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December 2005: Bringing a First Christmas

Eileen O'Rourke, 1950s (click image to see enlarged group photo of China Inland Mission staff including O'Rourke)
Eileen O'Rourke joined China Inland Mission in 1949 and began working among the Lisu tribespeople in 1952. She was interviewed by Robert Shuster in 1992, excerpted below from Collection 464, audio tape T3. Read more information about Kuhn or her oral history interview collection.

EILEEN O’ROURKE KUHN: Because if we were to go out of that little higgledy-piggledy house (that’s the name we gave it) and look over at the ranges of mountains – range after range after range, there was no one there who knew the Lord. We were right in the middle of the Golden Triangle, you know, the opium growing area, right in the middle of that area. And it was Satan’s territory, all right. But, you know, it's a wonderful, wonderful thing to be in a situation like that where the Lord’s friends are few and to be able to say to Him, “Lord Jesus, you are welcome in my heart and my home," to be His friend in a place where there are no others. And then, too, it is another kind of a joy to be in a fellowship, a church like we have here in America. That’s joyous too, but it's a different kind of joy. And I am glad I have had both kinds. And then to be able to go out with the Good Shepard when he is seeking and finding His sheep that are lost.

INTERVIEWER: So there were no Lisu Christians there whatsoever?

KUHN: None. None. There were...the only reason we were allowed to have a home in their village was because we’d inoculated them for smallpox and that was sort of the agreement. So we were allowed to come, but it was reluctant. And we had takes a lot of loving living in some of these places before.... don’t go in there as a short termer for two weeks and then see results. It takes a lot of loving living. Learning the language, sitting where they sit and.... Our first convert there was Father Wood. Dear old man. Rather...well, he really wasn’t that old in our terminology. He must have been in his fifties. But fifties is old where he was. All crippled up with arthritis, had taken opium largely because of the pain of his arthritis, but had gotten to the place where he was dependent upon it. Well, he was the first one whose heart was stirred toward the Lord. And he broke away from his opium, which was really something, because it was not only the addiction. It was also the pain that he then had to bear, without good medicine. And he came to the Lord. Nobody else in his family did. And right now (the day we are talking) we are very near to Christmas. And I always think of Father Wood at Christmas. Because I will never forget the first Christmas we had with him. It was Christmas Eve and we went up to his shanty. His shanty was just a little dark place, no windows. Right in the middle of the shanty was a square - his ash pit, on top of which were a few logs that were burning. And we went up on Christmas Eve to have our service. And he had a little stick in his hand and he went from word to word in his little Lisu Bible. He had just learned to read! And he began to read.

A representative Lisu family that John and Isobel Kuhn worked with.

INTERVIEWER: You had taught him?

KUHN: Yes, we had taught him. “And there were in the same field shepherds abiding...and there were in the same country shepherds abiding in their field, keeping watch by their flocks by night.” [Luke 2:8] And the rest of that beautiful story. And he was reading it! And then we told the story, stammering it, because we were just learning too, but strengthened because of flannelgraph. [laughs] What they couldn't understand...if they couldn’t understand our words, they could look and see what we had in our hands. It was very necessary to have pigs in the stable. [interviewer laughs] We didn’t sheep, but we had to have pigs.

INTERVIEWER: Why was that?

KUHN: The Lisu understood pigs. [laughs] They were the mainstay of they lives. And when one of the pigs got mixed up with the heavenly hosts [interviewer laughs], it was great [unclear]....

INTERVIEWER: A flying pig.

KUHN: Yeah, but it was wonderful. It was the very first Christmas celebration of a Lisu Christian in Thailand. The next morning, Edna [McLaren] and I had to leave for another village, another tribe, and didn’t get back for a week. That’s why we celebrated on Christmas Eve. And when we got back we found that God had gathered Father Wood home to Himself. He’d gone...a few little...a few sharp pains. He told the people, “Don’t kill a pig. Don’t put money in my mouth. When I die, don’t wail.” All of these were demon-related. And he died in peace. And this was such a testimony to them, that he could go like that, peacefully to the Lord. Well, it was tremendous blow to us, but...because we had to start all over again. Our one convert was now safe home in heaven, but not with us.

O'Rourke second from left in back row. Fifth and sixth from the left are John
and Isobel Kuhn. After Isobel's death in 1957, John and O'Rourke were married in 1958.

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Wheaton College 2005