The Broomhalls and China

By Dr. Wesley Wei

(Professor of History at Chung Yuan Christian University, Taiwan)
Translated from the Chinese by Irene Li

Devoted to Serving China for Generations

In the history of China Inland Mission (now known as OMF International), several families have served as missionaries in China for generations. The Taylors are the best known among these families. Since Hudson Taylor, this family has served in China for five generations; if we include Hudson Taylor’s in-laws as well, this family has served in China for six generations. The Broomhalls of the China Inland Mission, who are closely related to the Taylors, have also served as missionaries in China for several generations.

Amelia Taylor, the beloved sister of Hudson Taylor, was a faithful supporter of her brother’s ministry through prayer. It was from one of Hudson’s letters sent to Amelia from China that we received the famous quote: “If I had a thousand pounds, China should have it. If I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for him?” In 1859, Amelia Taylor married Benjamin Broomhall (1829-1911). This marriage led to the deep-rooted and long-lasting affiliation between the Broomhalls and China.

Benjamin Broomhall – The First Generation

Benjamin Broomhall had a great concern for social welfare and justice. To overturn injustice in England, he earnestly got involved in civil movements like the abolishing of slavery and the banning of the opium trade, which was closely connected with China. Benjamin joined forces with a doctor who had been a missionary to Taiwan, traveling everywhere to encourage the British government ban opium smoking. Benjamin also wrote two books to promote the banning of opium smoking – Truth about Opium Smoking and The Chinese Opium Smoker. In the first book, Benjamin put together the opinions of experienced missionaries in China on opium smoking. In the second, he recorded the true stories of 12 families whose lives were shattered by opium smoking. His purpose for writing these books was to arouse sympathy and to awaken the consciences of his countrymen. Furthermore, Benjamin founded a Christian organization to protest against the opium trade. This organization published a periodical called National Righteousness, a name inspired by Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” His persistent effort to abolish the opium trade continued throughout his life. When he was on his deathbed, his son read to him the good news he had long awaited – the opium trade would be abolished in England within two years.

Between 1878 and 1895, Benjamin Broomhall served as the executive director of the China Inland Mission, which made him Hudson Taylor’s representative in England. Benjamin’s rich social experiences and broad connections with people greatly elevated the image of the China Inland Mission. While Hudson Taylor was working on the frontline in China, Benjamin Broomhall was raising the necessary funds, selecting suitable co-workers, and publishing books in England. Benjamin Broomhall and Hudson Taylor joined hands in weaving the miraculous growth of the China Inland Mission. In 1885, when the famous “Cambridge Seven” (seven outstanding graduates of Cambridge University who abandoned secular pursuits to go to China as missionaries) headed to China together, a focus on missions prevailed throughout England. Benjamin Broomhall promptly recorded what was happening in A Missionary Band. More than 20,000 copies of this book were sold instantly; even Queen Victoria got a copy.

Marshall Broomhall – The Second Generation

Although Benjamin Broomhall never went to China himself, five of his ten children dedicated themselves to the mission work there. His eldest daughter went to China in 1884 and later married Dixon Edward Hoste, one of the “Cambridge Seven,” who succeeded Hudson Taylor as the general director of the China Inland Mission. Benjamin’s eldest son also arrived in China in 1884. This son first served in Shanxi Province and was later transferred to Shanghai to take care of the finances of the organization. The most famous among Benjamin Broomhall’s sons is Marshall Broomhall (1866-1937), who went to China in 1890 when he graduated from Cambridge University. Marshall was forced to go back to England nine years later due to his wife’s health problems.

In 1900, Marshall Broomhall took over the literature ministry at the headquarters. In the same year, the Boxer Rebellion, an incident that shook the whole world, broke out in China. Of all the foreign mission agencies in China, the China Inland Mission had the greatest loss; 79 people were massacred, including children. Fortunately, Marshall Broomhall was stationed at headquarters at that time. He spent days and nights diligently sorting out information gathered from various sources and verifying rumors that were quickly circulating. His hard work led to the compilation of two memorial books that documented the stories of both the martyrs and the survivors.

Marshall Broomhall was also an expert in writing biographies. He wrote biographies of Hudson Taylor as well as several other members of the China Inland Mission, making these people forever respected by the world because of the availability of their life stories. What makes it more amazing is that Marshall Broomhall’s eyesight was impaired at an early age. He finished all his research, writing and editorial work despite the handicap of being able to see with just one eye.

Anthony J. Broomhall – The Third Generation

A remarkable member of the third generation of the Broomhalls was a medical doctor – Anthony J. Broomhall – a grandson of Benjamin Broomhall and a nephew of Marshall Broomhall. As Anthony’s father was also a missionary to China, Anthony was born there; he had attended the missionary school run by the China Inland Mission in Yantai, Shandong Province. Anthony went to England to study medicine when he grew up. He returned to China in 1938. At that time the Japanese army had invaded China, so China was at war with Japan. Anthony decided to stay in China to face the difficult times alongside the Chinese people. During this wartime, Anthony practiced medicine in Szechwan. He later fled to India. After the war, he finally arrived at the place he had dedicated his life to serve – a region in southwestern Sichuan where he could minister to the Yi minority people. He opened a clinic to help the sick and to spread the gospel at the same time. He was greatly loved by the local people. In order to dispel the misunderstanding and fear the public had for people with leprosy, he invited a leper to live in his house for a year. Anthony often traveled far and wide by donkey to treat patients in remote mountain areas for free.

In 1951, Anthony Broomhall was forced to leave China with his wife and their four children. He eventually worked in places like Thailand and the Philippines, dedicating his life to medical ministry until he retired. In 1988, he returned to the region in Sichuan where he had first ministered to the Yi people. During a subsequent return in 1991, he donated US$20,000 worth of medical equipment to the local hospital.

What made me admire Anthony Broomhall most is that when he retired as a doctor, putting down his surgical knives, he started picking up his pen to record history. He spent more than a decade going through the vast range of records regarding Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission. Consequently, he wrote the most comprehensive and reliable biography of Hudson Taylor. I wonder when the seven-volume book, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century, will be translated into Chinese. I also wonder if it will ever be possible to fully record the contributions the generations of Broomhalls have made to China.