Lizzie Atwater, along with her husband, was one of the 8,000 missionaries working at any one time in China between 1830 and 1949. In 1900 an anti-Christian group known as the Boxers waged a war against the foreign powers that had seized their land by military might and in particular the Christians who came along with them. Nearly 200 missionaries and 30,000 national Chinese Christians perished during this time including Lizzie. On August 3, 1900 Lizzie Atwater wrote her family:
“Dear ones, I long for a sight of your dear faces, but I fear we shall not meet on earth. I am preparing for the end very quietly and calmly. The Lord is wonderfully near, and he will not fail me. I was very restless and excited while there seemed a chance of life, but God has taken away that feeling, and now I just pray for grace to meet the terrible end bravely. The pain will soon be over, and oh the sweetness of the welcome above!
My little baby will go with me. I think God will give it to me in Heaven, and my dear mother will be so glad to see us. I cannot imagine the Savior’s welcome. Oh, that will compensate for all these days of suspense. Dear ones, live near God and cling less closely to earth. There is no other way by which we can receive that peace from God which passeth understanding. …
… I just keep calm these hours. I do not regret coming to China, but am sorry I have done so little. My married life, two precious years, has been so very full of happiness. We will die together, my dear husband and I. I send my love to you all, the dear friends who remember me.“
Twelve days after her letter was written, Lizzie Atwater, her unborn baby, and six other missionaries were hacked to death by the Boxers. However, an eight nation alliance of America, England, Austro-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia soon defeated the Boxers and the missionary army returned, remaining until expelled by the Communists in 1949. Despite much persecution throughout its history Chinese Christians have now risen to an estimated 50 million and counting. Some estimates claim as many as 30,000 people in China come to faith every day.
Lizzie Atwater was not afraid to die to serve her Lord and was assured of rewards to come. She clung to God and not to earthly treasures. She felt like she had done little but with the sacrifice of her life and other missionaries devotion even unto death the seed was planted for a great work of God in China that continues to this day.