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Ding Limei

1871 ~ 1936

Ding Limei was born October 2, 1871, in a Christian home in Jiaozhou, Dai Xing Tong, Shandong Province. His father, Ding Qitang, was one of the first Christians in Shandong. At the age of thirteen he left home for Dengzhou, (today Penglai) and enrolled in Tengchow College (Wen Huiguan), which had been founded by the American Presbyterian Missions, North. After graduating from Tengchow College at the age of twenty, he worked in society for a few years. He returned at the age of twenty-six to study theology for two years at the same school. He was ordained as a pastor in 1898. During the Boxer Uprising in 1900, he was thrown into prison for forty days, and suffered almost 200 blows by the rod, leaving his skin torn open. Afterwards Presbyterian missionary Calvin Mateer, who was also the Principal of Tengchow College, asked help from Yuan Shikai, who was Governor of Shandong Province, and Ding was set free.

After his release, he resolved to preach the gospel in every province in China, to establish an indigenous Chinese church and save the souls of the millions of his countrymen. While serving as pastor of a Presbyterian church, he was often invited to various places to conduct revival and evangelistic meetings. He traveled to Hebei, Henan, Manchuria, and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang). In the fires of revival, thousands repented and put their faith in Christ. His preaching was especially attractive to intellectuals; many young people offered themselves for Christian service.

From 1908 to 1923, Ding concentrated upon itinerant evangelism, and his ministry spread to every important province in China. Though described as mild-mannered, Ding apparently possessed great spiritual power from God. In 1909, Ding was at the played a major part in a strong religious revival at Shandong Union College, inspiring more than 100 young men to enter the Christian ministry. He was then invited to institutions in Tianjin, Tungchow, and Beijing, where he was instrumental in the decisions of over 200 others to enter the ministry. In June, 1920, the China Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Hebei convened “The North China Student Conference.” At this gathering, the China Student Volunteer Movement Evangelistic Band was formed, with the motto, “The evangelization of our mother country and the world in this generation.” Ding Limei was chosen as the first traveling secretary for the YMCA. He traveled throughout China, speaking in churches, universities, and secondary schools, conducting revivals and forming “evangelistic bands.” In 1920, he led 87 evangelistic meetings and preached more than 200 times. At evangelistic meetings in Beijing and Shandong, thousands professed faith in Christ. Through preaching at other places, several people who became famous Christian workers dedicated their lives for service, including: Notable historian Jian Youwen; Women’s educationalist, Zeng Baosun, the granddaughter of Zeng Guofan; Chinese indigenous theology advocate Professor Xie Fuya, and others. In 1918, being moved by the importance of missions, at Guling Shan in Jiangxi, he and some others founded the China Inland Evangelistic Society. Together, they promoted evangelistic movements in every part of the country. As the general secretary, he personally led evangelistic teams to Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet, Mongolia, and other border provinces, taking the gospel to minority peoples in these regions. In 1919, fulfilled the resolution he had made, taking the gospel to 18 provinces of China.

As he was getting older and was beginning to experience some problems with his health, in 1923 Ding turned his energies from itinerant evangelism to theological education. He first taught for eight years at the North China Theological Seminary, then pastored a church in Manchuria for a while. In 1932, he accepted a position as professor at a Bible College run by American National Holiness Mission (美國通聖會)in Tianjin. At a revival meeting held by Dr. John Song (宋尚節) in Tianjin, he first humbly went forward to confess his sins, and later led a group in follow up work.

In the last two years of his life, he came down with liver cancer; during his illness, he prayed earnestly for the church and the populace as a whole. He had always greatly emphasized prayer, and, always carried with him a little notebook, with the names of thousands of people, for whom he prayed individually.

Ding Limei died on September 22, 1936, at the age of 65, and was buried in the English cemetery in Tianjin. He was survived by his wife and three daughters.

About the Authors

By Yading Li

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

Translated by G. Wright Doyle

Director, Global China Center; English Editor, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

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