Our Story Begins
Historical markers on our journey.
The early attempts to evangelize China
Early attempts to evangelize China, such as those by Nestorian Christians in A.D. 635, were often met with persecution. By 1839 the Opium Wars had broken out and Protestant missionaries entering China in the 19th century found evangelization work to be restricted and slow-going. Around this time the Chinese Evangelisation Society (CES) sent Hudson Taylor to China.
Hudson Taylor resigns from the Chinese Evangelization Society (CES)
Taylor served six years in China, during which time he married Maria Dyer, another missionary in China. When Taylor left China, God began burdening his heart for the millions yet to be evangelized inland.
The founding of the China Inland Mission (CIM)
With a heavy heart, Taylor walked on Brighton Beach where God revealed that Taylor would be the one to lead a new foreign mission to China. On that day, Taylor, in faith, prayed for 24 willing and skillful workers for each of China’s 11 provinces and Mongolia.
The Lammermuir sets sail
Taylor left England for China with his family and 16 workers aboard the Lammermuir. The CIM missionaries visited China’s provinces dressed in Chinese clothing, preaching the gospel and attempting to start churches. By the end of 1866, 24 workers were active in four stations across inland China.
First advances despite hardship
The years following 1870 were some of the darkest in the history of the mission due to low finances, political upheavals and poor health of the missionaries. Yet a call for 18 more workers was made. A period of expansion followed as 18 new workers, two by two, took up residence in nine new provinces.
Two calls for advance
With the total number of missionaries at barely 100, a call to pray for 70 new workers went out. In response, God provided 73 new workers within three years. The Cambridge Seven followed close behind. God’s provision continued when the call for 100 went out in 1886 and 102 workers sailed for China within the year.
CIM influence expands to America
Hudson Taylor made his first North American visit, speaking in cities across the United States and Canada. By 1901 the CIM established an office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to facilitate the mission’s work in North America.
Boxer Rebellion, a reign of terror
In a reign of terror, the Boxers set out to exterminate all foreigners in China. Hundreds of missionaries and Chinese Christians were put to death. The CIM alone lost 58 missionaries and 21 children as martyrs. During this period, the work force of the CIM increased to 933 people.
Hudson Taylor dies
After 50 years of active service for China, Hudson Taylor died on June 3 in Changsha and was buried in Zhenjiang next to his first wife, Maria.
Years of growth for the CIM
Early ministries of the CIM involved starting churches, supporting literature work, evangelism and running hospitals and schools. By 1915, 1,063 workers were located at 227 work stations throughout China. The mission’s peak was in 1934 with 1,368 missionaries serving 364 stations.
Darkness reigns, but the CIM calls for 200
A tumultuous political situation resulted in Christians across China being persecuted, tortured and put to death. Half of the overall missionary community left permanently. In the midst of darkness, the CIM issued a new call for 200 new missionaries over two years. By 1931 there were 203 new missionaries on the field.
Continued growth and many baptized
The CIM had more than 1,300 missionaries and almost 200,000 Chinese and minority people had been baptized by 1939. During World War II and the years that followed, missionaries shared the gospel among university students and professionals, even government leaders.
The “reluctant exodus” from China
Communism took over China in 1949. Many missions pulled out, but despite the difficulty for all foreign missionaries, the CIM first issued a call for missionaries to stay and then brought 49 new workers in 1948 and 1949. In 1950 the CIM General Director deemed that further work in China was impossible and ordered all missionaries to leave.
The future of the CIM decided
The CIM decided that, rather than dissolve, the mission would continue and expand to new fields: Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan. A new headquarters was established in Singapore.
Expanding the identity of the mission
The China Inland Mission changed its name to Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) in 1964 (and then to OMF International in 1993). The mission began accepting Asians into membership and set up home offices in eight regions of East Asia.
Growth and expansion throughout East Asia
Discovering great pockets of need that included totally unreached people groups in the countries surrounding China, the Overseas Missionary Fellowship decided that God wanted them to move forward in new faith. Home councils were formed in Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. In 1988 Christian professionals were sent into China and in the 1990s outreach began to six more creative access nations and the name was changed again to OMF International.
Continuing the legacy with Dr. Patrick Fung, General Director
Dr. Patrick Fung became the General Director and the first Asian believer to hold this position for OMF International. The OMF International leadership sought God and determined a faith goal for 900 new workers by 2011. By October 2010, 499 new members, affiliates and associates had been added to the fellowship since 2006.
OMF International today
Since the mission left China in 1951, 40 people groups of East Asia have been evangelized through the work of OMF International. We currently work among 100 people groups in East Asia. OMF International will celebrate 150 years of God’s faithfulness to the mission this year!