Qinzhou was the first mission station opened by the CIM in Gansu. At the time, Mr. and Mrs. Henry W. Hunt were leading six female missionaries. Annie often accompanied them to the surrounding towns and villages on evangelistic trips. She also started teaching elementary students in 1896. She and her sister returned to Australia for furlough in May, 1899, and the two took advantage of this opportunity to study nursing, thus providentially avoiding the turmoil of the Boxer Rebellion.
The records at the beginning of 1900 show that, after twenty years of labor by Western missionaries, in the city of Qinzhou, with its population of forty thousand, eighty-seven persons had been baptized; six Chinese workers were on salary; there were two volunteers; ten boys and sixteen girls were enrolled in two schools. They also had a pharmacy for medical missions.
The two Garland sisters returned to China in November, 1901. Arriving in Qinzhou in 1902, they re-opened the boys’ school and revived the women’s meeting. In the summer of 1903, Annie Garland led Mrs. Lee, a “Bible woman,”, and others across the mountains to the villages in the south on a tour to do evangelism and visit the believers there.
Mr. And Mrs. John B. Martin were assigned to Qinzhou not long afterwards. According to Martin’s diary, the mission station consisted of two adjoining buildings, one serving as a chapel, where weekly worship meetings took place on Sunday morning and where about ten men met for Bible study. The other building was reserved for women’s meetings, attended by thirty believers and seekers. Everyone sat on kangs [heated beds made of brick] as they searched the Scriptures. At the conclusion of the Bible studies, a gong would sound, and everyone would assemble in the chapel for Lord’s Day worship, with the men and women sitting on opposite sides of the room. When the worship service was over, the men and women returned to their separate buildings for lunch. Bible study for the men and women commenced again in the afternoon. At 4:00 P.M., evangelistic teams from the church would go out into the streets to preach, distribute evangelistic tracts, or use evangelistic wall charts to preach on the street corners. The meeting after supper was more informal, with singing and listening to the preacher’s instruction and exhortation. In this way did the Christians spend their Sundays.
In 1909, Annie Garland went to the preaching point at Zhangjia village for a while. The Sunday services were held in a new believer, Zhang Sihai’s home, with ten men and a large group of women in attendance. After the meeting, they asked her a number of questions about the faith, which caused her to be very excited and happy, because this sort of event was not common.
A flood hit Qinzhou in the fall of 1910, causing a large crop loss, which led to rising prices. In addition, revolution was brewing in the entire country and society was increasingly unstable. Under these conditions, Western nations ordered a withdrawal from the interior. After a long journey over land and water, in May, 1912, the Garland sisters arrived in Shanghai, whence they returned to Australia on furlough and further studies in nursing. After the situation in China had settled down, missionaries began to return to their posts in the interior. Annie arrived back in Qinzhou in November, 1913. She resumed her itinerant work in the villages, leading women in Bible studies and sharing the Gospel with them. In May of 1917, the well-known CIM evangelist, Miss Jessie G. Gregg, traveled around Gansu for evangelism, spending May 7-10 in Qinzhou. Many professed faith during the evangelistic meetings, of whom fifty were women.
A powerful (8.6 on the Richter scale) earthquake struck Gansu on December 16, 1920, causing major damage and loss of life and property in more than thirty towns and many villages. According to the report from the Reverend Leslie C. Whitelaw, who was in charge of the mission station at the time, all the missionaries from twelve different stations immediately threw themselves into relief work to assist the victims.
Annie Garland traveled in May of 1921 to a remote rural village Xihe County, 125 miles distant from Qinzhou for five months of intensive Gospel labor, which stirred up a revival at that station. Aside from daily meetings, more than fifty attended Lord’s Day worship. Church members repented earnestly, returned to the Lord, and entered eagerly into ministry.
The Garland sisters returned to Australia for their last furlough in July, 1922, returning to China in January, 1924. In the summer of that year, they departed from Qinzhou to open a new work to the south, in Hui County. Their territory was broad and sparsely populated, with high mountains and deep valleys, making travel very difficult. Their diet consisted of bean pods, pickled cabbage, and steamed buns (mantou). When they first arrived, no one dared welcome them, but girls and women gradually began to relate to them. Even in such an unpleasant environment, Annie was still able to write, “How happy we are to be able to share the Gospel with such spiritually impoverished women and girls!”
The second “Kansu (Gansu) United Conference of Protestant Workers” met from July 26 to August 3, 1924, at the Christian and Missionary Alliance mission station at Didao. Decisions were made at this meeting which concerned the Garland sisters. The first conference, in 1918, had established “A Course of Home Study for Chinese Christian Women,” and made Annie the chairman of the executive committee. At this second gathering, Annie gave the report on her work in Chinese, whereupon the meeting immediately approved her new proposal for carrying out the plan, and re-appointed her as head of the committee.
Annie Garland also continued going from one village in Hui County to another, conducting her work of medical missions. She treated each person with love, so people came from far and near to seek treatment from her. In 1925, for example, out of a total of 1481 visitors, 1227 received medical attention from her. All who came also heard the Gospel, and some trusted in God’s grace.
The political situation deteriorated in 1926, causing great instability everywhere, but the series of evangelistic meetings were held in Hui County at Chinese New Year as usual. They set up tents on the streets and preached the Gospel to the passers-by. Mr. James O. Fraser visited Qinzhou in October, conducting Bible studies and administering baptism.
Because of the overall political situation in 1927, Annie and the other missionaries withdrew from the interior to coastal cities; conditions did not stabilize until 1928 In 1929, Annie and her colleagues returned to Gansu, just at the time when the populace was dealing with a great drought. Responding to the call from the international united drought relief campaign, they threw themselves into the relief effort, distributing food and other necessities to the drought-stricken people. Great amounts of supplies were also sent from the CIM headquarters in Shanghai.
Annie wrote about the relief work in Hui County:
They borrowed an inn’s camel corral, where they daily distributed bread to the people in the following order: children, women, men. There were not enough missionaries to handle the constantly increasing numbers of refugees; sometimes it was hard to control the hungry crowds seeking food; a babble of noise and confusion overwhelmed the area. They therefore divided into teams, with some keeping order, others distributing food, and still others preaching the Gospel.
We can see their labor, weariness, and difficulty from the following description:
When we returned from a day of physically exhausting, mentally draining, and emotionally taxing care for the poor, we found the hospital to be filled with sick people begging for medicine and treatment. The children were half-dead with hunger, their clothes tattered and torn, their bodies covered with rash. Men and women suffer from high fever and incessant coughing; others are covered with sores from head to toe, pus and blood oozing from every pore; all are homeless refugees with nowhere to go. In the past three months, our little clinic has seen 1000 patients. We’re happy to give them what little help we can, but in a twinkling of an eye they die in the deserted fields and become food for wild dogs.On May 14th six of us organized ourselves into a burial committee to deal with the bodies of the starved. I sternly warned our co-workers, since all these bodies carried the threat of infecting others with fatal disease. But they all remained firm, considering this work to be a moral obligation… In twenty-six days we buried fifty-two people. In these three months we have come into contact with so many diseased refugees in tattered clothing! All on our team have faithfully engaged in the work…
Harvest time begins on the first of June, and will require a great deal of labor, but these poor refugees don’t even have any tools, so we bought a number of sickles and gave them to them. The landlords of the villages came to our hospital and chose a few workers from among the patients who because they had not smoked opium were relatively strong. We spent three days giving them physical exams; in the end, 341 men and 3 women received sickles.
No one could know at the time that this would be Annie Garland’s last work report. A year’s relief work, plus caring for the sick refugees, had already overtaxed her strength; her health declined daily; after constant contact with infected people, she finally contracted typhus fever. In such circumstances effective treatment was impossible to obtain, and her condition went from bad to worse. She spent her last Christmas as a very ill person, finally dying on December 27, 1929.