Szechwan Mission (1917–1919)

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: November 28, 2021

The Szechwan Mission (四川区会; Sichuan Mission) was officially formed in 1917 as a subdivision of the West China Mission. Merritt C. Warren served as director throughout its short history.

Early in 1914 Seventh-day Adventist officials in China laid plans to enter Szechwan (四川) Province and establish a mission station. They chose Arthur Allum (和祿門) and Merritt C. Warren (汪和仁) to pioneer the enterprise. Leadership anticipated that they would leave central China and travel west, remaining in Chungking (重庆 Chongqing), Szechwan, for 10 months. During their absence their wives found safety at mission headquarters in Shanghai. The three national staff members selected to accompany the men were Dju Dzi Ih (朱子一), Shi Yung Gwei (時汝霖) and Li Fah Kung (李法孔), all from Honan Province. The five men hired a houseboat to transport them and their supplies from Yichang in Hubei Province to Chongqing, many kilometres upstream on the Yangtze River.1

Arriving in Chongqing, the missionaries found it difficult to find lodgings and had to rent another houseboat moored outside the city. Finally, they secured rented quarters and hired contractors hired to construct a small chapel and bungalows for the mission staff. The solidly built structures had stone basements, brick walls, and tiled roofs. After the completion of their living quarters, the wives left Shanghai and made the long trip inland to join their husbands. In the meantime, the Chinese nationals canvassed the city and surroundings, securing hundreds of subscriptions to Shi Djao Yueh Bao (Signs of the Times). On July 3, 1915, the missionaries baptized four individuals, the first-fruits of the Szechwan enterprise. A second company of believers formed in a market town to the south of Chongqing.2

The Szechwan Mission officially formed in 1917 as a sub-division of the West China Mission. When the province was divided for easier administration in 1919, Merritt C. Warren then assumed the position of director of the East Szechwan Mission.

Church administration regarded the mission efforts made in and around Chongqing as a stepping stone to eventually entering Tibet. In February 1917 an exploratory trip extending further west to Chengdu (成都) eventuated in the establishment of another stage in the quest to reach Lhasa (See article West Szechwan Mission). The literature evangelists continued to strengthen the mission cause, six of them reporting a total of more than 2,000 magazine subscriptions for the quarter ending June 30, 1917.3

Mounting success prompted the addition of Claude Blandford (巴慶安) to serve as secretary/treasurer of the mission and supervise the colporteurs. Dr. John Andrews (安得烈醫師) arrived to engage in some medical work, and his wife focused on activities for the youth among the member families. Mrs. Warren nurtured the growth of the Sabbath Schools within the territory. Two of the three national staff members among the pioneering party, Li Fah Kung and Shi Yung Gwei, continued with the mission.4

Acting on recommendations made at the General Conference session in San Francisco, March/April 1918,5 the Far Eastern Division Council took action in March 1919 to reorganize the administration of mission work in China.6 Initially, leadership separated the Szechwan Province into three regions: East Szechwan Mission centered at Chongqing, West Szechwan Mission with headquarters at Chengdu, and the extreme west designated the Tibetan Mission headquartered at Tachienlu (today’s 康定 Kangding).7

Sources

Allum, F. Arthur. “Ichang, Hupeh.” Asiatic Division Mission News, May 1, 1914.

Allum, F. Arthur. “Notes of Progress From Szechwan.” Asiatic Division Mission News, October 1, 1915.

Crisler, Clarence C. “Administrative Changes.” Asiatic Division Outlook, June 1, 1918.

Crisler, Clarence C. “Notes from the Spring Council.” Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 1919.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1918, 1920.

Warren, Merritt C. “Szechwan, West China.” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1, 1917.

Notes

  1. F. Arthur Allum, “Ichang, Hupeh,” Asiatic Division Mission News, May 1, 1914, 1, 2.

  2. F. Arthur Allum, “Notes of Progress From Szechwan,” Asiatic Division Mission News, October 1, 1915, 2.

  3. Merritt C. Warren, “Szechwan, West China,” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1, 1917, 2.

  4. “Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1918), 160.

  5. Clarence C. Crisler, “Administrative Changes,” Asiatic Division Outlook, June 1, 1918, 16.

  6. Clarence C. Crisler, “Notes from the Spring Council,” Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 1919, 5, 6.

  7. “West China Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1920), 174.

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Hook, Milton. "Szechwan Mission (1917–1919)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Accessed February 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JGH.

Hook, Milton. "Szechwan Mission (1917–1919)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Date of access February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JGH.

Hook, Milton (2021, November 28). Szechwan Mission (1917–1919). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JGH.