God’s Mission to the Lisu

The article focuses on one of the most familiar stories in CIM/OMF history told in the biographies of J. O. Fraser and books by Leila Cooke and Isobel Kuhn. Is it possible to say anything new? Are we familiar with the other missionaries who labored among the Lisu? This article tells some things in a new way through its overview of the many missionaries who served the Lisu church in China before 1952.

Walter McConnell directs OMF International’s Mission Research Department. An American, he has previously served in Taiwan as a church planter and theological educator, taught Old Testament at Singapore Bible College where he also directed the Ichthus Centre for Biblical and Theological Research, and served as pastor at the Belfast Chinese Christian Church.

God’s Mission to the Lisu

Mission Round Table Vol. 14 No. 1 (Jan-Apr 2019): 24-34

Mission is God’s work of coming into the world to make a difference in the lives of the people he created to have relationship with him but whose relationship was broken by sin. Mission is the story of how people who were once ignorant of God—indeed, people who were his enemies—have their relationship with him restored and become members of his family because of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. Mission is the command that Jesus’ disciples—from the first century until today—who, in spite of their weakness and lack of faith, obey by kneeling before him in worship and then going to tell other people about the wonders of his love. Mission is the glorious mystery that, in the last day, God will gather to himself worshippers from every tribe, nation, people, and tongue.

One of those tribes and people and tongues is known as the Lisu. They are a people for whom Christ died and to whom he sent missionaries from foreign lands and from other tribes so that they could hear and respond to the gospel. But God’s mission wasn’t only to the Lisu. It also includes sending Lisu evangelists and preachers to take the gospel to other Lisu and to different tribes. In many ways, the history of the Lisu church is one of the great success stories of CIM/OMF, particularly as related in the books Behind the Ranges and Mountain Rain.[1] Even so, various aspects of the work remain unfamiliar to many. That this is true as much for the Lisu themselves as for others, became clear as the Lisu church gathered to celebrate their 109th anniversary in northern Thailand in February 2019.

For the past few years, Lisu church leaders knew they had passed their 100th anniversary and wanted to celebrate this significant event, but were not entirely sure when their church was founded. They could have chosen the date in 1902 when the first Lisu were baptized in Burma, 1913 when J. O. Fraser was formally freed to work among the Lisu, or 1915 when Fraser baptized the first Lisu in China. In the end, they chose to mark the date Fraser first met Lisu people in 1910. As they were preparing for the celebration, I was asked to draw up an account of history, in part because someone told them I had once written a master’s thesis on Fraser and the Lisu and also because I have ready access to historical material in the OMF archives in Singapore.[2] Though I felt inadequate to talk about the history of a church to a group of around 1,000 members of that church, I was later informed that the Lisu were unaware of the numbers of missionaries who had served among them. As I expect that many others are similarly unaware, what follows provides an overview of the many missionaries who served the Lisu church in China before 1952. While more could be written to include missionaries who worked with them since that date, space constraints will limit us to the earlier work.

Who are the Lisu?

Though there can be no certainty regarding the origins of the Lisu people, most scholars conclude that they originated in eastern Tibet.[3] This is supported by Lisu tradition, migrational patterns, and linguistic development. Historically, the Lisu have claimed that their ancestors came from further up the Salween River (Nu Jiang, 怒江, in China) and Mekong rivers. The fact that the highest concentration of the tribe lives along the upper stretches of the Salween supports this. Estimates of the number of Lisu in the world range from around 800,000 to 1.5 million, with the majority living in China and others in Myanmar, Thailand, and India.[4]

Traditions and higher populations to the north are not the only signs that Lisu have progressively moved south. It is clear that the farther one travels south, the greater the change in the language through assimilation of vocabulary from other tongues. Lisu is a monosyllabic Tibeto-Burman language with six tones and no syllables ending in a consonant. The language is further distinguished by several regional dialects.[5] The dialectic differences were noted quite early. China Inland Mission workers noted that the language “in the extreme north … is quite pure”, but that further south it included “a large number of Chinese words.”[6] The absorption of Chinese words was so complete that Leila Cooke reported that the Lisu living around Stockade Hill (Muh-cheng-P’o, 木城坡) and Gospel Mountain (Fuinshan, 福音山) “often put Chinese words into their conversations without knowing it.” When alerted of this, they would reply, “Oh, no, that is really Lisu. The Chinese have taken it from us!”[7]

At the 109th celebration, a Lisu leader informed me that while reading a book of Lisu legends he discovered a word he had never heard before. No one among his contacts knew what the word meant. Finally, an elderly person explained that the term referred to a grape that was common to the area. When he asked others what they called the grape, they uniformly responded with the Chinese word pu tao because it was the only one they knew. In the 1980s, it was estimated that about 30% of the words of the Lisu dialect spoken in Thailand are derived from the Chinese Yunnanese dialect.[8] Undoubtedly, the Lisu who live in Myanmar and northern Thailand have absorbed vocabulary from the majority cultures as well as from other tribal groups with whom they share close contact.

Where are the Lisu?

The province of Yunnan in southwest China is famed for its mountain scenery, and has been styled the Switzerland of China. Being an extension of the Himalayas, the mountains of the western portion of the province are especially high with precipitous slopes plunging into deep river valleys.[9] The alternation between ranges and valleys that primarily run in a north-south direction make travel exceedingly difficult and, until recent times, few people traveled through these hills who did not live there.[10] As the Lisu made their homes among these mountain fortresses between latitudes 26º and 28º north,[11] early missionaries often referred to the area as “Lisuland.” It should be recognized that this is an incredibly imprecise term, as other peoples—both tribal and Chinese—live in the same general region, though often at different elevations. The vagueness of the term is confirmed when one takes into account the movement of the Lisu into Myanmar and Thailand.[12] Even so, reference to Lisuland points to the general area where the group live and their church is growing. Ties to the Salween valley by kinship, dialect, and history keep them in touch with their ancestral homeland and testify that the Lisu of Myanmar and Thailand could be counted among the diasporic people of the world.

   Map of the Yunnan province in King of the Lisu by Phyllis Thompson (London: OMF, 1956).

Though Hudson Taylor may never have known of the existence of the Lisu as an independent tribal group, his prayer “for 24 willing, skillful labourers” that launched the China Inland Mission (CIM) in 1865 was a significant step in the sending of the gospel to them. The prayer for twenty-four workers was significant. Before that time, Christian missionaries were limited to the coastal provinces of China and there was no gospel witness in the eleven inland provinces or Mongolia. Taylor longed to see God send two missionaries to each of the inland provinces and two to Mongolia. Movement toward Yunnan was not long in coming. In 1875, John W. Stevenson and Henry Soltau established a CIM mission station in Bhamo, Burma to serve as a post from which missionaries could travel into Yunnan with the gospel. However, the British authorities in Burma did not at first permit them to cross into China, particularly since the “Margary Affair”—which resulted in the death of a British consulor interpreter—had occurred less than a year previously and had not been resolved.[13] While waiting to get into China, Stevenson and Soltau studied Chinese and Burmese.[14] In 1876 Mr. Joseph S. Adams and Dr. Thomas and Mrs. Harvey joined them to do medical work.[15]

Although the missionaries in Bhamo were prevented from entering China from the west, John McCarthy set off from the east in 1877, travelled up the Yangtze to Chongqing and then went by foot to Yunnan before exiting China and visiting Bhamo. Though he hoped to return to China from Burma, he was not allowed. Not long afterwards, James Cameron also passed through Yunnan on one of his crossings of China. In 1881, Mr. and Mrs. George Clarke set up the first CIM station in Yunnan, in the town of Dali. A second station was opened in 1882 in Yunnanfu (now Kunming). Though their numbers were few, the missionaries were faithful in their gospel work and people began to accept the new teaching about Jesus. They also experienced the personal cost of taking part in God’s mission. Just two years after moving to Dali, Mrs. Clarke died, leaving her husband with a six-week-old child.[16]

As the missionaries came to Yunnan, Guizhou, and some other provinces, they discovered that the peoples of China included more than the Han.[17] Many minority groups, each with its own language, culture, and religious background, were found. And all of them needed Jesus. As the missionaries would duly record, even though work among the Chinese was “notoriously barren and unfruitful,” the Holy Spirit was ready to move among many tribespeople so that by 1911, “Scores of villages have become wholly Christian, and hundreds of other villages are nominally Christian” and “there are now some 50,000 of these people at least nominally Christian.”[18] Though a great work of the Spirit had begun among the Miao, Noso, Lipo (Eastern Lisu), and Lahu, many other tribes remained beyond reach of the gospel. Who would tell them about Jesus? The missionaries from overseas were so few. It was clear that more prayer was needed that the Lord of the harvest would send workers. The Lord wisely sent both foreign and local evangelists to share Jesus with these tribes, but he also prepared them in some other ways, not least by some of their age-old legends.

The gospel comes to the Lisu

Throughout the mountains of southwest China and northern Burma, a number of minority people maintained a legend of a lost book.[19] In the Lisu version, the Mother-God made books of deerskin and gave them to three brothers—the forerunners of the Chinese, Shan, and Lisu. While the Chinese brother took relatively good care of his book, he put it down in the sun to allow the ink to dry. While he wasn’t looking, chickens walked all over it. This explains why Chinese writing looks the way it does. The Shan brother took better care of his book, so Shan writing looks better than Chinese. The Lisu brother, however, did not take care of his book and, one day, a dog ate it up. This explains why the Lisu did not have books of their own. But the legend went on to say that one day a white man would come from far away and bring the Lisu their own books and their own king.[20] This legend attracted many Lisu to the gospel when J. O. Fraser and others reduced the Lisu language to writing and translated the Bible into Lisu. While some thought that Fraser was the waited-for Lisu king, the missionaries instructed them that the true king was Jesus.

Another legend spoke of a great flood. As the Lewises recount the story:

The only two survivors were a boy and his younger sister who were saved by riding out the flood in a large gourd. On finding they were the last human beings left in the world, they knew that they were the only hope for the future of mankind. However, they believed an incestuous relationship would be wrong, so they looked for signs indicating whether they should marry or not. First they separated the two stones of a grain mill and rolled them down opposite sides of a mountain. When the stones reached the bottom they kept on rolling around the mountain until they came together.

After performing other tests, the brother and sister discerned that it would be proper for them to marry. “Their union produced many children who paired up and became the progenitors of all the different tribes.”[21] This legend is told regularly as a bridge to the Old Testament account of the flood and the belief that a version of the biblical story had been retained through the centuries. The Lahu emphasize the story to the extent that many of their men wear a festive garment decorated with a gourd on the back.[22]

The legend of a white man coming to Lisuland received special attention after James Outram Fraser (富能仁, 1886–1938)—known to the Lisu as A-YI-S, “elder brother number three”—came into contact with them. They particularly took note when he used the words he jotted on paper to “speak their language.” Fraser, who would come to be known as “the apostle to the Lisu,”[23] was an accomplished pianist and engineering student who gave up what could have been a promising future in England when he sailed for China in 1908 to become a missionary with the CIM. In May 1909, he arrived in Yunnan through Burma with Mr. McCarthy, the CIM superintendent of the province, and began to learn the Chinese language in Tengyueh (now Tengchong) under the supervision of William Embery.

Fraser was originally designated to work with the Miao who lived to the north of Yunnanfu, but after living in Tengyueh for around one year, made his first acquaintance with some Lisu people when he visited Trinket Mountain. From that time on, the Lisu were on his heart and in his prayers and in those of his prayer supporters back in England.[24] His initial desire was to reach out to Lisu who lived near Tengyueh and knew Chinese. Only later did he devote significant time to learning their language and culture so that he could preach to them more directly and translate the Bible and other Christian literature into their language. Fraser—working with Ba Thaw (1891–1967), a Karen evangelist, whom Fraser first met in 1913 when Ba Thaw came to Yunnan with George Geis, an American Baptist missionary to Burma—developed an alphabet for the Lisu language that could be learned in just a few weeks and that has stood the test of time as it is still used today.[25] Before his death in 1938, Fraser translated two of the Gospels, a catechism, and many hymns into Lisu. He also worked with others to translate the rest of the New Testament and produced a Lisu dictionary and grammar.[26]

   James and Roxie Fraser on their wedding day

A bachelor for many years, Fraser joked that he was “the loneliest man in China.” In 1929, he married Rosie [Roxie] Maud Dymond (富師母, 1904–1972).[27] The Frasers started out married life with a journey through western Yunnan that would last for five-and-a-half months.[28] As they sought tribal people who knew Christ and others who didn’t, the newlyweds slept in simple houses, chapel buildings, and under the stars. Simplicity suited Fraser. As he once told Roxie, “You know what my dream has always been? Well, it has been to have my wife on one mule, myself on another, and all my worldly possessions on a third.”[29] Fraser and Roxie had three daughters, the youngest being born after her father’s death in 1938.[30] Roxie continued to serve with CIM/OMF until her retirement in 1955.

Assessing his accomplishments, Neel Roberts says that “In the annals of CIM history, J. O. Fraser stands out as the preeminent field missionary among the tribal groups of China.”[31] But while Fraser was the model missionary and the most famous of the missionaries to the Lisu, he was not alone. God’s work requires partnership, not people who attempt to do everything by themselves. Following Fraser—the Englishman who paid numerous visits to the Salween valley while living in Tengyueh—the next five couples to work among the Lisu all came from the United States or Canada and they all moved into Lisuland.

The first to move into Lisuland were Herbert W. Flagg (范善慶, 1889–1973) and his wife Minnie (nee Green, 范??, 1884–1963). Like Fraser, Rev. Flagg preached Jesus and built up the church in the hills above the Salween from his home in Tengyueh until his marriage in 1921. The newlyweds made preparations to move into the village of Longling where a “temporary house” with four rooms “made of thatch and woven bamboo laths” was built for them.[32] Within a very short time, around 200 Lisu believers who had been carefully taught by the Flaggs and Mr. Fraser were baptized and more baptisms were expected to come. The Flaggs returned to the States in 1931 when Minnie became too ill for them to remain.

  Flagg (left) and Fraser (right) in Lisu dress

The next missionary couple to move into Lisuland was Allyn (楊思慧, 1896–1990) and Leila (宋大成, 1896–1943) Cooke.[33] When Allyn completed thirty-seven years of formal service with CIM/OMF in 1955, his work with the Lisu was far from over. During his career and throughout retirement, he helped translate and revise the entire Lisu Bible and produced Bible study materials in Lisu that kept him busy into his 90s.[34] Leila introduced the Lisu church to many English-speaking readers through her books, Honey Two of Lisu-land and Fish Four and the Lisu New Testament.[35]

The Cookes were still fairly new missionaries when Fraser returned to England in 1922 on his first furlough. They came to love the Lisu, learned their language well, and were on hand to see the church begin to grow at an astonishing rate. By the time Fraser returned to Yunnan, they were leading a Bible school in the newly established station of Gospel Mountain or Fuinshan (福音山) and had spiritual responsibility for around 1,000 Christians.

Before the Cookes went to China, Fraser had taught Lisu people to sing hymns—a good means of teaching Christian doctrine to a naturally musical people. And though Fraser might be given the title of chief musician, the Cookes’ musical training made a significant impact on the Lisu church. Leila, a pianist, and Allyn, a violinist, were responsible for teaching Lisu Christians to sing in four-part harmony. Many visitors to Lisuland have commented on Lisu singing.[36] Fraser himself said that listening to the Lisu sing “has often brought tears to my eyes.”[37] While attending the celebrations of the Lisu church in February 2019, we had many opportunities to hear them harmonize hymns. Hearing them sing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in their own language, the words proclaiming that “the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ has come and he shall reign forever and ever” took on new meaning, as it was clear that the Lisu were among the people from every tribe and nation and people and tongue who will worship the Lord of heaven and earth.

   Lisu singing “Hallelujah Chorus” at the 109th anniversary

Another missionary to the Lisu, Carl G. Gowman (高漫,[38] 1886–1930), had worked in the office of the Ford Motor Co. and studied at Moody Bible Institute[39] before going to Tengyueh, China in 1911 where he began to tune his ear and mind to studying Chinese. In those days, new CIM workers who came single were required not to marry for two years so that they could focus on language and cultural studies. This must have made life difficult for him and Anna C. Dukeshereer (席克敬, 1889–?) who arrived in China eight days after he did and was sent to Dali for language study. After a 27 November 1913 wedding in Tengyueh, they spent six years working with the Eastern Lisu in Sa-p’u-shan (洒普山) and Yuanmowhsien (元謀縣) before moving to take up a ministry in Muh-cheng-P’o (木城坡, Stockade Hill) where they served until Mr. Gowman’s death in 1930. Gowman was so proficient speaking Lisu that he was selected to be the language examiner for the language. Even so, his major accomplishment was probably the encouragement he gave to Lisu believers to share the gospel with others so that the good news of Jesus could spread to the tribes who lived farther up the Salween.

DeWitt Payne (貝文華, 1885–1992) went to China from Salt Lake City, Utah in 1924 and married Grace L. Fraser (福恩喜, 1898–?) in Yunnanfu in 1928. The Paynes lived a roving existence, at times making their home at Yungchang (1928–31), Luchang (1932), Longling (1935) and Mengka (1936–7 and 1939–41). During their first couple of years at Yungchang, four Lisu evangelists were sent by Mr. Gowman from the south and west to engage the Lisu living farther up the Salween. After walking eight days to Yungchang, they went on a further nineteen-day journey to the north but returned disheartened, as the men of the northern villages were all away and they had no opportunities to evangelize. A second attempt—with Mr. Payne traveling with them—proved successful. This trip had been committed to the Lord in prayer, and resulted in some thirty families renouncing idolatry and turning to Jesus. As they approached new villages, the Lisu evangelists cautioned Payne to wait in hiding until after they had first gone in to talk to the people who had never seen a white man before. Before the end of 1929, around 120 families from the region were following the Lord.[40] Many of those who turned to Jesus were Black Lisu who had never heard the gospel before. While this was wonderful news for the evangelists to take back to their mother church, they also tasted the bitter side of gospel ministry when one of their number died of malaria.[41] Foreign and local Christians shared in the work, the joy, and the sorrow. Knowing that the Lisu had originally come down the Salween from Tibet, Payne desired that God would use them to take the gospel back to their ancestral homeland. The Paynes retired from service with CIM in 1948.

The Lisu team was enriched by three young Americans who arrived in China on 16 October 1926: Francis J. Fitzwilliam (李崇德, 1900–1940), John B. Kuhn (楊志英, 1906–1966), and Joseph H. Casto (張師道, 1901–92).

Back row (from left): Cooke, Fraser, Fitzwilliam, Casto. Front: Mrs. Casto with child, Mrs. Fitzwilliam with child, Mrs. Cooke. China’s Millions, North American edition (January 1934): 8.

Francis Fitzwilliam went to China from Illinois and married Jennie Kingston (康榮善, 1903–2003) a year later. The Fitzwilliams served in Muhchengpo from 1931–34 and again in 1936 and at Lungchiu in 1937 and from 1939 to 1940 when Mr. Fitzwilliam died of Typhus.[42] For many years, this couple lived an eight-day journey from their nearest CIM neighbors. In that isolated setting, they busied themselves with preaching the gospel, building up the church, and encouraging Lisu evangelists along their way. While they were at Muhchengpo, the Lisu church numbered about 1,000 members, though the number of teachers remained small and many had lost their first love.[43] In 1932, Fitzwilliam reported that fifteen Lisu evangelists had been sent out for between two months and one year, some traveling for two weeks before they arrived at their destination for preaching and teaching about Jesus. Along the way, they found many who were interested in turning to Jesus.

Joseph Casto (張師道, 1901–92), from Spokane, Washington, USA, married Alice Naughton (安榮德,1904–2000), from Glendale, California, in 1927 at Shanghai. They lived in Tengyueh from 1928–30 and moved to the new station at Fuinshan (福音山, Gospel Mountain) from 1930 until they went on furlough in 1933 and where they returned from 1935–36. In 1937, they lived for a short time in Chenkang until they were forced to return to America at the end of the year for health reasons. In addition to working with the Lisu, they also reached out to the Lahu.

The third young American to go to China in 1926 for Lisu work was twenty-year-old John B. Kuhn (楊志英, 1906–66). Kuhn joined the CIM after completing a course of study at Moody Bible Institute where he met Miss Isobel S. Miller (宓貴靈, 1901–57). The two were engaged before John left for China, but Isobel didn’t come out until 1928. John and Isobel were married in Yunnanfu in 1929, less than two weeks after J. O. Fraser and Roxie. In her autobiography, By Searching, Isobel indicates that she felt called to the Lisu in 1924 while hearing J. O. Fraser speak at The Firs camp in Bellingham, Washington.[44] In years to come, the Lord would use her many books to inform Christians all around the world about the needs in Lisuland and how God was building his church there.[45]

The Kuhns initially worked among the Chinese in Yungping. Not until March 1934 did Mr. Fraser ask them to move into Lisuland to help the Cookes who had too much work to do to follow up the new Christians won to the Savior by the evangelists who had been sent out by Gowman. After an exploratory journey, the Kuhns moved to Oak Flat (Padé or Paddy) in December 1934. They then moved back and forth between the hills above the Salween and the Yunnan plain until they left China in 1950. After the death of Fraser, John served as the CIM Superintendent of Western Yunnan. He later worked as the Superintendent of the CIM/OMF work in Northern Thailand and then of Laos, before taking on an international role in Singapore.

   The first girls’ Bible School with Isobel Kuhn (back row, third from the left)

One of the most important parts of the Kuhns’ ministry was instructing Lisu to become teachers of God’s word. While some of this happened during the Short Term Bible Schools, a major part of the teaching took place during the Rainy Season Bible Schools (R.S.B.S.) which was known by the Lisu as the “three months’ Bible School.”[46] The first R.S.B.S. was held in Oak Flat in 1938 as a means of providing deep training for the Lisu who lived in the upper Salween valley. The first year about fifteen full-time and more part-time students were present. By 1949, around fifty attended, including a Nepali who had been led to Christ by Lisu evangelists in Burma during the war. From the beginning, the local church was responsible for the material provisions for the school, selecting who should attend, and providing for their needs while there. The missionaries were responsible for the spiritual teaching.[47] The school was attended by full-time teachers, voluntary workers, church leaders, and promising young people. In time, a girls’ Bible School[48] and boys’ Bible School were started.

As the Bible School’s goal was to equip church leaders, it was essential that everyone attending had a personal relationship with Christ. The School thus began with leaders interviewing the students about their spiritual lives. John Kuhn wrote, “the first two weeks of the School the main emphasis was upon regeneration. There was little use teaching the precious things of our most holy faith to any but who were born-again.”[49] The overall purpose of the R.S.B.S. was “To keep abreast of the needs of the growing church; to teach the faithful men who in turn would teach others; to provide faithful shepherds over the district churches; to preserve a New Testament pattern of church growth.”[50] The first R.S.B.S. commenced just after the completion of the Lisu New Testament. Much time was given for the students—all of whom had received little formal education—to copy portions of the New Testament as it was not yet in print. Hymns translated into Lisu or written by the Lisu themselves were also taught as a means of helping congregations throughout the mountains. While this was not the only way the Bible was taught, during the school’s ten plus years of operation, it was the main teaching venue for church leaders and it provided them with the basis for their teaching for the rest of the year.

Another American who came to work with the Lisu a few years after the three just named was Charles Peterson (畢德森, 1908–1995)[51], widely known as Brother Three. Charlie, who arrived in China in October 1931 from New Jersey, began to learn Lisu around 1936 when he joined the Cookes in Luda. As he developed in ministry experience and language he began to teach at the Rainy Season Bible School, a role he carried out for many years. During his frequent travels, Peterson took along some basic medicines, a pair of dental forceps, and a phonograph with records to play gospel talks and songs in Lisu—all useful tools for a missionary at the time. While he was thrilled when people showed interest in the gospel of Jesus, he was aware that “Mass movements always bring a certain amount of anxiety, because many who profess to be ‘followers of God’ do not know what it is to have a living faith in the Lord.”[52] The lesson he learned should never be forgotten by anyone who desires to share the gospel with others and see churches multiply. Solid foundations must be laid through consistent biblical teaching. Though he rejoiced when people came to Christ, Peterson was well acquainted with the pain of losing and burying co-workers as he buried Earl Carlson in 1937 and J. O. Fraser in the following year.

The next missionary to the Salween Lisu was Allan Charles William Crane (孔雅綸, 1909–1987), who left his home in Ipswich, England, and arrived in China exactly one week after Charles Peterson in October 1931. In 1936, he married Lydia Evelyn Baker (貝道義, 1908–1984), from Oregon, USA, in Hankow. After serving elsewhere for a number of years, the Cranes lived at Fuinshan from 1940–42 and 1947–49. That post separated them from their nearest missionary neighbors by a ten day’s walk. Toward the end of their time in Yunnan, Allan and Evelyn began to emphasize training Lisu and Lahu children and ran a Sunday School and Vacation Bible Schools so that the younger generation of the church would be trained in their faith.[53] Like other CIM workers, the Cranes did not limit their ministry to one tribe, and also worked with the Lahu and Liti people and helped to produce literature in those tongues. They showed great concern for minority people who had no Christian witness and no Christian literature and did what they could to provide for them.[54] The Cranes moved to Thailand in 1951 and immediately began to seek out tribal people to whom they could minister.[55]

    Job Fish, Allyn Cooke, and Allan Crane in translation consultation. The Millions, British ed. (April 1958): 45.

Orville Carlson (賈怡承, 1908–2001) went to China from a farming background in northern British Columbia, Canada in 1936, following his brother Earl who had joined CIM two years earlier and who had been struck down by typhus in 1937 just as his Lisu was reaching the level necessary to share the gospel. Orville joined the Kuhns in 1941 to work at Padé. On the six-day trek from Baoshan, Carlson’s first glimpse of the Salween stirred up a remembrance of his brother who had died up the river to the north a few years earlier. He felt that as Earl had fallen “with a blazing torch in his hand,” that “perhaps it is for me to pick up that torch where spent but clutching fingers laid it down.”[56] When, on the following day, he saw a young Lisu girl approach the Kuhns with her hands outstretched, he made the mistake of thinking that she was a beggar when, in fact, she was extending “the right hand of fellowship” in proper Christian Lisu fashion.

When Carlson went to help teach at the Bible School (through an interpreter), he was introduced to another Christian Lisu tradition—a line of people waiting to welcome guests through an arch made of tree branches. After singing a hymn, the guests are welcomed through the arch amid much handshaking. Our recent experience at the celebration in northern Thailand proved that this custom is still in effect though the arch was not as primitive as they once were.

“Crude, but full of meaning, is the arch of welcome under which Lisu Christians pass as they approach a short-term Bible School.” China’s Millions, North American edition (October 1941): 154.

    Lisu 109th anniversary welcome arch

Carlson resigned from CIM in 1944 due to the war, taking up a commission with the British Army, and was readmitted in 1946. In 1948, he married Hazel M. Waller (王榮蘋, 1920–2008) from Pennsylvania, in Kunming. After moving to Thailand, they worked with the Pwo Karen.

These were the main CIM members who worked with the Salween Lisu in China. In addition, a few others who were assigned to reach out to the Chinese or other tribes also shared the gospel with Lisu or were involved in ministry to them for a short period of time.[57] Others would later join the work in Thailand, one of whom—Lilian Hamer (何莉莉, 1913–1959)—would become OMF’s first martyr in that country.[58]

Lisu church growth

Counting from J. O. Fraser’s first encounter with Lisu in 1910 until John Kuhn left in 1951, the CIM had just over forty years of ministry to the Lisu in China. During that period, more than twenty CIMers spent between a few months and more than twenty years working with this people who turned to Jesus in such great numbers that it is possible that more than one-half of the 700,000 or so Lisu in China today call themselves Christians. The number is so large that they are considered a Christian ethnic group. Some estimates place Lisu Christians in Myanmar at 90 percent.[59] More conservative estimates reckon that between 75 and 80 percent of the 400,000 Lisu in Myanmar are Christian.[60]

While the number of Lisu in Thailand is much lower as is the percentage of Christians, a sizeable number can be found there too as the 109th celebration aimed to have 1,000 people in attendance. While we heard no exact count, and Lisu from at least three different countries came and went, the event was ablaze with the beautiful costumes of Lisu women and resounded with their singing. And though this was a major festival, we were assured that their Christmas gatherings were even larger.

Many have wondered what has given rise to the tremendous growth of the Lisu church. Several possibilities could be suggested.


It is well known that from his early days in Yunnan, Fraser stressed the need for prayer in the spiritual life of the believer and for the spread of the church. Its place was so crucial that he wrote: “Just as a plant may die for lack of watering, so may a genuine work of God die and rot for lack of prayer.”[61] He thus encouraged his prayer band to pray new believers into the church, uphold and nurture them, and bring them to maturity in the faith. General requests would not do. His requests were so specific that prayer partners felt that they lived “just next door” to the Lisu. His letters still serve as models for today, as they contained interesting information, explicit requests, and devotional teaching. His emphasis on prayer was absorbed by his coworkers who wrote detailed prayer letters and books so that their supporters could uphold the work.

As important as it is for people in sending countries to pray for the work, it is equally important that new believers learn how to pray whether by memorizing a prayer or learning to sing a hymn. One of the prayers taught in early years focused on God as Father and Creator and asked for protection from evil spirits so that they could remain faithful to Christ.

God, our Father,
Creator of heaven and earth,
Creator of mankind,
We are Your children,
We are followers of Jesus.
Watch over us this day;
Don’t let the evil spirits see us.
Trusting in Jesus, Amen.[62]

The Lisu were also taught to pray for those who were sick that God would heal them. In addition to the practical reality that medical care was almost non-existent in the mountain villages, by teaching them to pray to Jesus—the Great Physician—for healing, new believers were less likely to listen to their neighbors who exhorted them to sacrifice to the spirits they had previously worshipped. When they prayed and someone was healed, they learned through experience that they didn’t need a missionary to pray for them but that God would listen to them. Undoubtedly, prayer played an important part in the growth of this church.

Itinerant evangelism

Along with prayer, the growth of the church was linked to itinerant evangelism by the Lisu themselves. As the work began, Western missionaries traveled from village to village with the gospel. By the fall of 1916, the first fruits of great growth were being gathered, but it was not until 1922 that the first permanent station was established among the Lisu. Throughout this time, and for many years to come, the missionaries traveled throughout the mountains to preach and relied upon local evangelists who took the gospel to many places they could never reach. Some visits took place because distant Lisu had heard that Jesus had power over the evil spirits and had come looking for a teacher because they wanted to be set free. Treks to other locations were planned so that others might have a first opportunity to hear about Jesus. The fact that both missionaries and locals worked together in this work enhanced the spread of the church.

The Bible

Another key factor in the growth of the Lisu church is the Bible. While the legend of the lost book may have stirred up interest, the possession of God’s book that spoke their language was of greater importance. Few Lisu had received any education prior to becoming Christians. As the missionaries translated the Bible for them and taught them how to read, they began to hear God’s word speak. And though the missionaries agreed that Lisu believers only needed to understand the plan of salvation to go and plant a new church, they were adamant that the evangelists needed a deeper understanding of the Bible to help the church grow. For this reason they developed the short-term and Rainy Season Bible Schools mentioned above. Of these schools, Gowman wrote:

In our work here, as in all our other fields among the tribes, we have consistently placed the emphasis strongly upon the conducting of short-term Bible Schools, not only at the main station but in the larger out-stations from time to time. This we consider THE most important part of our work. We believe in education, but it is Bible education which is of primary importance.[63]

And though Bible teaching was the major responsibility of the missionaries, it did not take long before Lisu evangelists joined them in teaching others.

April Bible School with John Kuhn


The singing of hymns was such an important factor in the growth of the Lisu church that a doctoral dissertation has been written on the phenomenon.[64] Tegenfeldt describes the importance of singing in the growth of the Lisu church.

Vocal music was an important facet of Animist Lisu culture, which the missionaries incorporated very early into the life of the infant Church. Village choirs, composed of young and old of both sexes, proved very popular, the villagers often singing until late at night. Lisu people, even those somewhat older, usually found it easy to learn to read, using the orthography developed by Fraser. In fact, it often was the desire to sing in the choir which motivated them to learn to read. After learning to read well enough to sing from the Lisu hymnal, they usually progressed to the point where they could read the Scriptures as well. The choir experience was often the means whereby Lisus became literate, in some cases were introduced to the Christian faith for the first time, and were strengthened in the Christian life.[65]

In addition to translations of common western hymns, other lyrics were developed for teaching the Christian faith to the Lisu. As early as 1917, words were set to music to provide young believers with an outline of Old and New Testament teaching that supplemented the few translated portions of Scripture.[66] When the missionaries suggested that traditional Lisu music and poetic forms be used for hymns, some church leaders “protested that the new hymns had a heathen flavor.”[67] Eventually, though, they were added to the hymnal. As Lisu poetry is in some ways structured like Hebrew poetry, some Lisu hymns appear to be modeled on the biblical Psalms.

Lord Jesus, Thou art my road!
Lord Christ, Thou art my way!
Oh, what joy when my journey’s done.
Oh, what happiness when I’ve arrived!

My hope is up above.
My trusting-place is up yonder.
Because of that my joy is full.
For that reason my joy is complete.

When this house of flesh falls over,
When this tabernacle falls down,
I hope for the Great House,
I think of the Great Home.

My trusting place is secure.
My hope also is sound.
May God’s will be done.
May the Lord’s wish be accomplished.[68]

As it condenses scriptural truth, provides words for prayer, and motivates people to read God’s word, hymnody is a potent stimulus for spiritual and numerical growth in the church. It clearly moved many Lisu to listen to the gospel, respond to it with faith, and allow its message to fill their hearts and move them to action.

Three-self principles

One more factor that may have prompted the growth of the church is the use of the three-self principles as developed by Roland Allen.[69] According to Allen, self-support, self-extension, and self-government should always be united in church practice. While it is not known how Fraser discovered Allen’s work, it is clear from something his co-worker, Francis Flagg, wrote in China’s Millions that they had already been impacted by the 1912 publication of Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? In describing a 1917 journey he took with Fraser, Flagg wrote:

Here, by necessity, some of the conditions idealized in the book, ‘Paul’s Missionary Methods and Ours,’ are realized. The missionary visits a raw heathen village and after only about three days’ teaching and instruction the people pull down the spirit altars and perhaps six or seven families accept the Gospel. The missionary returns after a year’s absence and finds them true to the light they have received and very anxious for more instruction.[70]

He continues his description of Lisu Christianity by recording that the first Christian chapel in Lisuland would not be recognized as such by people at home but that its builders are “perfectly satisfied” with it. Their basic confession is that, “I’m a student of the Books; I’m bound for Glory!” He further tells that the Lisu, not knowing how to conduct a Christian funeral, wrote that the deceased was a “student of the Books” and a faithful Christian on a piece of paper and then “sent the message to the Lord by burning the paper at his coffin.”[71]

If Allen’s earlier book had opened Fraser’s eyes to the possibilities of stimulating church growth by giving the local church responsibility over all the work, his second book sank it deep into bedrock. John Kuhn, who came to China in 1926, recorded that “The first book that that I ever noticed Mr. Fraser reading was Roland Allen’s [1927 publication] Spontaneous Expansion of the Church.”[72] Kuhn went on to write:

From the early days he was persuaded of indigenous development in church growth. The foundations laid in the Lisu church reflect his early conviction of this. When the Lisu wanted to take the Gospel to their fellow tribesmen, Fraser encouraged them to go right ahead and exhorted those left behind to support the evangelists. Did they want to build chapels? They were instructed to do so with their own skill and materials. God blessed their “home grown” efforts which developed into a most exemplary work.… His persistence was rewarded when the Yunnan Chinese and tribal churches brought into being by the C.I.M. were growing in full swing with indigenous principles. Meanwhile we in the Lisu work were allowed to reap the results of his early planting. Fraser’s clear grasp of indigenous principles was aptly and consistently applied to the emerging Lisu Church. The expansion of that church both in China and Burma give genuine evidence of their validity.[73]

While some of Fraser’s ideas came from his reading of Scripture and Roland Allen, others developed from pragmatic concerns. One of the chief of these was the necessity of using local evangelists. When the strangeness of the white man distracted the people so that they could not remember his message, he determined that Lisu Christians should be at the forefront of evangelizing their own people.[74] This characterized the movement. As Fraser wrote, “they have been saved not merely for their own sake, but saved in order to reach the unsaved all around them,” a task that included both Lisu and people from other tribes.[75]

  Boys copying Lisu Scriptures

If self-propagation was essential, so was self-support. From the very beginning, Lisu Christians were to provide for their own material needs without outside support. They thus built their own chapels, supplying everything needed for the services, and supported their own evangelists and teachers. By the time the first CIM mission station for the Lisu opened in Muchengpo in 1922, thirty chapels had been built without recourse to Western funds. By 1926 these had been expanded to forty-four and by 1928 to fifty-three.

The third “self”—self-government—was practiced from the beginning as is illustrated by the building of chapels when, where, and how the Lisu wanted them. They were also taught to lead their own services so that they could worship God without a missionary present. Leaders were selected by the Lisu themselves, the only requirement was that the person be called of God. As Isobel Kuhn wrote, “We may put up with ignorance, inexperience, and shortcomings, but a call from God they must have…. No development of the whole work rejoiced me more than to see the way God has been raising up these native workers.”[76] In 1927—only five years after the beginning of the movement—the 2,036 communicant members in the Muchengpo district were served by fifty-nine elders and seventy-eight deacons—all unpaid.

The first pastor—Paul Tiger-Fish—was ordained in January 1930. He had served as an evangelist and the head of all the evangelists in the Muchengpo district. Gowman recorded that, “Although since the beginning of 1927 the Lisu evangelists have in fact exercised all the prerogatives of ordained pastors, it was felt wise not to administer formal ordination until they had been in the work for five years.”[77] The ordination of Paul Tiger-Fish was followed by the ordination of Moses Fish in 1935.[78]

Self-governance impacted the sending of evangelists. While a missionary might suggest where evangelism should be done (in part, because they were more aware of the wider needs), the churches would decide who would go, where they would go, and how much the evangelists would be paid.

Prayer, itinerant evangelism, the Bible in their language, hymnody, and three-self principles can all be cited as things that led to the growth of the Lisu church. And it is likely that each of these had a part to play in the spectacular expansion of Christianity within this tribe. Missionaries working with other groups would do well to emulate the principles discussed here. Even so, no one should conclude that there is a formula here that will always receive the same result. Many groups of people have been prayed for, evangelized by outsiders and insiders, had the Bible, hymns, and other teaching materials prepared for their languages, and had a local church established following three-self standards and yet seen no growth. Though some may see this as a lack of faith on behalf of the missionaries or a proof that the soil where the seed was sown was too rocky, there may be another explanation.

John 3 records a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus about being born again. According to Jesus, spiritual rebirth is essential for anyone to enter the kingdom of God. He then informs his new friend of the mysterious nature of salvation. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 ESV). And though neither Nicodemus nor we can fully understand what happens when we share the wonderful story that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), the Holy Spirit blows where he will and sweeps the people he desires into his kingdom. Whether he does that in a big way, as with the Lisu, or in a smaller way, as with many other groups, he is the one who leads people into his kingdom. As this paper has shown, we have much to learn from the work that the Spirit performed among the Lisu. And while we desire to see him impact other people in the same way, let us always share the good news of Jesus not to the glory of a man, tribe, people, or even a strategy, but to the glory of God.

[1] Geraldine Taylor, Behind the Ranges (London: CIM, 1944); Eileen Crossman, Mountain Rain (Sevenoaks: OMF, 1982).

[2] Walter McConnell, “J. O. Fraser and Church Growth among the Lisu of Southwest China” (master’s thesis, Regent College, 1987).

[3] Early discussions of Lisu origins can be found in George Forrest, “Journey on the Upper Salween, October–December 1905” The Geographical Journal 32 (July to December 1908): 260–1 and J. O. Fraser, Handbook of the Lisu (Yawyin) Language (Rangoon: Government Printing, 1922), iii. For a recent examination concluding that “we will probably never know” the origin of the Lisu, see Michelle Zack, The Lisu: Far from the Rule (Boulder: University of Colorado, 2017), 29–34.

[4] It is impossible to be precise about the number of Lisu in the world today. At the lower end of the scale, Ethnologue reports 610,000 Lisu in China and a total of 767,000 in all countries (though this may refer to active speakers). Ethnologue, “Lisu,” https://www.ethnologue.com/language/lis (accessed 9 March 2019). Around twenty years ago, James S. Olson said the population “probably exceeds 800,000,” more than 500,000 of whom live in China. Olson, “Lisu,” in An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998), 206. Michelle Zack estimates 1.5 million in her magazine article and about 1.15 million in her book. Michelle Zack, “From Struggle to Success, Lisu Hill Tribe enters the 21st Century,” http://www.khaosodenglish.com/featured/2018/01/18/lisu-hill-tribe-enters-21st-century/ (accessed 9 March 2019), 14 and The Lisu, 14. Zach correctly notes that “Numbers and even names applied to minority groups by nations are not consistent and shouldn’t be assumed to be accurate, particularly in areas of conflict. … Census data may be intentionally inaccurate and identities ambiguous—groups exaggerate their population to appear ‘bigger’ as they vie for political power. Questions of what constitutes or how to define an ethnic group (or its political activities) are becoming more, not less, contested today than in the past.” Zack, The Lisu, 15–16.

[5] Ethnologue lists ten different dialects. Ethnologue, “Lisu.” From an early date, missionaries of the China Inland Mission distinguished between the Western Lisu who lived along the Salween River and the Eastern Lisu who lived in the Sapushan district along the Yangtze. The two groups shared only about 50% of their vocabulary and were said to speak dialects that were so different that they were mutually unintelligible. Furthermore, the Eastern Lisu referred to themselves as “Lihpaw” and were only called Lisu by the Chinese. Fraser, Handbook, iv. The difference was confirmed at the 109th celebration by a Lisu leader who said that when he visited these people he could not understand when they spoke to one another. He added that they are not Lisu but Lipo (a variant spelling from that used by Fraser). Due to the differences, early missionaries concluded that “co-operation in the matter of literature appears to be out of the question.” “Editorial Notes: More Work Among the Tribes,” China’s Millions, British ed. (December 1915): 189, http://findit.library.yale.edu/catalog/digcoll:220325 (accessed 9 March 2019). The Lipo, who were evangelized from a slightly earlier time than the Lisu, deserve more historical research.

[6] Grace R. Liddell, “An Introduction to the Lisu Tribe of Yunnan,” China’s Millions, North American (NA) ed. 48 (April 1940): 54.

[7] Leila R. Cooke, Fish Four and the Lisu New Testament (London: CIM, 1947), 11–12, https://missiology.org.uk/pdf/e-books/cooke-l-r/fish-four-lisu-nt_cooke.pdf (accessed 19 March 2019).

[8] Paul Lewis and Elaine Lewis, Peoples of the Golden Triangle (London: Thames and Hudson, 1984), 242.

[9] The highest mountain in Yunnan is Meili Xue Shan (梅里雪山) which rises to over 22,000 feet (6,000 meters) and is bounded by the Mekong and Salween rivers.

[10] The first journey up the Salween by Western explorers took place in 1905. If the report of that exploration is accurate, much of the region was wild with no effective governmental oversight. Forrest, “Journey on the Upper Salween.”

[11] Frank M. LeBar, Gerald C. Hickey, and John K. Musgrave, Ethnic Groups of Mainland Southeast Asia (New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1964), 28.

[12] Lisu had begun to move into Burma before the beginning of the twentieth century. The available data indicates that the first Lisu to enter Thailand arrived from Burma during the early 1920s, although some residents in the Fang area claimed to have arrived as early as 1905. Lewis and Lewis, Peoples, 242.

[13] Augustus Margary, the interpreter for Colonel Browne’s expedition to China, was killed along with five Chinese companions on 21 February 1875. For more information, see A. J. Broomhall, Refiner’s Fire, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century, Vol. 5 (Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton and Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1985).

[14] Henry Soltau, “Work in Rangoon,” China’s Millions, British ed. (December 1875): 81, https://archive.org/details/chinasmillions7576chin (accessed 19 March 2019).

[15] Marshall Broomhall, The Jubilee Story of the China Inland Mission (London: Morgan and Scott and CIM, 1915), 106, https://archive.org/details/jubileestoryofch00broo/page/n6 (accessed 19 March 2019).

[16] After the death of his wife, George Clarke remarried, lost another wife, and remarried again. He remained in China until his death in 1919. “In Memoriam: Mrs. J . W. Stevenson.—Mr. George W. Clarke.—Mrs. J. Brock.—Miss I. Cormack,” China’s Millions, British ed. (March 1920): 35, http://findit.library.yale.edu/catalog/digcoll:220838 (accessed 19 March 2019).

[17] Elsewhere in Southeast Asia tribal work had been going on for some time. By the time Adoniram Judson died in 1850, around 7000 people in Burma had come to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, including a Karen man—Ko Tha Byu (ca 1778–1840)—who joined George Dana Boardman (1801–31) to pioneer work with his own people. By 1856, the Karen church numbered around 11,000. Missionaries in Burma began to reach the Chin in 1845, the Shan in 1861, and the Kachin in 1876. The American Baptist, George Geis (ca. 1860–1936), had contact with Lisu in Burma as early as 1898, communicating with them in Kachin, and baptized a Lisu couple—Ngwa Tar and Gu Na Du—in 1902.

[18] Marshall Broomhall, “Preface,” in Samuel R. Clarke, Among the Tribes in South-west China (London: CIM and Morgan and Scott, 1911), vii, https://archive.org/details/amongtribesinsou00clarrich (accessed 19 March 2019).

[19] Tegenfeldt says that this story is reported, with variations, by the Karen, Lahu, Wa, Akha, Lisu, Lushai, some Naga from India, and Kui from northeast Thailand. Herman Tegenfeldt, A Century of Growth: The Kachin Baptist Church of Burma (South Pasadena, CA: William Carey, 1974), 46.

[20] Leila Cooke, Fish Four, 11–12; Phyllis Thompson, King of the Lisu (London: CIM, 1956), 12.

[21] Lewis and Lewis, Peoples, 242.

[22] Other tribal groups from southern China tell similar stories about a flood and humankind being saved by a gourd. Jia Zhi, “Epics in China,” in Religion, Myth and Folklore in the World’s Epics: The Kalevala and its Predecessors, ed. Lauri Honko (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1990), 506–07.

[23] Allyn Cooke, “In Memoriam: James Outram Fraser, B.Sc.,” China’s Millions (December 1938), 180.

[24] James O. Fraser, “Work among Aborigines in the Tengyueh District,” China’s Millions, British ed. (August 1913), 128.

[25] Ba Thaw spent much of his life sharing the gospel with the Lisu. It was said of him that he “lived with the Lisus, dressed like a Lisu, and consistently sought to learn more about their language and culture.” Anna May Say Pa, “Ba Thaw,” in A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, ed. Scott W Sunquist (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2001), 50. He thus modeled what it is like for Christian evangelists to go beyond their own people and culture to reach others for Christ.

[26] James O. Fraser, Handbook of the Lisu Language (Rangoon: Government Printing, 1922); “The New Testament in Lisu,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (September 1937), 135.

[27] Roxie was the daughter of Frank Dymond, an English Methodist missionary who had sailed for China on the same ship as Samuel Pollard with whom he worked for many years to bring the gospel to the Miao people. It is interesting to note that Roxie’s father’s childhood friend developed the script for the Miao language and her husband did the same for Lisu.

[28] Roxie Fraser, “J. O. Fraser: A Memoir,” in Fraser and Prayer (London: CIM, 1963), 6.

[29] Roxie Fraser, “A Memoir,” 5.

[30] This daughter, Eileen, wrote the biography of her father titled, Mountain Rain.

[31] Neel Roberts, No Solitary Effort: How the CIM Worked to Reach the Tribes of Southwest China (Pasadena: William Carey, 2013), 71.

[32] James O. Fraser, quoted in “Here and there,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (February 1922), 30, https://archive.org/details/millions1922chin (accessed 19 March 2019).

[33] The Cookes have a unique distinction in that they joined the CIM after graduating from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles—now Biola University—with ten other members of their class. They made up 17% of their graduating class and was the largest group of missionaries to go out with CIM since the original Lammermuir Party sailed in 1866.

After the death of Leila, Allyn married Esther Francis Freeman (費文德, 1915–2009) in 1944 in Kunming. Esther had come to China in 1940 from Vancouver, Canada.

[34] More than thirty years ago when I was writing my master’s thesis on J. O. Fraser and the Lisu, I met Allyn Cooke and Esther at their home in Salem, Oregon. At that time, Allyn epitomized what it means to live a simple lifestyle. Most of his activities revolved around his reading of God’s word, prayer, and preparing Bible study notes for the Lisu church in Myanmar.

[35] Leila R. Cooke, Honey Two of Lisu-land (London: CIM, 1933); Fish Four and the Lisu New Testament (London: CIM, 1947), https://missiology.org.uk/pdf/e-books/cooke-l-r/fish-four-lisu-nt_cooke.pdf (accessed 19 march 2019).

[36] See Aminta Arrington, “Hymns of the Everlasting Hills: The Written Word in an Oral Culture in Southwest China” (PhD diss., Biola University, 2014).

[37] J. O. Fraser letter to Geraldine Taylor, in Behind the Ranges, 240.

[38] Also known as 高靜安.黃錫培, “走遍四川、雲南西部村寨傳福音: 精通多種土語的高靜安教士 (Carl G. Gowman 1886–1930),” 傳書 (2005年4月號.第13卷.第2期.總第74期), http://www.ccmhk.org.hk/Common/Reader/News/ShowNews.jsp?Nid=2575&Pid=16&Version=74&Cid=37&Charset=big5_hkscs#.XIcw1igzbIU (accessed 12 March 2019).

[39] Geraldine Taylor, Behind the Ranges, 59.

[40] Talmadge DeWitt Payne, “On the Border of Burma,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (October 1929), 153.

[41] Talmadge DeWitt Payne, “The Forward Movement in the Far West,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (February 1930), 28.

[42] After the death of her husband, Jennie went to Chefoo to see her son at the CIM school and, unable to return to Yunnan, was briefly interned at the Weishien internment camp before being returned to America by way of Goa, India.

[43] Francis F. Fitzwilliam, “Among the Lisu of Stockade Hill District,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (August 1932), 118.

[44] Isobel Kuhn, By Searching, American ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1959), 65; In the Arena (Chicago: Moody, 1958), 53. Interestingly enough, the first OMF meeting I ever attended was held at The Firs. The following year I began to write my thesis on Fraser and the Lisu.

[45] Isobel Kuhn’s books include Ascent to the Tribes (Sevenoaks: OMF, 1956); In the Arena; Nests Above the Abyss (Philadelphia: China Inland Mission, 1947); Precious Things of the Lasting Hills (Chicago: Moody, 1963); Second Mile People (Sevenoaks: OMF, 1982); Stones of Fire (Singapore: OMF, 1984).

[46] John Kuhn letter to David Fuller, 23 March 1959.

[47] As with many other ideas, it is likely that Kuhn absorbed this from Fraser who had long believed that the Lisu and Kachin converts “would be easily able to support their own pastors, teachers and evangelists” but, as spiritual babies, were dependent upon the missionaries for instruction, guidance, and organization and upon the churches in the home countries for spiritual life and power through their prayers. Taylor, Behind the Ranges, 189. Responding to this, Roberts rightly asks “what are the implications for mission organizations which begin a work and then move on to new fields and draw their prayer supporters with them to those new fields of service?” Roberts, No Solitary Effort, 91, note 138.

[48] Charles B. Peterson, “Bible School for Lisu Maidens,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (December 1942), 186.

[49] John Kuhn letter to David Fuller, 2.

[50] John Kuhn letter to David Fuller, 4.

[51] He married Miss R. M. Swain in 1951 in Chungking, not long before leaving China.

[52] Charles B. Peterson, “Mass Movement among the Lisu,” China’s Millions, British ed. (November 1950), 122.

[53] Allan C. W. Crane, “A School for Jungle Children,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (October 1947), 159; “Headhunters!,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (July 1947), 100.

[54] When all the missionaries left China, the Cranes moved to northern Thailand where they were based in Chiang Mai (1952 and 1960), Hwei Phai (1953–54), and Chiang Rai (1958–59 and 1970). They also spent time in Burma (1961–62) and Hong Kong (1965–68) working on Lisu literature and Bible translation.

[55] Their early days in Thailand are recounted in Kuhn, Ascent to the Tribes, 15–21.

[56] Orville Carlson, “The Thrill of that First Meeting,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (October 1941): 154.

[57] Sarah Kelly (蓋道周, 1902–), from Vancouver, Canada, had spent four years in China before joining Lisu work with the Castos at Fuinshan in early 1936. Though she had reported that she felt the Lord wanted her in Lisu work the whole time she had been in China, her time there was limited, as the day before Christmas, 1936, she married Dr. Stuart Harverson (海富生, 1908–1995) in Kunming and lived in that part of the province until the Harversons resigned from the CIM in 1939. They later served with WEC in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
Victor J. Christianson (陳士登, 1906–1979) from Minnesota, USA married Catherine E. Galpin (葛爾品, 1909–1948) from New Zealand in 1939 in Kunming. After her death in 1948 of cancer, he married Leita Emily Partridge (巴嘉琪, 1907–2000) from Hobart, Australia in Kunming in 1949. Christianson was one of the teachers at the Rainy Season Bible School.
Jack S. Kirkman (蓋爾曼, 1906–45) from Walla Walla, Washington married Estella A. Hayes (海福如, 1906–) from Kent, Ohio in Dali in 1938.
Erling [Earl] B. Carlson (賈理勝, 1905–1937), from British Columbia, Canada went to China in 1934. While he was just getting his Lisu to the level where he could start to share the gospel, he died of Typhus along the Salween in 1937. He was buried by his co-worker Charlie Peterson. His brother Orville, who followed him to China in 1936, moved to Lisuland in 1941.

[58] Her story is told in Allan Crane, Fierce the Conflict: the Story of Lilian Hamer (London: CIM, 1960).

[59] Sun Fei, “From China to Myanmar: Lisu Christians Chase the Sunset,” GoKunming (24 March 2018),  https://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/4108/from-china-to-myanmar-lisu-christians-chase-the-sunset (accessed 18 March 2019).

[60] Zack, The Lisu, 148.

[61] Fraser, quoted in Taylor, Behind the Ranges, 189.

[62] Fraser, quoted in Taylor, Behind the Ranges, 151–2.

[63] Carl G. Gowman, “On the Burmese Border,” China’s Millions, British ed. (October 1928): 154, http://findit.library.yale.edu/catalog/digcoll:221343 (accessed 19 March 2019). The article includes a useful timetable of a normal day at a short-term Bible School.

[64] Arrington, “Hymns of the Everlasting Hills.”

[65] Tegenfeldt, A Century of Growth, 283.

[66] Taylor, Behind the Ranges, 152.

[67] Cooke, Fish Four, 35.

[68] Cooke, Fish Four, 85–6.

[69] Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (London: Robert Scott, 1912; reprinted Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962); The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: and the Causes Which Hinder it (London: World Dominion, 1927; reprinted Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962).

[70] Herbert W. Flagg, “The Lisu of the Yunnan Highlands,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (August 1918): 121.

[71] Flagg, “The Lisu of the Yunnan Highlands,” 121.

[72] John B. Kuhn, “Memoirs of J. O. Fraser,” Folder 55, Box 4, Collection 215, Records of Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Archives of the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton, Illinois, 9.

[73] Kuhn, “Memoirs of J. O. Fraser,” 9–10.

[74] Kuhn, Nests, 16.

[75] J. O. Fraser, “The Aboriginal Races of Western Yunnan,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (January 1929): 8.

[76] Kuhn, Nests, 116. Italics original.

[77] Carl G. Gowman, “Among Chinese and Tribespeople,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (September 1930): 136.

[78] This is the “Fish Four” of Leila Cooke’s book.

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