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James O. Fraser

James Outram Fraser (Chinese 富能仁) (1886–1938) was a British Protestant Christian missionary to China with the China Inland Mission. He pioneered work among the Lisu people of Southwestern China in the early part of the 20th century.

Contents

  • First years in Yunnan 1
  • Furlough and marriage 2
  • Revival and the Fraser alphabet 3
  • Final years and legacy 4
  • Further reading 5
  • References 6
  • Notes 7
  • External links 8

First years in Yunnan

Born in London in 1886, he became a graduate engineer. However in 1908 he dedicated his life to missionary work and joined the China Inland Mission. He arrived in China at the age of 22 and travelled from Shanghai to Hong Kong and then to the mountainous region of China's far southwest.

He was forced by the chaos accompanying the Chinese revolution of 1911 to divide his time between Methodist missionary stationed in Kunming.

Revival and the Fraser alphabet

Fraser developed a script for the Lisu language and used it to prepare a catechism, portions of Scripture, and eventually, with much help from his colleagues, a complete New Testament. Working initially on Mark and John and then on a handbook of Lisu history and language, Fraser handed on the translation task to Allyn Cooke and his wife, Leila, coming back to help the team with revision and checking in the mid-1930s. The complete New Testament was finished in 1936.

Fraser maintained a consistent policy of training the Lisu converts (usually whole households and whole villages at a time) to be self-supporting and to pay for their own books and church buildings. They raised their own funds for the support of pastors, of wives and children of their travelling evangelists and of festivals and other occasions. Unlike other missionaries of his generation, Fraser would not pay local preachers to go out, or for building local church structures, and this was something that put the Lisu in good stead for the years of Japanese occupation and the Communist persecution, particularly during the Chinese cultural revolution. Nevertheless tens of thousands of them fled during this era to neighbouring Burma and Thailand. Fraser also left church government in the hands of Lisu elders; very little imprint was made on them that had a home church character, other than the tremendous prayer support the Fraser organised back in England for the Lisu and his work.

Throughout the 1930s other missionaries came to assist in the work, but the bulk of the conversions happened as a result of Lisu evangelists covering the ground and reaching not only Lisu but also Kachin and Yi people (Nosu). Revivals also broke out at this time. It is acknowledged by the Chinese Government that by the 1990s over 90% of the Lisu in China were Christian.

Final years and legacy

Fraser wrote many articles in English for "The Chinese Recorder" and "China's Millions". After seeing great fruit for his labours, James Outram Fraser died in Baoshan, in western Yunnan in 1938 of cerebral malaria, leaving his wife and three children. His main biographer was Mrs. Howard Taylor, who published "Behind The Ranges" in 1944, containing numerous extracts from his letters and diaries. His daughter, Eileen Crossman, published a semi-fictionalised biography, "Mountain Rain", in 1982, much of her material being drawn from Taylor (1944). Fraser's grave is now at the Qing Hua church.

This quote from the OMF website November 2005:

"On September 25, 1938, while in Baoshan Yunnan, China, James Fraser died at the age of 52. Due to land erosion, West Yunnan's Christian church decided to move the grave from the mountain slopes of Baoshan to this location, renewing the headstone on behalf of the Lisu church as a way of expressing their cherished memory of J.O. Fraser. Fraser's life has reaped a large harvest although many tears had first to be sown through his labours.
"The Lisu church at Baoshan plans to commemorate J.O. Fraser every seven years at a special Easter service in the new Bible training center they have started there. Another memorial to J.O. Fraser has been erected by Lisu believers in Weixi County in far northwestern Yunnan. Inscribed in Lisu, Chinese and English the English reads: “IN LOVING MEMORY. JAMES O. FRASER 1886–1938. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. WITH DEEPEST LOVE REMEMBER YOU ALWAYS—THE LISU CHURCH.” The Chinese states additionally: “Erected by the Christian Church in the Lisu Autonomous County of Weixi on 15 March 2004.”
"The Lisu church has seen spectacular numerical growth in recent decades. In 1950 the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture had 14,800 believers. By 1995 that number had risen to over 100,000—most of them Lisu. In the early 1980s the Yunnan Christian Council printed several thousand copies of the Lisu Bible. Then in 1995 a further 45,000 Lisu Bibles were published, as well as 65,000 Lisu hymnbooks. Both printings were in the special script devised by J.O. Fraser. However, the church is still hampered by endemic poverty, illiteracy and lack of trained pastors and evangelists. The rapid development of Yunnan as a tourist region and the tidal wave of emigration of young tribal people from the remote mountain valleys to the cities in search of work are bringing many changes to the Lisu church, not all of them positive.

In 1992, the Chinese government officially recognised the Fraser alphabet as the official script of the Lisu language. Today, Fraser is remembered as one of Christianity's most successful missionaries to east Asia in modern times.

Christianity is thriving in the Salween River valley where the Lisu live nearly 70 years after the death of Fraser. Of the 18,000 Lisu who lived in Fugong in 1950 – 3,400 professed faith in Christ. As of 2007 there are estimated to be 80–90 percent of the 70,000 making the same profession. In Yunnan it is estimated that there are between 100,000–200,000 total Lisu Christians in the Lisu Church. More than 75,000 Lisu Bibles have been legally printed in China following this explosive growth.[1]

Further reading

  • Behind The Ranges : Fraser of Lisuland S.W. China by Mrs. Howard Taylor (Mary Geraldine Guinness).
  • Mountain Rain by Eileen Fraser Crossman
  • A Memoir of J. O. Fraser by Mrs. J. O. Fraser
  • God Reigns in China by Leslie Lyall, Perspectives 1997 Ed.
  • James Fraser and the King of the Lisu by Phyllis Thompson
  • The prayer of faith by James O. Fraser & Mary Eleanor Allbutt
  • In the Arena, Isobel Kuhn. OMF Books (1995)
  • Stones of Fire, Isobel Kuhn. Shaw Books (1994)
  • Ascent to the Tribes: Pioneering in North Thailand, Isobel Kuhn. OMF Books (2000)
  • Precious Things of the Lasting Hills, Isobel Kuhn. OMF Books (1977)
  • Second Mile People, Isobel Kuhn. Shaw Books (1999)
  • Nests Above the Abyss, Isobel Kuhn. Moody Press (1964)
  • The Dogs May Bark, but the Caravan Moves On, Gertrude Morse. College Press, (1998)
  • J.O. Fraser and Church Growth among the Lisu of Southwest China. M.C.S. thesis: Regent College. (Microfiche from Theological Research Exchange Network.) Walter McConnell. (1987)

References

Notes

  1. ^ OMF International (2007), p. 1-2

External links

  • WebSite dedicated to the life & biography of James Outram Fraser
  • The Fraser alphabet
  • James O. Fraser: Prayer Makes History
  • Breakthrough: The Life of James O. Fraser and the Lisu People Docu-drama, OMF International 2008
  • OMF International (formerly China Inland Mission)
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