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Chengtu School

Photo courtesy of Barry Mahorney.

West Szechwan Mission (1919–1951)

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: November 27, 2021

The West Szechwan Mission (川西区会; West Sichuan Mission) started in 1919 as a subdivision of the West China Union Mission. The provincial capital of Chengtu (成都Chengdu), a Buddhist stronghold, became the headquarters for mission activities.1 The vast area is an elevated plain walled in on all sides by imposing mountains and enjoys a temperate climate.2 Church leadership apportioned the mountains to the west to the Tibetan Mission and those to the south to the Yunnan Mission.

The superintendent of the West China Mission, Merritt C. Warren (汪和仁), accompanied Claude Blandford (巴慶安) on an exploratory trip to Chengdu in September/October 1917. They identified suitable rental premises for a pioneer missionary family.3 Claude and Ida Blandford then began their endeavors at Chengdu almost immediately. A handful of believers already in the city formed the nucleus for evangelistic services.4 A national evangelist assisted in the initial stages but had to withdraw for health reasons.5 The most successful method of evangelism was found to be a prolonged Bible school for instruction in basic Christianity. Two literature evangelists were also active in the city. By mid-1919 a little church community organised with 13 baptised members.6

Some progress took place in 1920 despite civil unrest in the region. Church membership rose to 22, and an out-station opened. An elementary school began with an enrolment of 62 pupils.7 Eight looms purchased to weave cotton towels enabled the older students to earn their fees and became skilled in a trade.8 Ida Blandford taught some of the classes in the elementary school and nurtured the Sabbath Schools, but disaster struck when she contracted pneumonia and meningitis. She passed away on May 5, 1922, and was laid to rest in a little cemetery for expatriates outside the city.9

Sidney Lindt (林思翰) had arrived in Chengdu as the secretary/treasurer of the mission.10 He became the caretaker leader in 1923 while Blandford took a furlough in America.11 Blandford married Lillian Thompson, a nurse at the New England Sanitarium in Massachusetts,12 and they arrived back at Chengdu in August 1924.13 Unfortunately, Lillian began to suffer ill health soon after the start of her mission term. By mid-1926 it became necessary for Alton Hughes (胡安德) to assume leadership in West Szechwan.14

Recurrent civil unrest forced Alton and Emma Hughes to temporarily withdraw from Chengdu in 1927, and they did not return until about May 1928.15 Despite the troubles, all reports noted progress. The baptized membership rose to 115 individuals. The mission organized a second church and established seven out-stations.16 At Da Chi Gou (Dazigou), east of Chengdu, an Adventist elementary school with 20 students was run.17 Fourteen nationals consisting of evangelists, teachers, and colporteurs completed the mission team who worked among an estimated population of 30 million people.18

During the 1930s progress was unremarkable. The number of organized churches rose to four. Baptized membership statistics showed an increase from 112 in December 193219 to 236 in 1939.20 Most of the Second World War years were characterized by faithful national leadership doing their best to nurture the membership and advance the cause in the absence of expatriate direction and finances.21

After the war public evangelistic crusades took place in several provincial centers to inject fresh life into the congregations. The school at Chengdu expanded to include the academy level.22 Such positive momentum was brief, because communist forces gradually overran the country and made it difficult for Christian missions to function properly. Carl Currie (柯爾義) and family had arrived at Chengdu in 1946 to take the leadership, but late in 1948 emergency plans transferred expatriates to safer areas. Currie went to Formosa (Taiwan).23 His assistant, Djan Tieh Nung (湛鐵儂), continued with evangelism throughout 1948 and baptized about 50 new converts.24

When the communist government took power in 1949, church officials selected nationals to assume leadership at all levels.25 Communication channels giving details of the West Szechwan Mission saga, like all other missions in mainland China, soon closed. The 1952 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook finally acknowledged that political circumstances made it impossible to accurately report any more mission activities in China.26

Directors of the West Szechwan Mission

Claude L. Blandford (巴慶安) 1919-1926; Alton C. Hughes (胡安德) 1926-1932; Charles A. Woolsey 1932-1933; Alexander B. Buzzell (卜思理) 1933-1939; Cecil B. Guild (蓋乃德) 1940-1942; Chiang Tsung Kuan 1943- 1945; Giang Tsung Kwang (姜從光) 1945-1946; Holman Carl Currie (柯爾義) 1946-1948; Djan Tieh Nung (湛鐵儂ShanTieh Nung) 1949-1951.

Sources

Blandford, Claude L. “Chengtu, Szechwan.” Asiatic Division Outlook, September 1, 1919.

Blandford, Claude L. “Chengtu, West Szechwan.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1926.

Blandford, Claude L. “The West Szechuan Mission.” Asiatic Division Outlook, February 15, 1921.

Branson, William H. “Emergency Plans for Our Work.” China Division Reporter, January 1949.

“Chengtu, the capital of Szechwan…” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 15, 1919.

“Claude Lockyer Blandford.” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2022. Accessed March 4, 2022. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LWF2-R5M.

Effenberg, Johann. “Still at Work in West Szechwan.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, September 1927.

“From Pastor Merritt C. Warren.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1928.

Goh Chaio-oh. “From West China.” China Division Reporter, October 1948.

Goh Chaio-oh. “West China Union.” China Division Reporter, March 1949.

Hughes, Alton E. “West Szechwan Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1929.

Lindt, Sidney H. “Death of Mrs. C. L. Blandford.” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 1922.

Lindt, Sidney H. “Industries in the Chengtu School.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August 1924.

“Pastor and Mrs. C.L. Blandford arrived…” Far Eastern Division Outlook, September 1924.

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

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1920-1952.

Spicer, William A. “The West China Meeting.” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 15, 1919.

“Statistical Report.” China Division Reporter, June 1933.

Warren, Merritt C. “A Trip to the Capital of Szechwan, West China.” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 15, 1917.

“Word from Brother E. L. [sic] Blandford…” Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 1923.

Notes

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

  2. “Chengtu, the capital of Szechwan…” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 15, 1919, 1.

  3. Merritt C. Warren, “A Trip to the Capital of Szechwan, West China,” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 15, 1917, 2, 3.

  4. “Chengtu, the capital of Szechwan,” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 15, 1919, 1.

  5. William A. Spicer, “The West China Meeting,” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 15, 1919, 2-3.

  6. Claude L. Blandford, “Chengtu, Szechwan,” Asiatic Division Outlook, September 1, 1919, 4.

  7. Claude L. Blandford, “The West Szechwan Mission,” Asiatic Division Outlook, February 15, 1921, 11.

  8. Sidney H. Lindt, “Industries in the Chengtu School,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August 1924, 8.

  9. Sidney H. Lindt, “Death of Mrs. C.L. Blandford,” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 1922, 15.

  10. “West Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1922), 120.

  11. “Word from Brother E.L. [sic] Blandford…” Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 1923, 8.

  12. “Claude Lockyer Blandford.” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2022, accessed March 4, 2022, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LWF2-R5M.

  13. “Pastor and Mrs. C.L. Blandford arrived…” Far Eastern Division Outlook, September 1924, 12.

  14. Claude L. Blandford, “Chengtu, West Szechwan,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1926, 10.

  15. “From Pastor Merritt C. Warren,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1928, 11.

  16. Johann Effenberg, “Still at Work in West Szechwan, Far Eastern Division Outlook, September 1927, 4-5.

  17. Photograph, Far Eastern Division Outlook, October 1928, 15.

  18. Alton E. Hughes, “West Szechwan Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1929, 4-5.

  19. “Statistical Report,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1933, 9.

  20. “West Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1939), 122.

  21. E.g., “West Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944), 100.

  22. Goh Chiao-oh, “From West China,” China Division Reporter, October 1948, 6, 8.

  23. William H. Branson, “Emergency Plans for Our Work,” China Division Reporter, January 1949, 2.

  24. Goh Chaio-oh, “West China Union,” China Division Reporter, March 1949, 4-5.

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

  26. “China Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1952), 104.

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Hook, Milton. "West Szechwan Mission (1919–1951)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 27, 2021. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BJGI.

Hook, Milton. "West Szechwan Mission (1919–1951)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 27, 2021. Date of access May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BJGI.

Hook, Milton (2021, November 27). West Szechwan Mission (1919–1951). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BJGI.