James O. Fraser Of Lisuland (Part 5)
James O. Fraser (1886-1938) spent his first fourteen years of glad but strenuous missionary labors for Christ in Yunnan Province of China, frequently journeying into the mountains between Burma and China in his pursuit for the souls of the Lisu tribespeople whom God had laid on his heart. From time to time God sent other laborers to join him and now there could be numbered in the district for which Mr. Fraser was responsible a blessed harvest of hundreds of families that had been delivered from demon worship to know and worship the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. God Himself had prepared their hearts to receive the Gospel seed Mr. Fraser so laboriously sowed.
There had been a growing burden on Mr. Fraser’s heart to reach out to another tribe in his district, the Kachin people, a poorer, "wilder" group, unreached with the Gospel. Fraser did not know the Atsi language which these Kachin people spoke, but he encouraged the Lisu evangelists who could speak Atsi, to reach out to them. God had been at work preparing hearts among the Kachins to receive the Gospel. In time it proved to be that although the Kachin were harder to win than the Lisu, those who did turn became fearless and steadfast Christians.
Mr. Fraser was faced with difficult decisions. There were urgent calls that came to him from tribal Christians who needed his help in facing interpersonal or community problems. At the same time there existed pleas for his help in other areas where there were splendid opportunities to reach tribal people ready to become Christians or perhaps he was needed still elsewhere to ground enthusiastic, newly-converted Christians in God’s Word so they could accurately share the Gospel with others. Mr. Fraser was also involved in helping to translate and prepare for printing additional simple literature for use of the tribal preachers and teachers. The damp and cold climate in the heights, along with poor housing conditions as he devoted himself to day and night ministry, was hard on his body. Food was sometimes fare that was inadequate for maintaining good health and providing the strength required for the demands of his strenuous labors.
With his strength somewhat giving out but with spirit as brave and strong as ever, Mr. Fraser arranged for his first furlough after fourteen years in China, trusting to meet and encourage the prayer circle friends whose faithfulness in prevailing prayer contributed very much to the successful ministry in the mountains. As he prepared to bid farewell for the time being to the Lisu people, he was cheered to learn that two of the promising Lisu workers whom he had given up to serve elsewhere among their people, were being blessed of the Lord in their new location and more than a hundred families had turned from demon-worship to Christ. The Lisu church already had produced missionaries!
During his furlough of almost two years, Mr. Fraser sought to raise up more prayer for the neglected tribes of southwest China. He urged praying people to take the burden of these people upon their hearts and to wrestle with God for them. Even those who had come to Christ from heathen darkness were but babes in Christ and not able yet for the spiritual warfare required to protect themselves or to rescue others from the pervading darkness around them. Mr. Fraser urged the praying people to do their part – their essential part in faithful, burdened, warfare prayer to advance the glorious kingdom of God amid the spiritual darkness that gripped that heathen area.
Returning to China from furlough in 1924, expecting to return to his beloved Lisu people, Mr. Fraser found he had been assigned to another province, Kansu, to handle some difficult situations which his personality and experience qualified him to resolve. For three years he labored there and found opportunities along the way in educational and Bible-teaching work. Then came a time when Europeans and Americans were ordered by the Counsel to come to the coast, because of a growing anti-foreign feeling in the nation. A perilous journey down the Yellow River on a raft was expedited for the party of missionaries by the leadership of Mr. Fraser.
From that time, Mr. Fraser was drawn more into the administration at the head office of the mission and that required that he be at Shanghai. His pioneering spirit was curbed by office routine, but faith and prayer were needed for the mission at large. Finally after five years’ absence, he was released to return to his Yunnan Province and the Lisu people. He was accompanied by some younger workers who were coming to work in the province.
For a year he traveled to the various mission stations of Yunnan Province as he had been made superintendent of all China Inland Mission work (now Missionary Overseas Fellowship) in the province. At last he was able to return to his beloved Lisuland on the Burma border. He found many changes and advances. For one thing little groups of volunteer preachers were reaching out to new areas and the Gospel was spreading.
When he first returned to Yunnan Province, he met a young lady fresh out of college, who was a number of years younger than he. But God had let him know that Roxie Maud Dymond was to be his wife one day. She had come to join her parents of the United Methodist Mission in their work in the capital city of the province. The wedding took place in October 1929. "Marriage brought a crowning joy" to his life that had been outpoured for others. The couple had no home of their own to start with but the new wife gladly joined him in his strenuous journeyings, including one of thirty-five days, which was undertaken without hesitancy. In one place the bride was the first white woman they had ever seen.
During a year’s stay at the coast to take care of necessities, the couple’s first child was born in 1931. After the birth of their second child, Mr. Fraser settled his family among other missionaries in Muchengpo but continued his journeys. Following a serious bout with typhoid fever on a trek, it was decided that since he had spent a further nine years on the field, the couple should have a furlough. They spent a happy time in England and North America before returning to Shanghai, as he was needed there more than in Yunnan Province, but the new young workers in Yunnan were blessed with his frequent and fervent prayers for them though he was not present with them.
The next year found the Fraser family in the city of Paoshan. In the winter of 1936 Mr. Fraser was much involved with a Lisu translator and several other missionaries in revising the translation of the Lisu New Testament. He greatly enjoyed translation work and Bible teaching. The completion of the Lisu New Testament was of great joy to Mr. Fraser. Returning with his family to Paoshan, much time was given to prayer. He rented a bare attic room in a neighbor’s house where he could be alone for prayer. There were many and great needs of the mission which he prayed about there. After a few days of serious illness, on September 25, 1938, God called Mr. Fraser unto Himself. He was about the age of 52.
God had prepared other workers to carry on His work among the Lisu people, notably John Kuhn. Bible schools were established to train the zealous Lisu volunteer preachers to help gather in the fruit of Fraser’s labors of love, faith and prayer. The full Bible was printed in the Lisu language and the first copies delivered in 1968, by the enabling of the Lord of the Harvest, to whom goes glory and praise.
Arranged from Beyond the Ranges by Mrs. Howard Taylor. Overseas Missionary Fellowship, www.omf.org.