East 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 28, 2021

The East Szechwan Mission (東川区会; East Sichuan Mission) was organized in 1919. After World War II and the advance of the communist regime, it became difficult to maintain its operations, and it eventually closed in 1951.

Founding and Development

In 1914 missionaries Arthur Allum (和祿門) and Merritt C. Warren (汪和仁) first entered East Szechwan (or 四川 Sichuan) Province by hired houseboat from Yichang, Hubei Province. They travelled up the Yangztse River to Chongqing, negotiating dangerous rapids in their journey. Warren remained to pioneer the area1 and was still there when, in 1919, church officials divided the province into three separate missions as parts of the West China Union Mission. At the time only approximately 60 baptized members lived in the entire Sichuan Province. Church leadership established the eastern headquarters at Chongqing.2

During the first two years, 1919 through 1921, civil unrest restricted most activity away from Chongqing. Cholera and influenza were prevalent. Warren occupied himself by building a residence and chapel at headquarters while his national evangelist, Liao Hsiang Hsien, ventured north to the Hochow district where several companies of believers had already formed.3 Conversion numbers were low. In a half-yearly summary for 1924, Warren wrote, “We apparently have very little to report.”4 Several months later, he spoke of nine individuals who had been baptized, but in the context of all missions in the Far Eastern Division, the East Szechwan Mission was almost the lowest in growth. Between 1922 and 1925 the membership grew by only 20 individuals.5

Civil unrest was still prevalent in 1927. It became so intense that the government ordered all Americans to seek safety elsewhere. Johann Effenberg (艾方伯), being German, was exempt from the ruling and found good success in his mission activities. He reported a trip into the regions north of Chongqing when he organized 4 new Sabbath schools, opened 2 new chapels, and baptized 24 individuals. All his converts destroyed their household idols, and one opium addict was baptized in the same river where he tossed his pipe and smoking paraphernalia.6 At his headquarters station Effenberg held missionary training institutes and later travelled the countryside to nurture any pockets of interest. Wherever he visited, he treated the sick. In 1928 he reported upwards of 1,000 patients, 7 outstations, 5 organized churches, 11 Sabbath Schools with a total average attendance of 300 individuals in addition to 5 elementary schools with an enrolment total of 70.7

Effenberg spent months at a time circulating among the outstations to encourage and instruct church members, supply them with literature, and try to alleviate any problems. He managed this despite continuing civil unrest. In the two-year period, June 1927 through June 1929, two of the national workers lost their lives at the hands of brigands, another was imprisoned, and a married couple were badly beaten. Communist forces looted one chapel. Despite such calamities, he was able to report the continuance of 7 organized churches and 8 companies with a total baptized membership of 222. Sixteen Sabbath Schools and six elementary schools were operating in addition to a Dorcas Society and a Missionary Volunteer Society.8

Dallas White (懷德) succeeded Effenberg and adopted similar methods of visitation and evangelism. After 18 months in the field, he reported the baptized membership had risen to 534 by June 1933. At the same time, he had 19 literature evangelists working in his territory, and he conducted 12 elementary schools with a total enrolment of 250.9 The area had shifted from being relatively stagnant in the mid-1920s to being, a decade later, the most productive in the West China Union Mission.10

Nationals increasingly assumed the preaching role in public evangelistic crusades. However, warring factions in the community continued to be troublesome. It was common to see church members and interested individuals carrying to the evening meetings their crude guns as protection against robbers. A novel method of evangelism in East Szechwan was the “Ping Ming” schools, Bible study groups that used simple-language textbooks covering the essentials of the faith.11 The baptized membership rose to 556 by December 1936.12 But such momentum could not continue in the face of continual civil unrest. The last statistics published in the 1930s applied to December 1938 when the baptized membership stood at 465.13 For the next decade delegates were not able to meet at headquarters for their annual session, gatherings that had always engendered cohesion within the mission.14 Members in Chongqing became preoccupied with conducting a medical unit for war refugees.15

Difficulties

During the Second World War membership statistics dropped to 271, but churches remained open, their number remaining at 12.16 After the war statistics fluctuated but peaks were reached in 1948 (656 members)17 and 1951 (711 members). But we must consider such results in the context of a population of more than 30 million.18 For some of the time prior to 1951 the director of the East Szechwan Mission, Goh Gaio Oh, also filled the role of president of the entire West China Union Mission, both offices being located in Chongqing.19

The gradual advance of communist forces made it increasingly difficult for mission activities. It severely hampered the movement of personnel, pastoral visitation, and supply lines. In the northern winter of 1948/1949 expatriates retreated as an emergency measure to Hankow (Wuhan), Shanghai, Canton, Hong Kong, and Formosa, but soon had to abandon even such places.20 Nationals remained to administer the East Szechwan Mission, operating under extreme difficulties until it officially ceased to function in 1951.21

Directors of the East Szechwan Mission

Merritt C. Warren (汪和仁) 1919-1923; Ernest L. Lutz (盧德慈) 1923-1924; Alton E. Hughes (胡安德) 1924-1926; Johann H. Effenberg (艾方伯) 1926-1932; Dallas R. White (懷德) 1932-1935; George L. Wilkinson (韋更生) (acting) 1936; Cecil B. Guild (蓋乃德) 1937-1939; Djang Djen-chiang (張振強 Zhāng Zhèn Qiáng) 1939-1940; Cecil B. Guild (蓋乃德) (acting) 1941; Liu Fu-an (劉福安 Liú Fú An) 1942-1948; Goh Chiao Oh (葛肇諤 Gé Zhào è) 1948-1950; Chiu Chi Hsiu (邱其修 Qiū Qí Xiū) (acting) 1951.

Sources

“An Analysis of the Statistical Reports for 1925.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1926.

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

Brewer, Nathan F. “Annual Meetings in the West.” China Division Reporter, January 1948.

Effenberg, Johann H. “East Szechwan Mission of Seventh-day Adventists.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1929.

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

Effenberg, Johann H. “The East Szechwan Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May/June 1928.

Guild, Cecil B. “The East Szechwan Mission.” China Division Reporter, March 1937.

Miller, Harry W. “West China Union Session.” China Division Reporter, August/September 1931.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1920-1951.

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

“Statistical Report.” China Division Reporter, May 1937.

“Statistical Report.” China Division Reporter, July 15, 1939.

Warren, Merritt C. “From the West China Union.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, September 1924.

Warren, Merritt C. “The West China Union.” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 1921.

White, Dallas R. “The East Szechwan Mission.” China Division Reporter, July/August 1933.

Wilkinson, George L. “The West China Union Mission-Years 1933 and 1935.” China Division Reporter, July 1935.

Wilkinson, George L. “West China Union Report,” China Division Reporter, July 1939.

Notes

  1. Harry W. Miller, “West China Union Biennial Session,” China Division Reporter, August/September 1931, 6.

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

  3. Merritt C. Warren, “The West China Union,” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 1921, 3, 4.

  4. Merritt C. Warren, “From the West China Union,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, September 1924, 7.

  5. “An Analysis of the Statistical Reports for 1925,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1926, 2.

  6. Johann H. Effenberg, “Still at Work in Szechwan,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, September 1927, 4-5.

  7. Johann H. Effenberg, “The East Szechwan Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May/June 1928, 13.

  8. Johann H. Effenberg, “East Szechwan Mission of Seventh-day Adventists,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1929, 5.

  9. Dallas R. White, “The East Szechwan Mission,” China Division Reporter, July/August 1933, 7, 11.

  10. George L. Wilkinson, “The West China Union Mission-Years 1933 and 1935,” China Division Reporter, July 1935, 5-6.

  11. Cecil B. Guild, “The East Szechwan Mission,” China Division Reporter, March 1937, 5.

  12. “Statistical Report,” China Division Reporter, May 1937, 10.

  13. “Statistical Report,” China Division Reporter, July 15, 1939, 11.

  14. Nathan F. Brewer, “Annual Meetings in the West,” China Division Reporter, January 1948, 6.

  15. George L. Wilkinson, “West China Union Report,” China Division Reporter, July 1939, 3.

  16. “East Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944), 99.

  17. “East Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948), 100.

  18. “East Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951), 113.

  19. E.g., “West China Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950), 109.

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

  21. “East Szechwan Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951), 113.

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Hook, Milton. "East Szechwan Mission (1919–1951)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=FHPC.

Hook, Milton. "East Szechwan Mission (1919–1951)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Date of access May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=FHPC.

Hook, Milton (2021, November 28). East Szechwan Mission (1919–1951). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=FHPC.