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Descendant of Lottie’s ministry attends dedication

 

Joe Westbury

A Chinese woman joins dozens of similarily dressed members of the church who performed hymns and contemporary Christian songs for the crowds packing the church.

WEIHAI, China — As ninety-year-old Stella Tong sat on the front pew, she could hardly believe her eyes. She was born in a China that did not value education for children, much less girls – but a missionary from Georgia changed all that.

She grew up in a nation where professional advancement was limited to a small portion of the population that was educated, but she rose above that restriction – again, due to the influence of a missionary. But most important, she was given a peace of mind and a heavenly home because that missionary’s spiritual descendents were faithful to share the story of salvation with her.

On May 29, Tong listened and worshiped in China’s newest Christian church along with nearly 5,000 other believers in standing room only services. The church was dedicated in the bustling seaside town of Weihai, just 40 miles from where Lottie Moon first landed at Chefoo (now known as Yantai) and another 40 miles from where she served at Tengchow (now Penglai).

The solemnity of the occasion was not lost on Tong, who was born in 1916 in Penglai. In those days Christian churches were few and Christianity was still largely unknown. But churches like the one where Moon served, which was founded in the mid-1800s, brought the Gospel to those willing to hear.

Joe Westbury

An elderly Chinese man reads the history of the church and a Gospel presentation in a crowded overflow room below the sanctuary. Thousands of his generation were sent to prison during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) when Chairman Mao Zedong sought to instill his ideology as the dominant political thought.

Lottie Moon’s ministry had already ceased with her departure in 1912 and her death aboard a ship in Kobe Harbor, Japan on Christmas Eve. But the girls school she founded in Penglai opened its doors to Tong and provided her with a rarity for children in China in those days – an education.

Tong came under the care of the school in 1918, at only two years of age, due to the death of her mother. She left in 1934 at age 18 with the ability to read and write.

“Life was very hard in those years but due to the love of missionaries like Lottie Moon, it was much more bearable,” she says through an interpreter.

“Penglai was a land of poor farmers, a land of peasants. But the missionaries brought us hope and happiness and told us about Jesus Christ.”

Joe Westbury

Stella Tong, age 90. Only known living former student of Lottie Moon’s school for girls in Penglai, China.

Today, Tong remains as the only known living former student of the school, the last connection to Lottie Moon’s turn-of-the century ministry. Invading Japanese destroyed the school during World War II, but miraculously left the adjacent church where Moon served untouched.

“Under the influence of the teachers of the school I eventually became a Christian – a gift for which I have been grateful all my life. Without the school I would have been drifting all my life, searching for peace and happiness. Christ has given me the direction that I was seeking,” she says in her thick Chinese accent, carefully searching for words to describe her experiences of nearly eight decades earlier.

“Without an education the children had always worked in the fields or as servants in homes. Those who were not educated had very difficult lives but missionaries like Lottie Moon brought us not only word of eternal life but a higher standard of living.

“When I left the school I moved to Quindao, where I was able to receive training as a nurse at the Lutheran Hospital. Eventually I was given responsibility for the hospital pharmacy.

“I am grateful for the missionaries who left their homes and families to come live among us. Their greatest contribution has been to bring us the Gospel so we could have the opportunity to hear it in our own language and to accept God’s gift of eternal life.”

Joe Westbury

With the worship service drawing to a close, a worshipper prepares to ride his bicycle home. Though cars and motorcycles are gaining favor in China, many still use bicycles as a basic form of transportation.