Otto F. Schoerner (1906 - 2008)
In preparing this biographical sketch of my life and experience in the Lord's service, I have been handicapped regretfully by not being able to have the input of my dear wife, Katharine. Because of her illness she is confined to the medical center of this retirement home. Her memory is failing her and she is often confused.
Somehow I had never planned to write my life story and no doubt it was rather late to begin after my ninetieth year! But friends and family members have greatly encouraged me in this task. I am surprised at the many things the Lord has enabled me to remember of His love and care and guidance through the many years. Much credit goes to my son, Bill, who has skillfully used his computer to make this publication very attractive.
May this testimony, in some measure, bring blessing and encouragement to those who will read it. Above all, may God be glorified.
If any man serve me, let him follow me ... John 12:26
Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life! For more than 91 years the Lord has manifested His love and care for us. To Him be the glory!
1. Two Countries
The fence that separated our house in Uniontown, Pa. from the railroad freight yard beyond, didn't keep our dreams and spirits from wandering to the other side. For my brother, Willie, and me, that fence only served to enhance our fantasies. We loved to "play trains." After all, they - and we - were as American as apple pie.
My parents immigrated to Uniontown from Germany in the early days of the twentieth century. They were living in that house by the railroad yard with my older sister, Elsie, when I was born August 20, 1906, and two years later when my brother, William, arrived.
I'm sure the men building freight trains in that yard didn't notice our house on Beeson Avenue. The porch from which we noticed them was in the rear; out front was the source of my family's income, the bake shop.
A portion of an artists overhead depiction of Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1897, showing Beeson Avenue.
My father, Herman Schoerner, born in Zuffenhausen (near Stuttgart) in 1879, came alone to America the first time, where the confectioner-baker found his work of choice. He then sent for my mother, Magdalena Meidinger Schoerner, a woman his age, and a native of Erlangen (in Bavaria). Their first child, Anne, died shortly after birth. My sister Elsie was born in New York City in September 1903.
The Herman Schoerner Family - about 1910 showing
The bakery in Uniontown was such a success that I wonder, at times, why my uncle Fred was the only other member of my father's large family to come to America. I was named after an Uncle Otto, who remained in Germany. And since those days, within the time and distance gone by, the backgrounds of my parents and other members of their families have been lost.
I started public school in 1912 in Uniontown, but the next year withdrew to join my parents on what became a rather lengthy return trip to Germany to visit relatives. There, I became acquainted with two grandmothers still living, and with many uncles and aunts. When my father decided to stay in Germany and open a German-American bakery in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Elsie, William and I attended school there. A number of my mother's relatives lived in the area, and we understood and spoke a good bit of the German language we had learned back in Uniontown.
One year later, in 1914, World War I broke out in Europe. My father, intending to keep his family there, returned alone to Pennsylvania via Holland to settle some business and property affairs. With U.S. involvement in the war between France, England and Germany imminent, he had difficulty obtaining a passport and visa as a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was finally allowed to return to Nuremberg on the condition that he would immediately bring his family back with him to the U.S.
My parents delayed their return for a reason unknown to me, resulting in our remaining in Europe for the duration of the war. Once the U.S. entered the conflict, my father was required to report to the police weekly, while we three children continued with our school years.
We attended the Lutheran state church, and lived the life of nominal Christians. Religious instruction was given in the public schools, and we studied and memorized the catechism. I attended regular school for four years and then the Real Gymnasium for three years, in preparation for university studies.
When the November 11, 1918 armistice signaled the war's end, my father made plans to return to the U.S. In early 1919, even before travel abroad and shipping had been restored, we traveled to Holland, hoping to return by Dutch steamer to America. He sold his business and, through an uncle in Switzerland, exchanged our German marks into Swiss francs, in the face of terrible inflation.
I was now 13, and a new era was beginning for our family. Our return trip to America would take nearly a year.
We lived first in the elegant Rotterdam Hotel Continental, then we moved to rental quarters because of the endless delays. The apartment was tiny, with a centrally located bedroom that had no windows and no central heating. I remember vividly how stuffy it was.
At our first visit to the U.S. Embassy in the Hague, my parents were told they had lost their American citizenship because of the length of time they had been out of the U.S. They had literally become persons without a country living in a foreign land! We children were out of school at that time, and attempts were made to keep us busy with activities such as reading and stamp collecting. I became interested in geography and I remember my father had me draw maps of the Dutch East Indies.
Father soon spent all of his savings and attempted to find employment. Elsie was nearly 17 at that time and my parents, with the help of new friends, sent her by boat to America, hoping to find our uncle Fred in the Pittsburgh area. We hoped he could "pull some strings" from the American side.
Finally the Embassy at the Hague and the U.S. State Department allowed families detained in Holland to receive new passports, and granted permission to travel to the United States. Yet, a shipping strike further delayed things. Finally, we sailed on the Niew Amsterdam to New York, then traveled by train to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where we found Elsie with our uncle, aunt and five cousins. We stayed with them for a while and, when my father found a good job, we established our own small rented home on Pittsburgh's hilly north side.
My brother and I returned to public school. Now 14 and 12, for a while we humbly sat with the first grade teacher in her class, learning rudimentary English all over again. After some time, father learned of a small bakery in Butler, Pa. (north of Pittsburgh) which had gone out of business and was for sale. Eager to have his own business again, he moved our family to Butler, where we started life in a new school and church. We were by now quite fluent in the English language.
2. Desert Training
My encounter with Mr. Charles Troutman, a man of God, changed the course of my future, bringing me into the Lord's service. He held a Boys' Club in St. Mark's Lutheran Church, where we attended. There, we studied the Word of God. I remember receiving my first Scofield Bible, and as a young teenager learned to love the Scriptures. It was here I came to know the Lord as my Savior. Of course, I diligently studied the catechism again, this time in English, and was confirmed.
Although I would have preferred to go on to higher education, at age 16, I entered my father's bakery business at his request. I also took some courses in a small business college. I was an apprentice baker when, in November 1922, my father was killed in an automobile accident. My family worked together to keep the business going. My mother, always a capable and faithful business woman, kept us together. The Lord was good to us!
I have always looked upon the next five years, until I was 21 years old, as my "desert training years." I remember a friend back in Nuremberg once looking at my teeth and predicting, "you will travel the world." The Lord was preparing me, and graciously taught me many lessons during those times.
In great measure, Mr. Troutman became a spiritual father to me. He later became my Sunday school teacher, and enlisted my help in a small rural Sunday school he directed. He gave me good Bible study books and missionary biographies. I keenly felt my love for books, and was drawn to deep interest in China by reading, the life story of Hudson Taylor and other missionary biographies. Mrs. Troutman, a Moody Bible Institute graduate, taught a Bible class in their home, which I enjoyed. God is indeed a Father to "widows and orphans," and uses willing persons to help us grow in our spiritual lives.
I began Bible study by correspondence course, first completing one of James M. Gray's courses, and then starting the large Scofield Correspondence course. During those years, I had the privilege of attending several Moody Bible Institute Founder's Week Conferences and two MBI summer Bible Conferences at Eagles Mere, Pa. Other well-known Bible teachers held local conferences in my home town over the years. Their guidance and a number of fine Christian magazines all played a part in teaching the Word of God and inspiring good Christian living.
3. Preparation For The Mission Field
When I turned 21 in 1927, I entered Moody Bible Institute, with the blessing of my mother and my family. I was especially encouraged when my younger brother agreed to help my mother in the family business. I enrolled in the Missionary Medical Course, preparing to serve the Lord on the mission field, probably China's. I later took additional studies in Greek and music and lengthened my course to over three years.
In 1929, I dropped out for a semester to work in the family business with my brother, to allow my busy mother to have a vacation visiting her loved ones and family in Europe. It was a joy to do that!
It was a privilege to be taught the Word of God and other subjects by gifted teachers. Some of them were Dr. James M. Gray, the president of Moody, Dr. R. A. Torrey, Dr. P. B. Fitzwater, etc. I had a part-time job working as a studio assistant with WMBI in its early days. I occasionally worked with the "Announcers Trio" at the radio station. Christian radio was still at its beginning and I had many interesting experiences there.
I had one experience at WMBI that I have never forgotten. Working in the studio, occasionally a program needed an accompanist for a visiting soloist. Since only two of the Announcers Trio could play the piano, I as a budding pianist was hastily called upon to help out. On this particular day, I was asked to play the familiar hymn "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face." After the first verse and chorus, a woman knocked at the studio door (located at that time on the first floor of the old 152 Institute Place Building) and she requested to come into the studio.
While I was playing, this woman sat down at the small studio organ and helped playing the hymn to the end. I did not know who she was but soon found out. She was Mrs. Helen H. Lemmel, the author of the words and music of this lovely old hymn. She was visiting Moody at the that time for special meetings and did not realize her hymn had been translated into this foreign language.
I recall when I was at Moody that Dr. Gray usually conducted a devotional time with the student body on Saturday mornings. He loved to quote from favorite books of his such as Andrew Bonar's Diary. I attempted to find some of these old volumes in the second hand book stores in Chicago.
One time when speaking from John 12, he quoted verse 26 as one of his favorites. He told us he was not in the habit of underlining Scripture passages; but he did that with John 12:26 in his Bible.
From that time I made this my life verse:
"If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour"
Also at that time, around 1929, the China Inland Mission issued its call for two hundred missionaries during the next two years. This was quite a new challenge to many Moody Students. While at Moody, one of the books that made a deep impression on me was the life of Borden of Yale. Borden, a Chicago boy, a son of the Borden Dairy family, felt the call to work among the Muslims in northwest China. When he graduated from Yale he went to Egypt to study Arabic and while he was there became ill and died. His mother, in his memory, built the Borden Memorial Hospital, in northwest China between the borders of Mongolia to the north and Tibet to the south. It was the reading of this book that the Lord used to give me a vision of the need among the Muslims in northwest China and ultimately lead me to that area known as Chinese Turkestan.
In April 1931, I graduated from MBI. It was a joy to have my mother come to Chicago for the graduation ceremonies. By this time I had realized that the Lord was calling me to serve Him in China and to become one of the 200 volunteers that were heeding God's call. I felt especially interested in the need for workers among the Muslims of northwest China and had made a special study of it. During my last years at Moody, a faithful, weekly prayer group met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Page, former missionaries to China. Many of us young people enjoyed this prayer fellowship and most of the ones involved ultimately came to China. We became known as the "China Bunch." One of my classmates was Betty Scott who later married John Stam. (Both Betty and John became martyrs for Christ later in China, December 8, 1934). It was Betty Scott who introduced me to Katie Dodd who had come to Moody in 1930 after graduating from Wheaton College. Both Betty and Katie had parents that were missionaries in China.
During the summer of 1931, all those who had applied to the CIM for service were invited to a candidate school for several weeks of training before being accepted as members of the Mission. Thus it came about that all those who had become missionary candidates sailed from Vancouver B.C. by slow boat to Shanghai, China. At the end of 1931, when the number of new workers was tabulated, the Lord had brought 201 new laborers from many nations of the world into His vineyard in China! This started a new chapter in the story of our lives.
We arrived in Shanghai in the fall of 1931 and soon after we were sent up the Yangtze River to the city of Anking where the China Inland Mission had a language school. Coming to the Orient at that time was certainly an exciting experience for all us young people. The most important thing for us all now was the study of a new and difficult language and to become acquainted with a new people and to adjust to a new culture.
For some six or more months, we worked through a number of study books, and of course the Bible. The Gospel of Mark was our first introduction to the Chinese Scriptures. We had Chinese teachers and missionary tutors. We also attended the local Chinese services.
The new workers came from England and many other European countries as well as Canada, U. S. A., Australia and New Zealand. The English language was the lingua-franca. Some of our German and Scandinavian co-workers had to work through a couple of languages, but they were all capable and hard working students. Mr. and Mrs. Hayword (USA) and Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd (England) were the missionaries in change.
After we all passed our first language exam, we were eagerly looking forward to the arrival of several of the Mission directors. These were coming to Anking language school to discuss the future designations of workers and to appoint them to stations where they best fitted in and were needed in the work of ministry.
Certain new pioneer fields were to be entered. Other persons had volunteered, God willing, to serve among many special groups - such as Muslims, tribal people or Tibetans. A number of medical doctors in our group were to be sent where specially needed.
Six new pioneers for Xinjiang. Back row: Dr.Emil Fischbacher, Aubrey Parsons, Will Drew, Front row: Otto Schoerner, George Fox-Holmes, Raymond Joyce..
After most of the young workers had learned about their future fields of service, and some had already left, a few of us were still waiting. At last, six of us were asked to go forward to Sinkiang (now spelled "Xinjiang," Chinese Turkestan). Mr. George Hunter, a senior missionary, now about 70 years old, had come from that province several months before. He had asked the Mission to send new workers back with him. Mr. Hunter, a rugged Scotsman, had not had a furlough for many years and he wanted to give the rest of his life for the people of Xinjiang.
Before starting on our long journey, it was necessary for us to return to Shanghai, where we had left all of our worldly belongings and missionary outfits. Other personal matters had to be attended to.
I found out I could purchase a little folding organ to take along with us. The organ builder in Shanghai was able to make me a five octave instrument. I enjoyed this little pump organ for many years in China.
While in Shanghai, I was most pleasantly surprised to meet one of the young ladies of our Moody Institute China prayer group. It was Katie Dodd who had finished her language school year and was now a new missionary in North Anhui province. She had come to the coast, I believe, to see a dentist and to take care of a number of other matters as well as make other purchases.
We used the occasion to become better acquainted and promised to keep in touch with each other by writing letters. This ultimately led to a six-year correspondence and romantic adventure, which I did not dream of at that time!
5. Across the Gobi
Preparations were made immediately as to how we would travel back with Mr. Hunter to Xinjiang. He had come from Central Asia by traveling westward to the Russian border from Urumchi (also called Tihwa by the Chinese at that time). At the border, he connected with a branch of the Russian rail line going north to Novosibirsk to link up with the Trans-Siberian Railroad which goes as far east to Manchuria and south to Beijing and Shanghai. I think it took him at least one month or more to make that trip. We could not use that route to take us to Xinjiang because of the war between Japan and China.
To go overland by camel across the Gobi Desert would take months of travel. If we should go by Chinese cart via Gansu to Xinjiang, this would also take a long time. According to Chinese reckoning, there are 54 stages (day's journey) between Lanchow and Urumchi. This was the way Marco Polo traveled centuries ago - and the road was practically the same in 1932!
After much consultation with experienced Swedish missionaries, who had worked in Chinese Mongolia, and with others, it was decided to explore the possibility of crossing Inner Mongolia and the Gobi desert into Xinjiang using motor vehicles. Several explorers had traveled in those areas with the French Citroen Expedition and with Sven Hedin's Expedition several years before. Many of their trucks were equipped with tractor treads which could travel more easily in the sandy desert areas.
Mr. Hunter, Dr. Emil Fischbacher and George Holmes traveled to Beijing where final decisions were being made. After careful study it was decided to purchase two 1.5 ton Ford trucks from a motor company located in Tientsin. The bodies and wooded framework were all built according 1932 models, but the motors and basic parts of the trucks were imported from the Ford Motor Company in the United States. Fischbacher and Holmes drove the finished trucks from Tientsin to Beijing (about 90 miles) on fairly good roads with great success. At Beijing, the trucks were loaded on railway flatcars and were transported to the city of Kalgan on the edge of the Gobi Desert where we began our unforgettable journey.
After most of the preparations had been made by the ones in Beijing, the rest of us still in Shanghai made ready to start on our journey. The railway line went via Nanjing and then north to Beijing. There at Nanjing, we had to cross the Yangtze River. Since there was no bridge there at that time, trains went across by special ferry boats. The reason I remember this part of the trip so vividly is because the Lord spoke to my heart in a special way while we were on that ferry boat.
One of our CIM senior lady missionaries was traveling with us on the train. She was talking with us about the privilege we had of serving the Lord in Central Asia. This dear lady also looked upon our service for the Lord as a wonderful challenge.
She quoted from II Cor. 5:20 (KJV) that we were not only "Ambassadors for Christ" in His service, but we were doing this "in Christ's stead" (She strongly emphasized this). This phrase has somehow reminded me again and again of the awesome privilege and responsibility of truly serving the Lord and of being His representatives wherever we go! - in Christ's place.
Those who were responsible for preparing us for this trip - with the advice and help of many friends - were continuing in making endless purchases to equip us for this long journey of nearly 2000 miles. Three of the men could drive the trucks and knew of the possible hazards ahead. We had to take along all the gasoline and oil, spare parts, tires, etc., etc., for possible repairs along the road. There were no gas stations along the way.
We also had food supplies, tents, bedding for daily needs for seven people, plus a Mongol guide for when the camel tracks took us into parts where trucks could not travel. We knew we had some rivers to cross and to go around some lakes. Sometimes the guide pointed to a certain distant hill or valley, and the lead driver of our trucks had to find the way to get there. We never wanted to miss the places where water was to be found.
We purchased two 1.5 ton Ford trucks for our journey across the Gobi Desert
Perhaps this is a good time to introduce all the members of our party, and their responsibilities assigned to each person for the journey.
Of course, Mr. George Hunter was our senior missionary and leader. He was a linguist and an experienced pioneer worker.
Dr. Emil Fischbacher was a physician and surgeon. He also was a gifted mechanic, etc. He was the chauffeur of truck #1.
George (Fox) Holmes was our chief engineer and capable mechanic. He was the chauffeur of truck #2.
Aubrey Parsons knew the carpenter trade and was the alternate driver. He was in charge of gas, water and air for tires. This was also manual work!
Raymond Joyce was the official packer - loading and unloading. He was also the "Journalist-in-chief."
William Drew was in charge of the "heating and lighting" department. In desert country it was not always easy to find fuel for heating water, etc.
I, Otto Schoerner, was in charge of the "commissariat department" - that is, "chief cook and bottle washer." I thought I had learned a little about cooking - but I still had lots to learn! The end of a hard day's journey often saw seven hungry people!
The wonderful thing was we all pitched in and helped each other out when work had to be done.
I should also mention here that the different members of our party came from different parts of the world and from a variety of backgrounds. Emil came from Scotland. He was the oldest of us six. Will was a Londoner - real English. Ray was born in China, an MK, trained in England. Aubrey came from Tasmania, trained in Australia. George was English and lived part time with parents in Singapore. He was the youngest. I was the only American of the group.
After a number of days en route, we realized that our gas supply would be inadequate for the whole journey to Urumchi. The ground was often very soft and our loads were especially heavy at the beginning. We passed by a small town north of the city of Baoteo on the China side. After some inquiry, we learned that we could purchase some gasoline there - at a price! - and we thought this extra supply would be sufficient.
On the eighth day we reached Edsingol where we knew we had some difficult rivers to cross. Near to the village, where some Mongols lived, there was a Swedish scientist, Dr. Hörner. We had a letter of introduction to him and his Chinese colleague. Dr. Hörner formerly worked with the Sven Hedin Expedition. They were making some studies of desert problems which required daily observations and recordings.
They received us royally in the Mongol "yurt" (a round tent covered with felt) and other tents which they needed as their living quarters and work places. They generously shared their supplies with us and helped us to cross the Edsingol rivers allowing us to use some of their camels with their men in charge.
Before going too fast, I first must mention a few details of special interest that reminded us again that the Lord was going before us and that He was planning our way for us despite numerous problems.
To our surprise we learned that a small supply of gasoline (some 60 gallons in five gallon containers) was buried here in the sand. It was left there by the Sven Hedin Expedition for possible future use. Through Dr. Hörner's arrangement we were able to purchase this gas and pay for it through our CIM headquarters in Shanghai.
All the plans were being made how to continue our journey across four rivers before us. Some maps and pictures would greatly help to adequately describe some of our adventures! These rivers flowing northward emptied their waters into two salt lakes. The amount of water in the rivers varied with the seasons.
It was decided to completely unload our trucks and take our goods across these rivers using the camels (with their men in charge) that belonged to Dr. Hörner. Ray Joyce and I were appointed to take this trip -- A new and unusual experience for us. The rest of the men and a new Mongol guide drove the empty trucks around one of the lakes and met us at a given point. There we made arrangements to cross the last river before us.
All of us pitched in to build a road of access and exit on each side of the river. Our baggage was taken across by newly hired camels and finally we were ready to use these camels to pull the two trucks across. We had seen a picture of a previous truck of one of the expeditions that tried to cross the river under its own power. It almost sank in the loose sand and swiftly flowing water. So we were extra cautious!
Crossing the Edsingol, Inner Mongolia
The trucks were stripped of all unnecessary weight. The electrical parts were specially wrapped and well protected, etc. by our expert chauffeurs. The camel men hitched up their animals with ropes. Thus with lots of shouting and yelling both trucks were safely pulled across the river.
We were truly grateful to God for His gracious help and guidance! With renewed enthusiasm and plenty of hard work we repacked the trucks to complete the second half of our journey. Now the real Gobi was before us.
After several more days, we entered Xinjiang province and soon reached the first city of that province called Hami. There we stayed in a Chinese inn whose proprietor was known to Mr. Hunter.
6. Chinese Turkestan
We learned that we had just escaped some military skirmishes. We arrived with only about 10 gallons of gasoline in each truck. After some bargaining we were able to obtain some gas partially in exchange for some of Dr. Fischbacher's medicines. Also there were some discussions about future sales of our trucks to the provincial government once we reached Urumchi.
I cannot mention here very much about the political problems at this time. It was largely between the provincial government and the Muslim rebels. We were delayed two weeks in Hami and later in Kucheng (Chitai) before we reached Urumchi. The cart road was in fairly good shape. It was a beautiful trip through the Tien Shan Mountains via Kucheng to Urumchi. We were wonderfully welcomed by Mr. Percy Mather, Mr. Hunter's faithful fellow worker for many years. He had been patiently waiting for our arrival.
He had made arrangements for the arrival of six new missionaries in somewhat cramped quarters. But we soon adjusted to the new rigorous life with a cold winter before us.
Records show that we left Kalgan by truck on September 13, 1932, and arrived in Urumchi on November 9. We were 57 days en route. Twenty-two days were actually spent in travel. We were delayed for thirty-five days for repairs to one truck, crossing rivers at Etsingol, and at Hami and Kucheng negotiating needed supplies. We arrived at our destination just as snow began to fall and the beginning of a Siberian winter in Xinjiang.
On the night of out arrival, Mr. Mather read Psalm 118, reminding us all of God's goodness and care over us all along the way. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endureth forever." (Psalm 118:29)
As the days went on it was a pleasure to become better acquainted with Mr. Mather, as we lived closely together in that Urumchi mission compound. He gave up the small house he lived in and joined Mr. Hunter in his quarters. Four of the fellows lived in two upstairs rooms, and downstairs became dining room and living room. Dr. Fischbacher and I shared a room in the upstairs of the third house.
Mather was very busy buying up provisions for the winter that was before us. The political situation was very uncertain and some supplies were not easy to obtain. There were eight of us men, plus a cook, several servants and men to take care of horses, etc. All these had to be provided for and fed.
Soon a language teacher was found to help us make some progress with our language study. It did not take long for the city to learn that there was a doctor in our midst and Fischbacher was kept busier than he really wanted to be.
Urumchi and a number of cities in Xinjiang's western border had many White Russians living there. They were really refugees (non-communist) who had fled persecution following the Russian Revolution. Among them were quite a few Christians who had good Christian fellowship with Mr. Hunter and Mr. Mather for several years. We had a Danish Postal Commissioner with a Norwegian wife living in our city. They occasionally invited us for company. Several German business men lived in the suburbs.
There was a small Russian Orthodox church and priest in the area and a German Roman Catholic Mission. A Russian consul, plus his staff, looked after the foreign affairs of his country. The local provincial government was very cooperative with them and was much influenced by the Soviet regime.
A number of weeks after our arrival, the political situation worsened. The Muslim general from Gansu province, Ma-Chung-Yin, with some 10,000 of his troops besieged the city of Urumchi. We were shut in the city for some six weeks before the enemy retreated. We do not know many details of all that happened, but we learned that there were many dead and wounded who desperately needed medical help and care.
It was then that Dr. Fischbacher was asked to assist a Chinese doctor in organizing an emergency hospital in order to treat the many sick and wounded. In this way all of us became involved as "field nurses" and medical assistants! It was a difficult undertaking with limited equipment in poor quarters and untrained helpers.
A German Catholic priest, who had some medical experience during World War I also did noble service. At this time of need, my little missionary medical training made me for a time Dr. Fischbacher's chief surgical nurse! We all worked hard for a period of time until it pleased the Lord to put a halt to this service of devotion and love for His name sake.
The heavy load of ministry seemed to wear out our most valued workers. Both Mr. Mather and Dr. Fischbacher came down with what looked to us like typhus fever and both of them went home to be with the Lord within three days of each other. It is difficult to describe those days now after many years. We still do not know or understand God's purposes in it all. I am sure someday we shall know why.
Some years before this, when I sent my first gift to the China Inland Mission in Philadelphia, I told of my great admiration of Hudson Taylor and how his young life and ministry had greatly influenced my life. The person who answered my letter wrote: "Yes, God takes away His workers -- as He had by then taken away Hudson Taylor -- but His work goes on!"
Soon plans were being made regarding the rest of us young men and our future ministry. I do not know how these plans were decided, but Aubrey Parsons was to stay in Urumchi to work for a time there. George Holmes and Will Drew were asked to go several stages west to Manas. There they attempted to reach out to Turki (Uygurs) and Qazak people.
Raymond Joyce and I were to go some five or six stages (150 miles) east to Kucheng (Kitai) to begin a ministry among the Chinese people of that area. Mr. Hunter and Ray went first to rent a place where we would live. I followed later by horse with some Chinese merchants. There we settled down to begin a new life, a new work in a new place. I think we finished another language exam before we came this far.
At this time of writing it is somewhat difficult to recall events and evaluate our experiences of more than sixty years ago. At first it was most important to get a good knowledge of the Chinese language and to become acquainted with the Word of God in this language.
We were encouraged to make contact with the people (as Mr. Hunter and Mr. Mather had always done) by doing simple medical work within the range of our limited knowledge. In this way we had the opportunity to speak about Christ and to give out Christian literature that we possessed. We started to hold meetings in our upstairs guest room, especially Sundays. Raymond Joyce had been born in China and lived in Honan with missionary parents. He had a fairly good knowledge of the spoken language. This was always to his advantage over me. I thank God for the fine fellow worker Raymond was.
As much as possible, we dealt personally with the small group of people that came to know the Lord. We distributed literature in the streets of our small town and also held open-air meetings on some of the street corners.
During the summer months we itinerated in the populated areas in this semi-desert country where we would reach out to Chinese farmers and traders. By this time we found it possible to purchase several horses and a four-wheeled Russian cart and thus became more mobile and independent. Several of our trips were to the farming areas in the foothills of the Tien Shan Mountains south of us.
Otto Schoerner and Raymond Joyce and their four-wheeled Russian cart
On several occasions we were specially invited farther into the mountains where the nomadic Turki, Qazak or Mongol people lived during the summer months. There they found beautiful grazing areas for there many animals. Usually they desired medical help which we could not always give.
During the cold winter months, we stayed close to home. Kucheng had cold Siberian winters, with temperatures as low as 30 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. Fortunately we were able to purchase good coal and we were able to obtain one or two Russian coal stoves to keep us warm during frosty nights. Winter days also meant language study and Bible study, apart from other reading. We also managed to write long letters to our girl friends, sharing our experiences and hopes for the future. We had to take six language exams as part of a study course before we could be considered "senior missionaries."
Several times during our years at Kucheng, we had occasion to travel to Urumchi for a variety of reasons. Once, the Misses French and Cable were traveling through Xinjiang on the way home to England. At that time the British Consul came from Kashgar to meet a new consul coming to our province from the east of China. After years of long isolation it was often wonderful and refreshing to see one another again and to meet people from other parts of the world.
Over the years we had labored and witnessed in the Kucheng area, the Lord had raised up a small group of believers which we had to leave in His tender and loving care. We did what we could to ground them in the Word of God and to encourage them in their new faith.
As we came closer to the time when we expected to fulfill our first term of service in China, the four of us who were still in Xinjiang at this time were looking forward to new experiences. Political events of which we were not fully aware, began to deteriorate.
Our mail was being held up and censored. At this time I was praying about my growing interest in Katie Dodd, with whom I had been corresponding now for several years. I fell in love with her! The other fellows also were hoping and planning their future.
I remember one time when Mr. Hunter (whom we seldom saw) quietly hinted that I become interested in one of the Christian Russian girls who lived in Kuldja near the Russian border! Then I would not have to travel too far to become married. But the Lord had given me a promise at that time from Isaiah 49:23....
"Thou shalt know that I am the LORD, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for me."
.... and I was willing to wait for His right time!
7. The Roof Of The World
Early in the spring of 1938, Raymond was visiting with our companion missionaries, Will and George in Manas. I hoped to follow in a short while. We had now to obtain police permits to travel away from Kucheng. For quite a number of days, I made trips to the police office for my permit, but for some reason they claimed they could not give me one. Shortly after that we received official word from our mission headquarters in Shanghai that our furloughs had been granted. We should proceed to travel toward the coast as soon as possible. When the local police saw that we were planning to leave the province, they gave us the necessary travel permits. Ray came back from Manas and we made local arrangements to leave Kucheng and prepare for the long journey to Shanghai.
The government would not allow us to travel via the Siberian Railway. There were problems going down eastward via Gansu Province or Inner Mongolia the way we came to Xinjiang six years before. No real explanations were given to us. We were told to travel southwest across the province to Kashgar and from there over the mountains into what was then British India (now part of Pakistan).
We had read books about the old Silk Road traveled hundreds of years ago by Marco Polo -- but never dreamt that we should have to travel that way in order to reach Shanghai or England where Drew and Holmes were planning to go. This was in the days before there were good motor roads and before air service was available. Our average speed was three miles per hour.
We made preparation to travel by two-wheeled Chinese cart the long road to Kashgar. We finally were able to leave Urumchi on May 26, 1938. I remember that day because it was Lammermuir Day, observed for many years as a day of prayer in the CIM. It was the day, many years before, when Hudson Taylor left England with his first party of missionaries for China.
From here on, the ancient road continued for some 900 to 1000 miles to Kashgar. We crossed the Tien Shan Mountains into part of the Turfan valley, more than 300 feet below sea level. In the summer season, beautiful grapes were grown here. The valley had an abundance of water.
Our road crossed Xinjiang, for hundreds of miles, south of the mountains and on the northern rim of the Takla Makan desert. The journey was somewhat tedious and often we traveled by night because of the hot summer days. It took us some 40 slow days to reach Kashgar.
In that city, we were graciously entertained by the British Consul who was located there to represent his government. There were Indian traders in the area doing business. Russia also had official representatives here for they also had special interests in this part of the world.
We also became acquainted with several Swedish missionaries who had labored in this southern part of the province for several decades among the Turki people. They also were going through difficult times because of the political situation. Their families had already returned to the homeland and only three men remained. The government wanted them all to leave the country and travel the same way we were planning to go via India.
Packing the animals for journey across mountains to India
It took some time to gather together a caravan of horses to take the six of us (including the three Swedes) and their worldly goods on this long journey. In all we had more than thirty horses for riding and as pack animals. The whole trip was on horseback. The government sent three soldiers with us as escorts, to be sure we crossed the border into India!
I must for a moment stop to explain that before us lay a most unusual journey beautifully described by a number of gifted writers who wrote books about their exciting experiences. We were about to cross the "roof of the world" over high mountain passes where at least four countries had borders close together in the high mountains. Here Russia, Afghanistan, China and India had their borders up in the clouds. We were in the process of crossing the Pamirs, the Hindu-Kush, the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains.
Across the Himalayan Mountains into India (1938)
It took us 11 or 12 days before we reached the border. I will never forget the last town near which we stayed at that time. It was located in a beautiful high valley some 10,000 feet above sea level. It is called Tashkurgan, near where the Tadjiks of Turkestan live. The greater part of their people live in Tadjikistan, a former Soviet mountain republic.
We kept going southward in sight of snow covered mountains. The outstanding one was Muztag Ata, the "father of ice mountains." Our long path led mover the Mintaka pass, some 15,450 feet high, into India to a territory known as Hunza (now part of northern Pakistan). It was a steep ascent -- sometimes we walked to save our struggling horses. I recall it was a cold snowy July day. Our military escorts had now left us to return to Kashgar.
Early that afternoon we reached the top. Here we passed another unforgettable moment when the six of us missionaries stopped and sang the Doxology, thanking God we had arrived this far and that we were now in a free country!
At Mintake Pass between China and India. Otto Schoerner is at far right.
As we came down the other side of the mountain pass, a small group of Hunza guards met us, performing a little maneuver, to show us we were welcome in their country. That evening we reached Misgar, the first telegraph station in Hunza. We telegraphed our CIM headquarters in Shanghai to let them know where in the world we had been held up since we had been unable to communicate for several months.
The journey down these mountains took us quite a long time since we had a large caravan of animals. There were six of us missionaries, each one riding a horse. Then there were the men who had to take care and feed the horses from day to day. It is difficult to describe these forty-seven days, but they were filled with excitement and new experiences we never dreamt of. Just to be on horseback that long was remarkable!
The mountain trails were sometimes very dangerous
We traveled through Hunza territory and passed majestic snow mountains like Rakaposhi (25,551 ft) and Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft.), among the tallest mountains in the world. At Baltit, the capital, we were entertained by the Mir of Hunza, the head ruler. A new British consul was just passing through northward on his way to Kashgar in China and we were asked to exchange our caravan of experienced mountain horses with him. This would allow our guides to return home earlier than expected and we would have new horses to take us to our destination near Srinagar.
The mountain trails were sometimes very dangerous. Mountain rock slides had destroyed the narrow pathway high up on the mountain sides. Many of the wooden bridges we had to cross with our loaded animals were in bad need of repair. On the entire trip, three horses were lost because of difficult roads. Fortunately on the India side there were special bungalow guest houses that we could stay in during the cool nights. There we were able to make some purchases of food, especially fresh fruit. Hunza land specializes in apricot trees and much dried fruit was available this time of year.
After forty-seven days we arrived at Bandipura, one day out of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. We were able to travel that day by bus since we had left the difficult mountain roads. There we were wonderfully welcomed and entertained by missionaries of the Church of England Mission.
The first thing that was on our minds was to secure passage from Calcutta to Shanghai (or to London in the case of Will Drew) by the fastest available boat. Our journey already had taken too long! But we had a long time to wait to obtain such transportation. This gave us some time for travel and for obtaining some new clothing after seven years in the interior of China.
A large Hindu festival was in progress at Srinagar at the time we passed through. There Raymond met some old school friends of years ago. They invited us to stop off at several places to see a little of missionary work done in that country and also to stop off at several famous sites along the road to Calcutta.
From the railhead at Rawalpindi, we traveled to Lahore to see Raymond's missionary aunt and cousins at their place of labor. Along the road, we were invited to visit Delhi and Agra, where we saw the beautiful Taj Mahal. Farther down the railway line we visited a missionary doctor near the holy city of Benares on the Ganges river. Finally we reached Calcutta where we had to wait several days for our boat.
I recall an interesting experience here when I visited the American Consulate to renew my passport. The consul was so interested in my story and experiences that he invited me for a special dinner to talk with him. He had recently been called upon to attend some business in Afghanistan, but he had never gone northward into China. All that I remember of this experience was that I was so busy talking and answering questions from several invited guests that I could not fully enjoy the delicious dinner that the consul's wife had prepared for her special guests.
Finally our boat was ready for us at Calcutta. It was a slow-going freighter that had only a few special cabins for travelers. Raymond and I each had a luxurious cabin to ourselves on top deck. The boat made several stops in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. There we had to change boats. This one went to Shanghai, but first stopped at the coastal city of Amoy. We arrived in Shanghai on November 20, 1938, a day never to be forgotten. A missionary's son working for a Shanghai news service soon came to interview Raymond Joyce and me.
"Young men travel six months to win a bride," were the headlines the next day! It was a wonderful reunion for Katie and me after six years of absence, but coming to know each other through writing many letters over the years.
Katie's parents were also waiting in Shanghai for our arrival -- no one realizing how long they had to wait. Her father, Dr. Albert B. Dodd, was a Presbyterian minister and he performed our wedding ceremony a few days later on November 25, 1938. We spent our honeymoon in Tsingtao, a coastal city north of Shanghai. It was in this city that Katie was born in 1908 when it was still a German colony.
November 25, 1938 - Otto Schoerner and Katharine Dodd were married in Shanghai.
We returned to Shanghai to find out what the next step would be for us, as we entered a new life united in the Lord's service.
Both Katie and I had served more than seven years in China as missionaries. She had lived in North Anhui Province working especially among woman and children. In all of these places there were established churches. Most of the larger churches had Chinese pastors. So the work was carried on under their leadership. Katie had some experience going out into new areas. There was always room for experienced workers, especially when they were able to speak Chinese well.
When we came back to Shanghai after our honeymoon, we were interviewed by one or two of our CIM directors. It seemed best that we should go home to the USA for our first furlough, "home assignment" as it is now called. There we would have a time of rest and of renewal of fellowship with family and friends. Katie had never met my people and I had not met many of her family and friends.
Traveling with us on the same boat to Vancouver was Dr. Glover, the USA Home Director of the CIM He took a great interest in former Moody students since he previously had been the head of the Missionary Department of MBI. He wanted me to travel down the west coast to Los Angeles and participate in some missionary conferences in which he was a speaker. So I was invited early to speak at such gatherings and tell of our missionary experiences.
Later as we made off on our way eastward, we stopped in a number of places in Missouri, Illinois and Michigan where Katie and I had family members and friends. Finally we stopped at Butler, Pennsylvania, where my mother and family members lived. We stayed here a number of months to rest and speak when we were called upon, both in my home church and elsewhere.
I must tell of one interesting experience that did not seem unusual at that time. Katie's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Dodd were in the USA at that time. They came to see us in Butler. Her father asked me if I would help a fellow pastor in nearby Grove City who needed a vacation. I was asked to supply his pulpit for a month. I was glad for this opportunity as I realized that his wife, Edith, was born in China of CIM missionary parents. The young pastor was Francis Schaeffer, later to become famous as a theologian and a teacher in L'Abri, Switzerland.
During these summer weeks we were eagerly looking forward to the arrival of our first baby in Butler. There were signs that we might have some difficulties or problems. Just before the birth, Katie was taken down with eclampsia and the baby was stillborn a day or two later. This was an unexpected heartbreak for us, especially for Katie. It was a little girl. We believe that the Lord had allowed this to happen and that brought comfort to our hearts.
Some medical advice given to us at that time was that perhaps we should not plan to have a family at all. Thank God that this was not in His purpose at all. Katie made a good recovery.
During that fall, we participated in several CIM missionary conferences in the eastern states, where we had the opportunity to tell of the Lord's work in China. Time was fast approaching and plans were being made for us to return to the field. We were to sail at a given date from Vancouver.
9. Return To China
World War II had begun in Europe and shipping was delayed even in the Pacific Ocean. Since there would be no boat for a month, we were asked to take part in some missionary meetings down the west coast on the way to Seattle.
At the train, a gentleman was very interested to talk to Katie and me. He had overheard us saying farewell to friends and learned that we had lived in China. The gentleman was no other than Owen Lattimore, the famous traveler in Central Asia, who had written several books on his experiences. He could speak both Chinese and Mongol. When our party traveled across the Gobi Desert in 1932, we met him and his wife at a Swedish Mongol Mission Station. Of course we had many interesting things to talk about on that rail journey!
After several days of meetings, we returned to Vancouver where our boat soon left for Shanghai across the Pacific. We were wondering where our next field of service would be. We were asked to go north to Japanese occupied territory and relieve a missionary for the summer during vacation time.
Times were uncertain then and our mission was planning to move as many missionaries as possible into western provinces away from occupied areas -- in case of war. Katie and I temporarily moved to a station where Southern Baptist missionaries resided in Kweiteh, Honan.
Prior to this, the Chinese military had cut up the existing motor roads and broken the dikes of the Yellow river to flood the territory. This prevented the Japanese army to advance with its trucks and tanks and other equipment.
For several fall and winter months we hired boats that travel on the small rivers and canals over the flooded places. In this way, we helped our new workers and others to cover these difficult areas. Katie and I, with one young couple, were the last to go through this area into free China. We were appointed to go to the south of Honan Province to the city of Hwang-chwan.
It was Chinese New Year time which follows the lunar calendar. The Japanese army often made special raids on their enemies at these festive times when people were relaxing and celebrating. Our boat was traveling on the Hwai River by now in northern Anhui Province. On Sunday noon we saw a flight of about six planes fly over us dropping incendiary bombs on the large city of Fowyang. As the boat hurried to the opposite side, we were able to go up the river banks and see part of the city of Fowyang going up in flames.
It had been our plan to stop here and leave our young missionary couple here for future service with the local missionaries. This plan was quickly changed and our boat hastily went down river to stay with other CIM workers in the town of Cheng Yang Kwan. Here we stayed for several weeks until we were able to move farther south-west by boat and wheel barrow to Huang-chwan. Thus we came to our appointed destination early in 1941, to begin a new life and a new work.
One thing that was new to me in Huang-chwan was to work with the Chinese elders of an organized church. I had opportunities to preach to a large congregation and I learned to walk with these men long distances to speak in country out-stations. I learned to wear a Chinese gown as a teacher and minister in rural churches.
Huang-chwan was divided by a river and an American Scandinavian Lutheran Mission labored there. They had a hospital with a resident doctor and nurses carrying on a ministry of love and care. I mention this because they were wonderful fellow workers. They were most kind and helpful to us as we were expecting another child in our family. Katie received most helpful medical treatment.
James Albert Schoerner was born on September 18, 1941, a gift from God to us, and a real joy. Katie came through the experience well without difficulty.
December 8, 1941, was Pearl Harbor day. We fortunately were in Central China -- and yet we were not too far from segments of the occupying Japanese Army. But they were too busy, far away, holding Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore and much of South East Asia.
We were cut off, of course, from any coastal service (such as previously from Shanghai) and had to learn to live completely on local produce. There were no more imported goods available. Meanwhile, before the war began, our CIM headquarters had moved to Chung-king and was operating from there.
I had to purchase a local bicycle and learn how to ride it. Several times I had to travel several days' journey to obtain local cash for daily living. Our ministry continued normally under peaceful conditions.
Then suddenly early in the cold weather of 1943, a local division of the Japanese Army made a quick raid to capture Huang-chwan. We had a couple of hours to hurriedly hire a local one-wheeled barrow (springless!) and with Katie and little Jimmy riding on one side of the large wheel and for balance our baggage and possessions on the other side, we traveled. I was able to use my bicycle.
We stopped at several Lutheran mission stations and finally stayed at one or two CIM centers farther north in Honan. We needed to wait to see what the Japanese army would do -- to occupy Huang-chwan or return southward from where they came.
It was around this time that our provincial superintendent suddenly died. The assistant superintendent, Louis Gaussen, now became the new superintendent. He was director of the Honan Bible Institute, and now the school needed another leader and teacher. I was asked to fill in this position at a rather short notice.
I had to make a quick trip south to Huang-chwan to pick up our few belongings that the Japanese raiders had left. Katie, at this time, was pregnant and I had to do this by myself. Shortly after this the Lord gave us another gift of a little girl, Anna Marjorie, on May 9, 1943.
We had moved to the city of Chow-Chia-Kou where the Bible School was located. As we settled in this new area with new responsibilities, I felt at times rather inadequate. The school had been in operation for only a short time and had only a small group of students. One of our fellow teachers was linked with another organization and there were one or two trained Chinese Bible teachers. They had made a wonderful beginning.
I was handicapped, not prepared with text books in the Chinese language, to use in classwork and teaching. I was expected to teach prophecy as part of the curriculum -- the books of Daniel and Revelation! Besides this, I had to handle accounts and other business. I had to work hard. I thank God for the experience! I did the best I could.
I tried to introduce some practical Christian work for the students. This was always the important part of our Moody training. Two of the teachers went out with the students to the country stations to allow the young men to teach or preach in the smaller rural churches. I trust this was good experience for them all.
In the meantime, the war with Japan was progressing and our US government and our mission leaders were telling us to move westward. We all had to move west of the railway line that connected Peking and Canton. The Japanese army now wanted to control this important line.
Hastily the school had to close its semester and all of our missionaries from Anhui and Honan began traveling overland westward. Missionaries were appointed to new stations or went home for early furlough or retirement.
This was another difficult move for us -- now with two small children. The Mission asked us to stay in southwest Honan for a month or two to see whether the war situation would change or improve. We were kindly invited to stay with missionaries of a Norwegian Lutheran group. They could not speak English, so the Chinese language was our lingua-franca!
Since the Japanese army wanted to control this central railway through Honan, it became advisable that we move out of the area. It was then that the CIM leaders asked us to go up to Lanchow, Kansu (Gansu), to become the local secretary (handling accounts, etc.) of the province.
This involved another rugged journey, northwest across the mountain range of central Shensi up to Xian (Sian), the capital city. I cannot go much into detail here. We traveled with two rickshaw carts (one was hired and one was our own). One was for the children in two large baskets and the other with our few belongings. Katie and I used our bicycles. Jim by this time would often sit with me on a special seat on the crossbar of my bicycle. The food was often very coarse for the children. But the weather was good and the mountains were beautiful!
I do not recall how many days we traveled through central China to Xian where we stayed with fellow missionaries of the Scandinavian Alliance Mission (now called TEAM). They helped us to travel in a group of trucks, four days north-westward to Lanchow in Kansu Province. We were happy to settle down there with new friends and fellow workers -- and new jobs.
Katie was in charge of the missionary guest home. Lanchow is the capital city of the province and there were guests passing through constantly. For a while even an American consul was living with us. For almost a year I was local secretary handling accounts and exchanging currency for the missionaries of the province.
As we served the Lord on the mission field, I realize more and more that our ministry is really teamwork. When a fellow worker becomes ill, or has some kind of emergency, we always help each other as much as we can.
It was in this way I was asked to assist in the medical and business work of the Borden Memorial Hospital, across the Yellow River on the North side of Lanchow. We were asked to help out there, and thus I became the business manager of the hospital. This involved purchasing all the necessary supplies and keeping the accounts of the institution. This was in the day of terrible inflation when our numbers were in the billions -- and we had no adding machines or computers!
Katie had part in the teaching program of our leprosarium which was part of our medical ministry. There were Chinese, Muslims and Tibetans who were coming to the Lord Jesus Christ because of loving medical attention and teaching they were receiving there. We had good Chinese fellow workers helping in this.
The hospital also trained male and female nurses, and so we also had a spiritual ministry among young people as part of our work.
During these war years it was not always easy to procure necessary medicines and supplies. Some medicines came to north-west China across the Burma Road. It was the day when the sulfa drugs were new. New medicines also came out for the treatment of leprosy.
As the war progressed, we began to see American army or navy officers in the area. They were studying and broadcasting weather reports for the air force. August 15, 1945, was a special day when the war was ended. But in the Schoerner family it was even more special when another boy named Stephen William (Bill) was added and welcomed to our number! Katie came through it well, receiving loving attention by our hospital staff.
Katie's father, Dr. Albert Dodd visited
During these days it was still possible for us to move about freely in our missionary work, and we could travel the roads. At that time it was my privilege to go by jeep to Sining, in the neighboring province of Chinghai (now Qinghai) and visit the missionaries. Mr. Harris was doing an excellent work there among the Muslims. He was gifted as an artist and could read and write the Arabic language.
Close to the City of Sining was the famous Buddhist Lamasery of Kum Bum. Here they held the annual butter festival. During the cold months they would sculpture idols out of rancid butter. Only one of our group could speak the Tibetan language. He was able to witness to one of the special "living Buddhas" there. These were specially chosen priests of high rank.
10. Back to School
Early in 1947, our furlough time was due. We were able to fly by an old former US Army plane to Shanghai. An army ship taking military families back to the USA had space available for us and our three children.
I wish I could describe what it meant to us with three wide-eyed children, who had never seen the USA, to come into San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge! This was really their and our homeland. It was a privilege to introduce our children to our family and friends.
It was our plan to make this a study furlough for me. After visiting around for sometime in the mid-west and Pennsylvania, we finally came to Wheaton, Illinois. It was impossible to find a place to rent in that area. Rent control was still in effect even though the war had ended some two years before. Two of our children were beginning public school and kindergarten.
It was then that the Lord laid our burden and problem upon the hearts of two of His dear servants. They purchased a house in Wheaton and allowed us to use it free during the school year. They also helped us to find some used furniture necessary for living.
After some special placement tests, I was accepted in Wheaton College as a special student. This was a pleasant and stimulating time for me and the family to make new friends at the school and Wheaton Bible Church. Katie had been a charter member of that church when she was a student at Wheaton College.
My spiritual father, Charles Troutman, had gone home to be with the Lord, but we renewed friendship with family members living nearby. Our two older children, Jim and Anna, attended the Christian Grammar School in its beginnings. I studied some Bible, Anthropology and especially German Literature under capable professors. It was truly a profitable time for all of us.
The Schoerner Family in Wheaton, Illinois (1947-1948)
11. In Gansu Province
Our time at home in the USA went by altogether too quickly. We returned to China in the late summer of 1948. When we arrived in Shanghai, we had to separate from Jim, who went upriver, escorted by several others to Kuling where our CIM boarding schools were then located. The Japanese armies had taken over the old buildings at Chefoo where the school had been located since Hudson Taylor days.
Katie with Anna and Bill flew back to Lanchow with others bound for that area. Our fellow missionary, Harry Wagner, and I had to take the accumulated baggage and other supplies for northwest stations, by a large river steamer, up the Yangtze River to Chung-King. From there on we were to take this baggage -- a whole truck load of it -- by a mission vehicle via Chengdu to Lanchow.
Although hard work, this was also a wonderful new experience for us. We traveled across China and passed many large cities along the river. The trip took us through the majestic Yangtze gorges which are now (in 1997) being built into one of the worlds largest dams. It is to be hoped that this will help to control many annual floods which in the past have caused many tragic deaths. It will also provide much needed power and electricity for central China.
The truck trip took us through parts of beautiful Szechwan Province up over mountains into Kansu, Lanchow and Borden Memorial Hospital. There we rejoined the hospital staff for several more years of work and ministry.
1949 was a special year to remember. The Chinese government by that time had fled to Taiwan and established Taipei as its new capital. The Communist armies under Mao Tze-tung (with Russian help) began to take over China, province by province. In the midst of that year, they declared themselves as the new rulers of China with Peking as its capital. They finally came to the north-west and captured Lanchow. They declared themselves to us as the "chieh-fang-chün," the Liberation Army.
They came to deliver us from the old "central government" and from "capitalism." It took a number of months before the army rule was taken over by their established civil government. We then began to see what communist government would be like in the future.
To our family, October 20, 1949, was a very special day at Borden Memorial Hospital. That was when Charles Benjamin Schoerner came into the world. Also about this time, Anna had begun first grade at Kuling CIM school where Jim was. She went there with another missionary mother and her child.
For a while, we were able to carry on our ministry in China until the new Communist Government was properly organized and established. They took over full control of all schools and local government. Our Mission hoped to remain in China working closely together with the national churches and their pastors and leaders.
In Lanchow, the local church was completely under Chinese leadership and control. When Borden Memorial Hospital became more and more involved in civic problems, I was asked to become the Hospital Superintendent because the medical superintendent and staff were drawn into local civic affairs, hindering them in their hospital work.
I had to bear the brunt of new problems when methods were used to draw us into the local affairs. There were public meetings to attend. Our young nursing students were used by the communist cadres outside to cause trouble within. They had to attend meetings and classes outside. We began to see thick volumes of translations of the works of Carl Marx, Lenin and Stalin. These materials were now eagerly studied by the people of the land of China, and they became the text books in the schools.
Perhaps I should mention one episode which more or less brought things to a head in our relationship with the local government. Our nursing students were being used by outside influences to cause trouble within our hospital community. One or several male students sneaked over during the night where the female students lived and were caught there by a Chinese as well as a foreign nurse. The student was dismissed immediately for violating a distinct misdemeanor.
Almost immediately, the next day, a Communist judge came calling some of the staff together, including me, the Superintendent in charge of the hospital. He told us we could not dismiss this student and we had to take him back. The "judge" made a case of it and wanted proof that the student had broken any rule. Our Chinese nurse spoke up and said she had witnessed all this with her own eyes. She was severely rebuked by the judge and the student stayed with the hospital that day. Within a day or two both the young fellow and the girl involved left us and went back to their home village. They had lost face and knew they had done wrong.
The judge was angry, and thought we were at fault, but he could do nothing more about it since the young students had voluntarily gone back home -- so he also lost face, and thus matters were dropped at this time.
All this happened around the time when the Korean War started, in which Communist China became involved. There were large street demonstrations in Lanchow where President Truman and General McArthur were hanged in effigy. These were anti-foreign and particularly anti-American demonstrations. Our Lanchow church was completely controlled by Chinese leaders and a national pastor. They suggested that we do not attend services because we were closely watched and considered American spies.
This made us realize, as it did our CIM leaders, that the time had come for our missionaries to leave our work in China. Preparations were made to hand over hospital administration, as well as all the medical work, to chosen Chinese doctors and leaders. It was a rather difficult job, since some of our missionaries had already left for Hong Kong. Most other Missionary Societies had already left China before this. But the Lord brought us through it all!
Lanchow, 1951 - just before returning to the United States
When finally we were ready to leave Lanchow, we had to wait several months before receiving our official travel permits. The authorities wanted to be sure all our "debts" were paid. The Chinese pastor was required to be our guarantor. We were not allowed to use the convenient air service to Sian since it was Russian controlled. So we had to travel three or four days by road on trucks loaded with large bags of salt. Katie and our little Ben were allowed to sit next to the driver in the cab, but the rest of us had the hard seats on top of the truck.
At Sian we were able to board the train going east to Cheng-Chou junction. There we transferred to the rail line going south to Hankow (now called Wuhan) where we crossed the Yangtze River and continued south all the way to Canton (Gwangchow). I think the train trip took us some three days. We had to report to the local police at each stop. The final morning we crossed from Canton to Hong Kong into the free world. Almost each day, CIM missionaries were evacuating from China and it became difficult to find living quarters for all to live in the big city. Fortunately for us with our four children, we were able to stay at a small Chinese hotel.
12. Farewell to China
The CIM had a small office in Hong Kong and several of the leaders were there at that time. During the previous months, the Mission leaders and director from England, USA, Australia, etc., had gathered in several places to pray earnestly in regard to the future of the work. A few missionaries thought we should disband and go home since our work in China had come to an end.
But the Lord guided our leaders to go forward into new fields in South East Asia where millions of Chinese nationals lived, and where there still were new fields to be entered to preach the gospel to different groups of people. Several teams of experienced missionaries explored possible new countries where new work could be started. One missionary society wanted the CIM to consider Japan as a new field.
During our time of waiting in Hong Kong, we became involved in this when we were asked by the Mission leaders to establish a base in Japan for the CIM As American citizens it seemed that perhaps we could fit into this position. General McArthur and US Army occupation forces were still in the country, and he encouraged missionaries to enter. Although many details still had to be planned and worked out for us as a family, we made preparations to obtain necessary visas and prayed for God's guidance about our future.
It was at this time that something occurred that closed the door of opportunity for us. Our Lanchow Chinese pastor, who stood as our guarantor for us with the local communist government, had told them we were returning to our homeland to put our children back to school. Somehow, through our Mission leaders still in Shanghai, he learned about our future plans. He felt this would get him into trouble with the authorities should they receive knowledge of this. The political situation between China and Japan was still unsettled at this time. At that point, new preparations were made for our return to the USA. The Lord graciously provided us with a generous gift from some of His dear servants, our friends, for us to return with our four children on the long homeward journey.
Many missionaries were evacuating from China in those days, and it was difficult to find transportation from Hong Kong to home countries. There were cargo transport planes from England that brought goods from Europe to the Orient. To these planes were added temporary seats in the cabins to take passengers back home. It was in this way that we, as a group of around forty CIM people set out on our way westward by air to London.
|A photo of the actual airplane that the family flew from Hong Kong to London.
The plane was an Avro York operated by Eagle Aviation and later sold to
Skyways of London in 1952 and decommissioned in 1961.
The small four-propeller cargo plane in which passenger seats had been installed, suffered from inadequate pressurization and thus did not fly at a very high altitude. Its cruising speed was about 280 mph. We were not provided any real food service in-flight, so we came down mid day for refueling and meals each day. After we left Hong Kong we refueled at Bangkok, Thailand. During the waiting time we tried to get in touch by airport phone with Katie's sister Dorothy, who with her husband Deaver, were in Thailand with the Southern Baptist Mission at that time. We were unsuccessful and disappointed to find no one at home.
That afternoon we crossed the Bay of Bengal in rainy and stormy monsoon weather, hoping to reach Calcutta, our destination for that day. As the weather became worse, the pilot was advised by radio to fly northward to Rangoon in Burma. Most of the passengers were rather apprehensive by that time since we had to fly so low and evening was drawing near. But we landed safely with special oil lamps lighting up the landing strip on the old airport. It had been constructed by the US Army in World War II. We were put up for our first night in the old fashioned Grand Hotel and had our dinner about 10 o'clock that evening.
Next morning we were off early. Rangoon was a beautiful sight from the air that morning. Our next stop (in good weather) was Calcutta for refueling and lunch. That afternoon we flew all the way across northern India and landed in Karachi, Pakistan. There we had an extra night and day. One of the plane's tires needed special repairs. It was most interesting to us and the children, as we had to stay at the airport hotel, to see big four-engine planes (modern at that time) from many parts of the world landing and departing from that airport.
On the fourth day we continued flying westward and landed in Bahrain on the Persian Gulf, for food and gas. I remembered the depressing heat at midday there. Then we set off again that afternoon across the Arabian desert up to Beirut following the oil pipelines and across the sea to the Island of Cyprus. That night we enjoyed staying in cool Nicosia, the capital.
On the last day we flew over the Mediterranean Sea. The pilot pointed out to us the island of Patmos where the Apostle John had been ostracized and wrote the book of Revelation at the end of the first century. At noon we landed at Nice in southern France to refuel. There we saw our first jet airplane. This was exciting to us all as we saw it ascending. We were coming back to the modern world!
The afternoon trip was also most fascinating as we tried to identify cities as we were crossing France. Late that afternoon we came down at Luton airport, a small grass covered field not far from London. A special bus took us to Newington Green, the CIM headquarters, at that time, in London.
We stayed there for about one week. The time was rather short. Quite a number of missionaries was expected to arrive there before long. Passages were arranged for us on a French boat which picked up passengers at Southampton on the way across the Atlantic to New York. There we were met by Katie's father (on Furlough then) and our Mission treasurer, Mr. Sutherland, who took us to the CIM headquarters in Philadelphia. Thus a new chapter began in our lives and we prayed much about the future that was before us as a family. We sought to know and understand the will of God, and I believe He led us step by step.
We visited family and friends in Pennsylvania and Illinois. My brother Bill and my mother had sold the bakery business and had retired. We finally came to stay with Katie's sister, Carolyn, and husband Bill, whose home was in Ypsilanti, Michigan. This was our base for several months.
13. A New Career
As I tell this story of many years ago now, I am aware that this was an unusually difficult time for our Mission leaders, since hundreds of missionaries were evacuating China. Children were out of school and all of us had to be relocated and were seeking God's guidance about our future service for Him. But nothing is too hard for the Lord and He can provide for every need as we look to Him in trusting prayer.
It was suggested to me to inquire at the Alumni Placement Service at Moody Bible Institute to see if there were any openings for Christian service, where I could enter and fit in to serve the Lord here in the homeland. The Institute had established this office years ago to help former students and others to answer requests for workers that came regularly to the School.
It happened that this particular office was looking for someone to take over the directorship. In God's plan -- I believe -- I was chosen at this time of my need to become the new Director of the Moody Alumni Placement Service. Work began in October 1951. Although the lives of our family became completely redirected, we were still missionaries in our hearts.
It was a joy to work here at MBI and to become acquainted with students and alumni. I had great fellow-workers and was surrounded by a great company of Bible teachers. Dr. William Culbertson was president of Moody then and Herbert Lockyer was the Executive Secretary of the Alumni Association.
Occasionally old friends or missionaries would visit in my office and they would hint or suggest that I, as a former missionary, should now be on another field even though China was closed. This occasionally did cause me some heart searching since it is often very easy to rationalize one's position.
Some of our Mission leaders had suggested that we should now settle down at home. One of the men who was on our mission staff went to Japan and he found it very difficult to learn the language now that he was an older man. This made it difficult for him to become an effective worker in another country. However the Lord assured us that He had guided us into our new ministry and we left the future with Him.
As the years have gone by, I have realized more and more that Christ told His disciples that "the Field is the World" (Matt. 13:38). So the Lord has broadened our vision and has enabled us to think of thousand of Moody Alumni who serve Him around the world, at home and abroad. Where better than at Moody could I have the privilege and joy of participating in a world-wide ministry! Never-the-less, China and South East Asia had always had a large part of our vision.
During our first winter in Chicago, we were living in an old apartment on Wells Street near MBI. It took some time to find suitable living quarters and I had to begin work here before I could bring the family from Ypsilanti, Michigan, where we had been living for the time with Katie's sister Carolyn and family. Katie was very adept in purchasing some good used furniture and we were soon settled in.
We knew that these old buildings belonging to MBI would soon be torn down for a new building for the School and so we kept looking for a more permanent place to settle down. Through a Moody field representative we learned that a home would become available that we could rent and ultimately purchase. This is how we came to live on Chicago's south side near 105th and Sangamon Street.
Very soon after we moved there, we were introduced to believers in a little Brethren Assembly nearby and found happy fellowship there with the Lord's people. Our children attended grammar school close by and soon we felt at home in this new area. It meant commuting for me by local bus and elevated train, about one hour on the way to MBI.
We made new friends in the area and participated in the ministry of the local Sunday School and church. Later we became more involved. Katie assisted in the children's ministry. Later I became an elder in the church as well as treasurer for a number of years.
At MBI my work had to be carried on in the office, but from time to time I traveled and spoke at local alumni meetings. In this way I had the privilege of visiting several areas where home missionaries were serving in the Kentucky mountains or in the central valley of California among the migrants, also in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The Alumni Association and Executive Secretary, Herbert Lockyer, conducted a number of summer Bible conferences every year. The most important one was at Winona Lake, Indiana. Well-known Bible teachers, many of them Moody alumni and faculty members took part in them. I usually had to handle the business side and the offerings.
I was usually able to bring the whole family to Winona Lake with me. We rented a house or large apartment for the week and this became a wonderful vacation for us. I am sure all of our children have memories of children's meetings, boat rides or swimming in Winona Lake.
There were several other conferences at times in Montrose, Pennsylvania, Ocean Grove, New Jersey where Moody alumni and friends gathered together and were blessed.
It was during the 1950's that the Lord brought added joy into the Schoerner family when another son, David Paul Schoerner, was born on November 17, 1954. Some time later on when he often heard us talk about China, He asked his Mother, "Why wasn't I born in China?" He felt a little left out, but he was very welcome. The other children often thought he was favored because he was the youngest!
For some ten years I worked in the Alumni Association when a number of changes took place. Our children were growing up and going into high school. Jim entered Moody Bible Institute as a student in 1959. My time in the Placement Office came to an end in 1961 and we had reached another decision making time. The future became rather uncertain. Unexpectedly the Lord opened an opportunity to work in the Institute Stewardship Department. I was involved in handling correspondence with donors and writing acknowledgment letters and composing letters each month, often on behalf of others. I had this creative, never-ending ministry for some eleven years. It was a joy to work together with faithful co-workers in the office and with all the Moody fieldmen who kept in touch with the many Institute friends and donors.
The 1960's were busy times for us as a family. After graduating from Fenger High School in 1959, Jim entered Moody Bible Institute to prepare himself to serve the Lord as he would guide him in the future. In 1961 I came into the Stewardship Department at Moody. Anna entered Wheaton College that fall and stayed there for a short time. At Wheaton, Anna fell in love with a senior student, John Candelaria. The Vietnam war was in progress at that time and John was enrolled in the ROTC program at Wheaton. John graduated as a young lieutenant and stayed in the US Army. Next year, April 13, 1963, Anna and John were married. Katie's father, Dr. Albert Baldwin Dodd, performed the ceremony at the Oaklawn Chapel.
Jim graduated from Moody in 1962 and continued his studies at Olivet Nazarene College (now University) and received a BA in history in 1965. In 1963, Bill entered Illinois Institute of Technology with a physics major in mind. His studies included a cooperative education program, extending the course and helping with the tuition. In 1964, Katie's mother went to glory in Allen Park, Michigan. At the time, I believe Katie's father had gone to Taiwan for a visit there.
Jim had planned on some graduate study at that time but Uncle Sam drafted him into the Vietnam war army instead. Since he was a college graduate, they sent him for an extra six months training to Fort Benning to become a commissioned officer as second lieutenant. Bill, although he was called up, did not have to enter the army because of a vision problem. Our son Ben came near his last year in high school when somehow he injured his leg. He enjoyed athletics, like all our boys, but the injury did not respond to medical treatment. The doctor suggested that a biopsy be performed. It was discovered that Ben had a bone cancer near the knee of his right leg. A bone surgeon was consulted and the whole affected leg had to be removed. A careful diagnosis seemed to indicate that the cancer had not spread into his body.
Ben, though still so young, was very courageous. He was outfitted with a new artificial leg and slowly learned how to walk again. It seemed he was improving but during the following months it was discovered that the cancer had entered his body.
Ben had to be taken back to the hospital where it pleased the Lord to take him home on July 10, 1968. It was comforting to have many of the Lords people at our church and at Moody support us during this time of trial. Just before he died, Ben whispered to his mother, "I can see heaven -- lots of people there!."
We shall never forget these assuring words. Katie still quotes them to me frequently although her memory of other things has been failing for some time.
Ben's funeral was delayed for several days so that Jim and Anna could attend the ceremony. Jim was allowed a short furlough from South Vietnam where he was stationed that summer. Anna and John were stationed in South Korea for a period of two years. They were able to make arrangements for Anna to attend the funeral in Chicago. Jim and Anna returned to their posts shortly thereafter. Many of the Lord's people from our church and from M. B. I. surrounded us with love and comfort as our family grieved.
1970 became another eventful year for us. Jim had fulfilled his army duty in Vietnam and was stationed for a short time at Ft. Leavenworth near Kansas City, Kansas. For Sunday worship he found a nearby Brethren Assembly where he soon became acquainted with a young teacher, Penelope Sommerville with whom he fell in love.
At around the same time, I brought home with me my young secretary at Moody to become acquainted with the Schoerner family. This ultimately led to a romance between Grace Fischer and my son Bill. We drove to Overland Park, Kansas for Jim and Penny's wedding on June 27, 1970, and to Grace and Bill's wedding in New Jersey on October 10, the same year.
It was around this time that it became necessary to move from the area where we had been living for twenty years on South Sangamon St. Reluctantly we moved to 9550 South Homan Ave. in Evergreen Park, Illinois, so that David could finish high school in an area under less difficult conditions.
During those days it was more-or-less understood that age 65 was the time for retirement from one's regular job at Moody. If one was in good health and desired to continue, this matter was reconsidered annually. I had continued for one extra year and hoped to add another year in 1972. Then something happened that once again changed the course of our lives.
14. An Emissary Once Again
As an elder in our church, I had many opportunities to preach and serve in other ways. One Sunday I gave a missionary message of challenge to our small church. After the service was over, one of the senior members of our assembly asked Katie and me to sit down with him to share with us what he had upon his heart. He and his wife wanted us to visit and encourage our missionaries and family members serving the Lord in Asia and Europe in 1972 -- and on the way perhaps see the Holy Land. Somehow this was the dream of a lifetime to have this wonderful privilege!
With this exciting news I came to my boss the next day asking if I could have several extra weeks of unpaid vacation for the trip that would take us about two months.
He also asked me to sit down to discuss a matter regarding my future at Moody. The Institute leadership had decided to ask all employees to retire at age 65. No more extensions were to be granted. My extra year would be up by the end of August -- and I could plan as I wanted to after that!
During the next few weeks, before the retirement date was to come, Katie and I made plans. We wrote many letters to those we expected to see and visit on this special trip. We worked together with a Christian travel agency that made all arrangements about flights in different with a number of airlines that operated there.
David still lived at home with us and had another year of high school before graduating. Since it was summer vacation time, we took him to San Antonio, Texas to stay with Anna and John. They were stationed there at that time with the US Army, while John was doing graduate studies in hospital administration.
From there we flew to San Francisco crossing directly over the Grand Canyon, circling around in the air near Williams, Arizona. Another plane took us across the Pacific Ocean to Tokyo, Japan, to have a visit with Ted Carlson, our church's missionary.
We stayed in the missionary guest home of T.E.A.M. for several days. As we arrived there, we received the sad news from Taiwan of the homegoing of Katie's sick father, Dr. Albert B. Dodd. He had been bed-ridden for some time and lovingly cared for by relatives and Chinese friends. He went home to glory at the age of 95 years.
Several days later, after visiting with other missionaries, including Mr. and Mrs. Beckon at their small summer campground, we flew to Taipei, Taiwan. There we were met by Katie's sister Dorothy and brother-in-law Deaver, as well as her sister Carolyn from the USA. This was a very special occasion for the three sisters to be in one place after many years of separation. Dorothy and Deaver were serving the Lord in Taiwan with the Southern Baptist Mission at that time.
We were able to stay long enough for the funeral of Dr. Dodd. It was conducted by Dr. McIntyre and friends who flew all the way from the USA for the event. Many Chinese friends and former students of Dr. Dodd participated making this a wonderful international occasion.
Katie and I also had long enough time (our stopovers were all carefully planned before we left on this trip and we had to follow our flight schedule) to visit several other missionary friends and former fellow workers in south Taiwan. We also had a brief stop in Hong Kong calling on friends before flying to Singapore to visit with family friends and stay at our new CIM - OMF headquarters.
Our next visit of at least a week was in Medan, Indonesia on the island of Sumatra, where Jim and Penny were serving with Literature Crusades (now International Teams) for a two-year term of service.
Ever since I was a boy in Holland I had a special interest in this country. I remember how my father made us two boys, my brother and myself, do a little homework while we kids were out of school. I had to draw a big map of these Indonesian Islands which at that time were Dutch colonies. Since my brother and I were also avid stamp collectors as boys, world geography was an interesting study. I never dreamed that I would travel the world someday and personally see modern Indonesia!
As we stayed with Jim and Penny, we traveled with them in several areas in north Sumatra, a beautiful tropical area very near the equator. We saw some of the work they were doing in distributing the Scriptures and preaching the Word of God. I also had the privilege of preaching (through an interpreter) in a Chinese church where Jim and Penny were attending. Public preaching had to be done in the local language, not in Chinese.
We had to return to Singapore to catch a flight to Delhi in India. I wanted Katie to visit Agra and see the Taj Mahal which I had seen some years before when I came out of Chinese Turkestan through India in 1938.
We were now bound for our special short one week in Israel. The next air stop was at Beirut, Lebanon, where our friends from Moody days, the Lenoxes came to the airport for a short visit with their children. The flight to Tel Aviv in Israel had to go via Nicosia on the Island of Cyprus, where we had to change planes to get into Israel.
Since our visit to this country was not with a tour group, we had a number of disadvantages. Although we had made some good arrangements with knowledgeable friends at home, I was ignorant how to get around. Mr. Bill McDonald had given me some good contacts where to stay in the old city of Jerusalem and Tiberias in Galilee.
Mrs. Lambie helped us to find a Christian Arab, who was a good guide and who had a car. He took us straight north through Samaria, visiting such points as the well at Sychar, the city of Nazareth all the way to Tiberias. Here we stayed in the Scottish Mission overnight. The next day our Arab guide took us around the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum and Bethaisda. Later Katie and I found a ferry boat to cross the Lake of Galilee.
As I look back and remember that first visit to Israel, there were two special thrilling moments that still move me today as I write. The first was the glimpse of Jerusalem, as we came up the hill from Tel Aviv and saw this city. I was reminded of the Psalms: the Songs of Ascent -- Psalms 120 to 134, sung by the pilgrims on their way to worship in Jerusalem. "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills..." Psalms 121:1
The second thrill was my first glimpse of the Sea of Galilee as we came up a hilly road and suddenly saw that beautiful lake, the whole circumference of it, before us below sea level! Our Lord did much of his great ministry around this area of the Sea of Galilee. Our visits to Israel have wonderfully illuminated the Word of God and we have such pleasant memories of those days.
The next lap of our journey took us to Germany where I wanted to show Katie the places where I had lived as a boy in Nuremberg, Germany. To her it was new territory, but to me it was exciting to see the places I had been some 60 years earlier. Many of the buildings and some churches had been heavily bombed during the war, but were now rebuilt-- especially the older medieval parts of the city. The old city walls were gone. We saw the front of the fourth story apartment where we had lived and where my father had his bakery-confectioner's store called Konditorei, around 1915, on the street level.
We saw the grammar school and Real Gymnasium where I had studied as a boy, next to the St. Egidien Kirche where my parents were married long ago. We walked miles and visited many places I remembered. We had the wonderful privilege of fellowshipping and breaking bread with a group of the Lord's people in a German Brethren Assembly in Nuremberg on our Sunday there.
The next day we went south by train to Munich to see parts of Bavaria more slowly and then by plane to Zurich in Switzerland. The following day we again traveled by train across the country. Near Geneva, a bus took us up into the mountains for a visit to L'Abri and the neighboring skiing area of which we had read. The Schaefers were away on sick leave. We talked with him by phone and told him of Katie's father homegoing in Taiwan. They had been fellow-workers years before in the Bible Presbyterian Church.
Our next stop was a pleasant visit with Mr. and Mrs. Trifon Kalioudjoglou in Vichy, France. Here we worshipped with them in the French Brethren Assembly there. This was followed by a quick visit to Paris and Amsterdam to see the sights. Our long trip ended seeing friends and missionaries of our OMF in London and in Southern England near Brighton where we had a short visit with the Gaussens, former Honan, China CIM-ers. Our friends, the Drews, were in London at that time and they took us with them to their home further north in what is called East Anglia.
While Will Drew and I were in Xinjiang many years earlier, he let me see a beautiful illustrated book of the cathedrals of England. He promised to show some of them to me if I would come someday to visit his homeland. He had already shown us St. Paul's Cathedral in London. On our trip northward, we stopped at the majestic cathedrals in Ely and Norwich. En route, we also visited parts of Cambridge University.
So ended our delightful two month trip around the world after we crossed the Atlantic and came back home to Evergreen Park. We still thank God for what we were able to see and learn from this wonderful experience.
At the time I retired from my regular job at Moody, I requested if I might continue with my part-time work with the Moody Correspondence School (now called External Studies) and this was granted to me. I had been doing this on the side at home (evenings and week-ends) for 14 years since 1958.
Years before going to Moody as a student I had started the Scofield Course, and later finished it as my special Bible study during my early years in China. Now I had been asked to become an instructor in this course handling student exams. Over the years I have met only a small number of my students, but was able to keep in touch with them by way of correspondence. It was this part-time work that kept me occupied during many retirement years to come. I actually taught the Scofield Correspondence Course for seventeen more years (a total of 31 years, until 1989 when heart bypass surgery made me stop).
Once or twice a week I would travel uptown to Moody Bible Institute from Evergreen Park, by public transportation, to pick up and return student exams. I often had happy fellowship with teachers and other former fellow workers whom I had known for many years at the Institute. Usually while traveling on trains and buses, I read many of my own and other books, for constant enlightenment and enjoyment.
As I recall some of these experiences with students, I think especially of one of them who was a dentist practicing in the small town of Petersburg in central Illinois. He wanted to show me a little of the Lincoln country and also become personally acquainted with Katie and me. He invited me to visit him and his young family over a long weekend, go to church with them and later to speak to a small group in his home about some of our missionary experiences in China.
Since we did not have a car at that time, we went by train to Springfield, Illinois, where my dentist friend picked us up to take us as his guests to his home to Petersburg. One of the first places we visited was the New Salem State Park where they have a fascinating re-creation of the village where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked for at least six years. It showed the log cabin style houses and shops they lived in before the Civil War years. Here Lincoln studied and worked as a young man.
Later he made his home in Springfield. Our dentist friend also took us to Lincoln's Springfield home which is open to visitors. I had read the Sandberg biography of Lincoln years ago and it was gratifying to see this area of his life and to become more familiar with this part of American history.
A number of years after our missionary trip around the world, the same servant of the Lord in our church (Mr. George Brucer) spoke to me one Sunday morning saying almost casually, that we still had some of our commended workers in Latin America, which Katie and I should visit and encourage in the Lord's work. He reminded me I was getting older now and should not wait too long before taking such a trip! This led to another joyful and unexpected visit for us to new mission field in Mexico, Central America and South America.
We had the privilege of seeing our friends, the Clingans, serving the Lord with their family in Torreon, Central Mexico. We saw some of their devoted ministry and became acquainted with some of the new believers there and talked around the kitchen table about church problems.
On the way south we stopped off at San Jose, Costa Rica to visit Mr. and Mrs. Charles Troutman Jr., who for years had served with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship before becoming missionaries with Latin American Mission. Charles was the son of my spiritual father years before in Butler, Pennsylvania.
From here we flew to Sao Paulo in southern Brazil to see our longtime Moody friends, the Guileys, who had a small Bible School near a placed called Apucarano. It was very interesting to see how this training ministry of national workers was carried on in another country.. On our return northward, we had a few days with missionaries in Lima, Peru. But we were especially interested to see our own missionary, Dick Farstad, who was doing radio broadcasting over station HCJB in Quito, Equador. He is a capable linguist and broadcasts in several dialects of the Quichua language. We would have liked to visit the jungle area there where other missionary friends labored among other Indian groups, but time ran out and we came home via Miami, Florida. This was indeed a month filled with new experiences and joys in the Lord's service.
As I write about the many years of God's goodness and mercy which followed us all of our lives, I want also to recall some of the many ordinary and daily joys He has given us, especially in our retirement years. Our children were now grown up and busily employed. David still lived at home with us and was working not too far away from home.
Where we lived in Evergreen Park, we had an extra wide lot and backyard allowing Katie to do her beloved gardening. It was covered with many flowers in season. We had several fruit trees and tomatoes, in the summer, which she carefully tended, and a large oak tree that she had planted many years before, brought from Winona Lake. It was almost as tall as our house! Katie had a "green thumb" and could make almost anything grow, and she loved her plants. The whole neighborhood knew about this -- and enjoyed the sights with her.
Our fellowship with many missionary friends, through Moody, our church and the Chicago Missionary Study Class has also meant much to us through many years. We kept in touch with the growing work of our old CIM as it developed into OMF in South East Asia. Over the years we attended as regularly as possible the monthly prayer meetings, thus becoming acquainted with the younger workers in the Mission.
Another thing that was a special joy to us was the almost annual visits of the Joyces, former fellow workers for many years in China. Ray (now with the Lord) headed up the FFM office in Toronto, seeking to encourage prayer and interest in Muslim work around the world.
Before I retired from MBI in 1972, I had become a good friend of one of the professors there, a Bible teacher and former missionary to India, Mr. Irvine Robertson. Our special interest in missions drew us together in a fellowship of prayer. Neither one of us was able to return to his former field of service because of political conditions in Asia. But God placed us in a position at MBI where we could touch other lives to take our places in needy fields of service around the world. When retirement years came to Irvine and his wife, they moved to Florida where he continued his part-time teaching with Moody Extension Evening Schools.
Sometime in 1984 and 1985 he was planning a special trip to Israel and other places in the Near East. Several of his students were planning to part be of the group, as well as his son who just graduated from a seminary. They invited Katie and me to come along.
We very much wanted to come along since this tour would include visits to places that we missed on our first trip alone more than ten years before. The Lord had graciously provided for the expenses! Our trip was via Jordan Air Lines and began there in Amman, Jordan. It included a special side trip to Petra, south of the Dead Sea. We entered Israel on the east side across the River Jordan. After crossing, we stopped at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The next stop for lunch was in Jericho and then straight north to Tiberias in Galilee.
We had a boat ride with a large group of "pilgrims" and a beautiful service on the Sea of Galilee. Then a bus took us further north near the border of Syria and Lebanon. We visited Ceasarea Philippi where the Jordan River has its source. We then returned southward and stopped for lunch by the Mount of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
Later we went southward via Haifa (the diamond capital of Israel) by Mount Carmel and the east coast close to the Mediterranean Sea to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Our tour also included a visit to Masada, a famous place in Jewish history. En Route, some bathed in the salty waters of the Dead Sea.
Some of our group paid a short visit to Egypt, but the rest of us returned to Amman, Jordan where we enplaned going back home via Amsterdam, to New York and Chicago.
Even though we walked more slowly as we traveled this last long trip, we still thank God for the joy it brought us and the new experiences we gained. The thrill of seeing some fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a beautiful facsimile of the Isaiah Scroll can never be fully described!
The crowning event of our senior years came in November 1988, when we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with all our loved ones and friends surrounding us. Our creative children and daughters-in-law planned this occasion. All those of our family still living were invited and came from distant places. Some 90 or 100 friends of our church took part in the celebration.
Otto and Katie at their 50th wedding anniversary
The children had worked on an illustrated review of our lives. They had ransacked all of our photo albums and made a slide presentation of all that they could discover of our past years in China and the USA and many things from their own memories. A friend was there who made a video of this occasion. We still have many memories of that wonderful time together.
Katie's brother, Dr. Stephen Dodd and her sisters, Dorothy Lawton and Carolyn Rigg, had come from the East with their spouses; and my brother, Bill and his wife Yva came from Pennsylvania. I am sure if someone else would describe the occasion, he could describe many more interesting details.
15. Streams of Mercy
Before completing this biographical sketch, I feel I should recount some of the things that helped to guide and mold our lives -- my life -- for God's purposes and for His glory. The hymn writer, telling of God's ways wrote:
Streams of Mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
God has allowed troubles and sorrows, some disappointments, even deaths in our family. But He has graciously and wonderfully supplied our every need. He has forgiven us our sins and failures, and filled our cup to over-flowing so many times. Surely goodness and mercy have followed us all of our lives. Praise His name!
During the year of 1988 and 1989, I had a couple of heart attacks which later indicated need for heart surgery. Late in November 1989 I was operated on for triple by-pass surgery at Christ Hospital, Oak Lawn, Illinois. After I recovered from that, I felt rather incapacitated to continue with my trips into Chicago working part-time with Moody Correspondence School.
A few months later in March 1990, I finally retired from MBI. One of the workers there had calculated that during my 31 years with the School I had handled some 52,000 or more exams of students! I am still grateful to God for those years of service with many people.
After Christmas 1993, Katie and I moved to Windsor Park Manor Retirement Center in Carol Stream, Illinois, at the advice of loved ones and family. We sold our home in Evergreen Park and we are now living in a small apartment. Later Katie moved over to our Medical Facility for over a year now so that she could receive the better and stronger care I could no longer give. She falls very easily and her memory is failing her. She thinks much of China and frequently speaks of returning there again!
In May 1995 Katie celebrated her 65th reunion of her graduating class at Wheaton College. Her brother and two sisters and two of the spouses were able to come to the occasion.
On August 20, 1996, I celebrated my 90th birthday with the immediate family and many friends at Bethany Chapel in Wheaton, where we have found happy fellowship in worship and service with many others of God's people in this area.
As I recall all God's mercies and grace through the years. I feel unworthy of His great love and patience. As Luke 17:10 reminds us, we are at best "unprofitable servants -- we have done that which was our duty to do."
As I come to the end of writing these biographical notes, I want to quote again the wonderful words of the Scriptures which the Lord gave to me as a young man as I learned to follow Him and the promise He gave me in its fulfillment.
If any man serve me, let him follow me;
And where I am, there shall also my servant be:
If any man serve me, him will my Father honour.