Chinese Church Voices

Following the Footprints of Early Missionaries to Yunnan (2)

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


Nine Christians from several cities in China traveled to Nujiang, Yunnan Province to find the places where early foreign Christians proclaimed the gospel among the Lisu. During the trip they met people who knew those early workers and were impacted personally by their conversations and simply being in those places. The faith of those early workers and those still serving still speaks to us today. This article from We Jingjie is being posted in two parts because of length. You can read part one here; this is part two. Be sure to look at the original article; there are several amazing photos included.

A Visit to Nujiang: Following the Footprints of Missionaries, Continued

A Visit to Brothers Qin Zhili and Apu.

In order to learn more about Morse, we went to visit Qin Zhili, who is the preacher of the Lisu people in Danzhu Village. He is such a healthy and energetic old man; it was hard to believe that he was over ninety years old. In his memory, Morse was about 40 years old at that time and often came to their village to teach people to read and sing hymns.

The textbook Morse used to teach reading was a pamphlet called “Book of Mayimi,” which is a simple reading of the basic principles of the Bible, translated and compiled by James O. Fraser, who invented the writing system for the Lisu people. The Lisu people had never seen their own language at that time and many people, including Qin Zhili, followed the study out of curiosity and gradually believed in Jesus.

Thomas, a handicapped local who could only walk on the ground like a frog, followed Morse and later believed in Jesus. After Morse was forced to leave China in 1949, Thomas became the main preacher in this area and preached everywhere carried about by Qin Zhili, whose spiritual life was deeply influenced by Thomas. From 1957 to 1958, many preachers were arrested, and believers scattered. Thomas died in the detention center. It was not until the loosening of religious policies in the 1980s, that the flame of the gospel was relit. A group of believers who were once influenced by Morse and Thomas regained their confidence and became preachers, including Qin Zhili.

Qin Zhili told us that he came to understand many of God’s words from Thomas’ preaching. He also saw God’s mercy for a disabled person through Thomas, and his faith was revived. Listening to this old man tell of the past, the melody of that hymn once again filled my mind: “If a kernel of wheat dies, it produces many seeds. . . “

In order to learn more about Morse after visiting Qin Zhili, we decided to climb the Biluo Snow Mountain and visit the Lisu preacher Apu, who lives in Weixi County of Diqing. There was a group of people, sometimes more than a hundred, affected by leprosy living there. In 2012, after careful, prayerful consideration, Apu took over the leprosy village project, taking care of three elderly people who still lived there. The living conditions in that village were tough at that time. On the one hand they lacked electricity; on the other, it was a Tibetan Buddhism region, and  local people were hostile towards the gospel.

Apu faced many challenges himself. For example, striving to get electricity for the village, registering a hukou for their adopted, handicapped daughter, and taking care of three children and three old lepers while also going out to preach. His wife once wanted to give up, and Apu could only helplessly come before God, saying “It’s your work. You’re responsible.”

In addition to taking care of the lepers, Apu also helped other people living in that village, especially the elderly and the sick. Apu is skilled in raising Nubian goats, which were introduced to Yunnan through a poverty alleviation project. This kind of sheep has a high milk yield and delicious meat; they are bred in captivity and don’t damage crops. Apu helped an old Buddhist man raise goats, and when the old man later became a believer, Apu gained an opportunity to preach the gospel in the old man’s village.

Today, most people in Weixi County know that Apu is a believer, and when they see him they say, “the man who believes in God is here. Let’s welcome him.” Apu rides an electric bike with his wife every Sunday to preach in a Lisu village named Kena, which takes almost an hour back and forth. There are over 30 families and a church in this village. We later learned that the people in this village had already heard about the gospel during the Republic of China, and it was probably because of the seed Morse planted in Weixi County.

We Need to Pay More Attention to the Living Preachers.

When we left Apu’s home, it was time to wrap up our trip. Though we had come to trace the footsteps of past missionaries, as we got ready to leave, we realized that we ought to be paying more attention to the living preachers. We show much reverence to the missionaries who have passed away, yet too often ignore those preachers who are not well-educated or skilled in speaking but have humble hearts and persevere in the poor countryside to show God’s love. Therefore, we established a fund to support them out of our meager strength.

When we were at Apu’s house and heard the story of how he spent 10 years helping an old man believe in Jesus, a sister from our team couldn’t help muttering in her heart: “I brought six people to believe in Jesus in one week!” However, she accidentally sprained her ankle while walking in Apu’s vegetable field and had to walk with crutches during the rest of this trip. It was a precious lesson. We learned that our service today depends entirely on God’s grace. It is a pity that we acknowledge our need for God only after he has touched our hip socket, when we are limping along. Only then do we acknowledge we need others as well, others we thought were inferior to us in eloquence, knowledge, and finance.

Pastor Guang, who helped us find the cemetery of Dittemore, originally ran his own clinic, but gave up that work when called to serve full time in 2002. He became a pastor and served 1,585 local believers from 18 churches in the region. In front of Dittemore’s tombstone, Pastor Guang led us in pray and sang hymns with us, choking up with tears several times. Compared with us tourists, he must more deeply sympathize with the missionaries’ sentiment “Christ is my all.”

Pastor Guang drives close to 80 kilometers every week to visit local people in need. He only gets 100-yuan income while having to spend a lot, including 300 yuan a month for gas, in addition to car repairs. However, he never regrets leaving his clinic work. Instead, he only worries that he would not be able to account well for himself before God. Twice he repeated, firmly, that the days in the future are much longer than this life!

Original article: 再进怒江,疫情中探访福音的足迹, 境界Ⅱ
Translated, edited, and reposted with permission.

ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

Written or edited by members of the ChinaSource staff.          View Full Bio


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.

Donate