Mrs. Xi Shengmo was one of the first Chinese women to come to Christ from a scholarly family. She was about 17 when she married Xi Shengmo (席胜磨牧师), a widowed Confucian scholar and former opium addict. They had only one child, a son who died in infancy. Later in life, Mrs. Xi responded to God’s call and left the cloistered life of a scholar’s wife to pioneer a ministry for women addicted to opium.
Xi Shengmo became a Christian in 1879, about 20 years after his second marriage. Initially, Mrs. Xi was very receptive to the changes in her husband and the message he was sharing, even when he destroyed the family idols and invited his estranged stepmother to live with them. Then suddenly, she began to fly into an angry rage whenever Xi began their daily worship of his new God. She lapsed into deep depression, and the neighbors saw this as the judgment of the gods.
Xi prayed and fasted for three days, then laid hands upon his wife and commanded the demons to leave her. She was healed instantly, placed her faith in the Lord, and never again experienced these symptoms. Mrs. Xi was illiterate at this time, but she soon learned to read the Bible and became a woman of prayer. Her husband’s once awful temper was tamed, first toward others, and finally toward her also.
The Xi home in Xizhuang Village, near Linfen, became known as Middle Eden, and often housed 50-60 new Christians who studied the Bible and worked the fields. Opium was destroying millions in China, and Pastor Xi’s ministry of establishing opium refuges took him away from home for long periods of time. Mrs. Xi became responsible for managing Middle Eden and for helping to manufacture the anti-opium pills used in the refuges.
In April 1883, Mrs. Xi was baptized along with her mother and Xi’s stepmother, a major step for women from a scholarly family to take at that time. The next year, Pastor and Mrs. Xi developed a deep concern for the spiritual needs of the people in Huozhou, a major city between Linfen and Taiyuan. After months of prayer at their family devotions, one morning Mrs. Xi laid a package in front of her husband. Inside was all her remaining jewelry: the rings, bracelets, hairpins, earrings and other items that had been her husband’s wedding gift. She told him, “I can do without these. Let Huozhou have the gospel.”
When Hudson Taylor visited their home in August 1886 and asked about this gift, Mrs. Xi replied that it was not difficult because, “It was for Jesus’ sake.” Then, noting that the Huozhou Refuge had seen 20 men become believers, but no women, Mrs. Xi challenged Taylor to send single women out into ministry if no families would come. By the end of the year, two Norwegian women, Anna Jakobsen and Sophie Reuter, were ministering in Huozhou with explosive results. The following spring saw the largest baptism into the church in China up to that time: 216 souls, including 52 women.
In 1891, Pastor and Mrs. Xi made one of the hardest decisions of their lives. She began a ministry for women opium addicts that required her to leave Middle Eden and establish a refuge in Hongdong County. More centers followed, and for the last five years of his life, they saw each other only occasionally. When Pastor Xi became ill, however, Mrs. Xi returned and cared for him for six months until he went to be with the Lord in 1896. Mrs. Xi continued the ministry with opium addicts for many years. She had a severe stroke in 1928 and after resting for several months at the CIM station in Zhaocheng, Shanxi, went to be with the Lord on September 20, 1929.