Sister M. E. Barber, an English woman, is related to the genealogy of the Lord’s recovery. When Brother Watchman Nee received the Lord, Sister M. E. Barber had been living in China for more than ten years. Initially, she was a missionary sent by a mission board to China in order to preach the gospel. However, because her co-workers were jealous of her, they fabricated charges against her and presented them to the English mission board. She had learned of the Lord not to vindicate herself. She did not disclose that she had been falsely accused until the chairman of the mission board said to her, “As your authority, I order you to tell me everything and not to hide anything.” After this matter passed, she felt that she could no longer remain with the mission. After another period of time, she felt that she should return to China, and the Lord opened a way for her to go. She came to Foochow at the mouth of the Min River and lived at Bai-Ya-Tan across from Mawei.
The history of the church in China shows that M. E. Barber was the first strong witness in China. She lived purely before the Lord and knew much of the cross and the Lord’s life. Her deep experiences are evident in the hymns she wrote. One reads, “If there’s less of earth joy, / Give, Lord, more of heaven. / Let the spirit praise Thee, / Though the heart be riven… / Lonely though the pathway, / Cheer it with Thy smile; / Be Thou my companion / Through earth’s little while” (Hymns, #377). Another hymn she wrote is “He faileth not, for He is God” (Hymns, #693); this hymn is familiar to many people in Christianity. In addition, she also wrote other hymns, such as “Deep down into the depths of this Thy Name” (Hymns, #671), “Via Bethlehem we journey” (Hymns, #628), and “To the foe my word is always, ‘No’” (Hymns, #880).
Brother Nee not only mentioned Miss Barber in his messages; he also mentioned her a few times when I spoke to him privately. Every time he mentioned her, I received a deep impression. He said that every time he went to see Miss Barber, as he sat in the living room waiting for her, he would sense the presence of the Lord. On one occasion in 1936, as we were discussing the work and the service, Brother Nee sighed and said, “If only Miss Barber were still alive, our condition today would be completely different.” He also once said, “When I visited Europe and America in 1933, I visited spiritual people in both places, but it was not easy to find even one who could compare with Miss Barber. There was only one brother who seemed to be comparable to her.” Brother Nee said this in 1935, only two years after he returned from England. This shows that Miss M. E. Barber was very deep in her relationship with God; she genuinely knew God. She is a very weighty person in our history.
A number of other young people around the same age as Brother Nee also went to Miss Barber for her teaching. Regrettably, after a short time they left, one after another, because Miss Barber rebuked people severely. Brother Nee testified that Miss Barber rebuked him severely and even dealt with him unreasonably. However, after he was rebuked, he did not feel uncomfortable; on the contrary, the more he was rebuked, the more he felt the benefit. Thus, he continued to go to her despite the rebukes.
After a few years Brother Nee and Miss Barber knew each other well and had deep fellowship; their affection for each other in the Lord was very deep and broad. When Miss Barber passed away in 1930, she left almost all her spiritual books, writings, letters, and Bibles to Brother Nee. Brother Nee said that if anyone were to write a biography of Miss Barber, he would be the best person to do it. He wanted to write Miss Barber’s biography because he thought it would help the brothers and sisters in China. Regrettably, the Lord never gave him the opportunity to do this. Miss M. E. Barber is a seed in our history that grew in Brother Nee. Thus, when we speak of the history among us, we cannot avoid speaking of her.