“Her life, though it did not abound in striking incidents, and brilliant achievements, was filled up with diligent, self-denying and earnest efforts for the salvation of the heathen.”- J.B. Jeter
Henrietta Hall Shuck and her husband, J. Lewis Shuck, were serving in the mission field a decade before there was such a thing as the Southern Baptist Convention. They were initially appointed to China under the Triennial Convention and soon after the formation of the Foreign Mission Board the Shucks agreed to transfer their support to the newly formed Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (Fletcher, 54). The most extensive work ever done on Mrs. Shuck was written by Jeremiah Bell Jeter he himself a Southern Baptist from the very beginning and one of the influential founders of our Convention. His name appears on nearly every page of the early annuals of the Southern Baptist Convention.
All biographical data below was pulled directly from Jeter’s Memoir of Mrs. Shuck which is cited below. Henrietta was born in Kilmarnock, Virginia on October 28, 1817. She was baptized at the age of 13 on September 2, 1831 just shy of her 14th birthday (18), and accepted the marriage proposal of Rev. J. Lewis Shuck and they wed on Sep 8, 1835, just shy of her 18th birthday. On September 22, 1835 the Shucks were on a boat in Boston, headed for China (40). She departed the US aware of the fact that this was probably the last time she would see her family in the States this side of heaven. She and her father exchanged letters and her letter to her father will be posted in a follow up post tomorrow.
The Shucks landed in Singapore on March 31, 1836 and set up a home nearly 7 months after departing. The trip from Boston, around the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Pacific must have been tiresome. Shortly after arrival, Henrietta began to work on the hearts of her siblings back home. In a letter dated May 13, 1836 she writes,
“Tis not enough that we attend the Sabbath School—listen to the preached gospel—read our bibles—and say our prayers. Though these things are done by all true disciples of the blessed Saviour, (as they have opportunity) yet something else must be attended to. We must confess our sins, and forsake them. Have you, dearest children, repented of your sins? If not, I assure you it is time so to do” (65).
Even from across the ocean, never to see her siblings again, Henrietta was set on preparing them to meet again in heaven. The Shucks eventually made it to Macao, China and by 0839 Henrietta had set up a school for the children and Mr. Shuck had learned the language well enough to preach in Chinese to a congregation of 15 (143). Henrietta thought it well to only take in the female children into her school, but the Chinese people thought education of females to be undesirable, Mrs. Shuck had to take on the boys in order to get the girls she desired under her care. The cost of each child ran roughly $14 per year and the Shucks wrote home to petition for funds (138-139).
In 1840 Henrietta’s health began to decline. Her attending physician, Dr. Diver another American missionary serving in Macao, stated that Mrs. Shuck was in a “state of delirium, occasioned by an excessive flow of blood to the brain, which, I afterwards learned, was brought on by too great exertion during the heat of the day” (151). At one point, the Shucks considered leaving their work to return home, but the prospect of quitting their work for 2 years did not sit well as she stated in a letter written to her father in February of 1840 (149). By April, however, Henrietta had experienced a full recovery and was free of complaints.
The Shucks moved to Hong Kong in 1842 on account of her health, this time the move was necessary. In a letter dated May 2, 1842 Henrietta states that again the prospect of America was offered and they considered returning but after careful consideration and petitioning God in prayer, felt led to move to Hong Kong instead (179). From Hong Kong in 1843 Mr. Shuck’s mission work was in full swing, at one point he was preaching 11 sermons per week in Chinese and his congregation was up to 26 members (196).
1844 would be the last year of Henrietta Shuck’s short life. By the time this year had come around, Henrietta found herself caring for two missionary families and 30 children (216). Undoubtedly, this took a toll on her health. On Oct 28, 1844, her 27th birthday, she wrote her last letter to her father. In summing up Henrietta’s life in the closing paragraph of his work, Dr. Jeter says: “For years thou has been laboriously employed in clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and training the young minds of China for usefulness of heaven.”
Henrietta Shuck was a woman who boarded forsook everything and boarded a ship for a foreign land for the propagation of the Gospel. She abandoned her parents, siblings, and friends to work herself to death at the age of 27 in China to bring hope to the dying heathen.
Jeter, Jeremiah B. Memoir of Mrs. Shuck. (Greenfield: Merriam and Mirick, 1846).
Fletcher, Jesse C. The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994).
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