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David Gordon Anderson

(???)
1908 ~ 1939

In the first half of the twentieth century, medical missionaries not only brought Christ’s saving grace to the Chinese, but also devoted their full energies to protecting and healing countless lives. They experienced China’s warlord period, the civil war between the Nationalists and Communists, and the eight years of fighting against the Japanese. They strictly adhered to a neutral position in matters of politics. During the time of the civil war and the war with the Japanese, owing to the Chinese military’s lack of necessary medical equipment, many wounded officers and soldiers were sent to the hospitals established by Western churches to be treated. Many medical missionaries gave up their own lives when they died of overwork or from typhoid or other infectious diseases they contracted from their patients. Dr. Anderson was one of these.

David Gordon Anderson was born on August 29, 1908 in Taizhou Prefecture in Zhejiang Province (present-day Taizhou City); his parents were early Inland Mission medical missionaries. His father was Dr. John A. Anderson (?????), who boarded a ship from England in November 1889, arriving in China on December 14th; his mother, Dr. Alexandrina Ross (???), also came to China from England, arriving on April 14, 1893. On October 22, 1895, the two were married in Shanghai, and subsequently went to Zhenjiang in Jiangsu Province to undertake medical missionary work. In 1897, they moved to Taizhou in Zhejiang to participate in the construction of a Gospel hall, men’s and women’s hospitals, as well as several clinics. They worked saving the sick and spreading the Gospel continuously until retiring at the end of 1924.

Dr. and Mrs. Anderson raised four children, of which David was the eldest. At a young age, under his parents’ guidance, he believed in the Lord and entered the Inland mission’s Zhifu School in Yantai, Shandong Province. After graduating, David Anderson returned to England to attend university; he followed in his parents’ footsteps and studied medicine. In 1927, at the Keswick Convention, he took another step in understanding God’s plan for his life, and dedicated his life entirely to the Lord.

Anderson’s fiance, Miss Marjorie E. L. Kerr (????), also grew up in a Christian household. After becoming a believer under her parents’ guidance, she aspired to go abroad to spread the Gospel. As a young woman, she entered the University of Edinburgh in Scotland; at a Christian fellowship at school, she gave herself over to the Lord, asking the Lord to guide her life. After completing her master’s degree at Edinburgh, she became a teacher. In 1933, when she and Anderson were at a lively Christian meeting, the Lord gave them clear guidance to go preach the Gospel in China. They responded to God’s call, and joined the Inland Mission, setting off from England in 1934 and arriving at Shanghai in March. After some introductory study of the Chinese language, Anderson was dispatched to work at the Wilmay Memorial Hospital in Changzhi, Shanxi Province; Miss Kerr was sent to work in Xiangyuan, to the north of Changzhi. On March 26, 1935, one year after their arrival in China, they were married in the city of Tianjin. After their wedding, the two returned to Wilmay Memorial Hospital to do medical missionary work.

Wilmay Memorial Hospital opened in 1931, and at that time was the only modern hospital in southern Shanxi, serving seven counties and towns as well as rural areas with a total population of about two million. When Anderson arrived, he joined Dr. & Mrs. Paul E. Adolph (???????), Dr. & Mrs. E. Warren Knight (???????), two nurses, Miss Doris M. L. Madden (?????) and Miss Marguerite Dickie (?????), and three missionaries, Miss Gertrude Trudinger (?????) and Mr. & Mrs. James A. Dunachie (?????); in addition were a local staff of about 20 people, including Dr. Beh (???), nurses, anesthetists, and men and women evangelists. Those working at the hospital shared the workload and helped each other. Dr. & Mrs. Adolph were in charge of the resident physicians and patients’ treatment and surgery. When Anderson first arrived at the hospital, he worked as Dr. Adolph’s assistant. Mr. & Mrs. Dunachie were the hospital’s managers, responsible for the various chores. Dr. & Mrs. Knight were responsible for outside work; they usually worked by setting up a mobile hospital in a nearby city or town, treating patients and preaching. Especially at the times of major festivals, they would take their mobile hospital out to the people, with concurrent treatment of patients and preaching in a tent. Miss Trudinger worked with the women at the gospel halls and several women’s prayer meetings. In order to get mothers to hear the Word, Miss Dickie came alongside them to aid, care for, and teach their children. Each Sunday, it fell to Mrs. Adolph to teach the children’s Sunday school. In addition, the hospital staff often went with their Chinese colleagues to prisons, where they shared the Gospel with male and female prisoners, teaching them through the Gospel to reform their ways.

After Anderson’s marriage, the Knights moved on to Linfen Hospital. Subsequently, Anderson assisted Dr. Adolph with the management of the hospital, taking over direction of the mobile hospital, which was quite a major task. In the summer of 1935, Dr. Helen R. Neve (??????) was dispatched from England to join them. In the midst of this period of raging war, Anderson and his colleagues not only saved innumerable people from bodily peril, but also were an instrument in the salvation of millions of souls.

At the end of September 1936, Dr. Adolph returned to the United States for advanced studies, and it fell to Anderson to direct the hospital’s operations. In 1937, the civil war came to an end, the Nationalists and Communists came together to fight the Japanese, bringing society to relative calm, and the hospital’s medical and missionary work also gradually returned to normal. Unfortunately the good times did not last, for shortly thereafter came the July 7 Incident of 1937, which exploded into the Second Sino-Japanese War. That year on November 8th, Taiyuan in Shanxi fell, and the Japanese army continued south to occupy Taigu, Pingyao, and other areas. The Eighth Route Army in Shanxi, which was engaged in guerilla warfare with the Japanese in mountainous areas, was locked in a life-and-death struggle against the powerful invaders, but its casualties were much more numerous than those of the Japanese. Consequently, attending to wounded soldiers became the medical missionaries’ primary task. The three doctors of the Wilmay Memorial Hospital spared no effort in saving the lives of wounded Eighth Route Army personnel. Despite shortages of medicine and equipment, with loving Christ-like hearts, the doctors put forth their full effort to save them. Miss Rose S. Rasey (???), a nurse who personally went to work at a hospital on the front lines, wrote, “Every day the Lord gave me strength to face many difficulties; there were times when I knelt on the ground taking care of them [the wounded]. I was almost unable to stand up straight anymore. I asked the Lord to give me the grace and hope necessary to save even more people” (“Selfless Love”??????, p. 274). Of course, in the midst of saving lives, they still did not forget to hang big pictures of Gospel stories on the walls to comfort the sick and wounded.

In 1938 the Wilmay Memorial Hospital was filled over capacity with the injured and sick; there was too little space inside, so that many patients had to be treated outdoors. To respond to these needs, they built another hospital in Lucheng, which David Anderson was also responsible for overseeing. According to hospital records, in that period the two hospitals had space for five thousand outpatients, in addition to capacity for over five hundred inpatients. This heavy workload of saving the dying and healing the wounded caused Anderson to overexert himself, but he silently labored on, persevering through the crises, treating thousands of sick and wounded with his own hands. On June 6, 1939, before reaching the age of 31, he succumbed to untreated typhoid which he had contracted from a patient. He left behind a young wife, a four-and-a-half-year-old firstborn daughter, and a younger daughter less than a year old. In order to save the lives and souls of Chinese, Anderson made great sacrifices, even to the point of sacrificing his own young life.

About the Authors

By Yading Li

Senior Associate, Global China Center; Chinese Editor, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity.


Translated by William Barratt

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