Persecution, famine and war – these conditions formed the background to BMS work in China.
Although the first BMS mission workers to China were appointed in 1859, it was Timothy Richard, arriving in 1870, who opened up the work inland and aimed to contextualise Christianity in the Chinese culture. Richard was also instrumental in establishing relief work during the worst famine in modern Chinese history (1876-1879).
By 1900 a wave of anti-foreign feeling was sweeping across the country and as many as 30,000 Chinese Christians were massacred in the Boxer Rebellion. Mission workers were also targeted – 159 Protestant missionaries died including 12 BMS workers and three of their children.
Despite persecution the Church began to grow again and BMS expanded its work in Christian literature, medicine and education, establishing hospitals, schools and a university.
The 1920s and 1930s saw intense persecution, severe famines, martyrdoms and the 1937 Japanese invasion of North China.
BMS mission workers gave themselves to the relief effort, feeding thousands of people, housing orphans and training pastors – seeing the Church grow.
But the inauguration of The Chinese People’s Republic in 1949 was the death blow to BMS work there. Mission workers were forced to withdraw, all leaving by 1952.