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Highlights of Our Heritage-Missions-Continuing the Experiences of N. B. Wright (Part 2)

by Edited by E L Jorgenson

N. B. Wright’s Experiences in China (MM Dec 1945)


     On November 7, 1928, after a successful ministry with the Ormsby Avenue Church, Louisville, Brother Bernard Wright set sail for the great mission field in China, where one-fourth of the human family resides and where, it is said, over a million a month (in peace time) were dying without God. Bro. Wright, a graduate of the University of Louisville and a diligent student of the Bible, is a zealous, energetic, consecrated servant of the Lord—one of the finest who has ever gone forth on this holy mission. After approximately three years of language study in Peking, he and Brother Charles Gruver opened up a work in Hopei Province, North China, where he labored until he left on furlough in March, 1935, leaving Brother Gruver in charge.

     As passage home was only slightly higher by way of Suez, Brother Wright sailed from Shanghai for Port Said, Palestine, London, and New York, reaching his home in Pekin, Ind., July 31, 1935. During his stay in the United States, he visited churches in Canada, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, etc., engaging in quite an extensive ministry with the Mount Auburn Church in Dallas, Texas. In 1937, when Brother Gruver planned to return on furlough, Brother Wright began preparations for his return to the field. But on account of the unsettled state of affairs between China and Japan, his going was delayed. All the while, good reports from the North China work were being received at this end of the line.

     Finally, after long delay, much prayer, and deliberation—realizing the urgent need for his oversight on the field—he felt led of the Lord to return, setting sail from Seattle, October 5, 1940. Upon arrival at Ningtsin, his station in North China, Brother Wright found many difficulties confronting him, but reported “a far readier acceptance of the gospel.”

     On February 27, 1941, Brother Wright wrote of the impending evacuation of Hopei Province on account of the tenseness of the Chinese-Japanese situation. The Lord’s work was reported progressing, with new faces constantly appearing in the different services. In April and May he write of eighteen baptisms. A “big meeting with untold good being done,” nightly prayer service with much interest, and the spread of the work into new villages are the tenor of his May 30 report.

     In June, Brother Wright reported a much-needed move being made into better living quarters. On July 2 he wrote that he was still receiving funds from the United States in spite of all the war censorship, that they were having thirteen meetings a week in Nmg- tsin, and at one service there were thirteen baptisms. Four more baptisms were reported in his July 25 letter.

     In his letter of October 5, he requested earnest prayer that new workers be enlisted and expressed a definite hope that a way would be opened in a year or so for others to come. The work was coming along fine. Preparation for a big tent meeting, with anticipation of crowds too large for the chapel, was reported in his letter of October 16, 1942. His message of October 31, brought news of funds being frozen and all printed matter for the States being turned back. At the regular services, crowds too large for the chapel were reported on November 21, 1941, and hope for the coming of new workers was still entertained. On November 28, meetings were still being held regularly and he was trusting that “everything would soon be ironed out in Washington.”

     Then came the Pearl Harbor disaster and no more word from Brother Wright. Communication with him was sought through every available legal channel. In August, 1942, word was received from a Gripsholm passenger. Brother Wright’s former neighbor in China, that he was well and happy, and that he was one of the very few who was permitted to hold meetings. He had been held in custody for about a month, and then allowed to continue his work, being questioned daily by police. He was able to borrow money.

     In response to a restricted message sent by Brother Janes in March, 1942, Brother Wright wrote under date of December 28, 1942: “Dear Brother Janes: Work fair. Health perfect. Work and self free. Abundant food, fuel. Three excellent twice-daily meetings over Christmas. Hallelujah. Love and greetings, Bernard.”

     The next information regarding Brother Wright was the following note, dated April 19, 1943, written from Weihsien Civilian Assembly Center where he was interned in. March, 1943: “Praise God. Health perfect, heart joyful. Pray for soon opening of Christian work in larger measure. Working in bakery. Hope to remain. Hallelujah. Bernard.”

     Through a letter received from Brother Wright’s friend, a former internee at Weihsien, who came home on the Gripsholm on December 6, and who saw him last on September 15, 1943, we learned that he had desired to come on that exchange trip but was not chosen as one to come. He had been working in a bakery ever since his internment, was taking part in the religious activities of the Camp, was satisfied with his work and was faring all right.

     The next word came direct from Brother Wright, the following brief message, dated August, 1945: “Health perfect. Spirits high. .Love to all, Bernard,”

     The October Messenger contains quite a long letter from him, dated August 27, 1945, addressed to Brother Wilson Burks, his faithful long-time treasurer.

     We present the following extracts of interesting correspondence received from Brother Wright since his release from internment in August:

     Weihsien, Sept. 3, 1945.

“. . . You likely know a lot about Weihsien already. For 16 months I was a baker, using old-style troughs, etc. Then about the middle of February my job was bakery stoker. In the meanwhile, I had gained back several pounds of weight in the outdoors job.

     “The camp was very enthusiastic in welcoming representatives of our government. What a feast we had that night—pork and beans, and other good things: soup that was real American soup, and canned fruits. These were really flavoring! Breakfasts have picked up also. We are getting along fine.

     “My health has been fine except for boils early in our first two years. And just now am disturbing the dormitory with outbursts of hay-fever! Our spirits are high and I don’t mean maybe.

     “. . . Pray for early opening of our mission work in Hopei province.”

Peking, Oct. 17.

     “. . . I’m out of Weihsien! . . . We took off from Weihsien airfield at 8:30 this A. M. and landed at Peking airfield at 10:30. How beautiful the Chinese landscape from the air—one huge garden. Country life, river life, and sea life all passed below in one beautiful scene.

     “It was two months ago when Major Steiger and his men parachuted to Weihsien. They were over and down before we or the Japanese came to our senses. What a welcome they received! Then a few days later B-2q’s from Saipan and Okinawa sent down tons of clothing, meats, fruits, milk, vegetables, chewing gum, medicines, etc., etc. We were warned not to over-medicate or over-eat. Well, we had been going on one meal a day (not including bread) and that one meal about one-third of an American meal. What a rude, but ah-so-pleasant shock our stomachs had! In fact, they rebelled for a time! If we had gone on like that (one egg every two or three weeks —Japanese said they couldn’t buy them!) I doubt whether we would have had strength to do our packing in preparation for departure from camp. But with the arrival of the mission of the American Armed Forces, matters changed rapidly, with two or more eggs along with a bowl of millet at breakfast time, fresh fruits, etc. So, we are well-fed.

     “A number of Marines are in Peking. The city looks rather run-down and in need of fresh paint.

“I have no word from down country. Can’t say how long I’ll need to be in Peking. Hope to go to Ningtsin, at least for a visit, when I can. . ..

     “It will be great to get good, long letters again when regular channels open up. . .

Peking, Oct. 29.

     “... It seems that many people who were in Weihsien have improved in their mental and spiritual outlook; whereas people of neutral nationalities are said to be in same old rut. ... I know I feel like a different man physically. . ..

     “Rickshaw fares which were 30c or 40c a few years ago are now $120 up. Coal $30,000 a ton (local currency); apples $400 a pound, etc. Exchange Saturday was $3,500 for one U. S. dollar; yesterday it was $2,500—a drop of only (?) $1,000 a day! A new Chiang representative is in town, so change is for the better, we hope, if prices will only come down. One fellow said a landlord wanted 4 oz. of gold for rent—2 for rent and 2 for servants to clean up. I have no definite idea of exchange value of 1 oz. of gold, but think it is several hundred thousand Chinese dollars. . ..

     “Did I tell you the Reds have over-run and control Ningtsin?  They went through------house with a fine-tooth comb and took all his wealth—and mine, consisting of $360 in New York drafts! They were not endorsed and Wilson (Burks) says the money is frozen. . .

     “It will probably cost $800 to $1000 a day to stay here after Nov. 16, so you see we all think in big terms these days. It’s all O. K. for those who have income of U. S. money; for others it’s a problem—no income and no job and these prices.

“. . . . I hear new missionaries of the American Board of Missions are expected in China shortly. . . EMS.

-Edited By E L Jorgenson

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33