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Roy Monroe Cossentine

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

Cossentine, Roy Monroe (1892–1973); Amelia (Sherberg) (1892–1921); later, Anna Belle (Keown) (1892–1982)

By R. William Cash

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R. William Cash, Ph.D. is a retired educator who spent much of his career as an institutional researcher in several colleges and universities. Born to missionary parents in South America and a fifth-generation Adventist, he has had a long-time interest in denominational history. He served from 1995 to 1998 as director of Archives and Statistics at the General Conference.

First Published: April 24, 2023

Roy M. Cossentine (甘盛典, pinyin Gān Shèngdiǎn) was a missionary to China during the period between the two World Wars when much of the church’s mission focus was on Asia. Not only did he serve as an evangelist, administrator, and educator in Manchuria and the northern part of China for 21 years, braving difficult transportation, floods, and war disruptions in his efforts to spread the gospel, but he also buried a wife in a foreign land. His Chinese language skills enabled him to teach Mandarin when his mission service was over and to assist the United States government in understanding what was happening in China in the years when access to the country was limited to Westerners.

Early Years

Roy Monroe Cossentine was born in Eagle Bend, Minnesota, to Rosa May Allen and Frank B. Cossentine on June 13, 1892.1 While his parents were non-Adventists at the time of his birth, they were baptized during his infancy, indicated when he later recalled “as long as I can remember they were Adventists.”2 He is a cousin of E. E. Cossentine, an Adventist educator and administrator.3 He began his education in country schools in Todd County from 1898 to 1902 while his parents resided in Eagle Bend and then in Bertha, Minnesota. After his parents moved to Blackduck, Minnesota, he continued his education in public schools until 1907, when he was able to attend Maplewood Academy, being baptized in 1909 by Elder W. A. Alway and graduating in 1910. Because of family circumstances (his father died unexpectedly in 1912), he was unable to enter college until 1913; in the interim, he taught church school for one year at Brainerd, Minnesota, and public school for one year in Blackduck before enrolling at Union College.4 After completing one year at Union, he colporteured for a year and did not return to college until after his marriage on June 23, 1915 to Amelia Sherberg.5

Amelia Christine Sherberg was born October 23, 1892, to Johanna and John Sherberg, Swedish immigrants who had settled at Alexandria, Minnesota. When she was about three years old, her parents moved to a homestead near what later became Blackduck, where Amelia attended the public schools for 12 years and graduated in 1913. She was also baptized in 1913 by Elder A. Meade, having learned about Adventism through tracts and tent meetings. For the next two years until her marriage, Amelia taught in public schools near her home.6

The young couple moved to Union College, where Roy completed the literary B.A. course in 1918. Allan Burdette Cossentine was born into the family March 10, 1916, followed by Eunice Lenore Cossentine June 15, 1918.7

Mission Service

On May 28, 1918, the General Conference Committee voted to invite Roy to go to East Asia, and granted him a ministerial license.8 The family departed San Francisco on a ship on September 10, and they arrived in Shanghai, China on October 5.9 A month later, they settled in Peking (now Beijing), where Roy studied Chinese for a year at the Union Language School, an interdenominational language school – “the best Mandarian [sic] school in China.”10

In the summer of 1919, they moved to Changchun, Manchuria, to assist the Kirin Mission of the Manchurian Union Mission in its outreach to the Chinese. The city, the heart of Kirin Province (now Jilin Province}, was “a cosmopolitan place, being inhabited by Chinese, Russians, and Japanese . . . on the border line between the Japanese and Russian spheres of influence.” Roy’s first task was to oversee the building of “a foreign house” for his family.11

In November, Amelia suffered an attack of influenza. The doctor treating her realized that she also suffered from diabetes miletus. When she did not respond to treatment, in August 1920 the family went to Shanghai where she received treatment at the Shanghai Sanitarium until the end of December. The family returned to Changchun, Amelia expressed hope that she could soon assist in soul-winning but, within a week, she passed away on January 6, 1921. She was buried in Mukden (now Shenyang) in a cemetery for Europeans and Americans. Amelia “loved the cause of God and loved to give the message to the Chinese. She was of a kind and cheerful disposition and was loved by all who knew her, native and foreign alike.”12 Widowed with children two and four years old, Roy declined to return to the United States. Instead, he asked his mother to join him in China to care for his young family, and she arrived in June.13

The spread of the gospel continued in Kirin Province. At the end of 1922, while serving as the director of the mission, Roy reported that there were three preaching chapels in the territory--in Changchun, Kirin (now Jilin City), and Swangchengpu (sic).14 There were two foreign and four native evangelists, and one native Bible woman working in these institutions. Twelve persons had been baptized during the summer, seven “coming direct from heathenism.” For the first time in his ministry, he had baptized a man and his wife together at the same time. The membership of the mission had reached 50.15

Roy returned to the United States on furlough in 1923, attending the World Educational Convention in Colorado Springs in June and enrolling in a one-year medical missionary course at Loma Linda in California, U.S.A. “I believe,” he wrote, “I shall be prepared for a more helpful quality of service for the field objectively and, subjectively, understand much better how to preserve my health and that of my family for longer, steadier service.”16

On January 19, 1924, Roy married Anna Belle Keown, a church school teacher in Loma Linda. Anna Belle Keown was born April 10, 1892, to Mary Elizabeth Beavers Keown and Fountain Elliot Keown in Ord, Nebraska, and spent her early years in Baker, Oregon, where she attended public schools through high school. She became an Adventist as a result of a tent effort in Baker conducted in the summer of 1916 by the local pastor, Elder C. H. Rittenhouse, and was baptized the following January at Walla Walla College by Elder F. S. Bunch. She attended Walla Walla for three years, completing the advanced normal program in 1921. While taking a break from her studies in 1919, Anna taught church school for a year in Union, Oregon. After completing her studies, she served as a stenographer and Sabbath School department secretary for a year in the Idaho Conference before returning to teaching at Auburn Academy in 1923, and at Loma Linda in 1924.17

The Cossentine family departed by ship for China on May 22, 1924, and after a brief stay in Shanghai, they arrived in Changchun. Roy was given the responsibility for opening a new school as well as serving the Manchurian Union as missionary volunteer and educational secretary, and conducting evangelism efforts.18 On November 21, 1924, Francis Roy Cossentine was born into the family in Changchun.19 On the last Sabbath of the union biennial session in June 1925, Roy Cossentine was ordained, with General Conference Vice-president C. H. Watson officiating.20

The Manchurian Junior Middle School21 had been established in 1924 in temporary quarters in Changchun. The enrollment in the inaugural year was 12.22 The enrollment increased to 18 the following year. Due to a lack of teachers and a suitable location, the school in Changchun closed for a year in 1926. Twenty-nine acres of agricultural land at Wen Kwan Tun, about eight miles from Mukden, was purchased, and construction on the new campus commenced early in 1927.23 When the school term began, there were 14 boys in an unfinished dormitory and “our girls in the missionary’s house with a lady teacher. We had seven girls living, studying, sleeping, and eating in a room about 10 x 12 from the first of November until the middle of January.” Classes initially were held in the Cossentine’s dining room. In addition to Roy, there were four Chinese teachers, all of whom had been trained in the China Missionary Junior College. Eventually the dormitories and main classroom/chapel building were completed.24 It had been a busy year for Roy, as the division educational secretary reported that “in addition to being the principal of the school and teaching four classes, he has looked after the union superintendent’s work, his own educational and Missionary Volunteer department work, superintended the construction of the buildings, and looked after the business matters pertaining to the school and mission.”25 Roy served as principal of the Manchurian school from its inception until 1929, and he taught Bible and English at the school until 1930.26

In May 1930, Anna and the two younger children left China to attend the General Conference session in San Francisco and to recover her health (Roy reported in January 1931 that she “is recovering from a long illness at the White Memorial Hospital”). In July 1931, Roy and Allan departed for their furlough. A year later, Roy received medical clearance to return to China, but Anna was advised to remain “in order to build up her health.” Roy and Eunice arrived on November 22, 1932, while the rest of the family remained in the homeland until the following summer, when Anna and “little Francis” returned to China from Los Angeles on the “President McKinley.”27

Upon his return to China in 1932, Roy served as the Sabbath School, educational and young people’s missionary volunteer secretary in the North China Union Mission; while the union was based in Peiping (now Beijing), the Cossentines lived in Shantung (now Shandong). He reported in 1934 while making a trip into Japan-held Jehol by special arrangement with Japanese officials who were in control of that area. Sadly, that report also included a note that in May, “Brother Cossentine has been spending a part of the month . . . in Shanghai [because] Sister Cossentine has been a patient at the Sanitarium during this time but is gradually regaining her strength.”28

In 1936, he was asked to be the director of the Shantung Mission. When the Second Sino-Japanese War escalated a year later, Anna and Francis were evacuated to Hong Kong.29 He reported that “The Shantung Mission is in itself a great mission field. In population it is equal to the United States west of the Mississippi River, or to more than three fourths of the population of the Inter-American Division. For four years there has been resident in Shantung only my family as missionary representatives of the Seventh-day Adventist Mission. Because of health conditions in my family, a lack of school privileges for the children, and the present war situation, I have been on the station alone for two and one-half years, and for nineteen months I have not seen my family.”30 He reported from Tsingtao (now Qingdao) that five of the stations were in “the troubled area” in November, 1937.31 He remained in Japanese-held Shantung until his furlough in 1939, when he requested permanent return.32

College Professor

For two years, Roy taught in the Religion Department at Walla Walla College. In 1941 he earned a M.Th. degree at the University of Southern California and began coursework towards a Ph.D. in Religion at the same university, but never completed that degree.33

In 1942, the General Conference established a Spirit of Missions Committee to promote and foster the study of languages to prepare young people for service in the mission fields and to translate denominational literature for future publication in these languages. Many of the instructors and translators were missionaries who had returned to the United States due to the upheaval created by World War II and who were joined by a native of the country whose language was being taught.34 Roy was asked to teach Chinese (Mandarin) at Pacific Union College, with David Lin as his colleague. After two years, the program was discontinued.35

Later Years

Roy’s fluency in Mandarin Chinese led to an opportunity to join the United States government as a translator/analyst in 1944, and he continued in that role until he retired in 1961.36 Living in Takoma Park near the SDA Church headquarters, Roy and Anna were members of the Takoma Park Church until 1962, and Roy continued to receive ministerial credentials from the General Conference through 1954.37

When he retired, Roy and Anna moved to Dayton, TN, and purchased an old schoolhouse building on Walden Ridge, about a mile from Laurelbrook Academy, where Francis was principal. They renovated and enlarged the structure and were active in the Walden Ridge Seventh-day Adventist Church until his death.38 Roy died on November 3, 1973,39 and Anna on April 17, 1982; both are buried at the Laurelbrook Cemetery.40

Legacy

A faithful servant to the end, Roy brought many souls to the gospel, taught in the training schools, and, as an administrator, nurtured the generation of Chinese leaders who continued under difficult circumstances to spread the gospel in Manchuria and China. As a professor and active church member after his return to his homeland, Roy’s Christian spirit inspired those in his family, church, and community.

Sources

“Anna Belle Cossentine.” Find a Grave. Memorial ID 95916535, August 25, 2012. Accessed January 16, 2023. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95916535/anna-bell-cossentine.

“And Did You Know.” The Educational Messenger, September 1918.

“Arrivals.” The China Division Reporter, November and December 1932.

“A Word from Manchuria.” The Educational Messenger, October 1919.

Branson, W. H. “Finishing the Work.” ARH, November 9, 1939.

“Brother and Sister R. M. Cossentine…” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1, 1924.

Caviness, L. L. “Modern Language Teachers’ Council.” Pacific Union Recorder, October 6, 1943.

Cossentine, R. M. “Establishing the Manchurian Intermediate School.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1926.

Cossentine, R. M. “From Our Mail Bag.” The Asiatic Division Outlook, February 1, 1924.

Cossentine, R. M. “Kirin Mission, Manchuria.” ARH, December 28, 1922.

Cossentine, R. M. “School Work in Manchuria.” ARH, May 24, 1928.

Cossentine, Roy M., “Autobiographical Information”, 1972. 008027. Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI.

Cossentine, Roy M., Amelia Christine Cossentine, and Anna Belle Cossentine [Mrs. R. M. Cossentine]. Secretariat Missionary Appointee Files, RG 21, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD.

“Departures.” The China Division Reporter, August-September 1931.

“Division Notes.” The Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1-15, 1918.

“Francis Roy Cossentine.” Find a Grave. Memorial ID 214148044, August 6, 2020. Accessed October 18, 2022. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/214148044/francis-roy-cossentine.

“From Brother Cossentine.” The China Division Reporter, February 1931.

“From the Orient.” The Educational Messenger, February 1919.

Frost, S. L. “Manchurian Schools.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April,1928.

General Conference Committee, General Conference Archives.

Grundset, O. J. “Amelia Sherberg obituary.” Northern Union Reaper, February 8, 1921.

“In North China.” The China Division Reporter, June 1934.

“It may be…” The China Division Reporter, November 1937.

Kern, M. E. “Missionary Sailings.” ARH, August 17, 1933.

“Manchuria’s Middle School.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1928.

“Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Cossentine…” ARH, June 12, 1924.

“News from Shantung.” The China Division Reporter, December 1937.

“On Furlough.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May 1930.

Petersen, Bernhard. “The Manchurian Union.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1924.

Petersen, Bernhard. “The Manchurian Union Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August-September 1925.

“Recruits for the Far East.” The Asiatic Division Outlook, October 15, 1918.

“Reports of Progress in the Manchurian Union Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, October 1925.

Riley, Sabrina. “Erwin Earl Cossentine (1896–1984).” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed January 16, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8963&highlight=Erwin|Earl|Cossentine|.

“Roy Monroe Cossentine.” Find a Grave. Memorial ID 95916536, August 25, 2012. Accessed January 16, 2023. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/214148044/roy-monroe-cossentine.

“Roy Monroe Cossentine obituary.” ARH, January 3, 1974.

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

Watson, C. H. “Manchurian Union Session.” ARH, October 8, 1925.

“We were glad…” Asiatic Division Outlook, June 15 and July 1, 1921.

Notes

  1. Roy Monroe Cossentine (Biographical Information Blank), July 1, 1918, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114886; “Roy Monroe Cossentine,” Find a Grave, Memorial ID 95916536, August 25, 2012, accessed January 16, 2023, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95916536/roy-monroe-cossentine.

  2. R. M. Cossentine, “Autobiographical Information,” 1972. 008027. Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI.

  3. Sabrina Riley, “Erwin Earl Cossentine (1896-1984),” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, January 29, 2020, accessed January 16, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8963&highlight=Erwin|Earl|Cossentine|.

  4. Roy Monroe Cossentine (Biographical Information Blank).

  5. R. M. Cossentine, Autobiographical Information.

  6. O. J. Grundset, “Amelia Sherberg obituary,” Northern Union Reaper, February 8, 1921, 6.

  7. Roy Monroe Cossentine (Biographical Information Blank); children’s birthdates: Allan B Cossentine in “United States Social Security Death Index,” FamilySearch, accessed January 16, 2023, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JtCX-7J9 and “Eunice Lenore Cossentine Strahle,” Find a Grave, Memorial ID 106746349, March 15, 2013, accessed January 16, 2023, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/106746349/eunice-lenore-strahle.

  8. General Conference Committee, April 28, 1918, 39. General Conference Archives.

  9. “And Did You Know?” The Educational Messenger, September 1918, 11; “Recruits for the Far East,” The Asiatic Division Outlook, October 15, 1918, 8.

  10. “Division Notes,” The Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1-15, 1918, 11; “From the Orient,” The Educational Messenger, February, 1919, 26; fifteen years later, Cossentine stated he “was the first Adventist student ever to be enrolled” at the College of Chinese Studies in Peking (Atlantic Union Gleaner, May 16, 1934, 1).

  11. “A Word from Manchuria,” The Educational Messenger, October 1919, 17-18.

  12. Grundset, “Amelia Sherberg obituary.” The Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1921, 282 erroneously lists her death on January 7.

  13. “We were glad…,” Asiatic Division Outlook, June 15 and July 1, 8.

  14. Unable to determine the location of this town and its current name.

  15. R. M. Cossentine, “Kirin Mission, Manchuria,” ARH, December 28, 1922, 12.
  16. R. M. Cossentine, “From Our Mail Bag,” The Asiatic Division Outlook, February 1, 1924, 7.

  17. “Anna Belle Cossentine,” Find a Grave, Memorial ID 95916535, August 25, 2012, accessed January 16, 2023, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95916535/anna-bell-cossentine; Anna Belle Cossentine [Mrs. R. M. Cossentine] (Biographical Information Blank), April 18, 1924, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114886.

  18. “Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Cossentine…,” ARH, June 12, 1924, 24; “Brother and Sister R. M. Cossentine…,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1, 1924, 12; Bernhard Petersen, “The Manchurian Union,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November, 1924, 6.

  19. “Francis Roy Cossentine,” Find a Grave, Memorial ID 214148044, August 6, 2020, accessed October 18, 2022, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/214148044/francis-roy-cossentine. This site also contains a copy of Francis’s draft registration showing his birthplace as Hsinking, Manchukuo. Changchun was renamed by the Kwantung (Japanese) Army as it became the capital of the Imperial Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo between 1932 and 1945.

  20. C. H. Watson, “Manchurian Union Session,” ARH, October 8, 1925, 19; the Far Eastern Division Outlook’s report of the biennial session (“Reports of Progress in the Manchurian Union Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, October, 1925, 2) provides the date of the session: June 10-18, 1925.

  21. In church publications at that time, this school was called the Manchurian Intermediate School (Far Eastern Division Outlook, December, 1926, 5), Manchurian Union Mission Training Institute (ARH, May 24, 1928, 16 and Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks 1928, 1930-1946), Manchurian Junior Middle School (Far Eastern Division Outlook, April, 1928, 15), and Manchurian Provincial School or Manchurian Provincial Middle School (Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks, 1926, 1927, 1929); Cossentine calls it Manchurian Junior Academy and Manchurian Union Academy in his autobiographical notes.

  22. Bernhard Petersen, “The Manchurian Union Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August-September, 1925, 5.

  23. R. M. Cossentine, “Establishing the Manchurian Intermediate School,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December, 1926, 5; “Manchuria’s Middle School,” Far Eastern Division Outlook,” July, 1928, 8.

  24. R. M. Cossentine, “School Work in Manchuria,” ARH, May 24, 1928, 16.

  25. S. L. Frost,“ Manchurian Schools,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April, 1928, 15.

  26. R. M. Cossentine, Autobiographical Information.

  27. “On Furlough,” Far Eastern Division Outlook,” May, 1930, 15; “From Brother Cossentine,” The China Division Reporter, February, 1931, 4; “Departures,” The China Division Reporter, August-September, 1931, 8; General Conference Committee, June 2, 1932, 681. General Conference Archives; “Arrivals,” The China Division Reporter, November and December, 1932, 8; M. E. Kern, “Missionary Sailings,” ARH, August 17, 1933, 24.

  28. R. M. Cossentine, Autobiographical Information; “In North China,” The China Division Reporter, June 1934, 22; Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks for the years Cossentine was departmental secretary for the North China Union Mission consistently give his address at the Shantung Mission in Tsinanfu, Shantung and list him among the ordained pastors of that field.

  29. R. M. Cossentine, Autobiographical Information; “It may be…,” The China Division Reporter, November 1937, 8; by this time, both Allan and Eunice had returned for their college studies in the United States.

  30. W. H. Branson, “Finishing the Work,” ARH, November 9, 1939, 14.

  31. “News from Shantung,” The China Division Reporter, December 1937, 7.

  32. General Conference Committee, April 27, 1939, 1126. General Conference Archives; immigration records show that Roy, Anna, and Francis all returned to the United States by ship, departing from Shanghai ("California, Los Angeles Passenger Lists, 1907-1948," database with images, FamilySearch, accessed January 13, 2023, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZQZ-3NQ: 13 March 2018, Anna Cossentine, 1939; citing Immigration, ship name President Cleveland, NARA microfilm publication M1764 [Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.], roll 94; FHL microfilm 1,734,698.). The author was not able to determine when and how Anna and Francis were reunited with Roy after their evacuation to Hong Kong; at the time of their departure, Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese.

  33. R. M. Cossentine, Autobiographical Information.

  34. General Conference Committee, June 25, 1942, 494-6. General Conference Archives; General Conference Autumn Council Minutes, October 6, 1942, 629. General Conference Archives; L. L. Caviness, “Modern Language Teachers’ Council,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 6, 1943, 2. French was taught at EMC, Urdu and Russian at Union, Chinese at PUC and WWC, Malay at WWC, Arabic at the Seminary, and Japanese at Madison College. German, Burmese, and Spanish were also taught.

  35. General Conference Committee, April 27, 1944, 1390. General Conference Archives.

  36. R. M. Cossentine, Autobiographical Information.

  37. Daniel Xisto (Takoma Park Seventh-day Adventist Church) email message to author, April 5, 2022; Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks 1945-1954; General Conference Committee, January 21, 1946, 2260; February 3, 1947, 386; January 1, 1948, 864; December 9, 1948, 1299; December 5, 1949; January 4, 1951, 274. General Conference Archives.

  38. R. M. Cossentine, Autobiographical Information.

  39. “Roy Monroe Cossentine obituary,” ARH, January 3, 1974, 31.

  40. “Anna Bell Keown Cossentine,” Find a Grave.

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Cash, R. William. "Cossentine, Roy Monroe (1892–1973); Amelia (Sherberg) (1892–1921); later, Anna Belle (Keown) (1892–1982)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 24, 2023. Accessed April 08, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D8BP.

Cash, R. William. "Cossentine, Roy Monroe (1892–1973); Amelia (Sherberg) (1892–1921); later, Anna Belle (Keown) (1892–1982)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 24, 2023. Date of access April 08, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D8BP.

Cash, R. William (2023, April 24). Cossentine, Roy Monroe (1892–1973); Amelia (Sherberg) (1892–1921); later, Anna Belle (Keown) (1892–1982). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 08, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D8BP.