AMOY MAGIC SITE from
to Access Amoy
Magic Site from INSIDE
in 80 Days
to Main Page
Copyright 2001-7 by Sue Brown & Dr.
Mission Main Page
Amoy Magic (Guide to Xiamen) Main Page
Please click thumbnails for larger photos
Esther & Family in Amoy
from Bill Brown: Jack and
Joann Hill provided photos of Joe, and this self-published book. Please
contact me if you hold the copyright (or can provide more information
and photos!). Used copies are available online.
(from son's letter)
1. Childhood Home
Turning Point in My Life
3. My Years of
Education 4. My
Marriage and My First Church
5. The Call to
China 30 6. On
the Way to China
7. Our Arrival
in Tong-An 8. Fukien
9. Beginning of
10. In An Khoe Mountains
The Last Amoy Mission Meeting
to the Philippines
For chapters 15-25,
please buy used copy of book online, or e-mail
Chapter 12 The Last Amoy Mission Meeting
When we met in August, 1949 as a mission, we did nut know it would be
our last meeting as the Amoy Mission under the Reformed Church in America.
The Reformed Church had spent more than 100 years working in south Fukien
province. In 1842 they had built the first Protestant church in all of
China in Amoy and called it Sin-Koe-A. Now,
107 years later we doubted the wisdom of meeting together because of the
Communist threat from the north.
For some time already we had thought it wiser for each station 10 meet
and then convey its ideas to the others. Since none knew how soon the
Communists might arrive or the danger this might bring and each station
wrote about the difficulty of carrying on our mission work under the present
conditions, we saw that we ought to have a meeting to decide clearly what
we should do.
Mission Main Page
We missionaries in Tong-an had held weekly prayer
meetings and they became increasingly fervent. We discussed things carefully
and decided what we would do if the Communists took over. We envisioned
that we might be there several years even with no contact with the home
church. We also held in mind the possibility that the Communists might
be kind to us and let us go quietly out of China. On the other hand, it
could he that the soldiers would take all our goods, forbid us to work,
and maybe lock us up.
We discussed what things we could save to take care of our households.
We discussed whether to keep some Hong Kong money or some U.S. money,
not knowing whether we could use any of it. We discussed buying canned
goods and hiding it under the houses but we feared thieves might take
it. We finally decided to buy un-husked rice and peanut oil, both very
necessary items in the area, and use them to barter with for other things
which we needed. The currency of the time was so useless that we needed
a suitcase-full to buy food for one day.
Mission Main Page
Someone brought out that we did not know what kind of treatment the Communists
would give any individual among us; so each of us should depend upon God's
guidance at the time and not be bound by any plan we might make. We asked
for advance money to buy our unhusked rice and peanut oil for each family
to store for the future. We decided also to ask the Home Board to provide
some funds in Hong Kong for those who might need money there upon leaving
Jean Nienhuis, the oldest missionary of our group at Tong-an,
said, "I observe that we have many different opinions because we
do not know enough and we need more light. Let us continue to pray for
We prayed fervently for there was real fear in our hearts. We younger
missionaries did not know how to plan for the future; the older ones felt
the need of God's guidance as much as we did. We felt during prayer that
we were still confused and uncertain about what might come, but we knew
our God would be with us whatever might happen. Jean Nienhuis closed the
meeting with an earnest prayer of thanks for our faithful Savior and the
constant presence of our loving Father.
After this meeting we gave to the church leaders such materials that we
had brought into China for the spread of the gospel, flannel graph pictures,
a mimeograph machine, a loud-speaking system, radio, and a transformer.
They found hiding places for them, thinking that in the future they might
be able to use them. We did not care to go any distance away from our
homes or even to do too much work with the Chinese Christians lest it
make things harder for them; so it became a time of waiting and testing
of our faith. The shadow of the ruthless power of Communism was coming
nearer and growing darker.
At that time the call went out for our last mission meeting. All the missionaries
from Tong-an went to the meeting except for the
mothers with little children, Molly among them.
Mission Main Page
As we met together we pooled our thinking and soon realized we were troubled
about some of the same things. We let each one state what he thought he
ought to do, without fear of criticism of his decision which would be
respected by all. During the personal reports many spoke with feeling
and tears were shed. Without exception everyone of us decided to stay
and stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Christ
as they suffered under Communism.
We decided to close with a prayer meeting and then return to our various
stations. The time of prayer was very moving and ardent requests for safekeeping
and for courage and strength were placed before the throne of God. It
had been good to share our thoughts and kneel together.
As we went home it was clear to all that the time had come and the Communists
would soon be in Fukien. I know I was filled
with thoughts of what would happen to our family if we stayed and what
would happen if the family left.
I had just been home a few hours when Walter DeVelder,
our brother-in-law, walked into our house. He came to give the report
of the meeting of the doctors which had followed our prayer meeting. The
doctors had decided that Molly, who was six months pregnant and had a
history of a blood problem with a previous pregnancy, should leave immediately
with our three children. The decision was also made that Harriet DeVelder,
Molly's sister, should leave with their young children, who had suffered
earlier as they fled from the Japanese in the Second World War The doctors
feared a second traumatic experience would be too much for them.
Mission Main Page
In a little over twenty-four hours the two families were in Amoy with
tickets on the last ship that left the harbor under ordinary conditions.
After this sailing there was gun-firing on all successive departing vessels.
Walter and I decided that we would take our families to Hong Kong, place
them on the steamer for the U.S. and then return to our stations. Molly
had a change of clothing for herself and the children and some photographs
in the suitcases but there had been no time to gather anything else. I
did not even have a suit with me ¡ª just overnight provisions.
We went directly from the Dutch ship, which had brought us from Amoy,
to board the American passenger ship in the Hong Kong harbor, hoping there
would be room for both mothers and all the children. We had only telegraphed
from Amoy. However, we discovered that there
was only accommodation for one family. Harriet thought Molly should be
the one to travel by plane because she was in need of getting home sooner.
I did not know what was wisest so I accepted Harriet's decision, especially
since she was a nurse.
When Walter had bid his family goodbye we went to the plane company to
arrange for Molly and the children. I hoped there would be no delay both
for Molly's sake and so that I could accompany Walter
back to my station to see how I might strengthen and comfort others.
The plane company required Molly to have an examination by their company
doctor. The doctor and the company made the decision that under the circumstances
Molly could not travel alone with three young children in her condition;
so I was forced to accompany her by plane. Many times on that trip home
I was troubled that I had not had the chance to return with Walter. I
felt I had let my fellow Christians in China down; that I had failed God
in my promise to stay no matter what we suffered.
Yet, again and again God showed us that He was leading us. In spite of
a stop-over of twenty-four hours in Okinawa because of a severe typhoon,
we met Harrier's ship in Japan. She told us of the stormy trip and the
mothers who had delivered babies early because of the terrible turbulence.
I knew God had led our way.
Mission Main Page
When we waited in the hotel in Tokyo for our plane connections we met
with Dr. Luman Shaefer, the secretary of our Board of World Missions.
He requested us to explain our presence and asked about the other missionaries.
He was entirely in agreement with our leaving. He explained that some
missions had left China in toto (everyone leaving).
"Who knows but this may be the very will of God ¡ª not just the decision
of the doctors?" he remarked.
I began to feel differently about the whole question. I saw how God provided
rest for Molly in the stop-over in Okinawa and also in the four days of
delay in Tokyo when we had lost our previous plane connections; then yet
again in Anchorage, Alaska when a tire blew out on the plane just as we
taxied out from the airport. This could not be just circumstance, but
the loving care of God.
When I spoke in the churches at home and heard their questions, "Are
the missionaries compromising with Communism?", I knew that it was
God's plan that 1 should be home to help the churches in the United States
understand the bravery and the dedication of our Reformed Church missionaries,
who had decided not to run for safety but to stand beside their Christian
brothers in this time of great danger.
In the end all of our missionaries did come out of China, but not until
some of them had gone through some terrible experiences as in the case
of Dr. Oilman who was all alone so long, or the case of Dr. Poppen who
almost lost his life. His friends saved his life by asking that "such
a dangerous man as Dr. Poppen" should be sent out of China immediately.
Mission Main Page
The stories of many heroes of faith who were kept prisoners in their homes
for up to two years and left under dangerous circumstances should have
been told. I regret that no one has written this great story of faith
triumphing over danger and God leading his people through privations and
death. There would be in this story Chinese Christians as martyrs; there
would be missionaries kept alive at the risk of the Chinese Christians
who brought them food; there would be missionaries who proved their faithfulness
and were led through difficult paths to safety.
The story of those who continued in missionary work after they came out
of China should also be told. Dr. Poppen came home and soon became president
of the Synod but later served again in Singapore. Dr. Holleman came home
and did private practice until he was invited by the MacKay Hospital in
Tai-peh, Taiwan, to help them. There he re-organized the hospital and
built a new wing. He inspired confidence wherever he went and whatever
he did, and set that hospital on its feet in a wonderful way.
Tena Holkeboer ended her brilliant missionary career among the Chinese
in the Philippines. The DeVelders served for
a time in the Philippines and then transferred to Hong Kong. Rev.
and Mrs. Veenschoten worked in the Philippines in the provinces and
later in Manila in radio work. Young people whom they trained in radio
ministry are still carrying on radio work. A man who came out from Red
China said to me no person of musical stature in South Fukien
had not been trained under Mrs. Veenschoten.
Dr. Jack Hill and his wife, Joann,
gave several years of valuable labor in Cebu General Hospital in Cebu,
Philippines. The Muilenburgs worked for some time at Silliman University,
especially with the Chinese college students. Miss R. Broekema and Miss
J. Walvoord continued their missionary service in the P. I. among the
Chinese too, but later carried on until their retirement in Taiwan.
like Miss Jeanette Veldman and Miss Anne DeYoung went on to the Arabian
field to continue their missionary work. Miss Gladys Kooi
joined the missionaries in India. Still others, among whom were the Van
Wykes and the Kleinjans, continued their careers in Japan. Wherever the
Amoy missionaries continued in mission work
they made fine records of consecrated work for the Lord Jesus Christ and
for His Kingdom.
Mission Main Page
Chapter 13 A Happy Interlude
What happened to the Esthers? We were the first ones to come out of China.
We lived with Harriet DeVelder, Molly's oldest sister, and her five children
in the same mission house for almost one year. Harriet had the upstairs
and we had the downstairs two rooms. We shared the kitchen and the living
room. The sisters took turns, by weeks, cooking for the large family.
Mission Main Page
I want to relate some interesting experiences we had while our two families
lived together in the mission house. Although I was gone most of the time,
speaking, because every church wanted to hear about the situation in China
first hand, I did what I could to keep that big household which had nine
children and the oldest among them not yet ten. Meanwhile, the two sisters
were busy all day long.
The new baby, Barbara, was adored by everyone, especially by the children.
She was born in November without any complications, although the doctors
expected and were ready for a serious situation. Because the baby was
well developed and sometimes the RH blood problem developed at the end
of the pregnancy, the doctors induced labor before full time. We were
very thankful for a perfect baby and that Molly had a good recovery.
When I returned home from the hospital our son, Jim, was still awake.
He had wanted a baby brother. When I told him we had a beautiful new baby
sister, two big tears coursed down his cheeks, but he finally smiled and
said, "That's all right." Jim was the one who said, "Let's
call her Barbara so we can still nickname her Bobby." This was the
name chosen for the brother he had hoped for.
Molly had an operation right after Barbara was born so they were in the
hospital a little longer. This time it was for the mother's sake instead
of the baby's sake as in the case of Mary. Barbara was a sweet, healthy
baby and he wanted to keep her that way. So, when the other children were
having mumps and chickenpox, just at the time when Molly and the baby
came home, we kept them apart from the children for a while. However,
every afternoon Molly would show the baby at the front window. The children
would talk and smile and enjoy the new baby. Harriet, Molly's oldest sister,
was both nurse and mother to all the children while Molly recovered her
Mission Main Page
It proved to be a great blessing to have Harriet and her family of children
with us. It was amazing how well such a big group got along together.
The cousins learned to love each other as brothers and sisters. They all
went to school together except for the two youngest and the new baby.
We thanked God for the experiences we had together in those eleven months.
A few months after Barbara's birth, four of Harriet's children and our
Jim and Joan had to have their tonsils removed. At that time we really
had our hands full. It took all three adults to take care of them for
a few days.
One of the children, John DeVelder, did not pick up strength as quickly
as the others. John was listless and had no appetite. We were all concerned
about him. Harriet took him back to the doctor to be checked, but he did
not discover the problem.
One afternoon when all the children were enjoying watching a tulip-time
parade, I asked Harriet if I could carry John to the porch to see the
parade. Lifting him up dislodged the piece of cotton packing which had
been left in by mistake. As soon as that packing came out John said, "I'm
hungry!" From that day on he improved. I felt thankful to God that
he used my concern for the little fellow to remedy the problem and give
John a chance to be healed.
a special mission Board meeting held at the Fourth Reformed Church in
Holland, the decision was made that the Esthers be sent to Japan to continue
missionary work. When I told our good friends, Peter Sia and Wesley Shao,
who were studying at the seminary in Holland about our new assignment,
I shared my feeling about learning Japanese when I had not really mastered
Chinese yet and at my age, 39,1 did not favor learning a new language.
Wesley Shao responded with, "Why go to Japan? There are many Chinese
people in the Philippines. You could work among them."
He immediately wrote to the Chinese Church and the two Chinese schools
he knew in the Philippines. When their requests came to the Board of World
Missions they changed their decision and appointed us to work among the
Chinese in the Philippines.
So, after eleven months in the United States, and before Walter DeVelder
or the other missionaries had come out of China, in September of 1950
we were on our way to the Philippines where we were to work for the next
We did not know anyone there but we were sure that God had His plan and
was directing our steps. Our hearts were at peace.
Mission Main Page
14 On Our Way to the Philippines
We traveled across the United States in a Chevrolet Carry-All with three
long seats. We planned to put the Carry-All on the ship and use it in
the Philippines as a mobile unit. It was not ours. It came to us as many
gifts of God did ¡ª as a mighty surprise.
I was traveling in New York, doing deputation work in the churches. I
came to St. Johns, New York where my classmate, Rev. Ernest Crounse, was
the pastor. He surprised me by saying
to me, "We have a member of this church who has sugar diabetes. Already
he lost one leg and his doctors are trying desperately to save the other
leg. He will probably not live very long. He is a generous man, a rich
man too. He has given away many generous gifts to people. Is there anything
you need in your mission work? We can try to get it from him."
Naturally, I immediately said, "Yes", but I wanted some time
to think what I might need most.
Rev. Crounse suggested that I think about my needs and be ready with a
possible cost of the item.
I prayed for guidance
and experienced a definite answer to my prayer. It was clear to me that
I should plan on having a mobile unit in the Philippines, which would
include an appropriate car and the equipment needed to operate in the
provincial areas which, Weslcy had told me, also had many Chinese people.
I would need a slide projector and religious slides; a movie projector
and screen and an amplifier system. I would do outreach
work much as I had during my three years experience in China.
Rev. Crounse made
an appointment to see Mr. Fowler at his home, where he was recuperating
from his operation. After we had talked a while, Mr. Fowler asked if there
was something I would need for my work in the Philippines.
Mission Main Page
Then I told him my plan to carry on a program like the one....
Read the rest of Joseph Esther¡¯s Story
in ¡°This Is The Way, Walk Ye In It,¡± available in libraries or from online
used book stores.
Help the "The Amoy Mission Project!"
share any relevant biographical material and photos for the website and
upcoming book, or consider helping with the costs of the site and research
materials. All text and photos will remain your property,
and photos will be imprinted to prevent unauthorized use.
Bill Xiamen University MBA Center
Snail Mail: Dr. William Brown
Box 1288 Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian
Last Updated: October 2007
to Main Page Back
H & M
Back to Top