Billy Graham Center

From November 1926 issue of CIM's China's Millions From Collection 272, Papers of Jennie Kingston Fitzwilliam, audio tape T3

Listen to an excerpt of Paul Ericksen's oral history interview with Fitzwilliam in 1984 about her missionary work among the tribal Lisu in China (7.5 minutes).

The text below, transcribed by the Archives staff, is from Collection 272 audio tape T3.

FITZWILLIAM: When we went down to the Lisu land the first time we went down at the Christmas season. And they put aside about, oh, I guess the Lisu Christmas festivals last about four days, three or four days, probably four days. And's the end of their harvest season and they put aside their work and come into a main...sort of a central village and...and have what they call...[name in Lisu] they call it. It's a festival for the birth of Christ. And so it's the time of the year of the Lisu people. If they can possibly manage it they always try to have a new...a new outfit of clothes. And...and they save their...their rice and they bring their rice at the...that time rather than other kinds...other times of the year. They eat potatoes or corn or whatever. And they pool their resources and kill a pig or two and it's just a big big time. And of course, it's very Christian. And they...they meet for...they meet for worship. And they also at that time bring their offerings to the Lord and each village will stand up in the meetings and say "This village gives so many bushels of rice and so many pigs and so many cows and so many for the work," the Christian work, to support the...the Lisu evangelistic teachers that spend all their time going around teaching. And so it's's's a really very important time. And's a very happy time. It's a very happy occasion. You come down the mountain trail into the village and they build a bamboo archway and decorate it with orchids and make little [?] in the ravines there. And then they...the Christians that have arrived first there in the village and they sing a welcoming song. And the people who are coming have to wait outside the arch until they are welcomed and then they come in and they line up in a big long line and shake everybody's hands all down the line. So...and everybody's just happy, that's all. And they're be a little group will be together singing a new hymn that they've...somebody's translated for them or somebody's written up for them. And somebody else will be with a bunch of kids learning to read. And it's just a hub...happy hubbub all over the mountainside. And so this...this old Kachin man, dirty old filthy Kachin man, [laughs] heard about this...this festival that they were going to have Muchengpo and that there was going to be a foreign teacher and his family come to the festival. So he came over to see what it was all about and he stood there watching for quite a while. And all these happy Lisu are running around on the...all over the village. And...and then he came up to us. And he said to my husband and me, "Why don't you send some teachers us Kachin people? Why can't we have the gospel that make these Lisu people so happy." And so right then and there we both felt that the Lord was calling us to that Kachin work. But our senior missionary died shortly after we got to the to the Lisu village.

ERICKSEN: This was Mr. [J.O.] Fraser?

FITZWILLIAM: No, Mr. Gowman. They were the senior missionaries there. They had been in the Lisu work for several years that area before we came. So we were left with that big Lisu work on our hands with...oh, I suppose there were thirty...thirty-five or forty Lisu...Christian Lisu villages different...we had different areas where we went to conduct Bible schools and the language to learn. And you have to be doctor and nurse and counselor and everything else to the Lisu and so we didn't have any time to do anything for the Kachin. But before we came home on furlough, I actually said, "I just don't think we ought to go home until we do something about that call to the Kachin." So he [her husband Francis] decided he would go to wild Kachin country. There was tame Kachin and the wild Kachin. The tame Kachin paid taxes to the Chinese government more or less, but the wild Kachin paid taxes to no man and they're very wild. They...they fight and they kill each other and they...they're very wild. And...but they live in a mountain range about a two days journey away from where we were leaving with the Lisu and...or three maybe. And absolutely untouched territory over there. So for some reason (I'm sure the Lord was leading) my husband felt that's where he ought to go to...just to visit and see...see what kind of opening he would get and...and just see how the Lord was leading. And so this Lisu boy who worked for us (well, he didn't work for us at that time but he came to work for us), when he...and he heard that we were....that my husband was going over there. And so he...the Lisu tried to persuade him not to go. They said, "You just don't know what can happen to you over in wild Kachin country. Why don't you go to these tame Kachin people that live fairly near us here?" It's where this old man lived, for instance. But my husband felt very strongly that that's what the Lord would have him do. So [name of boy in Lisu] said, "Well, alright, if you're going to go, I'll go with you, 'cause I can talk a little bit of that language and I'll go with you. You better not go alone." And so they set out and went over to that range of mountains. And...and as they went along...along the [name of plain] Plain and looked up at the mountain, all these villages dotted around that mountain range. They picked out a village up there and they said, "Well, let's go to that village and...and see what the Lord will do." So they made their way up to that village. And...and as they came into that village they were met by all the dogs that come out to greet you. (Every house has a dog which guards them because they don't have any locks on their doors, if they had those that would lock. And they keep a dog that guards the house, so when a stranger comes into the village the dogs all come rushing at you.) My husband always said, "Don't...just don't let the dogs know you're afraid and they won't bite you." [laughs] And I never could figure out how you could convince a dog you weren't afraid of him. [laughs] Well, anyway the dogs came tearing out at them. And then a young man came out of one of the houses and they noticed that that house had a crosslet in the signified that that man was the headman of that district. And so they made there way into the village and a man came out of that house and he came rushing up to my husband and he said, "Well, thank God. I asked him to send you and here you are."

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Wheaton College 2005