Breakthrough: James O. Fraser
Directed and written by Ken Haron, A production of OMF
36 minutes in duration
Breakthrough: James O. Fraser is a half-hour dramatized documentary produced by OMF International (formerly China Inland Mission) about the life of James O. Fraser, a missionary among the Lisu people in southwestern China.
Fraser, a 22-year-old British engineering graduate, arrived in China in 1908 as a member of the China Inland Mission. After a year of language study, he was sent to a remote area in southwestern China. He soon encountered the Lisu people, and immediately felt a deep love for them. He quickly made connections and began to learn the Lisu language. Yet he faced great difficulties in the early years of his ministry, at one point even falling into a season of depression and despair. Despite the difficulties on his journey, Fraser was ultimately used by God to reach hundreds of Lisu people and to develop a written script for their language that continues to be used to this day.
The documentary consists primarily of narrated scenes from Fraser’s life. The main actor is well cast, the scenes are primarily filmed in Northern Thailand, and detailed effort was clearly put into the dress and culture of the Lisu people. Throughout the documentary we get portions of interviews with Fraser’s daughter Eileen Fraser Crossman, a Lisu linguist Dr. Ted Hope, as well as a missions historian Lisa Ravenhill, which help to offer more context and understanding to the viewer.
One thing that stood out to me was how Fraser emphasized the importance of prayer. He came to believe that God will use a prayer of faith to do his work and urged his mother and her prayer circle to continue praying for the Lisu people. In fact, he wrote:
I will not labor the point. You will see from what I’m saying that I am not just asking you to give help in prayer, as a sort of sideline. But I am trying to roll the main responsibility of this prayer warfare on you. I want you to take the burden of this people upon your shoulders. I want you to wrestle with God for them.
Fraser understood that there was a spiritual battle raging over the souls of the Lisu people. He reminds his mother and her associates that, although they have never set foot on Chinese soil and have never met a single Lisu person, their prayers nonetheless play a powerful role in this battle.
This encouraged me. Before circumstances forced us back to America, my family and I had planned on living long term in Hong Kong and China. Adjusting to life in America was tiring, and it was hard to see why God had given us a love for China and how he was to use it when we were seemingly living on the wrong side of the world.
With everything going on in the world, Christians in China are facing increasingly complicated circumstances, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for outsiders to connect with the Chinese church. But Fraser’s life reminds us that engaging in prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do. And this is something we can do for our brothers and sisters in China, wherever we might live in the world.
God used James O. Fraser in incredible ways to reach the Lisu people, and he has left an amazing spiritual legacy. This documentary does a good job of outlining Fraser’s life, from which we can continue to learn today.
Image credit: Breakthrough: James O. Fraser trailer.
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.