Revival Among Missionaries
In the safety of the treaty port Chefoo in 1927, Southern Baptist missionaries gathered for spiritual renewal while the turmoil in the province subsided. As they passed the time, Jane Lide shared the lessons she had learned from a Bible study while on furlough in Southern California on “Christ our Life.” The missionaries spent most of their time in Chefoo in Bible study and prayer. As they began to pray for revival among the Chinese, they were convicted of their own need for revival. Marie Monsen, a Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran missionary with the China Inland Mission, shared with the Baptists of her experiences in the interior. One of the Southern Baptists, Ola Culpepper suffered from a degenerative eye disease which was causing her extreme pain. None of the doctors could treat her disease, but only fill new prescriptions for glasses. The missionaries had heard of Ms. Monsen’s experiences with healing and asked her to pray for her. C. L. Culpepper relates that at the meeting with Ms. Monsen, she posed him the question if he had ever been filled with the Spirit. This question sent him on a four year quest that would find fruition in the spiritual awakening to come. Yet in 1927, the missionaries met, read aloud James 5:14-16, being impressed by James’s exhortation to confess sin, anointed Ola’s head with oil and prayed for her healing. Bertha Smith shares that as she went to lay hands on Mrs. Culpepper’s head, she could not because she was convicted of a negative attitude toward fellow missionary Miss Hartwell. Concurrently, two Chinese cooks whose hatred toward one another was well known had reconciled in the adjacent room. During the prayer, Ola Culpepper put down her glasses and her eyes never bothered her again. Soon afterwards, the missionaries were given freedom to return to the villages, but Marie Monsen’s question to Dr. Culpepper would not go away.
After much study of Acts, Galatians 3:14, and Ephesians, the missionaries were convinced that they were not ministering in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. According to Mary Crawford,
For several years there had been an increasing hunger in the hearts of most of us to see more of the Power of the Holy Spirit in our work. We had been taught in our seminaries that if we ever got any souls saved it would be through the work of the Holy Spirit. We knew the doctrine of the Acts of the Apostles, but we were not experiencing it as we knew we should. After the Chinese Southern Army came in during the year 1928, and so much of our work showed up as “hay and stubble” most of us were willing to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He might exalt us in due season.”
Bertha Smith tells of her struggle to overcome the sin within her. She had experienced fillings of the Spirit before coming to China, but it would been in those days in Chefoo that she would learn to allow “the Holy Spirit a chance to so control the old self that it was ineffective over [her].” One missionary would confess that she had never been a “saved” Christian:
I was in the big house alone. I knelt by the bed and prayed, ‘Lord, I don’t know whether I’m saved or not but you know; I want to be right with you and with man, please show me what is wrong.’ My sins came before me like darkness, and I cried, ‘What can I do?’ Just then the burden rolled away and the Light of Salvation shone in my soul. I saw my sins and I saw the cross. Such joy flooded my being but it was only a moment before the temptation, ‘It cannot last, such joy as this,’ but then came the blessed assurance in Rom. 8 that ‘neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor-height nor depth nor any other creature should be able to separate me from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.’
It took C. L. Culpepper four years to cleanse himself through prayer before he would receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He had been afraid of the excesses and was afraid to speak in tongues and to be put out of the SBC. But in Hwanghsien, he gathered with forty Christians to pray for revival and he fell under conviction of the “sin of not being filled with the Holy Spirit” and he confessed before the people of his sin of accepting praise as a good missionary but being far from God. The prayer meeting lasted for four days and four nights with people coming under conviction and confessing their sins. Toward the end of that meeting, the Chinese said, “We thought you considered yourselves above us. Now we are all one.” They knew that they were no longer Chinese and Americans, but only God’s children.
Wiley Glass was at the same meeting in Hwanghsien. He saw a the face of a man, whom he hated, come before him, who years before had insulted his first wife. After gradually coming to confess the full sin, he wept and felt the fullness of forgiveness: “When repentance washed the guilt away and the peace of forgiveness filled my soul, I knew an ecstacy [sic] of joy beyond description.” The reports of Southern Baptist missionaries being filled with the Spirit must have been disturbing to the leadership back in the U.S.
The journal of the FMB, Home and Foreign Fields, from 1932-1933 was filled with reports of the revival. In May 1932, Wiley Glass reports that in Tsinan both Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy along with several Chinese “received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” He also reports that Mary Crawford came to the front “stood up, stretching out her arms toward heaven and seemed to be transfigured. Her lips were moving, but her voice was not audible to me, for every one was praying, some in a very loud voice.” I. V. Larson, from Laichow had also “had recently a remarkable experience of spiritual blessing.” One missionary remarked:
I have come into the midst of revival fires in China-marvelous, wonderful, deep is the work of the Holy Spirit here. Oh, that the fire might fall amongst Southern Baptists of America! I came up to Hwanghsien from Tsining for a few days and I have never seen a place so transformed. The first delightful thing I noticed was the warmth and genuineness of the cordial welcome of the Chinese. They seem to have had a baptism of love that flows out of their very countenances. The spirit of worship and praise and reverence in the church service Sunday surpassed anything I saw or felt in America.
These reports from the North China Mission garnered suspicion from the board leadership in Richmond that the missionaries had indulged in Pentecostal excess.
In 1935, the Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, Charles E. Maddry, visited the North China Mission and came back with glowing reports. His main points defended the validity of the work by the missionaries: “First. A good foundation for Christ’s church has been laid …; Second. Our missionaries who are building on this foundation today are worthy, devoted and sacrificial …; Third. The superstructure they are building is glorious …; Fourth. The material for present and future building is superior and unlimited.” He directly defended the North China Mission when said that “in the great revival that has swept through North and Interior China, there have been some excesses and hysteria, but it is rapidly passing today. Our missionaries have their feet on the solid rock of Christ Jesus and they are building gloriously on the foundation laid so deep and strong by those heroes and martyrs who preceded them.” He concludes:
A glorious revival is sweeping Northern and Interior China, such as we have not seen in America in a hundred years. We have seen it and felt its power. It is a revival of fire and burning. Sin is being burned out of broken lives and men and women are being absolutely made over. The power of Christ has come to grips with the power of Satan and it is a fearful conflict. Satan has held sway and dominion over China for unnumbered and weary centuries. His kingdom is suddenly being challenged and broken by the power of a risen and enthroned Christ.
Unmistakably, the missionaries and the mission board recognized that the revival in Shantung was of a different sort of Christianity than they had every experienced. The missionaries reported new experiences of the filling of the Spirit; then the Executive Secretary visited, already suspicious of the excesses, and came out impressively in favor of the movement. Following his trip to the Orient, Maddry pledged to send seventy new missionaries to China to fill in the gaps left from years of retrenchment, but succeeded in sending only fourteen by 1937. Nonetheless, his enthusiasm for China in light of other burgeoning fields worldwide demonstrated his affection for the revival.
Smith, Go Home and Tell, 36.
Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, 13.
She testifies concerning the occasion, “Had I refused to confess that sin, and joined in the prayer with it covered, I believe that I would have hindered the prayer of the others, and the eye could not have been healed.” Smith, Go Home and Tell, 39.
This event was recalled in detail by both C. L. Culpepper and Bertha Smith. Interestingly, in her autobiography of the revival, Marie Monsen focuses on the reconciliation between the Chinese cooks. The healing was not an insignificant event, but to Monsen, it had much more significance for the Southern Baptist missionaries than reconciliation would have on the revival. “That [referring to the reconciliation] was the first small beginning of a revival which, a few years later, grew into the largest revival any one mission in China experienced.” Marie Monsen, The Awakening: Revival in China 1927-1937, trans. by Joy Guinness (London: China Inland Mission, 1961), 55.
Crawford, The Shantung Revival, 2-3.
Smith, How the Spirit Filled My Life, 32.
Crawford, The Shantung Revival, 6. Original emphasis.
C. L. Culpepper, “The Shantung Revival.” Audio recording (1966). Available at < www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/visit.php?lid=652 >. Accessed May 21, 2007.
Cauthen, Higher Ground, 152.
 W. B. Gloss [sic], “A Remarkable Revival Movement in Shantung.” HFF 16, no. 5 (May 1932): 15-16.
Martha Linda Franks, “Revival Fires,” HFF 16, no. 7 (July 1932): 31.
Charles E. Maddry, “A Day of Good Tidings,” HFF 19, no. 10 (Oct 1935): 1, 6. Emphasis original.
Maddry, “Shuck Memorial Missionaries,” HFF 19, no. 11 (Nov 1935): 19.