Our first series of evangelistic meetings in Shanghai (April 4 to July 25, 1948) was entirely in English, and was conducted almost exactly the same as we would in America, only I had to speak much more slowly, which was a difficult change. It was surprising, however, how quickly the audience would get a point. I had expected a slow, deliberate response. On the contrary, the reaction to a point was more spontaneous than in many cities in America.
The order of subjects was about the same as at home ; only we gave two weeks of build-up subjects such as: "Who Is God?" "The Problem of Sin in the Universe," "A 6,000-Year History of the World in Forty Minutes' Time" (a general survey of the plan of salvation in relation to the history of the world). Some topics, such as "Evolution," "History of Our Bible," and "Inspiration of the Bible," were brought in during the early part of the meetings to build a foundation for future prophecy, doctrinal, and devotional studies.
We held meetings on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights at seven-thirty, and Sunday evenings we had two services—at five-thirty and seven-thirty. After the Sabbath question we began Sabbath afternoon services, which in a few weeks grew into our new Shanghai English church. Roger Clausen is pastor, and is taking a real interest in the new members.
ATTENDANCE.—On our best nights we had twelve to fifteen hundred present. The weeknight attendance was consistently steady, numbering about 175 to 300. Of course, we had low dips in bad weather, with the attendance going down to one hundred, and we also had nights with a much higher attendance.
OFFERINGS.—The offerings were interesting to follow. The largest evening offering was $40 U.S., except for some larger individual gifts people handed in as special. We took up about $1,200 U.S. in offerings during the entire series. As the monetary exchange situation grew worse in China, the offerings decreased in value, and advertising expenses increased. For instance, the last two or three weeks the offerings would reach perhaps $180,000,000 Chinese currency, and people felt as if they were giving a lot. But that offering had a value of only $15 U.S.
Now China has changed to a gold dollar again, and it is helping the offerings considerably. Also it is much easier for the ushers to collect and count the money.
Three weeks ago we received an amazing offering. A Chinese lady who took her stand in the last series but had not yet been baptized handed Pastor Clausen a gift for our new Shanghai English church. Imagine our surprise when we counted it—$7,300 U.S.
We made free literature offers every Sunday evening, and received an average of about 350 names of nonmembers. The names became the workers' visiting lists after we divided the city into zones. We encouraged as many as possible to take the Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence Course. If the English was too hard for them, they took the Chinese course, which has proved very popular and effective,
Nationality of Workers and Audience
Half of our workers were Chinese who spoke some English, and half were American. We followed exactly the same platform approach and follow-up as we did in the States. Human hearts are the same everywhere. The Holy Spirit works the same everywhere, and now I never give it a thought what nationality I'm talking to in my visiting.
Our audience was about 8o per cent English-speaking Chinese, and 20 per cent foreign. The foreign included many Russians, Austrians, Germans, Jews, and a few French, English, and American. There were some Korean and Filipino people in attendance as well.
We tried to take an interest in the poor "displaced people" who attended. Shanghai is a city of many sorrows. The European and Russian refugees here present a cross-world picture of sorrow and near despair. At this writing (Oct. 14, 1948) there is a feeling of fear and unrest. People are crowded by fear of oncoming communism. Europeans and Russians want to get out quickly, but it is very difficult to get away. (Heavy fighting is now going on fifty miles from Shanghai.)
RESULT'S OF FIRST EFFORT.—Seventy-eight have been baptized from our first campaign, and others are preparing for baptism. So at least eighty can be counted from the English 'effort. About twenty of these were foreigners, and the remainder were Chinese. Many other interests are carrying over into our present 'campaign now in its third week. We had few interest leads to help swell our results, because most of our Shanghai members speak Chinese only, and the friends and children of church members had already been cared for and baptized by the various pastors.
Our meetings reached a very fine type of Chinese. I could tell of some of the miraculous conversions of the very finest type of people. One woman (now doing Bible work in the present campaign) is American educated, and the daughter of a former premier of China. An-other's father is now a member of the national legislature. A lawyer and a doctor came in. Several United States educated Chinese have joined the church, and still others are interested. The former Chinese consul-general of Japan, and also consul to the United States and Canada, was baptized. (He is one of the greeters or receptionists in our current campaign.) One young Russian was put out of his home for keeping the Sabbath. He served the United States Army as a detective during the war. Of course, some weak ones came in also, and some will drop out. Yet it is encouragingly surprising what a high percentage are remaining firm.
The Sabbath is a real test in China, because 430,000,000 people are ready to fill your job if you won't work on Saturday. Schools run on Saturday here, even the colleges and universities; and students who take their stand face real obstacles in the matter of their education.
We find that it is not too difficult to get people to accept the truth here, but it is harder to get them to go all the way in preparation for baptism. I estimate that baptisms here were only about 65 percent of what they would have been in a similar-sized campaign in the United States.
Similar Advertising Methods
We advertised the meetings just about the same as we did in America. Shanghai is an overcrowded city of about six million population. The China Division gave us an advertising and effort expense budget of $2,500 U.S. for the first campaign, and $5,700 for the second. The methods we used were as follows : billboards (four large ones which proved very effective according to our advertising census); posters (10 x 29") on the front of streetcars and busses (very effective), and similar posters (3,000 of them) on the walls all over the city at a very nominal cost; handbills (not so effective, because we did not know where to pass them out, except in stores); radio announcements (a Sunday noon and a Sunday night broadcast of a half hour each); display ads in English, Chinese, and Russian newspapers (the Russian Consulate and the Orthodox Bishop succeeded in stopping our ads in all but one Russian paper).
In the first campaign we put our English ads in the Chinese papers. These proved very effective. In the present campaign they appear in Chinese. David Lin, head of the Voice of Prophecy in China, sent a letter to the Voice of Prophecy interests in the Shanghai area, inviting them to our meetings. The opening night we had about three hundred too many people for our auditorium, which seats one thousand, so the next week. we began our double sessions.
THE "TRANSLATED" CAMPAIGN.—And now, a further word about the present translated ,campaign we are engaged in. In approaching the tabernacle, one can see a large brick Bible about 55 feet wide and 30 feet high. The tabernacle itself is 118 by 120 feet. The front of the tabernacle is well lighted. English, Chinese, and Russian characters tell of the meetings now going on. Our tabernacle is of brick and has a wooden floor. It is the best tabernacle I have seen. It cost about $8,0oo U.S. W. H. Branson and Claude Miller and their committee have done everything possible to make these meetings succeed. Almost the whole division staff served as ushers in the first campaign, and their wives and children sang in the choir.
As one enters the door he is impressed by the large numbers of ushers and greeters—Chinese, English, and Russian. Some of them can also speak French, Portuguese, and German, to take care of all corners. You can also take your choice of songbooks, for the singing is in different languages.
Henry Meissner, with his violin, presents an excellent musical program, assisted by his English-Chinese-Russian choir. Mrs. Clausen is at the grand piano ; Mrs. Detamore at the vibraharp, and Mrs. Meissner presides at the Hammond organ, marimba, or piano. There is also group singing. A translator stands by Elder Meissner, and the congregation join in singing in unison the songs out of their booklets. Choruses cannot be used very well, but rather the old favorites in gospel songs.
The Russian group, under the leadership of Evangelist Rudianov, is in a glassed-in room, and my lapel microphone carries my voice into their room as well as into the main room. The Russian translator stands in the Russian room.
The Chinese translator is heard only in the large auditorium. We have an excellent Chinese translator, Brother Hsu Hwa—a local businessman and associate editor of Signs of the Times. He was educated in England and is very rapid in translating. Though I am prone to move about with my lapel microphone, he stands faithfully by his microphone, quickly putting the message into the Mandarin.
It does not hold one up as much as you might think, doing evangelistic work through a translator. I really enjoy it. I only have to talk half as long, and now I get two responses—first from the English-understanding part of the audience, and second from the Chinese and Russian part of the audience.
When Brother Meissner sings his appeal song, I weave the words of the closing song into my appeal, so that his message is translated before he sings. The prayer and the calls for hand raising, for coming forward, and for surrender are all translated, and with very little inconvenience or disturbance. The other night we had our first aftermeeting—all translated. A wonderful spirit came in. Prayer was offered by the Chinese, the Russian, and the American pastors.
The workers' meetings are also translated to accommodate both the English-speaking and the Chinese-speaking workers. The whole city is divided into zones for these workers. Pastor Rudianov takes care of all Russian names. Last week a new gasoline restriction went into effect allowing only ten gallons a month for each car. Satan is trying to stop our visiting. We are hoping that the One who stretched the oil in days of old will help us in stretching our gasoline today.
We are trying something new in this campaign. We are preparing sermon outlines in English, Chinese, and Russian, for the whole week, and mailing these out to those present on Sunday night. This will help in gathering names, and will also provide study material for those coming regularly.
It all seems rather complicated to contemplate, but it is surprising how many obstacles can be overcome as we go forward in faith. Our attendance in this series is about the same as the first. However, the week-night attendance is better. Of course, it will probably drop when winter comes. It gets bitterly cold here, and there is no heat for our auditorium. Fuel is so expensive it is prohibitive.
Visiting is very interesting here. It is difficult to find the addresses, but after you weave in and out through narrow lanes and endless hallways, when you find a home, you invariably receive a warm welcome. These are wonderful people, and we love them dearly. Last night I had my first full visit in Chinese—about twenty minutes long. We are having a wonderful time here in China, and are more than glad we came. Our next city scheduled is Hong Kong, and we hope soon after, the New Jerusalem.
* Written in the form of a letter. We are preserving the informality of the original writing.