Mary Reynolds joined her husband in teaching at a missionary school in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey, early in the 1830s. Living in the city under austere conditions, Mrs. Reynolds taught local girls drawn from a variety of religious backgrounds, including Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim, and, in the case of her own daughter, Henrietta, Protestant, operating her classroom on modified Lancasterian principles. Her intent, above all, seems to have been to save the girls from the "superstitions of their church," a daunting task, but one that she felt was attainable. Cheered with the thought that her efforts with the Turks had not been in vain, she wrote: "I do not say they are more ready to receive the Christian religion, but the barriers in the way of access to them are fast disappearing" (1830 September 28).
Despite her optimism, the Turkish state was repugnant to Reynolds, held together only by a hopelessly authoritarian and brutal government and by clerical dissembling. "The priests," she wrote, "Turkish, Catholic, Greek, Armenian, and Jewish hold the people in worse than Egyptian bondage" (1832 December 18-19), and throughout the nation "truth hides her head ashamed & falsehood stalks abroad at noon day" (1830 September 28). In their secular lives, she wrote, "the miserable inhabitants groan under a wretched despotism, and the farmer is never sure that the fruit of his toil can be called his own (1835 October 14).
In this context, Reynolds seems to have found it natural to interpret events in providential terms: the great fire in Constantinople was divine retribution for the immorality of foreign diplomats stationed there, and the arrival of plague and cholera signified that the end of the second Christian dispensation was drawing near, and that the millennium was close at hand. "We have therefore great need to 'watch unto prayer;'" she suggested to her brother, "and be active while life lasts" (1835 October 14).