Dora Yu – China’s first missionary…

You might have heard of the twentieth-century Chinese pastor and author Watchman Nee, but did you know he came to faith through one of China’s first female cross-cultural missionaries?

Dora Yu was born in 1873 in Hangzhou at the American Presbyterian Mission, where her father was training for pastoral ministry. She went on to have a series of ‘firsts’ to her name. Dora was one of three women in the first class to graduate from the very first women’s medical college in China. This opened doors to care for and share the gospel with upper-class women who were traditionally separated from the rest of society.

In 1897 Dora became one of the first missionaries sent out from China. She accompanied Josephine Campbell, a widowed American missionary, to Korea. She served in Bible teaching and medicine as well as translating and compiling textbooks. In 1903 together with a colleague they visited 2,540 women across the city, sharing the gospel with them. A heavy workload, poor health, and ultimately the prompting of the Holy Spirit, led Dora to return to China in September 1903.

In China, Dora ended up following in the steps of Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, establishing what was probably China’s first faith mission. She became increasingly well known for her revival meetings in Shanghai and travelled widely across the country, calling Christians to pursue holiness.

In 1920 Watchman Nee came to faith through Dora’s ministry. He dedicated the rest of his life to serving Jesus Christ and his early theological education came through the Bible school Dora founded.

In 1913, Dora was invited to England by the China Inland Mission and in 1927 she was one of the main speakers at the Keswick Convention. When she died in 1931, she left a legacy of spiritual revival in the Chinese Church. At her memorial service Hu Yunlin, a female evangelist of the 1930s and 40s, was moved by Dora’s example to dedicate her whole life to the Lord.

Written by Reuben Grace

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