Life & Faith

An Australian in China

November 22, 2018

Courage, blindness, unexpected romance, and a meeting of cultures: the story of missionary Amy Oxley Wilkinson.

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“In about 1944, when Amy was in the East End of London with her grandson, they went into a Chinese restaurant, and the whole restaurant stood up, and she spoke to them in Chinese. She was English – well, she was Australian! – but this part of China was in her heart.”

This scene would have been unimaginable to Amy Oxley Wilkinson back when she was a young girl growing up west of Sydney. In the 1890s, as a single woman, and knowing full well the possible dangers – from cholera to the very real threat of violence – she moved to China as a nurse and missionary.

Rob and Linda Banks have pieced together Amy’s story in their book They Shall See His Face: The Story of Amy Oxley Wilkinson and her Visionary Blind School in China. In this interview, they share some of her experiences in early-20th-century China, and beyond: the challenges she faced, her unlikely romance, and the legacy of all her work with blind children, which flourishes to this day.

“The other thing is that they didn’t live within the missionary compound – they were outside, in the city, so they were as open to being devastated by typhoons and disease and so on, like anyone else. They lived with the people. And that was deeply respected by all the different levels within Chinese culture – such as the Confucianists and other literati who came together on recognising Amy, because they realised she was an asset to their community.”

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Rob and Linda Banks are also the authors of View from the Faraway Pagoda, which tells the story of another Australian missionary in China.

Their new book is called They Shall See His Face: The Story of Amy Oxley Wilkinson and her Visionary Blind School in China. Buy it here: www.koorong.com/search/product/they-shall-see-his-face-the-story-of/9780647519776.jhtml

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