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He Weiru, c. 1950.

From Adventism in China Digital Image Repository, www.adventisminchina.org

He Weiru (1898–1958) and Shao Liwu (1903–1976)

By Bruce W. Lo

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Bruce W. Lo is the ESDA assistant editor for the Chinese Union Mission.

First Published: September 14, 2022

He Weiru (何韋如), also known as Ho Wai Yue in older church publications, was one of the early national educators and evangelists who introduced the Adventist gospel message to many parts of Southern China and Southeast Asia in spite of the major challenges posed by the Sino-Japanese War and the meager infrastructure of the early Adventist mission in China.

Early Life, Baptism, and Education

He was born in November 1898 in Foshan (佛山), Nanhai County (南海縣), in the province of Guangdong (廣東). Sadly, his father passed away while he was still an infant. He had four older sisters, and his mother tried to find whatever jobs she could, even heavy work, to support the family of six: five children and herself. Frequently his mother had to carry the youngest child on her back while she went out to work. As her son got older, she was determined to send him to school, using her meager earnings. Even as a young boy, He Weiru demonstrated a high degree of maturity and conscientiously applied himself to his studies. He soon was able to recite fluently many passages from famous Chinese classics.1

The work of the Seventh-day Adventist mission was growing steadily in Foshan. Successively, new churches were being built, a school was established, and, finally, the Foshan Little Eden Hospital (小樂園醫院) was opened. The local preacher, Guo Zhuoming (郭卓明), got to know He Weiru. Guo visited He Weiru many times and tried to talk to him about the gospel. But He Weiru liked to argue with Guo, who always responded with kindness and Christian meekness. Finally He Weiru accepted the Adventist faith and was baptized into the church in 1916.2

After baptism He Weiru studied at Canton Sanyu (Sam Yuk) Middle School (廣州三育中学) in Guangzhou and then went to Shanghai Sanyu College (上海三育大学) for further study. After graduation in 1922, He Weiru was hired to teach at his alma mater, Sam Yuk Middle School, in Guangzhou. He was an eager student. He often carried a book in his hand so that he could read it to enrich himself whenever he had spare time during his busy schedule3. As a teacher he had taught literature, sciences, world history, and Old Testament. He was well liked by his students as his lectures were filled with interesting content. But he was also a very strict teacher, expecting serious learning from his students.4

Family

Shao Liwu(邵勵吾, also known as Shiu Lai Ng in Cantonese) was born on April 17, 1903, in the township of Shaobian 邵邊, Nanhai 南海, in the province of Guangdong (廣東). There were 12 children in her family: seven girls and five boys, Shao Liwu being the youngest. After her father joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he sent his children to the Adventist mission school. As a result, the Shao daughters did not suffer the unhealthy custom of foot-binding. At the age of 15, Shao Liwu attended the Bethel Girls' School in Guangzhou and was baptized into the church. After graduation she taught in a church primary school. It was at the schools that He Weiru got to know Shao Liwu. The two young people fell in love and were married in 1925.5

After that the husband and wife worked together as a team for the church for the remainder of their lives. He Weiru and Shao Liwu had five children, two boys and three girls. Unfortunately, the second son died in infancy of acute gastroenteritis, so only four children grew up to adulthood. The names of the other four children, from oldest to youngest, were/are: Hé Hàncóng 何漢從 (Edward, also known as Ho Hantseng), Hé-Lǐ Xiaolǐ 何小麗 (Shirley), He Meili 何美丽 (Edith), and He-Zane Zhili 何志丽 (Charlotte).6 Although the He family was not rich, they attached great importance to the education of their children and were willing to sacrifice much in order to give the children the opportunity to receive a good education. Their sacrifices were rewarded, as all four children grew to be successful professionals. Edward was a greatly respected church pastor who planted several overseas Chinese Seventh-day Adventist churches in Australia and the United States; Shirley worked for the South China Union Mission in Taiwan for many years and was an accomplished Bible worker while in America; Edith was a world-renowned musician, and Charlotte was a well-known medical doctor.7,8,9.

Ministry

While teaching at Sam Yuk Middle School, which had been renamed many times,10 He Weiru, who was a popular public speaker among the people of his day, held evangelistic meetings almost every summer in Southern China, including Guangzhou, Hainan Island, Zhongshan, Macau, Shaoguan (Qujiang), Shantou, Hong Kong, Kowloon, Foshan, and other places. During the Sino-Japanese War, the school moved to Shatin, Hong Kong, and two years later moved to the new campus in Clear Water Bay. When the Pacific War (Second World War) broke out, the school was evacuated to Laolong 老隆, along an eastern tributary of the Pearl River, and returned to Dongshan, Canton, four years later after the war. For twenty-five years, He Weiru and his family followed the school as it moved from place to place during those tumultuous war years and developed a good working relationship with Pastor Liang Qingshen, the South China Training Institute principal. In fact, Liang Qingshen and He Weiru were childhood friends, as they came from the same village, Foshan.11

In 1947 He Weiru was officially ordained as a pastor by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Thereafter he ceased his teaching responsibilities and devoted his full time to preaching the gospel message in Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the surrounding New Territories.12

In 1950 he accepted a call to do pastoral work in Southeast Asia. He Weiru and Shao Liwu took the two youngest daughters with them aboard a ship, bidding farewell to their eldest son and eldest daughter who remained in Hong Kong to work for the church. As the eldest daughter, Shirley Ho Li, later recalled, she and her brother, Edward, did not realize that it would be the last time they would see their father.13

He Weiru's first assignment in Southeast Asia was to go to Saigon to establish an Adventist church among the Chinese population in Vietnam. At that time the wage for a pastoral worker in Vietnam was very low; so, the family struggled to send the two youngest daughters to study in the Singapore Adventist school, where the cost of living was much higher. But poverty did not dampen his enthusiasm for evangelism. He Weiru and his wife traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia, conducting evangelistic meetings in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang, Kuching, Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu亞庇, Kudat古達, et cetera. His efforts were much appreciated by the local Chinese populations. Eventually he was transferred to Sandakan, North Borneo, to help build up the Adventist congregation there.14

In 1958 he was working diligently to consolidate the church at Kudat while preparing to hold an evangelistic crusade in the fall. In August he unexpectedly developed a lump on his abdomen and went to Sandakan Hospital for a medical checkup. The doctors in Sandakan suspected that the abdominal pain may be caused by something internal and that surgery may be needed to determine the exact cause. In September he went to Kota Kinabalu General Hospital for a more advanced examination. After the operation on October 1, the doctors informed him that he had kidney cancer but that the cancer had already spread. All the doctors could do was to stitch up the wound. Hearing the diagnosis, He Weiru told the doctors that while he would pray for healing, he was not afraid and was willing to accept God’s plan for him.15

Later Years

At that time Pastor and Mrs. Liang Qingshen were pastoring the church at Kota Kinabalu. They arranged a room in the church to be rented to He Weiru and his wife so that they could be close to the hospital. Also, several church members in Kota Kinabalu volunteered to take turns caring for He Weiru and his wife Shao Liwu. During his sickness He Weiru continued to write to his elder son Edward, who was studying for the ministry at Avondale College, Australia, and his elder daughter Shirley, who was married to Pastor Li Binxiang of Taiwan, to encourage them. Because of financial or visa constraints, neither Edward nor Shirley was able to travel to Kota Kinabalu to visit him during his sickness Furthermore, the two youngest daughters, Edith and Charlotte were far away in America attending Columbia Union College. They, too, could not return to Malaysia to see their ailing father.16 Unfortunately, He Weiru’s condition continued to deteriorate, with him becoming unconscious on several occasions. His wife, Shao Liwu, had to take on the full responsibility of caring for the sick and supporting their younger children. She accepted her role faithfully. Shortly after his sixtieth birthday, He Weiru passed away peacefully on December 15, 1958. His last letter to the two older children was to ask them to please help their two younger college-age siblings and to take care of their mother when she grew old17 In total He Weiru devoted thirty-six years of his life in church work, twenty-one years in education and fifteen years in evangelism.18

After the funeral was over, Shao Liwu returned to live in Kudat, North Boneo, while assisting the local church. Most of the members in the Kudat church were converted by Pastor and Mrs. He Weiru. One of the members donated a building for the church services. Within that building there was an empty room that Shao Liwu used as a bedroom. She continued to lead out on Sabbath services at Kudat, as well as caring for the daily chores of the church for four years. Officially, Liang Qingshen was the pastor but, because he had the responsibility of several churches, he could only visit Kudat occasionally. In 1962 the eldest daughter, Shirley Ho Li, together with her husband, Li Binxiang, came from Singapore to visit Shao Liwu. They had not seen each other for nineteen years since their last farewell in Hong Kong. What a joyful reunion! Li applied for a visa for Shao Liwu to go to Singapore to live with them.19

In 1963 Shao Liwu went to Sydney, Australia, to live with her son Edward Ho and daughter-in-law Mona for five years. In 1968 she again moved, this time to the United States to live with her youngest daughter, Dr. Charlotte Ho, and son-in-law, Dr. Ronald Zane, in the Riverside, California, area. Subsequently son Edward’s family and daughter Shirley’s family also migrated to the Loma Linda, California, area. It was there that the extended “He family” was re-united.20

Shao Liwu continued to enjoy a relatively healthy and peaceful life for another eight years with her children and grandchildren. On June 19, 1976, she rested in peace at her home in Loma Linda, California. On the eve of her death, she continued to thank the Lord for His blessings to her family, even though they went through those difficult war years in China.21

Sources

Ho-Li, Shirley (Lǐ-Hé Xiaolǐ), “He Weiru 何韋如.” In Chinese SDA History, edited by Samuel Young, 504-505, Hong Kong, China: Chinese Union Mission, 2002. (In Chinese).

Ho-Li, Shirley. “Remembering My Parents 忆双亲.” In South China Reflections, edited by Dorothy Zane, Ben Chow, and Daniel Lee. Alhambra, CA: North America Sam Yuk Alumni Association, 194-195, 1990. (in Chinese).

Liang, Qingshen. “The Biography of He Weiru” [何韋如牧牧師行述], article written c. 1959 for The Later Day Shepeard’s Calls but the exact date and publication information are unknown. A copy is available in the Center for Chinese Adventist Heritage Digital Collection (CCAH-Collection) donated by Liang’s daughter, Dorothy Leung-Zane in June 2022 at the URL: https://ccah-collection.weebly.com/heweiru.html. (in Chinese)

Zhang, Chuiyu. “Remembering Two Teachers: Pastor Leung Hing Sun and He Weiru.” In South China Reflections. Edited by Dorothy Zane, Ben Chow, and Daniel Lee. Alhambra, CA: North America Sam Yuk Alumni Association, 84-87, 1990. (in Chinese).

Notes

  1. Shirley Ho-Li, “He Weiru 何韋如,” in Chinese SDA History, edited by Samuel Young (Hong Kong, China: Chinese Union Mission, 2002) 504-505.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Chuiyu Zhang, “Remembering Two Teachers: Pastor Leung Hing Sun and He Weiru,” in South China Reflections, edited by Dorothy Zane, Ben Chow, and Daniel Lee (Alhambra, CA: North America Sam Yuk Alumni Association, 1990) 84-87.

  5. Shirley Ho-Li, “He Weiru 何韋如.”

  6. Charlotte Ho Zane, interviewed by author, Riverside, California, June 24, 2022.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Charlotte Ho-Zane, email messages to author, September 1-3, 2022.

  9. Liang, Qingshen, “The Biography of He Weiru” [何韋如牧牧師行述], ca 1959, available at Center for Chinese Adventist Heritage Collection, https://ccah-collection.weebly.com/heweiru.html.

  10. Here are some examples of alternative names of the school: South China Training Institute, South China Union Academy, and South China Union College. For a full list of alternative names of the school during that period of time, see the ESDA article on Hong Kong Adventist College.

  11. Shirley Ho-Li, “He Weiru 何韋如.”

  12. Ibid.

  13. Shirley Ho-Li, “Remembering My Parents忆双亲,” in South China Reflections, edited by Dorothy Zane, Ben Chow, and Daniel Lee (Alhambra, CA: North America Sam Yuk Alumni Association, 1990) 194-195.

  14. Shirley Ho-Li, “He Weiru 何韋如.”

  15. Shirley Ho-Li, “Remembering My Parents忆双亲,” in South China Reflections, edited by Dorothy Zane, Ben Chow, and Daniel Lee, (Alhambra, CA: North America Sam Yuk Alumni Association, 1990) 194-195.

  16. Charlotte Ho-Zane, email messages to author, September 1-3, 2022.

  17. Shirley Ho-Li, “Remembering My Parents忆双亲.”

  18. Liang, Qingshen, “The Biography of He Weiru.”

  19. Shirley Ho-Li, “Remembering My Parents忆双亲.”

  20. Ibid.

  21. Ibid.

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Lo, Bruce W. "He Weiru (1898–1958) and Shao Liwu (1903–1976)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 14, 2022. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B8EH.

Lo, Bruce W. "He Weiru (1898–1958) and Shao Liwu (1903–1976)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 14, 2022. Date of access May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B8EH.

Lo, Bruce W. (2022, September 14). He Weiru (1898–1958) and Shao Liwu (1903–1976). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B8EH.