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Making Doctors and Nurses for Jesus: Medical Missionary Stories and American Children1

  • Rennie B. Schoepflin (a1)


The December 1899 issue of Our Little Friend, a Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath school paper containing moral instruction, missionary stories, and the upcoming week's Bible study lessons, related the following story to its young readers:



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2. The editors of Our Little Friend divided new or difficult words into syllables and placed accent marks to assist the young readers in pronunciation.

3. “How a Little Sick Boy was Cured,” Our Little Friend 10:27 (December 29, 1899): 214.

4. Roberts, James H., “Child-Life in China,” Our Little Friend 8:34 (02 18, 1898): 269 [from the Mission Dayspring].

5. Swanson, Herb, “Said's Orientalism and the Study of Christian Missions,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 28 (07 2004): 109.

6. Emily Williston, “Missionary A-B-C'S,” in Ferris, Anita B., Missionary Program Material for Use with Boys and Girls (New York: Missionary Education Movement of the United States and Canada, 1916), 9293.

7. For an excellent overview of these developments, see Robert, Dana L., “From Missions to Mission to Beyond Missions: The Historiography of American Protestant Foreign Missions Since World War II,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 18 (10 1994): 146–60.

8. For example, see the outstanding Hutchison, William R., Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). See also William Harris, Paul, Nothing But Christ: Rufus Anderson and the Ideology of Protestant Foreign Missions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Carpenter, Joel A. and Shenk, Wilbert R., ed., Earthen Vessels: American Evangelicals and Foreign Missions, 1880–1980 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1990); Torben, Christensen and Hutchison, William R., ed., Missionary Ideologies in the Imperialist Era: 1880–1920 (Århus, Denmark: Aros, 1982); and Beaver, R. Pierce, “Missionary Motivation Through Three Centuries,” in Reinterpretation in American Church History, ed. Brauer, Jerald C., Essays in Divinity 5 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968). On the role of missionaries in the early development of anthropology, see Higham, C. L., “Saviors and Scientists: North American Protestant Missionaries and the Development of Anthropology,” Pacific Historical Review 72 (2003): 531–59.

9. For a classic exploration of the relationship between missionaries and imperialism, see Schlesinger, Arthur Jr., “The Missionary Enterprise and Theories of Imperialism,” in The Missionary Enterprise in China and America, ed. Fairbank, John K. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974), 336–73, 419–24. See also Said, Edward W., Culture and Imperialism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).

10. See Robert, Dana L., “Shifting Southward: Global Christianity Since 1945,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 24 (04 2000): 5058; Walls, Andrew F., The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1996); and Sanneh, Lamin, “Mission and the Modern Imperative—Retrospect and Prospect: Charting a Course,” in Carpenter and Shenk, Earthen Vessels, 301–16.

11. In a recent article Herb Swanson helpfully points out the ways in which a judicious application of the categories of analysis in Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) might contribute to the study of Christian missions. According to Swanson, the “relationship of knowledge and discourse to power,” the tendency “to see the worst in the East and the best in the West,” a “textual attitude” that leads to the belief that humans can best be understood on the basis of what books say, and the “intimate estrangement” of a simultaneous cultural immersion and isolation all hold promise for missiology. See Swanson, Herb, “Said's Orientalism and the Study of Christian Missions, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 28 (07 2004): 107–12.

12. On medical missions, see Grundmann, Christoffer, ”Proclaiming the Gospel by Healing the Sick? Historical and Theological Annotations on Medical Mission,“ International Bulletin of Missionary Research 14 (07 1990): 120–26.

13. Quotation from Williams, C. Peter, ”Healing and Evangelism: The Place of Medicine in Later Victorian Protestant Missionary Thinking,” in The Church and Healing, ed. Sheils, W. J. for the Ecclesiastical History Society, Studies in Church History 19 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982), 285. On Peter Parker, see Gulick, Edward V., Peter Parker and the Opening of China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973). Daniel Wise briefly mentions DrSwain, Clara A., pioneer Methodist medical missionary, in Our Missionary Heroes and Heroines: or, Heroic Deeds Done in Methodist Missionary Fields (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1884), 242. For more on Swain and her experiences in India, see Barrett Montgomery, Helen, Western Women in Eastern Lands: An Outline Study of Fifty Years of Woman's Work in Foreign Missions (New York: Macmillan, 1910), 187–96; and Robert, Dana L., American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1996), 162–65.

14. Dennis, James S., Christian Missions and Social Progress, 3 vols. (New York: Revell, 18971906), 2:402, 40, n. 2.

15. Ibid., 2:400. For Dennis's complete summary of the positive impact missionaries had on medicine, public health, and hygiene in mission lands, see 2:400–468.

16. Applegarth, Margaret T., Missionary Stories for Little Folks, Second Series: Junior (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1917), 282.

17. For recent work regarding postcolonialism and Western medicine, see Anderson, Warwick, “Where Is the Postcolonial History of Medicine?Bulletin of the History of Medicine 72 (1998): 522–30. For recent explorations of the complex interaction among medical missionaries, Western medicine, and indigenous peoples, see Feierman, Steven, “Explanation and Uncertainty in the Medical World of Ghaambo,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74 (2000): 317–44; White, Luise, “‘They Could Make Their Victims Dull’: Genders and Genres, Fantasies and Cures in Colonial Southern Uganda,” American Historical Review 100 (1995): 13791402; Berends, Willem, “African Traditional Healing Practices and the Christian Community,” Missiology: An International Review 21 (07 1993): 275–88; Ekechi, Felix K., “The Medical Factor in Christian Conversion in Africa: Observations from Southeastern Nigeria,” Missiology: An International Review 21 (07 1993): 289309; Elkins, Richard E., “Blood Sacrifice and the Dynamics of Supernatural Power among the Manobo of Mindanao: Some Missiological Implications,” Missiology: An International Review 21 (07 1993): 321–31; Seale, J. Paul, “Christian Missionary Medicine and Traditional Healers: A Case Study in Collaboration from the Philippines,” Missiology: An International Review 21 (07 1993): 311–20; and Arnold, David, “Touching the Body: Perspectives on the Indian Plague, 1896–1900,” in Selected Subaltern Studies, ed. Ranajit, Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty, Spivak (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 391426.

18. For an important collection of essays that explores foreign missions as constructed in America, see Bays, Daniel H. and Grant, Wacker, ed., The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home: Explorations in North American Cultural History (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003). Especially relevant to my essay are Blue Wills, Anne, “Mapping Presbyterian Missionary Identity in The Church at Home and Abroad, 1890–1898,” 95105, 280–88, and Hardesty, Nancy A., “The Scientific Study of Missions: Textbooks of the Central Committee on the United Study of Foreign Missions,” 106–22, 288–90.

19. Hare, Eric B., Clever Queen: A Tale of the Jungle and of Devil Worshipers (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific, 1936).

20. Ibid., 32.

21. Ibid., 41, 6.

22. Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy, Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes (New York: Macmillan, 1988), 148.

23. For an example of this view, see Rose, Jacqueline, The Case of Peter Pan, or The Impossibility of Children's Fiction (London: Macmillan, 1984). For a survey of American children's literature, including recent critical approaches, see Lyon Clark, Beverly, “American Children's Literature: Background and Bibliography,” American Studies International 30 (04 1992): 440.

24. The following denominations are represented in this study: Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Seventh-day Adventist.

25. Wilbur Rice, Edwin, The Sunday-School Movement (1780–1917) and the American Sunday-School Union (1817–1917) (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1917; reprint, New York: Arno, 1971), 141–42. See also Boylan, Anne M., Sunday School: The Formation of an American Institution, 1790–1880 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988), and Lynn, Robert W.and Wright, Elliott, The Big Little School: 200 Years of the Sunday School (Birmingham, Ala.: Religious Education, 1980).

26. Rice, , The Sunday-School Movement, 159.

27. Ibid., 419.

28. Applegarth, , Missionary Stories, Second Series: Junior, 286–91.

29. For example, see Anderson, Emma, With Our Missionaries in China (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific, 1920) [Seventh-day Adventist]; Pearson, N. G. [Gust], With Christ in Congo: A Story of Twenty Years of Missionary Work in French Congo (Chicago: Conference, n.d. [19421949?]) [Baptist].

30. Criswell, W. A. and McCall, Duke K., Passport to the World (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman, 1951), 2021, 23, 24.

31. For example, see “‘Jolly Good Fun’” and “When Livingston Was Lost,” in Kerr, Hugh T., Children's Missionary Story-Sermons (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1915); “Should He Steal?,” “One Girl's Dream,” “Sona Mona Singh,” “Liu Kwang Chao,” and “An Indian Mother's Gift,” in White Eggleston, Margaret, Seventy-Five Stories for the Worship Hour (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1929); “A Woman Conquers Cannibals with Kindness” and “A Chinese Robber Has His Picture Taken (A True Story),” in Kirkpatrick Berg, Mary, Story Sermons for Junior Congregations (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1930); “How One Doctor Works,” “Sickness Packets or Joy Packets—Which?” and “The Monkey and the Medic,” in Hallock, G. B. F., Ninety-Nine New Sermons for Children (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1937); and “David Livingstone, The Pathfinder of Africa,” in Harrison, Eugene Myers, Giants of the Missionary Trail: The Life Stories of Eight Men Who Defied Death and Demons (Chicago: Scripture, 1954).

32. I have greatly benefited from conversations with Jeffrey Dupée on these characterizations of narrative style. See also his British Travel Writers in China—Writing Home to a British Public, 1890–1914 (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 2004), 300310.

33. White, Luise, “‘They Could Make Their Victims Dull,’” 1388, 1396.

34. “December 3, 1926: Jungle Doctor Signed a Decision Card,” http://www.gospelcom. net/chi/DAILYF/2001/12/daily–12–03–2001.shtml.

35. For examples among many of detailed descriptions of treatment and surgery, see White, Paul, Jungle Doctor Operates (London: Paternoster, 1950), 4852, 106–12.

36. White, Paul, Jungle Doctor Meets a Lion (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1951), 21, 53, 58.

37. White, , Jungle Doctor Operates, 112.

38. See Walls, Andrew F., “The Legacy of David Livingstone,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 11 (07 1987): 125–29; Gulick, Peter Parker; and Dorothy Clarke, Wilson Dr. Ida: The Story of Dr. Ida Scudder of Vellore (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959).

39. Peabody, Lucy W., David and Susi: Black and White, Third Book of Stories for Little Children, Everyland Children (Cambridge, Mass.: Central Committee on the United Study of Foreign Missions, 1928), 24.

40. See the profile of English Crozier, Jenny, M.D. in “Our Girls,” Missionary Tidings 22 (19041905): 179–80.

41. MrsBrown, D. C., “Over the Teacups,” Missionary Tidings 26 (19081909): 170.

42. “Miss Rose M. Kinney Girls' School at Ruk,” Our Little Friend 10:2 (July 7, 1899): 9.

43. Spear Boger, Bertha, The Congo Picture Book (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern, 1925); Mershon, Elizabeth, With the Wild Men of Borneo (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific, 1922). See also White, Paul, Doctor of Tanganyika (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957).

44. For a helpful counterbalance to the totalizing and solipsist tendencies of discourse theory on narratives about the “other,” see Dupée, , British Travel Writers in China, 124, and Porter, Dennis, Haunted Journeys: Desire and Transgression in European Travel Writing (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992).

45. This appears to be a description of the Hindu ritual of thanksgiving and atonement, called Thaipusam, which continues in Malaysia but no longer in India.

46. “Heathen Festival in India,” Our Little Friend 10:19 (November 3, 1899): 148.

47. Applegarth, Missionary Stories, Second Series: Junior, 268–74.

48. Applegarth, Margaret T., The Honorable Japanese Fan (West Medford, Mass.: The Central Committee on the United Study of Foreign Missions, 1923), between 20 and 21.

49. Paul White's “Jungle Doctor” stories are noteworthy for giving to natives a clear and articulate voice in this process of cultural and social transformation.

50. Applegarth, Missionary Stories, Second Series: Junior, 275.

51. “Which One Was Sick?” in Anderson, Emma T., A'Chu and Other Stories (Takoma Park, Md.: Review and Herald, 1920), 253–54.

52. Dupée, , British Travel Writers in China, 14.

53. “Miss Rose M. Kinney Girls' School at Ruk,” Our Little Friend, 9–10.

54. “Country and People of Tibet,” Our Little Friend 8:32 (February 4, 1898): 253 [From the Children's Record].

55. Applegarth, Margaret T., “Monkey Tails and Other Tales,” in Missionary Stories for Little Folks, First Series: Primary (New York: George H. Doran, 1917), 83.

56. See, for example, ibid., 303.

57. Applegarth, “Banana Tree that was Dressed Up,” in Missionary Stories, Second Series: Junior, 108.

58. Walston, W. E., “About South Africa,” Our Little Friend 10:19 (11 3, 1899): 148.

59. Wellman, Adelaide D., “The Cook Islands,” Our Little Friend 11:36 (03 1, 1901): 286–87.

60. White, Paul, Doctor of Tanganyika, 23.

61. Ibid., 115. For a good example of cross-cultural misunderstanding on both American and Chinese parts, see “In China and America,” in Ferris, Anita B., Missionary Program Material for Use with Boys and Girls, 4041.

62. Davidson, Annie E., “The Educational Influence of the Christian Woman's Board of Missions on the Children,” Missionary Tidings 23 (19051906): 290.

63. “Circle Beginnings,” Missionary Tidings 26 (19081909): 36.

64. Ferris, , Missionary Program Material for Use with Boys and Girls, 94.

65. “Circle Beginnings,” 36–37.

66. For missionary programs and activities for youth, see Coble, Christopher, “The Role of Young People's Societies in the Training of Christian Womanhood (and Manhood), 1880–1910,” in Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism, ed. Margaret Lamberts, Bendroth and Virginia Lieson, Brereton (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 7492; Virginia Lieson, Brereton, Training God's Army: The American Bible School, 1880–1940 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 127–29. A good example of graded missionary program material for young people is Ferris, Missionary Program Material.

67. “Circle Program for February,” Missionary Tidings 27 (19091910): 407.

68. The Central Committee on the United Study of Foreign Missions emerged from the New York Ecumenical Missionary Conference of 1900. Among other activities, the Committee annually published mission books for adults and children.

69. Applegarth, Missionary Stories, Second Series: Junior, viii.

70. MrsKuhl, A. W., “Foreign Missionaries,” Our Little Friend 11:18 (10 26, 1900): 141.

71. MrsCummings, O. E., “‘The Maiden Missionary,’” Our Little Friend 12:25 (12 20, 1901): 198.

72. For a further exploration of the relationship between internationalization and the indigenization of Christian missions, see Robert, Dana L., “The First Globalization: The Internationalization of the Protestant Missionary Movement Between the World Wars,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 26 (04 2002): 5066.

73. Harris, Elizabeth, “The Missionary Education of Children,” The International Journal of Religious Education 3 (19261927): 14.

74. Diffendorfer, Ralph E., “The ‘Disturbance of Growth’ in Missionary Attitudes,” The International Journal of Religious Education 4 (19271928): 16.

75. Anderson, Emma T., A' Chu and Other Stories, 78.

76. Pauline Jeffery, Mary, Ida S. Scudder of Vellore: The Life Story of Ida Sophia Scudder, Jubilee Edition (Mysore City, India: Wesley, 1951), 2627. For helpful insights into the motivations and experiences of female medical missionaries, see Flemming, Leslie A., ed., Women's Work for Women: Missionaries and Social Change in Asia (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1989); and Bennett, Adrian A., “Doing More Than They Intended,” in Historical Perspectives on the Wesleyan Tradition: Women in New Worlds, vol. 2, ed. Rosemary Skinner, Keller, Queen, Louise L., and Thomas, Hilah F. (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1982). For female motivations for missions in general, see Dana L. Robert, American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice; and Huffman Hoyle, Lydia, “Nineteenth-Century Single Women and Motivation for Mission,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 20 (04 1996): 5864. For an early history of foreign mission work by women, see Montgomery, Western Women in Eastern Lands.

77. White Eggleston, Margaret, Seventy-Five Stories for the Worship Hour (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1929), v.

78. Ayers, T. W., Healing and Missions (Richmond, Va.: Educational Department, Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, 1930), 11, 12, 17.

79. Reproduced from the Youth's Companion as “A Failure that Bore Fruit,” Missionary Tidings 26 (19081909): 272.

80. Seagrave, Gordon S., Burma Surgeon (New York: W. W. Norton, 1943), 1112.

81. Time, 19 February 1945, 53.

82. Helmer, Frederic F., China Chats: Talks with Children About Things of China (Philadelphia, Penn.: The Sunday School Times, 1925), 78.

83. Dayton, Edward R., ed., Medicine and Missions: A Survey of Medical Missions (Wheaton, Ill.: Medical Assistance Program, 1969), 710. The Program surveyed over 1,000 medical missionaries and received 158 responses of which 106 were from citizens of the United States.

84. Malek, Alloula, The Colonial Harem, trans. Godzich, Myrna and Godzich, Wlad, Theory and History of Literature 21 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 4.

1 Thanks to Fritz Guy, Ron Numbers, Dana Robert, Robert A. Schneider, and the anonymous reviewers at Church History for helpful comments. Thanks to Linn Tonstad and Joel McFadden for research assistance. Thanks to the libraries and librarians at La Sierra University, Fuller Theological Seminary (esp. William Kostlevy), Azusa Pacific University, Biola University, Claremont School of Theology, and Loma Linda University. Finally, I completed this paper while on the faculty at La Sierra University; thanks to that university and its administration for their support.

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