Biography of Robert Alexander Jaffray: Founder of "The Bible" newspaper

Robert Alexander Jaffray
Robert Alexander Jaffray
By CCD contributor: Paul Wu July 10th, 2019

Robert Alexander Jaffray, a Canadian, was a missionary who came to China. He preached in Guangxi and Southeast Pacific for decades, and had remarkable accomplishments in texts.

He was born on December 16, 1873 to a wealthy family in Toronto, Canada. His father was a local media tycoon, but was cold-hearted about his faith, and his mother was a devout Christian. Because of her influence, young Robert grew hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and warm-hearted at services. In 1893, Dr. Xuanxin of the United States, moved by the Holy Spirit, founded a mission agency called the Mission which aimed at preaching the gospel around the world. He lectured and called young people to go overseas to share their faith. Robert listened to Dr. Xuanxin's talk, was moved by the Holy Spirit, and after some struggle responsed to the Lord's cal to go to Chinal. When the family found out about his aspirations, his father and brother tried to prevent him from going. However in the end, they agreed to let him join the mission. 

He attended Xuanxin's Bible College in New York for three years of theological training. In 1897, he travelled to China with three other missionaries. 

Jaffray and Gao Le-Min (Dr. Robert Glover) came to Guangxi province, China to a small place called Teng County to study Chinese and then later went to Zhangzhou. Unlike many missions that first established churches, the Mission made the establishment of seminaries its primary goal, in order to train more servants to preach the gospel. In order to train Chinese preachers, he helped Dr. Glover set up the Jiandao Bible College in Zhangzhou (i.e., the current Jiandao Theological Seminary). 

The following year, Dr Glover returned home, and Jaffraytook up the work of the seminary. He married sister Duna, a preacher. During his time preaching the Gospel, he worked diligently to train many preachers for China. He preached  throughout Guangxi, and the number of believers grew. By 1925, there were 77 churches. He also preached in neighboring Vietnam, where the first church was founded in 1916. 
In his early years, he helped his father run a publishing business and acquired business experience. He was also well aware of the influence of publishing textual materials, so he promoted text ministry. In 1911, he used his savings to set up the Xuandao Book Bureau (i.e., the present-day Hong Kong Xuan Dao Publishing House) in Baiheshan, Zhangzhou, to publish Bible handouts, gospel leaflets and pamphlets. 

In 1913, he founded "The Bible" newspaper, which was originally published in Cantonese and later in both literary and official spoken versions. After the Chinese New Culture Movement, the spoken version was promoted and popularized, and the Bible Newspaper followed the linguistic trend and published it in the spoken version. In addition to a commentary on the Bible, the content of the newspaper also focused on missions, teaching, Bible prophecy, and heresy. There were many unique insights. The Bible Newspaper was a spiritual newspaper that had an impact at the time, and its circulation spread throughout China, Southeast Asia, and even Europe, the United States and other countries. Many believers' lives were well established and many preachers took it as a reference. 

By the mid-1920s, Jaffray felt that many Chinese people who had settled in the Southeast Asian countries were in dire need of the light of the Gospel. He encouraged the Chinese to participate in missionary work in Southeast Asia, believing that the Chinese could better fulfill the task of evangelism to the overseas Chinese. So he assisted Chinese workers Huang Yuansu, Wang Qi and others to organize the "Chinese Foreign Mission" society, and in 1928 went to the Nanyang Borneo people to preach the Gospel. The work of the sermon group was quite effective. According to a 1941 report, "China has grown to 20 co-workers, more than 30 pastors in the West, and 140 local co-workers." They are scattered throughout Indonesia, New Guinea and nearby countries and islands, with 139 gospel bases. There are 209 students in The Bible School in Xijiang, and 13 primary Bible schools with a total of 479 students." For the sake of the gospel ministry to the Chinese in Southeast Asia, he even sold his family's property and bought a plot of land and a large house in the Cameron Highlands, 300 miles north of Singapore, as a base for the development of the work in the central and southern part of the peninsula for the construction of a Bible college and apartments for the coworkers. 

At the end of 1941, the Japanese launched the Pacific War, extending their clutch of aggression into Southeast Asia. Jaffray was serving in Indonesia at the time. He gave up the chance to return home to avoid chaos and stayed there with the Chinese coworkers. In March 1942, the Japanese occupied Indonesia, and Westerners living in Indonesia were imprisoned in concentration camps. On July 29, 1945, about 2 weeks before the victory, Reverend Robert Jaffray died in the camp and was laid to rest, going home to be with the Lord.

Jaffray and his wife had a daughter, Yu Zizhen, who followed her father's career and went to the Far East to preach the Gospel.

- Translated by Charlie Li 

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