Light Dawns in Eastern Asia
Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NPD)
As we see how the light of the Adventist message dawned in the countries of the orient we are amazed at the way God used one humble man to do heaven’s great work. God has stretched the chain of his influence across the decades and the continent and islands in order to bring the good news of His second advent to the people of the eastern Asia.
Light Dawns Over China, the Most Populous Country
Abram La Rue, an American gold miner, sailor, and shepherd, came to the Adventist truth in California at an advanced age. Immediately thereafter he led his neighbor, William C. Grainger, a teacher by profession, to the truth.
La Rue attended Healdsburg College to prepare himself for the gospel ministry, and requested that the General Conference send him to China. As a retired sailor he remembered his visits to this country, and now felt a burden for its vast population. But the mission board thought him too old at 65 and recommended Hawaii instead. La Rue arrived there with many printed books and tracts. As a colporteur he succeeded in establishing an Adventist presence.
La Rue’s longing to convey the saving message to the people of Cathay grew ever stronger. At length he sailed for China, arriving in Hong Kong on May 3, 1888, as Asia’s first self-supporting missionary. He set up a seamen’s mission and for 14 years did colporteur work, mainly among ships in Hong Kong harbor. He also made trips to Shanghai, Japan, Borneo, Java, Sarawak, Singapore, and once even to Palestine and Lebanon, selling Adventist books and distributing tracts wherever his ship docked.
With the aid of a Chinese friend, Mok Man Cheung, he printed a tract, “The Judgment,” and “The Sinner’s Need of Christ,” a chapter of E. G. White’s book Steps to Christ, in Chinese.
In response to his and S. N. Haskell’s earnest appeal, the General Conference sent official missionaries to China in 1902. On February 2 J. N. Anderson’s family arrived in Hong Kong. About a month after his arrival on March 1, Anderson baptized six British sailors and an expatriate resident to whom La Rue had given Bible studies.
La Rue died on April 26, 1903, after rendering 15 years of service to the people of Cathay. He is buried at the Happy Valley Cemetery in Hong Kong. As his legacy today, despite China’s many wars, revolutions, and persecutions, some 430,000 members, from about 3,000 churches and congregations, look forward to Jesus’ soon return.
Light Dawns Over Japan, the Islands of the Rising Sun
William C. Grainger, Abram La Rue’s firstfruits, now president of Healdsburg College (laterPacific Union College), was deeply moved as he listened to the Friday evening vesper appeal. Japanese student Teruhiko Okohira needed someone to accompany him to his home country to spread the Adventist message. Possessed by La Rue’s missionary compulsion, Grainger resigned his presidency and arrived in the island country of Japan on November 19, 1896. Soon afterward he and Okohira opened Shiba Japanese-English Bible School in Tokyo, where the Bible was taught in English.
Hide Kuniya, secretary-treasurer of an army unit in Tokyo, enrolled in the English Bible school through the introduction of his friend, Dr. Mokutaro Kawasaki, a military surgeon. Kuniya was deeply impressed by Grainger’s Christian character and attended the English Bible class regularly. Having been convinced of the Bible doctrines, he decided to resign from his military assignment in order to keep the Sabbath. On April 24, 1899, Grainger baptized Kuniya and his friend Kawasaki, with two other men, as the first Adventist converts among the Japanese. That same year the first Adventist church was organized with 13 members at the English Bible school.
Grainger started a monthly paper, The Gospel for the Last Days, later renamed Signs of the Times. La Rue, in China, would outlive his brilliant convert and fellow missionary. Grainger died of uremia on October 31, 1899, age 55, and was buried in Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo. But his mission spirit survived in the hearts of Okohira, Kuniya, Kawasaki, and Frank William Field, who came to Japan to take up the work that Grainger had lain down. Kuniya became God’s agent to extend La Rue’s magnificent witness to yet another country in eastern Asia.
Light Dawns Over Korea, the Land of Morning Calm
Hide Kuniya, now pastor of Kobe church in Japan, noticed a stranger paying attention to the long signboard on a small Adventist church building. He invited the stranger in and found that he was on his way to Hawaii as a Korean laborer. Though neither understood the other’s language, the Holy Spirit used the Chinese ideograph characters they wrote on a chalkboard to help them communicate. Kuniya began teaching his new Korean friend the Bible. Then the Korean brought a friend of his own. Both became convinced of the Adventist doctrines. Just past midnight of May 12, 1904, Kuniya baptized them, Eung Hyun Lee and Heung Choi Son, at Nunobiki Falls in Kobe. Lee then left for Hawaii. But for some reason known only to providence, Son headed back to Korea.
On the ship Son shared his newly found truth with Ki Ban Lim, who was returning to Korea from Hawaii. A Methodist leader in his hometown, Lim had considerable knowledge of Bible doctrines. By the time his trip ended he too had accepted the Adventist message. Back home in Chinnampo, he shared the Sabbath truth with Methodist believers.
Soon, though, Lim had to call for help. His knowledge on Adventism was limited. Thirty-six truth seekers signed his modern Macedonian call in a letter to Pastor Kuniya in Japan to come to Korea and teach them Bible truth. After much effort Kuniya arrived in Chinnampo, northwestern Korea, on August 9, 1904. He conducted Bible studies in many villages. In 50 days he baptized 71 people and organized four churches. The hardship, discomfort, and resistance he experienced seemed beyond human endurance. But Kuniya established a solid foundation through his dedicated pioneering efforts.
Seventh-day Adventist work in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division began in 1888 with a self-supporting volunteer, Abram La Rue. Eight years later, in 1896, William C. Grainger, La Rue’s first American convert, initiated work in Japan. Approximately eight years beyond that, Hide Kuniya, one of Grainger’s firstfruits in Japan, would stretch the chain of influence to Korea, a chain begun by a humble volunteer who would not give up.
Abram La Rue embodied Ellen White’s statement: “There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”*
* Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), pp. 250, 251.
P. D. Chun, a former president of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, is the international publishing manager of Adventist World.