Aunt Abbie

Bonnie Boyd writes from Mount Airy, Maryland

Matthew 9:35: "Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." I love that about Him.

Scrap booking has become a very popular way of documenting family histories. We all have many interesting and unique relatives that together make up our particular family tree. I would like you to meet just one of the many characters perched on my family tree. She was my great-aunt. Her name was Abbie. She stood just about 5 feet tall. She wasn't much of a fashion plate. Never wore makeup or visited a beauty salon. When I knew her, her hair was long, wavy in the front and pinned into a tight little bun at the nap of her neck just to keep it neat. She always wore sturdy shoes and plain clothing. To me, she had a smile shaped like the letter "U." She loved to laugh and always had a mischievous twinkle in her eye. She never married.

In her thirties, Aunt Abbie decided to try something totally adventurous with her life. She learned to speak Chinese fluently, boarded an ocean liner and crossed the wide sea to become a missionary to the people of China.

I would like to share just one of the stories, told at her memorial service by Dr. Paul Wong, chief of staff at the hospital where Aunt Abbie served many years as a missionary chaplain.

Tom Lee, a 21-year-old peasant, worked in a steel factory across from the Ja-Ling River near Chung King Hospital. His job was to transport redhot cinders from the factory site to a nearby pond where he would dump the load into the water.

One day, as he was discarding his heavy load, he accidentally fell into the pond of boiling water. He suffered second and third degree burns over the entire lower portion of his body. He was rushed to the hospital where the medical staff attempted to treat him. This was during the Japanese War and the hospital had only meager supplies, a few blankets, little medicine and no penicillin. Lee quickly became infected. His body oozed and dripped with puss every place he had been burned; ruining blanket after blanket and the odor was unbearable. Finally, when he slipped into a coma, Dr. Wong, his attending physician, foresaw that Lee's death was imminent.

In wartime, because of extreme shortages on space, the nurses received permission to move Lee to a small room next to the hospital morgue to await the inevitable.

Abbie Dunn, a little American woman chaplain, ministered to all the hospital patients. Her Chinese name was "Dun Fu On." She found Tom Lee in that remote tiny room with his life ebbing away in a most grotesque and painful manner. He kept slipping in and out of a coma; Abbie gently ministered to him, physically and spiritually. He had never heard of Christianity in his 21 years of life, or the existence of a loving heavenly Father. Abbie so much wanted him to know this before he died. She pinned a small picture of Jesus at the foot of his bed and when he would become conscious she taught him a short prayer: "Jesus, save me." Tom mumbled this prayer over and over. She longed to make him more comfortable so she searched out Dr. Wong and inquired if anything could be done to make his last days easier. Dr. Wong said he really needed a warm blanket and better food. The hospital could only provide a little rice mixed with a few meager vegetables. Abbie owned two blankets so she brought her warmest and heaviest blanket and some canned milk and Campbell's soup that some "American Fly Boys" had given her for her own use as a nostalgic gift when they passed by on the Burma Highway.

Abbie prayed faithfully for Tom Lee, she covered him with her own blanket and sat with him many long hours, feeding him whenever he regained consciousness. Then a miracle happened. He made a turn for the better. He came out of the coma. His appetite improved, the wounds began to heal and the odor went away. In just two weeks he was up on crutches and shortly after that, he was sent home.

With the hectic schedule of the hospital, months went by and the hospital forgot all about him. Little Abbie, always moving with great energy, also gave Bible studies in the surrounding villages, sometimes up to 48 per week. Walking through mud and much rain up and down the China hillsides with no roads, as we know them. One day she was late in returning to the hospital and the staff became concerned. She finally showed up, her scalp and hand bleeding profusely. She shrugged her wounds off, with a hearty laugh, insisting they forget about it. "Never mind, never mind, she said, I was so stupid, I slipped in the mud and fainted, but I'm fine now, I'm as strong as an ox."

The doctor treating her wounds remarked that her self-diagnosis was slightly off truth be known she was as stubborn as an ox.

Dr. Wong, who shared this story, said he had always been a student of Confucius who taught:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (the same as our golden rule) and "Never think to harm others or beware for someone will harm you." He had always believed this to be most valuable wisdom until he met Abbie Dunn who had her own wisdom. She told him, "Do not suspect people of evil or be filled with evil surmising, because you cannot truly love people when you are suspicious of them."

Dr. Wong said he felt a new freedom by adopting her kind way of thinking.

One day, the peasant Tom Lee returned to the hospital where he had been treated. He had fattened up, but was still relying heavily on crutches due to contractures from the burns. He had traveled many miles on foot and climbed the final 40 steps to the hospital gate, which was no small feat. There he met the gatekeeper of the hospital who asked: "Whom do you want to see?" Lee responded, "Jesus, I want to see Jesus." The gatekeeper replied, "Jesus? There's no Jesus here. He was a holy man who lived 2,000 years ago." Tom Lee exclaimed: "Don't kid me, he (in Chinese he/she is the same word) lives here in hospital!" The gatekeeper said: "Are you sure?" "Yes, said Tom Lee, he's my friend, he lives here! "Well, could there be any other name?" the gatekeeper inquired. Tom Lee thought and thought, yes, the name Dun.

The gatekeeper asked around the hospital with Tom Lee hobbling along close behind. Together they found Dr. Paul Wong. Dr. Wong nodded, "Ah yes, you must mean Miss Dunn." Tom Lee heard him and responded excitedly, "Yes, that's him, Jesus Dunn." He joyfully leaped around because he had found Jesus. He had made the long and difficult journey from his country to thank Jesus, Jesus Dunn, the only Jesus he'd ever known.

When Jesus was here on the earth, He taught His disciples just how to minister to people. "Tell them the Kingdom of God is near! Then give them a glimpse of that Kingdom by healing the sick." 

Bonnie Boyd writes from Mount Airy, Maryland