First Martyr in Wumeng Mountain Area -- Thomas Thorne
By Yetta Yao, October 11, 2016 01:10 AM
Bible Christian Church appointed several missionaries including Thomas Thorne and Vanstone to evangelize in the northeast of Yunnan Province and create the first Christian church there with the help of China Inland Mission in 1883.
Bible Christian Church, a branch of the Methodist Church, created a mission school called Sibol College in 1815 in order to provide high-quality education for pastors and believers in the church.
Thomas Thorne, Berger and Frank Dymond were the earliest missionaries in Zhaotong. They were the most outstanding students in Sibol College.
Bible Christian Church undertook the job of evangelism in China under the invitation of Pastor Hudson Taylor from China Inland Mission. Bible Christian Church maintained close contacts with mission groups of China Inland Mission for many years. Therefore, early foreign missionaries in the northeast of Yunnan Province evangelized under the name of China Inland Mission. Some people even thought that Bible Christian Church was the branch of China Inland Mission.
According to the book Yunnan Christianity History, missionaries including Thomas Thorne and Vanstone from Bible Christian Church arrived in Qujing City of Yunnan Province and rented houses for evangelism there. They set up the first missionary station of Bible Christian Church in Yunnan Province. In 1886 they set up the second missionary station in Zhaotong City. Vanstone built the third missionary station in Kunming City.
In 1887, Berger and Frank Dymond also arrived in Zhaotong. Thomas Thorne and Miss Louise Mumbles got married in the same year. Louise was a missionary from China Inland Mission. R.Elliott Kendall recalled that Thomas Thorne had been staying in Yunnan and living alone in a Chinese city. Those days were not happy at all.
The newly married Vanstone couple, Berger and Frank Dymond went to Shanghai together in November, 1887 and started their journey of four months. Thomas Thorne was longing for their arrival. He couldn't live a happy life alone due to the unsafe conditions and the risk of disease infection.
Zhong Huanran was Berger's fellow worker. His family was one of the earliest Christian families in Zhaotong. He described how Thorne and Vanstone evangelized in the early times in his book .
"At that time, my family has not believed in Christianity. I heard Thomas Thorne and Vanstone preaching gospel in the city. They just arrived in Zhaotong and couldn't find a house to rent."
"Although they wore Chinese clothes and spoke a few Chinese words, people still discriminated them due to their different appearance. Officials of Qing Dynasty helped them rent a folk house in College Street. The street was a spot of Chinese Imperial Examination."
"Thomas Thorne and Vanstone would evangelize the candidates, hoping to spread the seeds of gospel in China. Their modest and gentle attitude made local people gradually accept them."
"Thomas Thorne and Vanstone were adventurous, patient, kind and persistent. They shouldered the task of evangelism in China due to their loyalty to God. Some Chinese called them foreign devils or threw stones to them. However, they were still friendly to these people."
"In 1891, Thomas Thorne picked up diarrhea on his way to Niliang and passed away. Coincidentally, Thomas Thorne has written a letter saying that the some of them may sacrifice life to lay the foundation of Christianity in China."
"Thomas Thorne was the first martyr in China. The church buried him in Zhaotong. The tomb is unable to find now."
In 1957, Zhong Huanran wrote a poem to memorize Thomas Thorne, praising his noble spirits.
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