whom served with CMS—who gave up their time, health, marriage prospects, and lives to serve the people of China to whom they had been called. Covering service dating from the Boxer rebellion, to WWII, to the civil war between Nationalists and Communists, this book documents the lives of those who showed Christ’s love in a time of fear and grief.

Each chapter is a biography of a different group of women, each story gently interlocking with its neighbour, allowing the reader to understand this period in Chinese history from multiple angles. Some of the women were colleagues at the same hospital, others sisters in the same city, still others friends in neighbouring provinces who went months wondering if the other was still alive. The accounts are drenched in primary sources, and historical photos bring the stories to life.

To this day, these women’s legacies provide justice, education, healthcare, and the gospel to the Chinese people. For some, their deaths sparked a revival of faith and spurred others in Australia to sign up for missionary service. Others founded schools, universities for women, and hospitals which still thrive today. Still other women are fondly remembered by large Chinese churches for the way they served their families. This book witnesses to the deeds of not just Australian women, but also of the Chinese believers who, in their names, carried on the work of Christ.

Through the Valley of the Shadow is not just a beautiful account of Chinese history, but is worth reading for anyone who is interested in the stories of people who made a difference to the world around them.

“The women you [will meet] ‘through the valley of the shadow’ did not think of their stories as being anything exceptional. They thought of themselves as very ordinary people caught up in tumultuous events a long way from home. [But they believed] they were in the place God wanted them to be, and, confirmed by the warm response of the local Chinese people, [they remained] faithful.” (page 116)