Chinese guests connect with their past
BMS partners at a nursing college in China paid homage to their founder missionaries on a recent visit to the UK.
A trip to a graveyard and a tour of a college’s archives collection don’t normally figure in tourists’ top UK attractions.
But for four special guests from a BMS partner organisation in China, visiting these two locations proved far more poignant than the typical outings to towers and palaces.
For it enabled Professor Zheng Shuping and three of his colleagues from the Weifang Vocational Nursing College, to connect with the school’s rich history, which is deeply rooted in BMS.
Respect & relationship
The group went to West Norwood cemetery in London to see the grave of Agnes Russell Watson, wife to Dr James, who founded the college (then known as Yidu Medical School) in 1885.
Whilst James’ gravestone is located within the medical college’s sister campus in Jinan, Shandong province, because he died in China, Agnes is buried in London as she passed away while on home assignment.
John Howes, a former BMS honorary treasurer, researched where Agnes’ grave is situated, and discovered the stone contains wording about her being a BMS missionary, which is unusual given that it’s the society of a non-conformist Church Free Church, not Church of England. (Photo above: John Howes with Professor Zheng)
Margaret Gibbs, BMS Team Leader for Asia, who accompanied the Chinese guests to the cemetery, said, “Through the obvious demonstration of respect and a sense of relationship our visitors showed when visiting the grave of Agnes Russell Watson, we begin to understand why they have felt a genuine connection to today’s generation of BMS, even before they met us.” (Photo above shows wreath and card with the words 'Sacred to the memory of Agnes Russell Watson placed by representatives of Weifang Vocational Nursing College)
Papers & parables
The visit to BMS’ archives located at Regent’s Park College in Oxford proved equally special for the Chinese visitors.
John had worked with archivist Emily Burgoyne (pictured below with the Chinese visitors), who arranged a display of documents relating to the Russell Watsons, including candidate papers and the announcement of James’ engagement to Agnes listed in committee minutes.
Professor Zheng and his colleagues, Mr Wang Changzhi, Mr Li Mao Song and Ms Wang Xin showed great excitement and emotion at seeing James Russell Watson’s personal documents in his handwriting.
Perhaps most interesting of all was the discovery of four sheets of paper clearly showing four of Jesus’ parables illustrated into the context of Chinese culture, which James Russell Watson had used in outreach.
These papers fascinated the Chinese visitors so much that they requested copies be sent to them.
Of the group’s trip to Regent’s archives, Margaret says, “So much of China’s visible history was destroyed last century that it means a great deal to our partners to see these artefacts connecting them with their founder James Russell Watson.”