The adventure begins
Hudson Taylor founded OMF International as the China Inland Mission (CIM) in 1865. He believed that the good news would only take root if missionaries embraced the culture of the people they wanted to reach.
This meant adopting the local language, customs and way of life. It was a radical idea at the time, and it was amazingly effective. By 1939, 200,000 Chinese people had been baptised.
Challenges and changes
But with communism sweeping through China in 1949, CIM had to call its workers home. This is when the organisation expanded its work to other East Asian countries and opened up a new headquarters in Singapore.
To reflect this change, the organisation changed its name in 1964 to Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). In 2006, Dr. Patrick Fung became General Director, the first Asian to hold the position. OMF International now has 1400 workers from 40 countries, working with 100 different people groups and among the East Asian diaspora.
In every area of life, we want to keep sharing the good news in a way that’s right for the culture and for the long term. Thanks to Hudson Taylor, this is something that’s in our DNA.
We’re conservative in our theology but radical in our methods. So we’re always looking for new ways to bring Jesus to the many different communities we work in.
An ongoing work
As well as being home to a huge range of cultures, East Asia is home to many different belief systems. Buddhism and Islam dominate large areas. Shintoism holds sway in Japan. Confucianism and Communism shape China. Millions are atheist. Millions worship spirits.
In some countries, the church is growing quickly. In others, people are slowly opening up to Christianity. There are still huge numbers who haven’t heard the good news of Jesus yet.
It’s in this context that our work – and our story – continues.
History of Christianity in China
Early attempts to evangelize China, such as those by Nestorian Christians in A.D. 635, are often met with persecution. By 1839 the Opium Wars break out and Protestant missionaries entering China in the 19th century find evangelization work to be restricted and slow-going. Around this time the Chinese Evangelisation Society (CES) sends Hudson Taylor to China.
Hudson Taylor works for the Chinese Evangelization Society (CES)
Taylor serves six years in China with the Chinese Evangelization Society, during which time he marries Maria Dyer, another missionary in China. Taylor leaves China and God burdens his heart for the millions yet to be evangelized inland. Taylor resigns from the Chinese Evangelization Society.
The China Inland Mission (CIM) is founded
With a heavy heart, Taylor walks on Brighton Beach where:“ Unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone … there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service.” – James Hudson Taylor. On this day, Taylor, in faith, prays for 24 willing and skilful workers, two for each of China’s 11 provinces and Mongolia.
The Lammermuir Ship sets sail
Taylor leaves England for China with his family and 16 workers aboard the Lammermuir. The CIM missionaries visit China’s provinces dressed in Chinese clothing, preach the gospel and attempt to start churches. By the end of 1866, 24 workers are active in four stations across inland China.
Two calls for advance
With the total number of missionaries at barely 100, a call to pray for 70 new workers goes out. In response, God provides 73 new workers within three years. The Cambridge Seven follow close behind. God’s provision continues when the call for 100 goes out in 1886 and 102 workers sail for China within the year.
In a reign of terror, the Boxers set out to exterminate all foreigners in China. Hundreds of missionaries and Chinese Christians are put to death. The CIM alone loses 58 missionaries and 21 children as Christian martyrs. During this period the CIM increases to 933 people.
Hudson Taylor dies
After 50 years of active service for China, Hudson Taylor dies on June 3 in Changsha and is buried in Zhenjiang next to his first wife, Maria.
Years of growth for the CIM
Early ministries of the CIM involve starting churches, supporting literature work, evangelism and running hospitals and schools. By 1915, 1,063 workers are located at 227 work stations throughout China. The mission’s peak is in 1934 with 1,368 missionaries serving 364 stations.
Darkness reigns, but the CIM calls for 200
A tumultuous political situation results in Christians across China being persecuted, tortured and put to death. Half of the overall missionary community leaves permanently. In the midst of darkness, the CIM issues a new call for 200 more missionaries over two years. By 1931 there are 203 new missionaries on the field.
Continued growth and many baptized
The CIM has more than 1,300 missionaries and almost 200,000 Chinese and minority people are baptized by 1939. During World War II and the years that follow, missionaries share the gospel among university students and professionals, even government leaders.
The “Reluctant Exodus” from China
Communism takes over China in 1949. Many missions leave, but despite the difficulty for all foreign workers, the CIM first issues a call for missionaries to stay and then brings 49 new workers in 1948 and 1949. In 1950 the CIM General Director deems further work in China is impossible and orders all missionaries to leave.
The future of the CIM decided
The CIM decide that, rather than dissolve, the mission will continue and expand to new fields: Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan. A new headquarters is established in Singapore.
A new identity for the mission
The China Inland Mission changes its name to Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) in 1964 (and then to OMF International in 1993). The mission begins welcoming Asians as workers and partners with local Christians to set up home offices in eight regions of East Asia.
Growth and expansion throughout East Asia
Discovering great pockets of need and requests from Asian church leaders to work in the countries surrounding China, OMF decides God wants them to move forward in new faith.
Continuing the legacy with Dr. Patrick Fung, General Director years of God’s faithfulness
Dr. Patrick Fung becomes General Director, the first Asian to hold this position in OMF International.
150 years of God’s faithfulness
In 2015 OMF International celebrates 150 years of God’s faithfulness to the mission.
OMF finds itself facing grounded flights, closed borders, and a future made uncertain by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet God continues to sustain the OMF community financially and the organization finds creative ways to pursue its vision and share the good news, amidst the challenges at hand.
Our work continues as we seek to share the good news of Jesus in all its fullness with the people of East Asia, in partnership with God and his global church. This is how God has been using us for more than 150 years. How will he use you?