September 2022 Anno Domini,
the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10 (KJV)
On a remote slope overlooking Sandviken, Norway (located north of Bergen) there was an unmarked grave whose ground marker was so overgrown with grass and soil, it could hardly be read. This marked the grave of Marie Monsen (1878-1961), a young lady whom the western world has forgotten, but well-remembered by millions in China as the Mother of the House Churches.
Marie Monsen became a school teacher in her late teens and was sent to China in 1901by the Lutheran Church to teach the children of two missionaries there. Not long after Marie arrived, political chaos arose in China, so much so that the missionary family was brought home by the Lutheran Church; however, the church could not afford to bring Marie home. She was promised a ticket home as soon as the funds were available.
Waiting for many days at the mission home, Marie was swamped by many of the local people seeking spiritual enlightenment and healing of illnesses. Marie soon developed a heavy burden for these poor people of Shantung and the Henan Province of China.
She was young and knew nothing of ministry, but at least she had a Bible and, indeed, that was more than enough to learn what she could do to help her charges.
Days turned to weeks, and weeks to months – but no word from the Church in Norway. But Marie did not while away her time. She was busy teaching and helping the people of China to come to know the Lord more fully. She not only taught with her words, but also with her Godly example.
Finally, the word arrived from Norway for her to return, but Marie decided not to return to Norway. Her work in China was far too critical for the Lord’s work. She remained in China for the next thirty-one years and worked tirelessly without support of the Church. Over the years, the Church grew angry at here for ministering without their authority.
On one occasion, a family arrived at her door whose small boy who appeared to be dead. They asked Marie to come and “do something.” She had no idea how she could help, but she did know to pray and read Scripture to them. At the end of her prayer, she laid the Bible on the boy’s chest and he revived, perhaps from unconsciousness, and began to breathe to the amazement of all the onlookers. This solidified the trust of the people in the great spiritual power that had brought Marie Monsen among them.
Marie witnessed much abuse of the Chinese servants to missionaries in China. Many lived in luxury and treated the servants as chattel. She saw that the missionary churches lacked love in their administration; so, Marie began the house church movement in China. After thirty-one years, she received word from Norway that her parents were seriously ill and needed someone to attend to them. She left China and never returned.
Marie Monsen died unheralded in 1961. Her gravesite was barely visible. After many years, a team of Chinese ministers visited Norway in 1999 led by Pastor Ziu Zhenyang, better known as Brother Yun, or the Heavenly Man. When the church was filled the Chinese leader got up to speak. His dramatic first words were: “Did you know who you had among you? You had the “Mother of the house churches of China!”’ He went on, ‘Yes, Marie Monson was our mother in Christ. I would be dead if she hadn’t come to our home and prayed for me with such faith and tenacity. I was brought back to life and am now the leader of our denomination.”
They asked to see the grave of Marie Monsen. No one at the local church seemed to know of her except for an elderly lady who told them of the gravesite. The Chinese delegation were shocked to see that such a servant of God would have no suitable marker for their grave. They offered to pay for an elegant marker for the grave, but the local church insisted, out of shame, to pay for it. Two years later, a large granite monument was raised as a memorial to the “Mother of the House Churches of China.”
Marie Monsen was a great stone, hidden beneath the surface and hewn from that Rock which cannot be moved – our Lord Jesus Christ. Many such gallant men and women of faith lie in unmarked graves unknown and unheralded by men.