James O. Fraser Of Lisuland (Part 4)
The mountainous area of Yunnan Province, Western China, became the tramping grounds of English missionary James O. Fraser (1886-1938) as he scattered the precious seed of God’s Word on endless journeys in this district and watered it with faithful prayer. He was serving with China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship, OMF). Following several years of ministry to Chinese people after arriving in the country, he was concentrating now on the tribal people found largely in the small villages of the mountainous area of Yunnan Province, and particularly the Lisu people, although he had great drawing also to the Kachin people. His district of labor was wide and rugged and at times his journeys wearisome.
He sought to be careful to maintain his spiritual status of abiding in Christ. Failing here, he knew one would lose power over the darkness which had such a grip on the tribal people. He also sought a Spirit-guided balance of work and prayer, and along with prayer, the essential elements of faith and patience. He had constant need to practice all three. He longed for a more expectant faith and for more focus and "grip" in prayer. He found that Satan fights prayer, faith and patience unceasingly.
The time came when the Holy Spirit seemed to impress him that he had been praying long enough for hundreds of families of the Lisu to put away demon worship and turn in faith to Christ. Only when the responsible members of the family put away the elements of demon worship can these elements be taken away. And only when that is done can full commitment be made to Christ. Now Fraser came to feel it was time no longer for him to just ask for families to put away demon worship, but to receive the answer by faith.
Much of the time he was living and laboring alone. As he sought to be continually witnessing and preaching among the tribespeople, when he contacted Lisu families eager to turn from worship of evil spirits to worship of the true Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, he remained with them for a time of teaching the new converts the ways of God before he must move on to other little conclaves of Lisu people. Any advancement in the work he was quick to report to the growing prayer circle back in England, for he was fully convinced that there would be no advance, no deliverance from the powers of darkness without prevailing prayer of mature saints. Disappointments and setbacks were reported for prayer as well. Faithful intercessors would take the names for earnest prayer.
A significant happening occurred at one time when Mr. Fraser journeyed to an area of tribespeople who had never had the Gospel preached to them. While preaching there to a crowd of people, one Lisu man eagerly responded to the invitation to receive Christ as Savior. Fraser found he had a Gospel of Mark. Five years before, Fraser had been handing out free copies of the booklet in the city and this man’s little son and friend were in the crowd in the city that day. They could not read but managed to get hold of a copy of the Gospel of Mark and take it home to the father in the mountains. He had read it over and over and felt the drawing of the Spirit to follow Christ. From Fraser’s extended conversation with the father, he was convinced that the man had truly put his trust in Christ. This impressed Fraser with the power of God’s Word to work in the hearts of mankind. It took several prayers, however, for the man to gather strength to destroy the elements of demon worship in his home out of fear of what might happen to his family as a result of doing so. God gave the grace to the man to burn all the elements connected with demon worship and the converted man became a brave and avid witness for his Savior.
Unexpectedly a lengthy trip to the east of China for an appendicitis operation needed to be taken. Fellowship with other missionaries in that area was great encouragement to Mr. Fraser. His musical ability was a blessing to them as he could play classic music by the hour without the music score before him. He was especially encouraged by Mr. Hoste, who had succeeded Hudson Taylor as leader of the mission. Mr. Hoste was a man who spent hours daily in prayer and Mr. Fraser counted most precious the times of intercession with him and with others.
At this time a Mr. Flagg was appointed to be a colleague with Mr. Fraser, who now undertook many journeyings on horseback except where the terrain was so rugged that walking was more sensible and safer. Over the next few years he was traveling almost constantly, preaching, tending hundreds of new converts, doing work he loved. The garments he ordinarily wore were those of the Chinese or tribespeople, which made him more acceptable to the message he bore.
What joy it was when some Lisu converts on their own initiative and expense put up the first chapel in that part of Western Yunnan! Teaching them to attend services regularly and in a reverent manner had to be undertaken as they were a "naturally jovial people." The Lisu Christians had much to learn about what the Bible teaches as right and wrong. Yet Mr. Fraser could describe some of the converts as faithful and honest, and warm-hearted and earnest, though they had much to learn. He found them a hospitable and generous people.
Eager for the Lisu church to be founded on God’s Word, Mr. Fraser journeyed briefly to Burma where American missionaries and Ba Thaw, a Burmese co-worker, helped perfect the Lisu script and finish Mr. Fraser’s translation of the Gospel of Mark. A simple dictionary and primer and an enlarged catechism with a number of new hymns were prepared as well.
Not long after returning from Burma, he had to make a return trip to pick up additional supplies of the translated materials which were being printed there. As Mr. Fraser wrote, "the breath of God was stirring hearts all through that remote region, so long without the Word of Life." Without a missionary present, young, new converts were fervently witnessing under the leadership of a strong Lisu believer. There was urgent need for the printed materials. They were learning to read and young believers were teaching others. The work was going on and on. Mr. Fraser recalled a definite time five years earlier when he had quit asking God to save hundreds of families and had simply believed that God had heard his prayer and answered, and now this was the manifestation of it five years later.
He now found himself teacher and shepherd of over 450 Christian families, totaling over two thousand people, young and old. He was given use of a little home of bamboo matting in Turtle Village six thousand feet up in the mountains, an almost entirely Christian village. He was joined by a co-worker from Burma to help translate the Gospel of John, greatly needed. From the start, he taught the Lisu people to be self-supporting as much as possible, rather than relying on foreign help. In this regard he wrote: "What I want to see everywhere is the spirit of sacrifice for the Lord who bought us with His blood – a desire to prove not what we can get but what we can give…." He himself received permission from the mission to do limited teaching of English at a local boys’ school to support himself, giving to the mission any that would exceed what salary he would otherwise have received from them.
(To be continued)
– Arranged from Behind The Ranges by Mrs. Howard Taylor. Overseas Missionary Fellowship, www.omf.org.