From the editor: September 18, 2015
A Tree Grows in Kiangsi
In a tribute to the late Amy Kass (Weekly Standard, 9/1/15) Caitrin Keiper quotes George Eliot, an author Kass taught at the University of Chicago:
Her finally touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on this earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might've been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Keiper cites this in connection to Kass because it "captures what it means to make your life's work other people." Upon reading it, I immediately thought of another woman whom I had only recently discovered, someone who many years ago made her life's work other people, specifically for the sake of Christ. She, unlike Kass, is not remotely well known, except perhaps by some Christians in her native Finland.
Elli A. Cajander (1863-1930) was a missionary teacher in China from 1898 until her death. Born in Sulkava in eastern Finland to a chaplain and his wife, she was educated in Swedish-language schools and then taught in Finnish-language girls' schools in Vaasa. She befriended Anna Ehrström, a member of her Christian female teachers' "spiritual group." On Elli's birthday, Anna gave her a book about Hudson Taylor and Chinese missions. This small gift ignited in Elli a desire to serve as a missionary to China, a career that lasted 32 years.
Cajander was only one of 2,500 missionaries (1,400 British, 1,000 Americans, 100 Scandinavians) in 1900, laboring in China as teachers, nurses, doctors, evangelists, and pastors. They faced political upheaval, xenophobia, the Boxer Rebellion; many lost their lives. In 1930 Cajander was hunted down and killed, along with two other Finnish women missionaries, by "thieves"— gang members terrorizing their city during the struggle between Communists and Nationalists. (Russian Bolsheviks had helped establish the Chinese Communist Party in 1921.)
In 1932 a memorial stone was erected in Helsinki's Old Graveyard:
To the memory of Finland's first missionary martyrs
Ellie a A. Cajander .... Edith E. Ingman ... Agnes Hedengren
They were murdered by Communists in Kiangsi, China...
They have not loved their lives,
but they have been faithful unto death.
They are among so many others—well-known such as Eric Liddell, who died in 1945 as a missionary in China during the Japanese occupation, and little known, who did not love their lives, who gave their life's work for others—for their good, their salvation.
I came upon the story of these Finnish martyrs, also through the gift of a small book—given to participants at a missions conference I attended in Helsinki. In just over 100 pages On the Move in China describes the work of various Finnish missionaries who served in China. In the center of the book are many old photographs. Most stunning, however, are the photographs from 2010-2011, showing today's Chinese Christians, particularly a Ji'an congregation packing a church while celebrating their 120th anniversary.
Millions of Chinese are Christians today. No one knows how many. Yongsin's chapel in 1910 had 62 members; in 1920 117; in 1925 134. It wasn't about numbers. Many times candidates for baptism were turned down as not ready. But slowly, the plant took root and grew, and grew. The missionary ladies, the preachers, the doctors and many others gave their life's work to Christ for his use—for others.
A sower went out to sow... Not caring to be known or unknown, but only to share the word and his life for others. The seed planted on Calvary sprouted and the Tree still grows. Small gifts are still being offered—books, testimonies, deeds, kindnesses, and invitations to meet Jesus. You, too, who may "live faithfully a hidden life," are the sower.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James