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Law Keem Memorial Chapel built in 1945.

From Adventism in China Digital Image Repository. Accessed September 23, 2020. www.adventisminchinaorg. 

Kwangsi Mission (1915–1951)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: June 1, 2023

The Kwangsi Mission (广西区会) territory initially covered the Kwangsi (now Guangxi 广西省) Province and later included small portions of the adjacent western border regions of Guangdong Province. It was one of the most southerly provinces of China and remained in the South China Union Mission. Its provincial headquarters were located in Nanning.1

Beginnings

In 1913, a small group of believers living in Kwangsi walked to Foshan into Guangdong Province to ask for a missionary to come to minister to them. They had come to a knowledge of Seventh-day Adventism by reading denominational literature. They were baptized at Foshan and returned home to wait for a missionary.2 When Dr. Law Keem was appointed to start work in Kwangsi, he located at Wuzhou in 1914 and visited these same believers in the neighboring countryside. His stay in this city, however, was not a pleasant one for he met with the worst flood to come to the district. His two-storied home was inundated almost to the upper level.3 In the same year, he explored further west as far as Nanning to search for a better location. On this trip, he and his travelling assistant came under suspicion by the magistrate of Lingshan County. They and their baggage were searched, and they were detained overnight, then ordered to leave promptly.4

A party of four church officials made a further search in March 1915, deciding that Nanning should be the headquarters for any further mission work in the province.5

Mission Advances 1915-1930

At an executive committee meeting of the Asiatic Division on May 1915, Dr. Keem was appointed as the director of the Kwangsi Mission and instructed to transfer from Wuzhou to Nanning. He was allocated funds to establish a small dispensary and chapel where he could minister to the local people.6 Three months later, he reported his family was in Kowloon while he was waiting for yet another flood to abate before he made the move to Nanning. In the meantime, he had visited Nanning, rented a chapel, baptized a small group, organized a church there, and set canvassers to work. It was the second church organized in Kwangsi Province, the first being in Wuzhou. Three out-stations were also functioning.7 In October, the provincial center for mission activities remained at Wuzhou where the baptized membership of the city church numbered 38.8 In May 1916, the annual constituency meeting was held at Wuzhou.9

By 1917, the headquarters for mission activities had shifted from Wuzhou to Nanning. Dr. Keem was establishing a dispensary in Nanning, and Paul Thomas, a trained nurse, was assisting him in addition to acting as director for the Kwangsi Mission. A mission school was also functioning. The dispensary was funded by a church member in Nebraska and supplemented by fees paid by the clientèle. It attracted a wide patronage and later developed into a hospital, the chief institution of the Kwangsi Mission.10

Tragedy struck when Dr. Keem died suddenly at his home from blood poisoning in May 1919. Replacement medical staff were found, but it was an enormous loss of such talent and dedication to the mission cause. He had raised funds to expand the enterprise, and at the time of his death, building was underway.11

Civil unrest plagued the province in the 1920s, with armies looting and burning the villages. Many people fled to the mountains, and any evangelistic efforts were thwarted because the remaining population were too afraid to venture out of their homes.12 Much work was done by literature distribution in the hope that readers would come to a knowledge of the gospel.13 One canvasser told of arriving at an inn one evening only to find all beds rented out, so he was allowed to sleep in the broom closet under the stairs. The inn was plundered by bandits during the night, but they did not think to search the closet.14 Despite their adversities, modest advances were made, with statistics to December 1922 showing five churches were functioning with 125 baptised members.15 By December 1925, these figures had risen to six churches and 158 members.16

The 1926 hospital-dispensary report was a pleasing one. During the year, 4,844 clients were treated at the dispensary, 116 surgeries were performed, 90 treatments for leprosy were given, and 124 inpatients were admitted. Improvements were made in the form of a steriliser, an x-ray unit, and an electric light plant.17 War had visited Nanning, with the mission compound used by soldiers as a fortress because of its walled perimeter. A male nurse was almost killed with a bullet wound to his chest, but the mission dwellings in both Nanning and Wuzhou escaped a looting spree by the soldiers. Amid the turmoil, the mission managed to hold three elementary schools for two to three hundred students.18

Mission Advances 1930-1951

By the mid-1930s, membership had risen to 393 among six churches.19 It peaked at 484 in 1944, but any war-time statistics were unreliable to some degree. Nanning fell into the hands of the Japanese army on November 24, 1939. Severe bombings had taken place that destroyed all medical facilities in the city except the mission hospital-dispensary. Staff members rendered first aid, and serious cases were admitted to the wards. The situation became so bad that some mission staff had to evacuate in January 1940. Finally, on May 27, the last 14 staff members abandoned the mission compound and medical facilities, and fled to Gwangdong Province on foot, by ox carts, boats, and buses.20

In 1941, it was safe enough to re-open the hospital. Under national leadership, evangelism was resumed.21 During World War II, a branch clinic was opened north of Nanning. National medical staff kept the main hospital and dispensary functioning. When peace was gained, bricks were salvaged from wrecked buildings and used to build two new hospital units and a mission chapel in honor of Dr. Keem.22 Profits from the hospital were used to build a new church in the heart of the city. It was a three-story structure for divine services and Sabbath School classes, an elementary school, and a small clinic.23 A major evangelistic series was held in Nanning in 1949, with schoolteachers and hospital staff assisting the ministers.24

The euphoria of the post-War restoration was short-lived. In November 1949, it was announced that the Communists had seized control in Beijing.25 Expatriates began an exodus from China. National leadership was placed in charge. The last statistics from the Kwangsi Mission were from 1951, and they noted that membership had dropped to 414.26 Strong and sustained medical work would normally be expected to yield many converts, but it did not occur in the Kwangsi Province of more than twelve million people.

Directors of the Kwangsi Mission

Law Keem (劉儉Liu Jian), 1915-1917; Paul Thomas (譚保羅, Tán Bǎoluó), 1917-1932; John P. Anderson (恩帝孫, En Dìsūn), 1932-1936; Ernest Annofsky, 1936-1938; T.M. Lei (李達明, Li Támíng), 1939-1947; Tak Shun Woo (胡德純, Hú Déchún), 1947-1949; T.M. Lei (李達明, Li Támíng ), 1949-1950, Leung Noi To (梁耐燾, Liáng Nàidào), 1949-1951.

Sources

Anderson, Benjamin L. “Annual Meeting for Kwangsi.” Asiatic Division Mission News, August 1, 1916.

Anderson, Benjamin L. “General Meetings in Kwang Provinces.” Asiatic Division Mission News, December 15, 1915.

Coffin, Day D. “Nanning Hospital-Dispensary 1926 Annual Report.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1927.

“From Nanning.” China Division Reporter, November 1949.

“From Nanning, Kwangsi, Brother P.V. Thomas…” Asiatic Division Outlook, February 15, 1922.

Ham, Allen L. “Pioneer Mission Sketches.” China Division Reporter, November 1940.

Ham, Allen L. “South China Union.” China Division Reporter, December 1941.

Keem Law. “God’s Providences Manifest in Kwangsi,” Asiatic Division Mission News, September 1, 1915.

Keem, Law. “Providentially Delivered.” Asiatic Division Mission News, January 1, 1915.

Keem, Law. “Wuchow, Kwangsi Province.” Asiatic Division Mission News, August 1, 1914.

Lei, T. M. “Before and After the Fall of Nanning.” China Division Reporter, October 15, 1940.

Meeker, Byron A. “A Trip in Search of Headquarters for Kwangsi Province.” Asiatic Division Mission News, May 1, 1915.

“News from Nanning.” China Division Reporter, June 1949.

“Recent Changes.” China Division Reporter, November 1949.

Reed, Leclare E. “Good News from Nanning.” China Division Reporter, December 1947.

“Resolutions.” Asiatic Division Mission News, July 1, 1915.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. Various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

“Statistical Summary.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May 15, 1923; January 1926; April 1936.

Thomas, Paul V. “Canvassing Experiences in Kwangsi.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, October 1924.

Thomas, Paul V. “Pastor Law Keem, M.D.” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 1, 1919.

Thomas, Paul V. “Scenes of Desolation-Kwangsi.” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 15, 1921.

Thomas, Paul V. “The Kwangsi Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1927.

Notes

  1. “Kwangsi Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926), 165.

  2. Allen L. Ham, “Pioneer Mission Sketches,” China Division Reporter, November 1940, 5-6.

  3. Law Keem, “Wuchow, Kwangsi Province,” Asiatic Division Mission News, August 1, 1914, 2.

  4. Law Keem, “Providentially Delivered,” Asiatic Division Mission News, January 1, 1915, 6-7.

  5. Byron A. Meeker, “A Trip in Search of Headquarters for Kwangsi Province,” Asiatic Division Mission News, May 1, 1915, 2.

  6. “Resolutions,” Asiatic Division Mission News, July 1, 1915, 12-17.

  7. Law Keem, “God’s Providences Manifest in Kwangsi,” Asiatic Division Mission News, September 1, 1915, 3.

  8. Benjamin L. Anderson, “General Meetings in Kwang Provinces,” Asiatic Division Mission News, December 15, 1915, 1-2.

  9. Benjamin L. Anderson, “Annual Meeting for Kwangsi,” Asiatic Division Mission News, August 1, 1916, 2.

  10. Allen L. Ham, “Pioneer Mission Sketches,” China Division Reporter, November 1940, 5-6.

  11. Paul V. Thomas, “Pastor Law Keem, M.D.” Asiatic Division Outlook,” July 1, 1919, 10-11.

  12. Paul V. Thomas, “Scenes of Desolation-Kwangsi,” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 15, 1921, 9.

  13. “From Nanning, Kwangsi, Brother P.V. Thomas…” Asiatic Division Outlook, February 15, 1922, 12.

  14. Paul V. Thomas, “Canvassing Experiences in Kwangsi,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, October 1924, 5.

  15. “Statistical Summary,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May 15, 1923, 9.

  16. “Statistical Summary,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, January 1926, 7.

  17. Day D. Coffin, “Nanning Hospital-Dispensary 1926 Annual Report,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1927, 6.

  18. Paul V. Thomas, “The Kwangsi mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1927, 8.

  19. “Statistical Summary,” China Division Reporter, April 1936, 10.

  20. T.M. Lei, “Before and After the Fall of Nanning,” China Division Reporter, October 15, 1940, 7.

  21. Allen L. Ham, “South China Union,” China Division Reporter, December 1941, 4.

  22. Leclare E. Reed, “Good News from Nanning,” China Division Reporter, December 1947, 6-7.

  23. “From Nanning,” China Division Reporter, November 1949, 8.

  24. “News from Nanning,” China Division Reporter, June 1949, 5-6.

  25. “Recent Changes,” China Division Reporter, November 1949, 8.

  26. “Kwangsi Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951), 111.

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Hook, Milton. "Kwangsi Mission (1915–1951)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. June 01, 2023. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7HPZ.

Hook, Milton. "Kwangsi Mission (1915–1951)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. June 01, 2023. Date of access May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7HPZ.

Hook, Milton (2023, June 01). Kwangsi Mission (1915–1951). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7HPZ.