The story of the spread of the gospel is in large part the story of how God works through specific people to lead new believers to himself. God uses the talents and creativity of those who answer the great commission call. While cross-cultural workers continue to learn and grow in how they work in the field, it’s also important to remember those who blazed the first pathways—sometimes quite literally—and learn from both their successes and failures.
For this third session of ChinaSource Summer School, we have articles, books, and even a webinar focusing on the lives and work of key figures in the mission work of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the summer 2023 issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, we looked at the history of Pentecostal Christianity in China. Pastor Dennis Balcombe outlined the contributions of several pioneering Pentecostal workers, including William Wallace Simpson, Marie Monsen, and Serene Løland. The article also cites important books for further reading.
We talk quite a bit about the British and American workers in China, but a large number came from other places in the West, including New Zealand. In the summer 2022 issue of CSQ, Sylvia Yuan presented a detailed analysis of missionaries from New Zealand to China. In addition to relating stories of leading missionaries, Yuan examines trends in the characteristics of the workers—denomination, sending organization, gender, and marital status. Surprisingly, about a third of the missionaries from New Zealand were single women. The full issue of this CSQ has many more surprises and lots of encouragement, and we hope you read around in it.
Going to China in the late 1800s and early 1900s was a difficult decision and could involve quite a lot of personal risk. In Children of the Massacre, authors Robert and Linda Banks tell the story of their ancestors, the Stewarts and the Kucheng Massacre in 1895. Though Robert and Louisa Stewart and their two youngest children, Hebert and Hilda, were killed, the surviving six children (Arthur, Philip, James, Mildred, Kathleen, and Evan) all returned to serve the Chinese people as adults.
Not only were women well represented among missionaries to China, they were amazingly courageous. As reviewer Hope Bentley writes,
Multiple crises…occurred in each of their lives. I cannot imagine enduring the trauma the women did—fending off bandits, experiencing bombing, walking miles and miles to get food, enduring flea bombs dropped on their city, hiding in the woods from violent mobs, and more. As soon as one crisis was over, there was another up ahead.
Usually when we discuss missionaries, we don’t study people who were involved in money scandals. However, Julie Ma shows why we should in her article on missions and money. She says of Karl (Charles) Gützlaff, an independent German missionary,
[His] story is a tale of financial scandal, but he teaches us about so much more than merely how not to use money. He has lessons for us on broad versus deep sowing, conflicts of interest for tentmakers, rejecting criticism, believing witnesses of one ethnicity over another, and a host of other things. His example is not all negative either. He helps us empathize with the plight of cultural minorities in supposedly multicultural teams, and the later unearthing of his scattered gospel seeds gives us hope that God works even when we fail.
This edited volume contains the stories of seven Western missionaries and two Chinese workers. It’s an excellent primer to understand the period between 1807 and 1920. Editors Wright Doyle and Carol Hamrin encouraged the contributors to write well-rounded histories, not oversimplified idealizations.
BJ Arthur’s enthusiastic review of Robert Morrison: Translator in China is a delightful read, as well as being very informative about the life and work of this remarkable man. Despite financial difficulties, relationship challenges, and trouble with the Chinese government, Morrison persevered. He created a Chinese dictionary, translated the Bible into Chinese, and established a language school in England.
In this webinar, Dr. Andrew Kaiser spoke on Timothy Richard, a missionary who worked in China for 45 years. Richard worked cross-culturally in a variety of capacities, and his work has continuing relevance for today’s workers. The webinar itself is about an hour long. On its webpage, you can download a PDF of questions from the audience with Dr. Kaiser’s answers.
This post is the third in our series “ChinaSource Summer School.” You can learn more about important figures in Chinese Christianity online at the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity. Check out session one, on the intersection of Chinese culture and Christianity and session two, on the history of Christianity in China. Session four will be published in the coming weeks.
Images courtesy of Randy Posslenzny, Ray Smith, Gaylan Yeung, and the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christians.
Rachel Anderson serves as the Assistant Content Manager at ChinaSource. Though she has never been to China, her ancestors were missionaries in East Asia and passed on a deep love and respect for those cultures. Rachel lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their five delightful children. View Full Bio
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