Remembering James M. Howie, the First President of Yuanliang Hospital in Zhangpu, Fujian

By CCD contributor: Lin Muli , September 12, 2018 15:09 PM

James M. Howie

At the beginning of the 19th century, Christianity spread throughout Xiamen. Missionaries from the Reformed Church in America came into the mainland and into South Fujian. In 1853, the English Presbyterian went to Zhangzhou, an inland city in South Fujian, and other places around it after visiting Xiamen. With the strategy of encircling the towns alongside rural areas, the Gospel was shared around Zhangpu, a county affiliated to Zhangzhou, and it was easily spread around.

By 1865, the Gospel had been spread through most of the villages outside Zhangpu.

In 1888, several medical professionals and missionaries were sent by the English Presbyterian Church to create a hospital in Zhangpu and one of them is James M. Howie.

Born in a small town in Britain in 1856, James M. Howie was a known physician, who insisted on medical work even though he is suffering from pneumonia. Howie liked serving God and preaching in the local church. He was very active and loud when he was preaching. He liked to explain science with the Bible. People, especially the youngsters, loved his lively speaking very much.

In 1888, with the recommendation of the English Presbyterian Church, Howie left his wife and two sons and went with Dr. John Preston Maxwell to share Gospel in China.

At the end of 1889, Liangyuan Hospital in Zhangpu was established in Xinluwei, presided by Howie. During that period, illnesses were prevalent in Zhangpu; but, the Western medicine that Yuanliang Hospital used was very effective in curing patients. The hospital did not have much medicine and equipment, but doctors' excellent specialties made up for the shortage. Howie and other doctors often went to distant villages around Zhangpu, and to other places like Nansheng and Wuzhai in Pinghe County to treat patients. The doctors gained the support of the local people and the influence of Liangyuan Hospital spread the Word to larger areas.

In 1900, the hospital started to enroll trainees and Howie trained local doctors to understand and practice Western medicine himself. Xu Mingzao, who then became the Chinese president of Liangyuan Hospital, and Wu Jukui, who had treated patients in Nansheng, Pinghe County, were some of the doctors trained by Howie. With the love of Christ, he cared and helped every patient who came to see him. Besides treating common diseases, he performed surgeries like appendectomy, hernia repair, amputation and so on. Many people converted to Christianity after they were treated by Howie.

One day, in January 1904, Howie went to Baishuiying to attend a church council using a small boat. It was very cold and windy, and he ended up with a cold and suffered a relapse of pneumonia. He became much weaker after he recovered; but, instead of resting, he kept on working at the hospital even though his colleague dissuaded him. On April 11, 1904, he died because of overwork at the age of 48.

Three days later, a memorial service was held in Puyi Church to honor Howie. Howie's body laid in a Chinese coffin with flowers around it. After the memorial service, the coffin was carried by ten students to the cemetery north to the hospital, followed by medical staff and Christians. On his gravestone, it held the words "A great doctor from Britain" and "Grave of James M. Howie" in English and Chinese and eight Chinese characters representing his love for Christ and the contribution he made in the country. The grave was funded by his students and Christians.

- Translated by Lin Changfeng

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