James O. Fraser Of Lisuland (Part 2)
James O. Fraser as a young man in his early twenties was serving the Lord with China Inland Mission in the province of Yunnan in the southwestern corner of the vast country of China. Since his heart burden was primarily for the tribespeople who lived in the mountains, he was assigned to Yunnan Province because great numbers of unreached tribespeople lived in remote villages tucked away in the mountains there on the border of China and Burma. His first requirement was to learn the Chinese language and after nine months he ably began sharing in the preaching in the mission chapel at Tengyueh as well as doing open-air witnessing. After two and one-half years, about 1910 or 1911, the fellow missionary couple in the city of Tengyueh, the Emberys, with whom he ate his meals and with whom he had shared in ministry and enjoyed good fellowship, were asked to temporarily move because there was urgent need of their presence elsewhere. Mr. Fraser was therefore put in charge of the work in the city of Tengyueh in Yunnan Province. This left him the only missionary available to preach the Gospel in the city and in the area of about 150 miles around about.
He could converse and preach very acceptably in the Chinese language, but he must now take full responsibility also for the mission station in the city. This meant a change in the careful hours of required study of the Chinese language. At the mission home he had to adjust to the numerous interruptions from visitors whom he must entertain whether they came at convenient or inconvenient times. He had to learn not to expect to fulfill any amount of work at a certain time and to welcome visitors from the heart and do personal work as opportunity came. It encouraged him to realize it was as effective to deal with people on a one-to-one basis as to conduct preaching services.
Having learned much about relying on the Lord in prayer for his inadequacies, and the necessity of entire dependence on God for power in the work, he began to write his mother back home in England regularly, sharing with her the names of inquirers that she might labor along with him through prayer. He was acutely aware that those who prayed at home, although not directly involved in the work, by believing prayer were as much used by God in the salvation of precious souls, as were the missionaries on the field. "Solid, lasting missionary work is done on our knees," he wrote to friends at home. "What I covet more than anything else is earnest, believing prayer, and I write to ask you to continue to put up much prayer for me and the work here in Tengyueh."
Mr. Fraser did not know it would be three years before Mr. and Mrs. Embery would be free to return to the mission work in Tengyueh. But in spite of the loneliness, he found joy in what God was using him to foster among the people. A Mrs. Li, friend of the former missionary lady, was an elderly woman with a cruel, useless husband. Of her eleven children, only one survived at this point, and he was a hopeless opium smoker. Mrs. Li, who did laundry for a living, had become a "bright" Christian in spite of her circumstances and faithfully attended church services. It was a joy to Fraser to see her growth in grace, although there were other sad disappointments when some in whom he saw great promise, turned back from following the Lord.
He longed to visit the mountain folk, but could not do that along with managing the city mission station single-handedly. However, his cook, in whom he was investing good Bible teaching and who became a "bright" Christian, was more fluent than he in Chinese and Fraser used him to speak the simple Gospel to visitors from the mountains who occasionally came to the home. Fraser continued doing open-air preaching throughout the city, remaining faithful in it in spite of the indifference and opposition he sometimes encountered. Lacking someone to stand with him in it made the ministry more difficult but he faithfully preached regularly in the mission chapel and on the streets, longing to see people turn to the true and living God.
Banished to Burma
In October 1911, he was surprised to receive a formal letter announcing to him that "The Upholders of China as an Independent Country" were planning that day to overthrow the ruling dynasty and set up an independent China. The letter promised to protect him and his property and it assured him he would be safe. Seeking counsel from the only other two countrymen in the city – the British Consul and the Head of Customs – he was advised to go across the border into Burma for a time. It was fortunate he followed their advice for Tengyueh became a "storm center" and terror reigned. He provided as best he could for his Chinese teacher and for the cook, who was left in charge of the mission property. Then, knowing that being a foreigner, he might have endangered his Chinese friends as well as himself by remaining, he headed out of the city.
After a difficult journey of eight days through rugged mountain territory where roamed wolves, bears and leopards, and which also offered magnificent views of God’s creation, he arrived with the aid of a coolie guide in Bhamo, Burma. Arriving at the China Inland Mission station there, he found it deserted except for a caretaker. The hospitable couple in charge had of necessity taken a furlough for health reasons. They had left a note that gave permission for anyone needing the few stores in the cupboard to take them. At this time, Fraser was much in need of such supplies as his support check had been tardy and had not reached him in Tengyueh. He realized as the postal workers in Bhamo insisted that it was highly unlikely a registered letter could safely reach him across the border in this remote place at this time of upheaval in China. This was his first big test in trusting the Lord in a place of dire need when no one knew of his circumstances. But he rested in quiet faith on the Lord, with Psalm 37:3-5 being of no small comfort to him:
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass."
In Burma, Fraser at once went to work giving out tracts among some Chinese who were living in Bhamo. This opened the way for conversations and sharing of the Gospel with them. Inquiring at the post office from time to time, he found nothing but discouragement from the postal officials who were quite certain that no mail, especially a registered letter, would reach him under the circumstances. Mr. Fraser’s supplies were almost at an end, and payment was due to the coolie who worked for him in necessary ways. Fraser was much in prayer about the matter and was heavily burdened to not incur a debt to the coolie. One day he felt led of God to make another trip to the post office, and there was the letter, to the amazement of the postal workers! The registered letter had come safely across China and over the border to Bhamo just in time! Furthermore, he was able with the aid of a Chinese friend in customs, to get one of the drafts cashed that day so he could pay the coolie on time. This experience was greatly strengthening to Fraser’s faith.
(To be continued)
– Arranged from Behind The Ranges by Mrs. Howard Taylor. Overseas Missionary Fellowship, www.omf.org.