John Peter Anderson was a missionary to China. As a missionary, he mastered the Hakka and Swatow dialects while working in China.
John Peter Anderson was born in Kiron, Iowa on May 6, 1886, and died on March 18, 1978, at Lakeport, California, after nearly fifty-one years of dedicatory service to the Chinese Union Mission Field.1 Born of Swedish American parents, C. M. Anderson and Anne Louise Larson, John Peter spent his first three years in Iowa and in Harlington, Nebraska. He had seven brothers and four sisters. He attended Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska (1903–1906), where he finished the Swedish Ministerial course.
Early Missionary Work
John Peter Anderson left Seattle as a missionary to China on August 20, 1906. He started his mission in the same year upon arrival and joined the Canton (广州, Guangzhou) Mission as a teacher and dean of boys.2 He started as a missionary licentiate and was later ordained as a gospel minister in the South China Union Mission.3 He was responsible for developing the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) mission among the Hakka people and was among the first families to move in the new homes which were built in Weichow (惠州, Huizhou), in the province of Kwangtung (广东, Guangdong).4 Huizhou was the Seventh-day Adventist missionary center for the work among the Hakka people.5
But before deploying for his Canton mission station, Anderson spent several months in language study, probably in Hong Kong. It may have been here that Anderson met his first wife, Amanda Van Scoy. Van Scoy was born in Ashton, Nebraska on May 5, 1882, and attended both private and public schools as a young girl, graduating from Loup City High School in 1901, also in Nebraska.6 Almost immediately she began “laboring in the cause” of Christianity at the Lincoln City Mission.7 In something of a frenetic list of assignments, she was in New York City as a Bible worker in 1902, and in the summer of 1903, she attended summer school in Berrien Springs, Michigan. After summer school she returned to Nebraska where she engaged as a Bible worker in Omaha. In 1904 Amanda once again found herself in New York, where she taught at a church school in Brooklyn; it was here that Van Scoy seems to have first entered the field of education as a profession. But this teaching position was also short-lived; the Nebraska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists agreed to sponsor Van Scoy to serve as a missionary in China.8
On August 7, 1905, Van Scoy left for China and spent the next two years studying the Cantonese language, most likely in Hong Kong, although records are not clear.9 In 1907, after nearly two years of language study, Amanda departed for the mainland, where she took up the role of principal of a remote school outside of Canton, the East Gate School.10 In 1909, Van Scoy transferred and became principal of Bethel Girls’ School, in Canton.
There was a boys’ school in Canton as well; J. P. Anderson was a teacher at this school while he studied the Hakka dialect and prepared to begin mission work in Huizhou. Finally, in 1909 Anderson left Canton for Huizhou, but just over a year later, on September 28, 1910, Anderson returned to Canton to wed Amanda Van Scoy. Newly married, Mr. Anderson returned to Kwangtung Mission and resumed his work with the Hakka while Mrs. Anderson remained in Canton as the principal of Bethel Girls’ School.
By 1912, Mrs. Amanda Anderson had joined her husband in Huizhou, but later that year, due to her ill health, the Andersons returned to the United States on furlough.11 Upon return to China in 1913, the Andersons took up work in Swatow, (汕头, Shantou), Kwangtung Province, but by February 1919, Amanda’s health was failing again, and the Andersons relocated to Shanghai where she became a patient at the Shanghai Sanitarium. Amanda remained at the sanitarium until her death on September 20, 1920. Her death certificate indicates that she died from Osteomalacia, but her obituary notes that she had also undergone a “very severe surgery for cancer.”12 Amanda and John Peter Anderson had two children, Helen Aylse (b. 1914) and Hazel Adele (b. 1915).
John Peter Anderson was the director and treasurer of the Hakka Mission from 1912 to 1913.13 After serving as the director of the Shantou Mission from 1914 to 1919, he came back to work in the Hakka Mission Field from 1920 to 1931.14 From 1932 to 1935, he was the director of the Kwangsi (广西, Guangxi) Mission as well as the secretary-treasurer of this mission from 1932 to 1935. He spearheaded the Cantonese Mission from 1936–1948. During his directorship of the Shantou Mission, he faced severe trials such as attacks on the mission station by the soldiers of the revolution and a destructive earthquake, but the mission station and his own house were unscathed.15 During World War II, he served as the chief representative of a group of missionaries who were confined in the Civil Assembly Center in Canton, China by the Japanese military.16
On February 14, 1922, J. P. Anderson married Ethelena “Ethel” Bee Edwards, in Shanghai.17 Pastor O. A. Hall, superintendent of the East China Union Mission, officiated at the wedding ceremony and blessed their union.18 Ethel was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, on February 2, 1880, to Seventh-day Adventist parents, William H. and Mary A. Edwards. In 1892, she was baptized by Elder Henry Nicola. She attended the Battle Creek church school and college (1887–1897) and completed an English course. Ethel Edwards was officially sent to China as a foreign missionary worker in January 1922.19 At the end of her formal education, she became an assistant bookkeeper and stenographer of the foreign mission board (1897–1900) in Philadelphia and New York. She occupied the same professional duties at the General Conference in the Treasury Department (1903–1906, 1907–1922) and worked as a list clerk at the Review and Herald (1903-1906).20 Having obtained a missionary license, she served as the secretary-treasurer of the Hakka Mission (1922–1932) with her husband, J. P. Anderson, who was the mission director.21 The couple was separated during World War II, and John was imprisoned in Canton while Ethel was interned in Hong Kong. They were reunited when the war was over.22
In August 1948, he brought his wife Ethel to Shanghai for medical treatment and surgery, but a month later, on September 17, 1948, the dedicated teacher and wife passed away.23
Widowed missionaries were often not single for long upon the death of a spouse, and J. P. Anderson proved no exception. On May 3, 1949, at the Pioneer Memorial Church in Hong Kong, J. P. Anderson remarried, this time to Miss Rachel Landrum.24 Rachel was the China Division accountant (1937-1949), a period interrupted only by three years as an internee with other Adventist missionaries in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines. She and other American missionaries were freed by American soldiers and were repatriated.25 From 1949 to 1952 while on furlough, she worked as a General Conference office worker in Washington, D.C.26
The newlywed couple left Hong Kong by plane on May 17 for a European tour and a furlough in the U.S. On his return, J. P. Anderson served the Hongkong-Macao Mission (South China Island Union Mission) as the Voice of Prophecy director from 1952 to 1957.27 Rachel became the secretary for H. H. Morse at the South China Island Union Mission (SCIUM) at the Hong Kong office in December 1952, and in July 1953, she worked as the acting secretary-treasurer of the SCIUM.
Under J. P. Anderson’s leadership four mission fields—Hakka, Swatow, Kwangsi, and Canton—experienced growth in the areas of educational development, church planting, and evangelism.28 The Andersons retired after fifty-one years of fruitful and dynamic missionary service in the Chinese mission field. On March 18, 1978, John Peter Anderson passed away peacefully at Lakeport, California29; Elder Ezra Leon Longway officiated at the funeral service, highlighting among other qualities, his sense of humor and his fondness for lychees. J. P. Anderson’s third wife, Rachel Landrum Anderson, continued to live for many years, and passed away on March 13, 1993, at Nice, California.30
When asked in a recorded interview with Dr. Cyril Mervyn Maxwell what would be his greatest contribution to the China Mission field, Anderson answered, “It probably was in the opening up of chapels in various cities.”31 His missionary leadership and outlook in China can be best summed up in his 1929-1930 biennial report for the South China Union Mission: “Our greatest need is for a more consecrated life to the work of preaching the gospel. For the laity, our need is for a more consistent daily living out of the Christlike life.”32
“Amanda Van Scoy Anderson Report of Death. Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835-1974.” National Archives at College Park, Maryland; NAI Number: 302021; Record Group Title: General Records of the Department of State; Record Group Number: Record Group 59; Series Number: Publication A1 205; Box Number: 4650; Box Description: 1910-1929 China Various Case Files Not Included in Alphabetical Listing. Box Number: Box 4650: 1910 – 1929. Accessed August 21, 2020, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1616/images/31070_171054-00673?pId=144916.
Anderson, J. P. “South China. “News Letter for the Asiatic Division Mission 2, Letter V111 (Nov. 1, 1913): 3. Accessed October 8, 2020, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Periodicals/ADO/ADO19131101-V02-08.pdf.
Anderson, J. P. “In the Swatow Language Area.” Asia Division Outlook, January 1-15 1918.
Anderson, J. P. “South China Union,” The Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1929.
Anderson, J. P. “The Hakka Mission,” The China Division Reporter, July and August 1932.
Anderson, J. P. “The Hakka Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, March 1931.
Anderson, J. P. “Cantonese Mission—1936.” The China Division Reporter, May 1937.
Anderson, J. P. “The Cantonese Mission—1941.” The China Division Reporter, May 1941.
Anderson, J. P. Collection 20, Box 2, Folder 7, Center for Adventist Research.
Anderson, Rachel. “Death Notice.” ARH, July 29, 1993.
ARH, August 10, 1905.
"Biographical Information Bank." John Peter Anderson Service Record, North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Archives. Box, WH 2505, Folder, Personal Information Forms, and Biographical Material, 1950, A to And.
Crisler, C. C. “Unrest in China.” Asiatic Division Outlook, January 1918.
“Division Notes.” The China Division Reporter, October 1948.
Evans, I. H. “Obituary.” Asiatic Division Outlook, October 1, 1920.
“Married.” The Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 15, 1922.
Meyers, C. K. “Workers sent to the fields in 1922.” ARH, January 18, 1923.
Nagel, Florence. “Anderson JP.” Adventism in China. Accessed, October 8, 2020, https://ccah-collection.weebly.com/andersonjp.html.
“Notes from South China.” Asiatic Division Outlook, April 15, 1918.
“Obituary.” The China Division Reporter, November 1948.
Reports from The Field.” The China Division Reporter, February 1931.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. Various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.
“The East Gate School.” ARH, February 4, 1909.
“The Thirteen Sabbath Offering.” Sabbath School Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, September 28, 1912.
“Wedding.” The China Division Reporter, June 1949.
Wilcox, F. M. Wilcox. “A Welcoming Meeting in California.” ARH, June 7, 1945.
Florence Nagel, “Anderson J P,” Adventism in China, accessed, October 8, 2020, https://ccah-collection.weebly.com/andersonjp.html.↩
“The Thirteen Sabbath Offering,” Sabbath School Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, (September 28, 1912): 7.↩
“Missionary Licentiates,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1906: 136. “Ministers,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1911: 134. According to an interview Anderson gave to Dr. Cyril Mervyn Maxwell, he was ordained by elders Evans and Wentworth in September 1909 in a little Chinese house in Kampoa. See J.P. Anderson, Col 20, Box 2, Folder 7, Center for Adventist Research.↩
“Reports from The Field,” The China Division Reporter, February 1931.↩
The Thirteen Sabbath School Offering, September 28, 1912, 4. This building project was financially supported by the General Conference’s special $300,000 fund dedicated to improving the living conditions of missionaries.↩
Amanda Van Scoy, "Biographical Information Bank," John Peter Anderson Service Record, North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Archives. Box, WH 2505, Folder, Personal Information Forms, and Biographical Material, -- 1950, A to And.↩
ARH, August 10, 1905, 24.↩
Ibid.; Amanda Van Scoy “Biographical Information Bank.”↩
“The East Gate School,” ARH, February 4, 1909, 28.↩
I. H. Evans, “Obituary,” Asiatic Division Outlook, October 1, 1920, 7.↩
Ibid; Amanda Van Scoy Anderson Report of Death, “Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835-1974,” National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.; NAI Number: 302021; Record Group Title: General Records of the Department of State; Record Group Number: Record Group 59; Series Number: Publication A1 205; Box Number: 4650; Box Description: 1910-1929 China Various Case Files Not Included in Alphabetical Listing. Box Number: Box 4650: 1910 – 1929. Accessed August 21, 2020, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1616/images/31070_171054-00673?pId=144916.↩
“South China Mission: Officers,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1912: 149. 1913: 143.↩
“South China Mission: Officers,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1915–1920, see 130, 148, 162, 163, 173. “South China Union Mission: Hakka Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, see the following Yearbooks and pages for Anderson’s years of service in these mission territories: 1921:116; 1922:119; 1923:137; 1924:142; 1925:151; 1926:164; 1927:177; 1928:185; 1929:193; 1930:182; 1931:174; 1932:151. He also collaborated to establish the China Training Institute at Chiatoutseng, (桥头镇橋頭鎮, Qiaotouzhen), Kiangsu Province (江蘇, Jiangsu). John Peter Anderson Collection (Collection Papers 20), Adventist Heritage Center, James White Library, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI.↩
The personnel of the station had to be evacuated to Hong Kong in 1917 because of the attacks of the Chinese soldiers and revolutionaries in different provinces but pastor J.P. Anderson stayed behind to guard the mission property. Anderson reported that, “The good providence of God shielded our brother from harm, and although more than twenty shots were imbedded in the mission home, no irreparable damage was done.” C. C. Crisler, “Unrest in China,” Asiatic Division Outlook, January 1918, 7; “Notes from South China,” Asiatic Division Outlook, April 15, 1918, 8.↩
Details of his experiences during this period of confinement, from 1943 to 1945, are written in his letters [vol. 1, 2] addressed to his wife Ethel in the U.S. but which were never sent to her. These letters are recorded in his diary. The reader will have a glimpse of the emotional turbulence Anderson experienced in the absence of his wife: “Things are so lonesome here without you. The yard seems so forsaken.” Col 20, Box 2, Folder 2. Center for Adventist Research.↩
Ethlena B. Anderson, "Biographical Information Bank," John Peter Anderson Service Record.↩
For a detailed description of the wedding ceremony, see “Married,” The Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 15, 1922, 4.↩
John Peter Anderson Service Record. See also, C.K. Meyers, “Workers sent to the fields in 1922,” ARH, January 18, 1923, 2.↩
John Peter Anderson Service Record.↩
“South China Union Mission: Hakka Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1923), 137.↩
Florence Nagel, “Anderson JP,”.↩
“Division Notes,” The China Division Reporter, October 1948, 8. See also, “Obituary,” The China Division Reporter, November 1948, 8.↩
“Wedding,” The China Division Reporter, June 1949, 8.↩
F. M. Wilcox, “A Welcoming Meeting in California,” ARH, June 7, 1945, 1.↩
Personal Information Forms and Biographical material, -- 1950 A to And. GC Secretariat. Available through Center for Adventist Research; “Wedding,” The China Division Reporter, June 1949, 8.↩
“Hong-Kong-Macao Mission: Departmental Secretaries, Voice of Prophecy,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1954), 237. See also Yearbooks, 1955-1957: 101, 102 respectively.↩
For details of his specific accomplishments, J. P. Anderson, “South China,” News Letter for the Asiatic Division Mission 2, Letter V111 (Nov. 1, 1913): 3; J. P. Anderson “In the Swatow Language Area,” Asia Division Outlook, January 1-15 1918, 11. For reports of the Hakka mission (1920–1931) J. P. Anderson, “South China Union,” The Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1929, 2; J. P. Anderson “The Hakka Mission,” The China Division Reporter, July and August 1932. 4; J. P Anderson, “The Hakka Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, March 1931, 4. J. P. Anderson “Cantonese Mission—1936” The China Division Reporter, May 1937, 3; J. P. Anderson, “The Cantonese Mission—1941,” The China Division Reporter, May 1941, 3.↩
Anderson, J. P. Collection 20, Box 2, Folder 7, Center for Adventist Research.↩
Rachel Anderson, Death Notice, ARH July 29, 1993, 22.↩
J. P. Anderson, Col 20, Box 2, Folder 7, Center for Adventist Research, 10.↩
J. P. Anderson, “The Hakka Mission.” The China Division Reporter, July and August 1932, 4.↩