On March 1 1854, after six months at sea, Hudson Taylor arrived in China.
I had the benefit of remembering this fact as I was shooting lightning speed BlackBerry messages to a colleague who was appalled that the SAA plane I was sitting on didn’t have any personal inflight entertainment.
We had been hoping for the oft-promised replacement plane from SAA and he had begun to call this particular plane (which I’ve flown on innumerable times) ‘The Dog’!
I do, of course, understand the difference – I was taking a long-haul flight for a three day ministry trip; missionaries of the 18th and 19th centuries were going for years, and possibly for life. I also know that a modern plane, even one that is about to be replaced, isn’t really worthy of the name ‘The Dog’.
But if the six months of sea travel was expected, what wasn’t was the fact that there was no provision waiting for him by the missionary society with which he was associated.
No welcome, no provision, no money
The Chinese Evangelisation Society, destined to be surpassed by Taylor’s own China Inland Mission, were good on vision but not so good on provision!
Roger Steer writes that there was ‘Nothing from the CES: no money, no credit notes, no guidance, no instructions.’[i]
Nevertheless the missionaries that Hudson met were friendly and helpful, offering both advice (to learn Mandarin rather than the dialect only spoken around Shangai) and accommodation until the CES got organised.
Out on a limb
‘The other missionaries,’ writes Steer, in Shanghai were all highly educated and connected with either the Anglican church or large and well established missionary societies.
Taylor was connected with no particular denomination and had been sent out hurriedly by the CES before his medical course was finished…
The CES had adopted a strategy which the practical men already working in China regarded as absurd. Some of them openly ridiculed the CES and its journal, The Gleaner.’[ii]
This is not the kind of information you want to learn once you’ve arrived…miles and miles away from home.
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© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides