This month's selection in our year-long archival film festival is China Inland Mission's 1949 documentary Hope for China , a 42-minute production outlining socio-economic conditions in 1940s China and exposing the great need for continuing Christian evangelism.
Created for a Western, particularly American, audience, the film offers a glimpse of China on the cusp of significant political and cultural change wrought by the Chinese Revolution in 1949. Hope for China was intended to generate support on the home front and to recruit new missionary candidates, an irony not lost on viewers today. The same year the documentary was released, Mao Zedong created the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, which forced the mass exodus of CIM missionaries and left the indigenous Chinese churches, on the whole, closed off from Western Christianity.
Founded in 1865 by Hudson Taylor, China Inland Mission was distinctive for its reliance on faith missions, its sensitivity to Chinese culture and traditions, and its focus on sending missionaries into China's remote, interior provinces. Filmed 85 years later, Hope for China depicts both the CIM's success and the ongoing challenges faced by Western missionaries and native evangelists in the mid-twentieth century. With its crisp background narration and sepia color-tones, the film captures a wide range of rural scenes from China's interior provinces, from irrigating rice patties, to herding ducks, or winnowing wheat. The filmmakers give particular attention to the diversity of religious beliefs and practices in China's different provinces, offering glimpses into mosques, monasteries, Tibetan Buddhist temples, animism, and ancestor worship. This wide diversity of religions, cultures, and languages throughout China is mentioned as another challenge for CIM missionaries and Bible translators. The film depicts the pervasive poverty and crippling dependence on subsistence agriculture in much of rural China. The filmmakers suggest that China's massive population is increasingly open to the Christian gospel due to the suffering caused by poverty and the ongoing civil war. Hope for China outlines the success of existing ministries—hospitals, orphanages, university outreach, street preaching, vacation Bible schools—and underscores the need for indigenous pastors to be trained and sent out to evangelize.
Hope for China also briefly mentions China's shifting political context in 1949, outlining the rise of the nationalist party and the spread of Communism. Due to mounting pressures under the new Communist government, many Western missions agencies withdrew their missionaries from China in the late 1940s, but the film firmly states CIM's intention to remain on the field if at all possible. In the months following this film's creation, the General Director of China Inland Mission decided to recall all Western missionaries in light of increasing hostility toward Christians under the Communist government. The majority of CIM missionaries withdrew in 1951, at which point China Inland Mission widened its mission field to include Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. As a result of this shift in focus, CIM changed its name to Overseas Missionary Fellowship, which it remains today.
This film, F2, is further described in Collection 215: Records of the US Home Council of Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Collection 215 contains 20 additional video reports and documentaries created by OMF, ranging from 1944 to 1989.
Materials from Collection 215 have been featured in previous Bulletin Board displays. Click on the links below to view these exhibits:
January 2002: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bu0201.htm
March 2003: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bu0303.htm
February 2004: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bu0402.htm
February 2009: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bu0902.htm
November 2009: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bu0911.htm
Click here to see all the films in the Film Festival thus far.
Click here or on the video frames above or below to view the video.