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Passport photos: Celia Richmond Brines and Rolland James Brines, c. 1916.

From Adventism in China Digital Image Repository.

Brines, Rolland James (1891–1987) and Celia (Richmond) (1892–1996)

By Heidi Olson Campbell

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Heidi Olson Campbell, M.A. in English (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI) is currently a Ph.D. student at Baylor University where she focuses on the impact of climatic disruption on women and religion in early modern England. Campbell taught at the Adventist International Institution for Adventist Studies in the Philippines. She wrote a chapter on Adventist women for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Seventh-day Adventism and contributed to the Ellen G. White Encyclopedia.

First Published: November 28, 2021

Rolland James (known as R. J.) and Celia Richmond Brines were Seventh-day Adventist educators who spent two terms as missionaries in China. A hospital administrator and physician in the United States and China, R. J..was the first medical superintendent of Porter Hospital. Celia wrote the popular mission book, Dragon Tales.1

Early Years

R.J. was born in Marine City, Michigan, on November 4, 1891, to William J. Brines (1858-1919) and Louise Basney Brines (1856-1911). His parents became Seventh-day Adventists when R. J. was about 5 years old.2 In 1906, R. J. was baptized in Portland, Maine.3 He attributed his conversion to his parents. His sister, Ethel Barto, and her husband later became missionaries in North Sumatra, Singapore, and Malaysia.4

Celia Richmond was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, on October 18, 1892, to Seelye Richmond (1828-1894) and Anna Boughton Richmond (1856-1938). Her father was a U.S. Civil War veteran. Baptized as an Adventist a few years before Celia’s birth, her mother was a committed Christian who ensured that her children received a Christian education.5 Celia was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church at age 12. She attended public school, an Adventist church school in Rome, New York, and Vienna Intermediate School. 6 In the summers of 1908 to 1912, Celia worked as a literature evangelist.7 Completing the Normal course (a teacher preparation course) at South Lancaster Academy in 1912, she taught at Adventist elementary schools in North Creek and Elmira, New York, and Takoma Park, Maryland.8 An energetic, well-liked teacher, she encouraged her students to raise money for mission outreach.9

R.J. graduated from South Lancaster Academy in 1914.10 That same year he and Celia married.11 Continuing his education at Washington Missionary College, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1916.12 The church recruited the couple to serve as missionaries while they were still in college. The Brines left with their infant daughter Lauretta Elizabeth (born in 1916) shortly after graduation for China.13 Ethel, R. J.’s sister, traveled on the same ship as the Brines to southeast Asia.

Missionaries in China

Both Brines worked at Shanghai Missionary College (also called the China Missions Training School). Prior to teaching, the Brines attended A. C. Selmon’s newly opened intensive language school.14 R. J. worked as treasurer and science teacher.15 Celia was a teacher and the Normal (or education) director from 1916 to 1922. In that capacity, she introduced and implemented Western practices of education to Chinese Adventist mission schools. A local elementary school served as a model classroom in which to demonstrate and practice Western teaching methods for students in the Normal course at Shanghai Mission College.16 Among other responsibilities, she assisted Dr. Selmon in preparing elementary school readers for use in mission schools.17 A daughter, Louise Marie, was born to the Brines in Shanghai on April 11, 1921. The delivering physician was Bertha Loveland Selmon.18

The following year Lauretta Elysabeth fell so ill that on February 25, she and Celia left China for Loma Linda Sanitarium.19 While on furlough, Celia spoke about her experience as a missionary and visited family in New York.20 R. J. followed them to the United States a few months later, and the medical leave became permanent return, when later that year, he began studies for a medical degree at the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda University). When he. graduated, he received top marks on the California State Medical Board exam and the medical examination by the National Board of Medical Examiners in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, making California state news.21 While her husband was in graduate school, Celia worked as a desk clerk first at Loma Linda and then Glendale Sanitarium.22

After completing his internship at Los Angeles General Hospital, R. J. served as medical director of Wichita Sanitarium in Kansas from 1927 to 1930.23 As part of his work in Wichita, he lectured on the seven laws of health, performed routine physical examinations, and vaccinated students at Enterprise Academy.24 At the same time, he was on the executive committee of the Central Union Conference.25 Early in 1930, R. J. became the first the medical director of the newly established Porter Sanitarium and Hospital in Colorado.26 Celia also worked at Wichita Sanitarium and Porter Sanitarium as a matron and desk clerk.27

But, while in the United States, neither Brines had forgotten their time in China. At a special church event in 1927, both spoke about the importance of mission work, and Celia shared about a Chinese boy who went from being a beggar to working for God.28 At a campmeeting in Missouri in 1930, R. J. promoted global Adventist missions.29 Meanwhile, neither the General Conference nor the China Division administrators had forgotten the Brines. That same year the church called the Brines for a second term of mission service to China, now to lead Yencheng Hospital-Dispensary in Henan.

The Brines arrived in Shanghai on December 19, 1930, on the S.S. Tatsu-ta-Maru. Their eldest daughter Lauretta remained in Shanghai to study at Far Eastern Academy.30 R. J.’s experience as a medical administrator in the United States proved useful as did their knowledge of Mandarin which permitted them to be deployed immediately. The Brines were happy to see that many of their former students at Shanghai Missionary College were now pastors, teachers, medical workers, and employees in other capacities for the Adventist Church.31 He worked hard to try to make Yencheng self-supporting—a perennial concern for Adventist medical missions.32 Their time in Yencheng was busy. In addition to the hospital itself, the Adventist Church also ran from Yencheng a school for nurses and another outstation dispensary.33 The students at the nursing school were involved in extending the Adventist church into Tibet by raising money and at least one student determining to go to Tibet as a medical missionary.34

The years in Yencheng were eventful. The Yellow River (also known as Huang He) devastatingly flooded central China in 1931.35 In 1934, another flood of the Yellow River affected the region, causing, according to one missionary, more than 50,000 people to drown, 70,000 cattle to die, and 2 million people to lose their homes. Travel was so difficult that R. J. diagnosed and treated another missionary, a Mrs. Warren with typhoid, over the radio.36 Years later, the Brines’ daughter Louise recalled standing on top of the church and watching houses collapse, people drown, and the survivors flee to the tops of dikes until the flood waters receded.37 Bandits also proved a perpetual challenge. With so much devastation and lost income from floods, unsurprisingly, some turned to criminal activity to feed themselves. R. J. suspected that some of his patients at Yencheng were bandits.38 In 1935, their eldest daughter, Lauretta, accompanied by Bible instructor Abbie Dunn, returned to the United States for college after graduating from Far Eastern Academy.39 During her time in Henan, Celia worked as a nurse at the hospital, began writing stories about evangelism in China, and took care of at least one orphaned child. One of her stories, published in a denominational periodical, featured a Chinese woman Bible instructor who converted a sick woman and her husband through selling a copy of the Gospel of Matthew to the couple.40 In 1937, the Brines returned to the United States.

Subsequent Careers and Retirement

After their second term of service, R. J. completed some postgraduate work in Chicago41 and spent the subsequent years as a doctor in Santa Barbara, California. Celia remained actively involved in their local church and conference in California, participating, for example, in child evangelism and a leadership training program.42

During World War II, Celia wrote a book on their experiences in China called Dragon Tales. It proved popular during the war years and went through multiple printings between 1942 to 1945.43 It was one of ten books, including three by Ellen White, chosen by the General Conference to provide to libraries for military personnel during World War II.44 Church periodicals also republished her stories.45

R. J. retired from full-time medicine in 1963, but their participation in medical mission work in Asia was not over.46 In 1968, he and Celia returned to Asia for six months when he served as a relief doctor at Taiwan Sanitarium and Hospital in Tapei.47

The Brines’ time in China shaped their daughters’ life choices. Like her father, Louise Brines Tyrer graduated from Loma Linda as a physician and reported that she was inspired to become a gynecologist after seeing the need that women and children had for medical care when the Yellow River flooded. She was the first woman hired as a full-time staff physician by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Chicago and was a vice president and head of Family Planning Services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.48 Lauretta became a nurse, graduating from both Pacific Union College and Loma Linda University’s School of Nursing, married a physician, Howard O. Stocker, on April 12, 1942, was actively involved in philanthropic activities, and lived in California.49 While in China, the Brines also raised a boy, Wu Shan Jun, whom they had found begging on the streets. Wu’s son eventually graduated from Loma Linda University as a physician and worked as a surgeon in California.50

R. J. died August 18, 1987, in Santa Barbara, California.51 Celia, who became a centenarian, was featured in an article on the longevity of the Adventist residents of Loma Linda, California. She attributed her lifespan to her lifelong vegetarianism.52 She died on December 11, 1996, in Loma Linda.53

Sources

Biographical information Blank for Celia Brines, February 17, 1916, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.

Biographical Information Blank for Rolland Brines, February 20, 1916, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.

Biographical Information Blank for Rolland Brines, November 18, 1930, General Conference Archives.

Brines, Celia R. “Child Evangelism Club Meeting.” Pacific Union Recorder, February 18, 1957.

Brines, Celia R. “The Gospel of Matthew.” ARH, January 31, 1935.

Brines, Celia R. “Led to Faithfulness.” ARh, January 16, 1936.

Brines, Celia R. “Normal Department of the China Missions Training School.” Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 1919.

Brines, Celia R. “North Creek Church-School.” Atlantic Union Gleaner. January 15, 1913.

Brines, Celia R. Dragon Tales. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2013.

Brines, R. J. “ ’On to Lhasa’ Meeting at Yencheng Sanitarium.” The China Division Reporter, December 1936.

Colburn, L. R. “Veteran Doctor Serves Taiwan Hospital.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1968.

“For Service in Yencheng.” The China Division Reporter, March 1931.

“Glendale Physician Tops List.” The Los Angeles Times, June 18, 1927.

McCormack, Patricia. “Doctor Says Modern China is a Miracle.” Hawaii Tribune-Herald,

September 23, 1977.

Mountain, Arthur. “From an Australian in China.” Australasian Record, February 26, 1934.

Obituary. Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 1997.

Obituary. ARH, October 29, 1987.

Osborne, P. B. “Brines.” ARH June 22, 1911.

“Our Yencheng Hospital Honan.” The Church Officers’ Gazette, January 1934.

Patton, Gregg. “Welcome to the 100-Year-Old- Club.” The San Bernardino County Sun, January 20, 1996.

Selmon, A. C. “The First Seventh-day Adventist Language School in a Mission Field.” ARH, May 24, 1917.

“Students Receive Physical Examinations.” The Student Forum, October 30, 1929.

“The Yencheng Hospital.” The China Division Reporter, January and February 1934.

Notes

  1. Celia R. Brines, Dragon Tales (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Association, 2013)..

  2. P. B. Osborne, “Brines,” ARH, June 22, 1911, 23.

  3. Biographical Information Blank for Rolland Brines, February 20, 1916, General Conference Archives.

  4. “Obituary: Barto, Wayne,” ARH, January 2, 1969, 24.

  5. R. F. Cottrell, “Obituary: Richmond, Anna Grace,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, February 16, 1938, 6, 7.

  6. Biographical information Blank for Celia Brines, February 17, 1916, General Conference Archives; A. F. Ruf, “May 29, Vienna School,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, May 19, 1937, 5.

  7. See, for example, “The Paper Work,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, July 8, 1908, 7; “The Book Work,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, July 7, 1909, 5; “Items,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, July 5, 1911, 237.

  8. Biographical Information Blank for Celia Brines, November 19, 1930, General Conference Archives.

  9. Celia Brines, “North Creek Church-School,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, January 15, 1913, 6; M. W. DeL’Horbe, “Elmira,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, October 8, 1913, 3.

  10. Atlantic Union Gleaner, May 13, 1914, 8.

  11. Application for Marriage License # 9664, Pennsylvania, U.S. Marriages, 1852-1968. Accessed through Ancestory.com [2/2/2022].

  12. Biographical Information Blank for Rolland Brines, February 20, 1916, General Conference Archives.

  13. “Items,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, July 26, 1916, 3; Biographical Information Blank for Rolland Brines, February 20, 1916, General Conference Archives; “A Letter from the Orient,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, November 2, 1916, 1, 2.

  14. A. C. Selmon, “The First Seventh-day Adventist Language School in a Mission Field,” ARH, May 24, 1917, 12, 13.

  15. Biographical Information Blank for Rolland Brines, November 18, 1930, General Conference Archives.

  16. Celia Brines, “Normal Department of the China Missions Training School,” Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1, 1919, 8.

  17. “Mission Notes,” ARH, May 3, 1917, 15.

  18. Asiatic Division Outlook, May 1-15, 1921,16; U.S. Consular Reports of Births, 1910-1949; Volume 343 (1921 Oct – 1921 Dec), accessed through Ancestory.com [2/2/2022].

  19. Atlantic Union Gleaner, April 12, 1922, 8.

  20. “Returned Missionary Will Be Speaker at Cafeteria Supper,” Star-Gazette, October 11, 1922, 14.

  21. “Glendale Physician Tops List,” The Los Angeles Times, June 18, 1927, 26; “Sixty-Three Pass Physicians’ Test,” The Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1927, 1.

  22. Biographical Information Blank for Celia Brines, November 19, 1930, General Conference Archives.

  23. “Former Wichita Man Gets Post in China,” The Wichita Eagle, December 8, 1930, 7.

  24. “Students Receive Physical Examinations,” The Student Forum, October 30, 1929, 1.

  25. Biographical Information Blank for Rolland Brines, November 18, 1930, General Conference Archives; “Central Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1930), 28; “Central Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association, 1929), 32.

  26. “News Notes,” Central Union Outlook, February 4, 1930, 5.

  27. Biographical Information Blank, November 19, 1930, General Conference Archives.

  28. “News Notes,” Central Union Outlook, November 15, 1927, 2.

  29. “Adventists Camp Meeting Drawing Good Crowds,” Henry County Democrat, August 28, 1930, 5.

  30. “For Service in Yencheng,” The China Division Reporter, March 1931, 3.

  31. W. A. Spicer., “What Christian Education Means in Mission Lands,” ARH, March 30, 1933, 5.

  32. “The Yencheng Hospital,” The China Division Reporter, January and February 1934, 14.

  33. “The Honan Mission,” The China Division Reporter, May 1935, 4, 5.

  34. R. J. Brines, “ ’On to Lhasa’ Meeting at Yencheng Sanitarium,” The China Division Reporter, December 1936, 5, 6.

  35. I. H. Evans, “The Greatest Calamity of Modern Times,” ARH, February 4, 1932, 6, 7.

  36. Arthur Mountain, “From an Australian in China,” Australasian Record, February 26, 1934, 3.

  37. The story was distributed by the United Press International in multiple US newspapers including in “ ’New’ China Impresses Birth Control Official,” Hartford Courant, September 29, 1977, 38; Patricia McCormack, “Doctor Says Modern China is a Miracle,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 23, 1977, 10.

  38. Anol Grundset, “Idols Replaced by an Altar of Prayer,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, April 11, 1934, 1.

  39. The China Division Reporter, August 1935, 7.

  40. W. A. Spicer, “What a Few Trained Workers Can Do in a Needy Place,” ARH, July 28, 1932, 3, 4; Celia Brines, “The Gospel of Matthew,” ARH, January 31, 1935, 24; Celia Brines, “Led to Faithfulness,” ARH, January 16, 1936, 7; “Our Yencheng Hospital Honan,” The Church Officers’ Gazette, January 1934, 16.

  41. “News Notes,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, October 25, 1939, 6.

  42. Celia R. Brines, “Child Evangelism Club Meeting,” Pacific Union Recorder, February 18, 1957, 5; Celia R. Brines, “Free,” Pacific Union Recorder, August 26, 1957, 5.

  43. Obituary: Brines, Celia Richmond,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 1997, 19.

  44. General Conference Executive Minutes, October 27, 1942, 654.

  45. See, for example, Celia R. Brines, “Feng, the Blind Magician,” Signs of the Times, November 25, 1946, 6.

  46. “Obituary: Brines, Rolland,” ARH, October 29, 1987, 21.

  47. “Flash Point . . . ,“ Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, April 15, 1968, 16; L. R. Colburn, “Veteran Doctor Serves Taiwan Hospital,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1968, 5.

  48. “PPFA Margaret Sanger Award Winners,” Planned Parenthood website, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/campaigns/ppfa-margaret-sanger-award-winners#tyrer; Patricia McCormack, “Doctor Says Modern China is a Miracle,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 23, 1977, 10.

  49. “Brines-Stocker,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, April 28, 1942, 8; “Ninth Appearance for Family S.B. Rose Parade Riders,” The San Bernardino County Sun, January 1, 1965, 23.

  50. Patricia McCormack, “Doctor Says Modern China is a Miracle,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 23, 1977, 10

  51. “Obituary: Brines, Rolland,” ARH, October 29, 1987, 21.

  52. Gregg Patton, “Welcome to the 100-Year-Old- Club,” The San Bernardino County Sun, January 20, 1996, 28.

  53. “Obituary: Brines, Celia Richmond,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 1997, 19.

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Campbell, Heidi Olson. "Brines, Rolland James (1891–1987) and Celia (Richmond) (1892–1996)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Accessed November 24, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=G89G.

Campbell, Heidi Olson. "Brines, Rolland James (1891–1987) and Celia (Richmond) (1892–1996)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Date of access November 24, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=G89G.

Campbell, Heidi Olson (2021, November 28). Brines, Rolland James (1891–1987) and Celia (Richmond) (1892–1996). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved November 24, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=G89G.