THE LIFE AND TIMES
CHARLES A. ROBERTS
January 1895 to August 1986
Compiled And Written By Joyce Roberts
Edited by Janet Roberts
October I, 1997
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Childhood In England, 1895 To 1910
On To Canada And America, 1910 To 1916
Early Years In China, 1916 To 1922
A Growing Family, 1922 To 1937
Early War Years, 1937 To 1941
Later War Years, 1941To1949
Years In Hong Kong, 1949 To 1963
Retirement in California, 1963 To 1986
Favorite Sayings, Scripture and Hymns
Map of China
Pictures Over The Years
In 1922, Charles Roberts, age 27 years, found himself teaching at the Hunan Bible Institute in Changsha, Hunan, China, a large and growing city south of Hankow. Changsha lay along the large Siang River, the major tributary to the Yangtze River from the south. This city was the heart of central China with a large population of 250,000 people, including an international community of approximately 200 foreigners. For the Chinese people, it represented one of their finest university cities and was also the most anti-foreign province. Hunan Province was the last to permit foreigners to enter in the 20th century. What was he doing here? An American medical doctor, Dr. Frank Keller, had invited Charles to come to teach Bible at a new spacious Bible Institute. Dr. Keller was a graduate of Yale University, and in 1911 its alumni had established a medical college and hospital in Changsha. Dr. Keller was anxious to make Hunan Bible Institute (H.B.1.) one of the finest educational institutions of its kind for the church in China. It had been founded by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (Biola) under the generosity of two fine Christian men, the Milton and Lyman Stewart brothers, who established the Union Oil Company of California. These men donated $1,000,000 in 1920 to build the Institute. Dr. Frank Keller had come to China at the turn of the 20th century as a missionary doctor with the China Inland Mission (C.I.M.) He was so discouraged at the wretched level of medical practice of simply cleaning up infectious wounds and venereal diseases that he decided his life would be better spent educating small groups of Chinese Christian men and women to go out in teams to the villages to preach the gospel much the same way that Christ had done with his disciples. Shortly afterwards Dr. Keller observed an American tobacco company representative marketing cigarettes from a small boat moving along the Siang River, handing out free cigarettes. This so disturbed him that he was more determined than ever to organize a bible school to educate young people to preach the gospel.
The establishment of the large Yale Medical School, Hospital and High School by his own alma mater propelled Dr. Keller to pursue the building of what was to become the Hunan Bible Institute. He quickly went out to purchase 25 acres of land just outside the city near some ancient grave sites. He then arranged for American architects. from Shanghai, to draw up the plans for a beautiful main building of three stories with a central atrium and Chinese style roofs with curved corners. He wished to make the best use of Chinese style design along with the best of the western design plus modern amenities. A large Ivy-league grass quadrangle fronted the main building with two large dormitories. three stories high, on each side of the quadrangle. Single private rooms, and several baths on each floor which were planned in dormitories faced each other across the green quad and fronted the main building. Trees, plants and flowers lined the quad and dorms. Five large western-style homes were also built for faculty members both Chinese and American. A high 15 foot wall with an imposing gate-house encircled and secured the campus. Charles would soon have a large hand in planning for trees and flowers, the overall landscaping of the campus was an assignment he enjoyed. In all China, this campus would soon become the second largest campus with its beautiful buildings. Changsha was a new assignment for Charles. He had first crossed the pacific Ocean and entered China in 1916 with his beautiful wife. Florence, and baby daughter, Faith. They were independent missionaries supported by churches and friends from Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Reverend Carl Nowack and several other missionaries had recruited them for evangelistic work in the province of Hunan, north of the Yangtze River.
CHILDHOOD AND MARRIAGE
Charles once remarked that it was the enthusiastic concern for missions that his wife Florence had, along with her teaching and music credentials, which encouraged him to go to China. While spending 30 days sailing the Pacific Ocean to China, he began to think of how only just six years previously, in May 191 O. he had left England to cross the Atlantic Ocean with his widowed mother emigrating to Canada. He was then only 15 years of age and had just completed his schooling in St. Sidwell's Cathedral School in Exeter, England. Charles had
the opportunity to stay in England and attend the University sponsored by his father's family, but he chose to accompany his mother to Canada to start a new adventuresome life.
Charles was born in Marylebome section of London, where his father was a dental surgeon at Guys Hospital. His mother, Louisa Pavey, came from Stockland (near Exeter), Devon, the youngest in a family of 8 children. When her own mother died, her older sister Caroline helped to bring her up. Thus, Louisa after finishing school at 12 years of age, went to work as a housekeeper. Much later she moved to London where she met her husband, Charles Alfred Roberts who was four years her senior. Louisa's first child, a daughter, Margaret, died in infancy. Charles Alfred Junior was born January 2, 1895. Five years later his father died of diabetes. He was the son of Charles Duncan Roberts Esquire of Ramsgate, Kent. In 1990 there was no known cure for diabetes. Louisa had nursed her husband carefully for several months before his death in the countryside of Watford just outside London. In the cathedral churchyard in Ramsgate, Kent, he was buried in the Roberts family grave site. Louisa, now a widow at 30 years of age returned to Exeter with her five-year old son to make her own 1 iving. In Exeter Charles went to school and his mother became employed as a housekeeper as well as a special caterer. One Christmas, when his mother had to work at a fine country estate for the holidays, she had asked a neighbor to hold on to a special gift to be given to Charles on Christmas morning. Charles woke up on Christmas morning and eagerly looked into his stocking only to find several pieces of black coal that the neighbor's child had placed as a joke. For a sensitive lad who had known the pleasures of loving parents, this was crushing. Later in life Charles told about one wonderful birthday gift his father had given him...a whole army of soldiers made of chocolate. He remembered also that his father had put him on his shoulders outside their home at 19 Weymouth Street in Portland Place, London, to watch the grand 60th Jubilee parade of Queen Victoria in 1897. He also remarked on his father's great love for hunting and that the cane he carried could even be turned into a simple gun.
While in Exeter, Louisa was introduced to "Pleasant Sunday Afternoons" at an evangelistic church which she enjoyed, and where she began her study of the Bible.
When Charles was about nine years of age, his mother became the permanent housekeeper for Sir Baring Gould of Lew Trenchard in Lew Downs, Devon, and his wife and 16 children! They lived on a beautiful large country estate with acres of woodlands. Charles remembered well Sir Baring Gould's charming and amusing stories. He attended the little school house on the grounds at the Manor Chapel along with the young Gould children. Sir Baring Gould was a fine Christian minister, poet, novelist, and hymn writer. Of the many songs he wrote for the Church, "Now the Day ls Over" is still sung. During Charles' stay at Lew Downs, all the other children who lived there in addition to the Gould children marched from the "big" house to the school house on the family estate singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" written for the children by their father, Baring Gould. Charles remembered these experiences well and enjoyed being included in a large, loving and amusing family. Baring Gould loved life, was full of great good humor, and the young lad enjoyed a warm and happy family life for the next few years. Baring Gould went on frequent trips to Europe and wrote many postcards to the children. He was a good writer of novels and mysteries, earning good money from those endeavors. Charles saved the postcards that Baring Gould sent him over the three years he lived at Lew Trenchard. He also remembered with pleasure riding in the horse and carriage when he and some of the family were picked up from the train station after returning from Exeter to Lew Downs. Charles was baptized at the Manor Chapel which enabled his mother to enroll him later at St. Sidwell Cathedral School, where he completed his secondary education. Now crossing the Pacific Ocean in 1915. Charles himself was a minister having been ordained in the Missionary Church in Fort Wayne. Indiana. Arriving in Toronto in 1910, the opportunities in Canada had seemed unlimited. Very quickly he found a position as a messenger boy in the large department store, EATONS. He enjoyed his work but had to be careful with the $5 a week he received for his board and room and transportation, leaving very little for other activities. His mother also had a position at the EATONS Store. Shortly after Charles became seriously ill with scarlet fever. With help from friends in the Salvation Anny ,?f and a special relative in England (his father's sister, Mrs. Rodgers), his mother received financial assistance to cover the costs of his illness. It was a slow recovery in those days and many died from this serious disease. During an outing on a lake Charles. who had not learned
to swim. nearly drowned.
He recalled these events and how his new friends at a nearby church had encouraged him to become involved in the church. At 17 years of age the Peoples' Church of Toronto encouraged Charles to attend a Bible College in Ft. Wayne. Indiana, now called Taylor University. At the church he heard Rev. Carl Nowack speak of the work in China. Today, a scholarship bearing Charles' name is given each year at the university to a student who has serious interest in overseas missions. Charles was eager to attend the school although he found it difficult to leave his mother who would now be left alone in Canada. However, she was brave and believed that he would benefit from this experience. He entered the Bible college with a strong English accent amidst a large group of Swiss-German Mennonites. It was a coed school, and all the students were responsible for chores around the campus to cam their room and board. There was a wonderful family relationship in this college setting. As an only child, he enjoyed it thoroughly. One evening he and a friend took two girls out on a date and were late in returning to the school. Charles apologized for his error and was allowed to remain. but the other young man was incensed and left the school. Twenty years later he met up with his friend again, who was by then a bishop in the Methodist Church in New York. At the end of two years Charles graduated from college in June 1914. With a promise from Florence Suter to marry him, Charles went to visit her family and farm in Watertown, Ohio. Florence was four years older than Charles and had teaching credentials, teaching experience and musical talent. The large, hard working Suter family with six sons and two daughters was a new experience for Charles. His mother, Louisa, in Canada was disappointed that her son was going to marry so soon and to an American girl. In October 1914, Florence and Charles were married and traveled the mid-west to raise money to support their planned work in China. The next year, their first child, Faith, was born on the farm in Ohio. The doctor came to the house and encouraged Charles to observe the labor and delivery. The doctor wisely instructed Charles on the process because he said Charles might have to deliver the next child in China or help others! True enough!
In 1916, Florence, Charles and baby Faith sailed for China. This was difficult for
Mr. Suter, (Charles' father-in-law) since Florence was his eldest daughter who was vety talented and educated. In those days this was unusual for an average farming family. He was very proud of her and reluctant to let her go overseas, a major event in that period of time. Together they sailed across the Pacific Ocean to Shanghai, then continued on a smaller ship up the Yangtze River for five days to reach Hankow (now Wuhan). Finally, by train they traveled north to reach their city of Mi-Yang, Honan Province. The last eight miles had been on a hard wooden horse cart over rough dirtroads. The mission compound was a simple group of brick buildings surrounded by a wall for privacy. They both spent the first year in full-time study of the Chinese language. Charles was fortunate to study with a Confucian scholar who took a great interest in this bright young man. He seemed to learn quickly, and so the scholar also shared Confucian literature and philosophy with him. The teacher made Charles memorize over 50 analects and special sayings of Confucius which he learned to appreciate. Charles often used the beauty and poetry of the analects in his sermons and in the classroom, much to the delight of his Chinese audiences. Charles and Florence made plans to build their home. Meanwhile, she began to teach and supervise a boys' school. On Sunday he would visit the villages and share the good news of the faith in simple fashion. Another little girl, Miriam, was born to Florence in March 1918. The following year tragedy struck. The pandemic flu of 1918 and 1919 reached China and Florence caught the flu. In three days she died ofrespiratory failure on January 20, 1919. Charles was devastated and bewildered. He conducted the funeral for his wife with great ¥– difficulty being the lone foreigner in the city. His missionary compatriots, the Nowack family, had been absent at that time! He sent a telegram to his in-laws in Ohio and to his mother in Canada. In later years, Faith would tell of her devastation at four years of age seeing her mother's body being put in a coffin and carried out the window. Meanwhile. Louisa understood more than most people what it was to be far from home and alone with two small children to grieve alone. Rev. Carl Nowack brought Charles over to his daughters' home to join them at the mission headquarters. The two Nowack daughters in the mission helped to care for the two little girls.
For another year Charles carried on with his language study and village evangelism.
On one occasion he was captured by roving Chinese bandits. They took his money and his precious gold watch with his father's name inscribed inside. Because he was held in a small room with his shoes taken away, he could not easily leave. However. courageously in bare feet he slipped out of the room at night an walked as fast as he could and escaped to friends in the next village. On another occasion when accosted by bandits, he was able to distract them with chocolate bars and to escape again. Frequent harassment and very dangerous conditions int he area made life so difficult that Charles and his daughters. now 2 and 5 years of age. went home to Toronto, Canada, to join his mother in 1920. After a year of visiting with churches and friends, recounting the work in China. Charles returned to China taking along his mother who would care for his adored little daughters. Conditions were still dangerous in the north when he met Dr. Keller in Hankow, who offered him a teaching position at Hunan Bible Institute (H.B.I.).) which he readily accepted. Having spent five years as a student of the Chinese language, he was well prepared and spoke excellent Chinese which impressed Dr. Keller. J From Hankow, the family took the train south to Changsha. Dr. Keller, Superintende~~ of H.B.l., had been looking for teaching staff, and was delighted to find Charles who had ':¥. rl~ fl' excellent language skills and teaching ability. In 1922. the H.B.I. campus buildings were not completed, so that Charles and his mother and daughters lived in the Women's Dormitory. The girls were taken by rickshaw every day to attend the American school across the city on the Yale campus. Charles was busy preparing lectures in Chinese for his classes. His teaching assignment included New Testament. history and geography and Greek. Int he hot summer season, Grandma Louisa and Faith and Miriam went up to the mountains north of Hankow to Chi Gung (Rooster's head) where most of the missionaries spent the summer months way from the heat and humidity of the great rice plains below. There the girls attended the Lutheran American Boarding School as day students.
THE FAMILY ENLARGES
That same year in 1922, Grace Pike, a single missionary, was sent to H.B.I. in China by Biola of Los Angeles to teach music and English. Grace was the youngest of five children who had two older sisters, Bessie and Florence, already missionaries in China. Grace's mother, Mary Elizabeth Pike, was a widow who traveled to China with Grace so as to be with all her daughters. Grace studied the Chinese language at Nanking University for a year, the same time as Pearl Buck. In the fall of 1923 Grace and her mother went to live on the campus of H.B.I. where she taught piano and English language. During the winter school holidays, Grandma Louisa brought Miriam and Faith down to Changsha to be with their father. The Roberts and Pikes all stayed in the same dormitory and ate in the same western dining room. At the en~ of the day, Grace would entertain the company playing the piano and singing which she enjoyed so very much. In Changsha in 1923 there were over 200 western people active in religious and business organizations. There were frequent social and musical celebrations as well as weekly English church services with teas in the afternoons. Grace became an important social member of this international community with many calls on her musical gifts. Foreigners in that era were compelled to organize their own form of entertainment. Many of the foreigners were talented musicians, who enjoyed arranging musical programs and varieties of card games and dinner parties. On February 14, 1924, Charles became engaged to Grace Pike, and on June 21st they were married in Changsha. Charles, being English, they were compelled to exchange vows at the British Consulate, as well as at the American Consulate that same day. Late in the afternoon in a formal ceremony at the chapel at H.B.I., there was the formal religious ceremony presided over by Dr. Keller followed by a reception. They took a ship to travel up the Siang River to Wuhan, and then by train to Beijing for their honeymoon for 4 weeks. Returning from Beijing, they made plans for their new home on campus while both kept busy teaching full-time. Meanwhile Faith and Miriam continued their studies in the mountains living with Grandma Louisa. The following year, a son, Charles, Jr., was born on Mother Pike's birthday, October 21, 1925. Charles was thrilled with his son, and he later said
that he received more congratulations at a wedding he had to attend than even the bride! Shortly afterwards they were able to move into a beautiful large home of their own. designed by Charles--2 storied brick with all the modern amenities that included telephone. central heating, plus a large nursery upstairs and guest bedrooms. Later Charles planned and supervised the building of another home in t he Ghi Gung Shan mountains where the family would spend the hot summers with other missionary families. He enjoyed administrative tasks as well as his teaching responsibilities. He planted flower gardens for the campus. as well as vegetable gardens for his own family--lettuce, celery. asparagus, tomatoes. strawberries and beans. In the twenties there was a great political unrest all over China, especially in the south. Sun Yat Sen in 1911 had overthrown the corrupt government in Peking. Now he was working with Chiang Kai Shek to organize the university students to remove foreign domination from their country. In 1926 thousands of students rallied all over the country threatening all foreigners and demanding that they leave the country. Servants of foreigners were forced to leave their employers. Most foreigners in China left to escape the rising turmoil, strikes, and banditry. At the mention of terrorists or bandits, Faith remembered that Grandma Pike immediately slipped off her diamond rings and jewelry and pinned them in her massive hairdo in an instant! Since there were frequent threats, two other missionary couples, who bad come to teach at H.B.1., packed their bags and left. never to return. In September 1926, H.B.I. was temporarily closed because of country-wide student uprisings. By January 1927. the whole Roberts family. including the two grandmothers, along with Bessie and Florence, left for the U.S .. not knowing what the future would hold. However, Grandma Louisa preferred to go to Vancouver. Canada. Charles, Grace and family lived in Glendale, California in one of the missionary houses maintained by Mrs. Jennie Suppes, a remarkable woman who built cottages for missionaries coming home on furlough.
It was a good time for Charles to become acquainted with the Stewart brothers and friends who were the largest financial supporters of Biola and the H.B.I. in China.
Lyman and Milton were devout Christians. Union Oil millionaires who gave generously for the education of Christian men and women. They had envisioned a Bible Institute on each continent of the world. However, after the 1929 financial crisis in t he U.S., their plans were set aside. Encouraged to go for further schooling while waiting for the political situation in China to be resolved, Charles attended the Presbyterian Seminary in San Francisco. He thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual and theological challenge of his studies. It had been 13 years since he graduated from college. Faith and Miriam attended a local school, while Dede remained with Grace who was expecting another child. While at seminary. Charles received a telegram announcing twin girls had been born to Grace. His first thought was that his fellow friends at seminary were teasing him, so he went to the railway station to verify the news. He telegraphed "doubly overjoyed" and named the children Jean and Joyce. He rushed back to Glendale to see his new children for himself. This had been a good year for the whole family. Faith and Miriam, especially, enjoyed the time they spent with their father and a whole family together for a year. They attended the local elementary school and loved helping with the babies in the family. In May of 1928 conditions in China appeared to stabilize. Charles left immediately for Changsha. Grace and the three small children (Dede and the twins) waited until summer to return to China, with Grace's two missionary sisters. Bessie and Florence, and mother Pike. Faith and Miriam went to live with their Grandma Louisa in Vancouver, to complete their schooling and two get ready for college in a few years. without more interruptions. If all these family separations and traveling difficulties seem strange, it was normal for most missionary families in China at that time. The education of children, the unstable political situation and economic situation. and the separations were the average expectancies of life in this troubled period. The stressful conditions and frustrations accompanying the rapid expansion of H.B.I. had made family holidays a special and cherished time. Charles had purchased a 16mrn movie camera to record many of these family experiences in China.
Janet was born in Changsha. February 1929. at the Liebenzell Hospital. A few hours after Janet's birth. Grace experienced a heart attack - a clot of blood in the heart. Word came to Charles that his wife was in critical condition. His heart sank as he contemplated what he would do with six children and no wife. Meanwhile. Grace. in great pain. prayed to God to spare her for Charles' sake. She later recounted that as she lay in bed and looked to the comer of her room. she saw a white figure who gently motioned to her to be quiet. saying she would be all right. With those words. she remembers relaxing and going off to sleep. with her pain subsiding. It was 24 hours later that she breathed normally again. God had graciously answered both their prayers. For the next 43 years she had no heart problems. Dr. Keller was Superintendent of H.B.I. he and his wife Beth had no children and understandably became very fond of Charles' family. A special pleasure for Charles was the extensive use he was able to make of the large English library Dr. Keller had assembled. The yearly publications from Yale and Princeton. together with a steady stream of new books. were shared with him. H.B.I. was going well and Frank. now age 60, was interested in turning the work over to Chinese leaders. The October 1929 financial crash in the U.S. put a strain on the high standards and related expenditures of the Institute. Charles and Grace continued their work in teaching together with additional responsibilities. This involved Charles as Treasurer of H.B.I. and Grace teaching piano. organ and choir to blind young women at the Liebenzell Mission nearby. supported by Christians in Basel, Switzerland. The following year in 1930 bandits were again marching through Hunan. Their motto, "divide the land and distribute the spoils." was painted on the Roberts' dining room wall, when the family had escaped to their home in the mountains in 1931. Charles tried to prevent looting and destruction of H.B.I. as the city was being vacated. As the armed rebels came into the city. he quickly ran down to the river edge and boarded the British gunboat, H.M.S. Sandpiper. Being a British citizen, they gave him protection. While having the evening meal on board ship, Charles asked the Captain where he lived in England. He replied, in a small village in Devon. Charles. who had spent his boyhood in Devon. wondered what village. The Captain said 'you won't know. it is small. It is Lew Trenchard". Both were stunned. Both had studied at the same little red school house where the Captain said he also attended. In the middle of China on the Siang River, there was a "Devon" reunion. 11
After several days the rebels left Changsha. Charles returned to find the campus greatly devastated. Most of the wedding gifts from six years ago together with clothes were taken. Dishes were smashed, floors were tom up. Fortunately he had left the Institute vault open, knowing the rebels would look for money. Thus the large walk-in vault was not damaged. Their sterling silver, camera, and films were hid in the wall of a deep well, and thus escaped theft. Servants had taken brick from deep down the well, hid the precious items, sealed up the bricks in the wall and raised the water level up to the top! Now Charles had to arrange for the repair of the buildings as school would begin in the fall. During these years throughout Hunan teams of Chinese Christian men and one of the women were sent out to the villages to preach and do evangelistic work in the summer when school was not in session. They used boats to take them up and down the many rivers all over Hunan. China is full of rivers! These evangelistic teams would meet later together at a mountain retreat called Nanyo (one of the 5 sacred mountains of China) and spend some time planning for the coming year. They were supported by the Chinese churches in the area they served, plus some funds from America. During the following war years, 1937-1945, the program continued on a limited basis. These teams carried on until 1949 when the Communist government took over and ended the ministry. But the seed of the Christian faith had been faithfully sown for over 24 years. In 1932, the U.S. was in the midst of the great depression. At the time Biola was carrying a large mortgage on the thirteen storied twin dormitory towers on either side of the 3500-seat church in downtown Los Angeles on 6th and Hope Streets. Given Biola's financial obligations here at home, the Board contemplated terminating the work in China so as to redirect these resources to the work in Los Angeles. Charles, recognizing the crisis at hand, traveled to Los Angeles with the financial records of H.B.I. for a meeting with the Board and a discussion of the future work in China. Mrs. Milton Stewart, now a widow, was much impressed with Charles' report on the work going on at H.B.I., her husband's project. She offered to pay the salary for the Roberts family for three years until Biola could get back on its feet! In the end, the Board then decided to continue the program at Changsha.
At the same time, Charles also visited his mother Louisa and Faith and Miriam in Vancouver. He arranged for Miriam now 15 to come to China by herself in 1933 where she
would attend the Lutheran Boarding School at Ghi Gung Shan and be with her younger brother, Dede, age 8, who would also begin boarding school. Faith would attend Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, the following year in 1934. Both Charles and Grace were crushed when in January 1933 Grandma Pike died, and then was buried in Changsha. She had also returned in 1930 to live out her life in China. He recalled that she had greatly loved and encouraged him in the course of his Christian life, and that she had been a great help and support to the whole Roberts family. In 1935 Charles, along with Grace and 4 younger children, returned to Los Angeles on furlough. Meantime Miriam wished to stay back at the Lutheran School to complete her high school and graduate with her friends the following year. In the fall of October 1935, Charles took his family home to Glendale for their regular furlough after completing a 7-year term in China. In December of 1935 Charles purchased a ~ home in Glendale, California so that the whole family could be together for the first time since 1928. Daughter Faith came for Christmas from Wheaton College and met the youngest child, Janet, for the first time. Early Spring of 1936 Charles and Grace with Dede traveled for 4 months by a new Ford car throughout the midwest and east, speaking in behalf of the work in China. Dede was not well at that time and so was taken along, while Grandma Louisa (who had come at Christmas from Vancouver) stayed to look after the three youngest girls in public school while Faith returned to Wheaton College. Summer of 1936 Miriam graduated from Ghi Gung Shan Lutheran High School and returned to the U.S.A., and the family became complete with Faith coming from college. It was the first time that Charles and all his six children had ever been together. Now Biola, once again, wanted to cut off the work of H.B.I. in order to meet the financial needs of the work in Los Angeles. The 'great depression' in the U.S.A. continued to affect all church and missionary efforts. Several questions arose....who would take responsibility for the beautiful 20 acre campus complex (by now worth 5 million dollars)?
what would Charles do? Mrs. Mary Stewart (the widow of Milton Stewart who helped to give the million dollar gift for H.B.I.) greatly admired Charles and his report of the work there and insisted she would continue to support the Roberts family personally until Biola could get on its feet in a few years. She was disappointed with Biola's management and gave 3 million dollars to Occidental College instead. Earlier she had donated large sums to build the magnificent Presbyterian Church on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. A new crisis developed at the Hunan Bible Institute in the absence of Charles. Nationalistic feelings in China grew stronger and affected Professor Marcus Cheng on the faculty. He raised serious questions about the ownership and management of H.B.I. to the point of questioning Charles' leadership and his financial integrity and wrote to the Biola Board of Trustees. It was a major crisis for Charles as how to deal with this personally ambitious Chinese nationalist who demanded to get contr~l of H.B.I. because he declared it had been given to the Chinese, and they really owned the Institute. Thus in the spring of 1937 Charles flew back quickly on one of the first Pan American flights across the Pacific. At first , most of the faculty supported the professor because of his propaganda. After others rescinded their support and apologized to Charles for their part in the 11 coup 11 , Marcus Cheng resigned. Later under Communist control this ambitious man managed to become one of the leaders of the communist organized church system, but after 5 years he was deposed, held in prison, and suffered much. His two sons who had supported the system years before the Communist takeover were later thrown into prison, suffered torture and ultimately faced a firing squad. July of 1937 found Miriam joining sister Faith in returning to Wheaton College and Grandmother Louisa returning to Vancouver. Grace then sold the home and furniture and car and packed 14 trunks for return to Shanghai with the four younger children now 8, I0 and 12, on the President Cleveland. Intentions were to remain in China for another 7-year term!) Upon settling matters at H.B.I.. Charles pulled the faculty together to continue the courses of studies to finish the year and to get the l 0 evangelistic bands ready for their summer itinerary. He took moving pictures of this graduating class which he felt was one of the largest and best classes ever. He enjoyed taking these l 6mm Kodak films and seemed to have an artistic flair. Meanwhile the Japanese were threatening China in the north until war was declared mid-July 1937.
In July 1937. Charles had arranged to meet wife and four youngest children in Shanghai, when the Japanese invasion of China escalated. Full-scale war did not permit Charles to enter Shanghai, and the American ship, S.S. Cleveland was not allowed to dock. The ship, with Grace and the 4 children, spent the night and next 36 hours at the entrance to the Yangtze River while J & C troops and some war ships fought across the bow of the ship. A telegram from Washington, D.C. ordered the ship to sail to Hong Kong the next day after taking on 150 refugees from Shanghai. Charles met them in Hong Kong now overcrowded with refugees. He soon made arrangements for the family to travel by train to Changsha. However. a few days later September 3, the worst hurricane in the history of Hong Kong almost destroyed the harbor and sank several ships. and the huge S.S. Hoover went on the rocks. Charles then flew back to Changsha while the family remained in Hong Kong and followed 2 months later by train. Arrangements for the four children to attend a missionary boarding school in Tientsin were canceled because the Japanese occupied the city. Two of the largest Chinese universities in Beijing moved south and were now stationed at the Hunan Bible Institute campus. Everyone in China was wondering what the future would hold. Grace began home-schooling the children. Then without -notice. in the last week of November. three Japanese warplanes dropped bombs on the railway station across the road from the campus. It was the first indication that the Japanese were heading south, proceeding down the railway line. Air raids and alarms continued almost daily and running to the "dug outs" below ground were a daily event.
It was a sober Christmas in 1937 as Charles decided that it was in the best interest of his wife and family of 4 children to return south to Hong Kong. In the meantime Japan had
captured all the major cities in the north. and the horror stories of the "rape of Nanking" had begun. The British Colony seemed a safe place for children, and schooling was possible. On December 29. 1937. just before Charles' 43rd birthday, a long train with U.S., British. German. and French flags covering the train. departed from Changsha for Hong Kong filled with women and children from all parts of north and central China. The Japanese had warned all foreigners, women and children, to leave China and permitted 3 sets of international trains to go from Beijing to Hong Kong unharmed! The family along with Aunt Bessie (from her nearby station of Changdeh) boarded the last train out. Another momentous year began in 1938 for Charles. It would be the beginning of 4 and 5 years of separation from his Hong Kong family and 6 years from Faith and Miriam at Wheaton. He had to supervise and be responsible for the H.B.I. (Hunan Bible Institute). Dr. and Mrs. Keller. founders of H.B.I.. realized it was time to retire and so returned to the U.S. Charles was the only foreigner left alone with a loyal Chinese staff and faculty in Changsha, protecting property during the difficult war years that lay ahead. The Yale medical School and many foreign organizations were reduced to skeleton staffs. The summer of 1938 Charles took a one month holiday to fly down to Hong Kong to visit his wife and children. War was spreading. and the future looked bleak. He and Grace decided that 12 year old son Dede needed a proper education. It was a difficult decision to send him alone across the Pacific -* Ocean by ship. to take a train from Los Angeles to Long Island. New York, and to enroll in Stony Brook School for Boys on Long Island. Broken hearts waved the lad off on a President ship in the "so-called" care of two men sharing his cabin. Charles returned to Changsha to start another school year, while in Hong Kong his three young daughters enrolled in the Central British School. With the threat of the Japanese invasion reaching Changsha in October 1938, the governor of the province. the mayor of the city . invited other leading Chinese and foreign dignitaries to a dinner to plan how they would resist the Japanese and defend the city of 250,000 people plus refugees crowding in daily. The plan was to move the German Mission Hospital in the center of the city with their many wounded soldiers, doctors. nurses and staff, to the large campus of H.B.I. which was outside the western gate of the city. However. a few
hours later, at 2:00 a.m. the next morning the cook woke up Charles to report the whole city 7f was on fire! It was in flames and burned for 3 whole days. Charles sent every kind of vehicle to the heart of the city to help evacuate the German Mission Hospital. The staff and most patients were able to escape most of the inferno, but much of the city was destroyed and many wounded soldiers died. It was one of the most deadly, destructive actions taken int he whole of the Japanese war with China. Supposedly a mis-read telegram indicated that the Japanese were 10 miles off--it was really 90. It was never clear why an organized group spread dry straw and poured kerosene in every quarter of the city and set it ablaze. General Chiang Kai Shek and his executive officers came to see the destruction and investigate. Before his arrival Charles, in organizing a relief team, went to see the governor to ask how he could help. He knew there would be executions of responsible people, and asked the governor if he could pray for him. The governor was most grateful for his support and said yes. The governor was later "dismissed from his position" but "remained in office" in accordance with the Chinese manner of forgiveness. For Governor Chang Gih-chung had been the brave general who defended Shanghai for 3 months at terrible cost when all said it was "impossible". At the beginning of 1939, the Chinese universities in Changsha on the H.B.I. campus moved to west China, the German hospital moved to the Institute buildings along with the German school for blind women. That summer Charles took a plane for a quick vacation in Hong Kong for a few weeks relief from the long, hot, humid summer. In September the Germans declared war on England. In January 1940, Grace was concerned about Charles and made plans to go to Changsha, leaving a senior missionary lady to stay with the three young daughters in Hong Kong. She set off intrepidly with 7 friends to cross Japanese lines and after 3 weeks of wild adventures arrived safely. There was much to do in the house at Changsha and additionally to give a great deal of moral support and joy to the community and comfort a lonely husband.
During this unsettled time, many of the highly educated faculty at H.B.l. were concerned about their future. During prayers one morning a senior faculty member,
Professor Cheng Ghi-Kwei, had a heart attack and died. He left a wife and six children (five girls and a young son). Rev. Cheng had translated the Scofield Bible Correspondence Course into Chinese. and a large number of students were enrolled in the courses. His wife, Mrs. Cheng. took over this great responsibility and did all she could do to continue her husband's work for the next 20 years! She herself was a very bright student and a graduate ofNanking university for Women. At the same time she assumed responsibility for educating her children which proved difficult under wartime difficulties when Changsha would be invaded and fought over 4 times! In June of 1940, the British officials notified all women and children to leave Hong Kong immediately as the Japanese were threatening. Grace immediately left Changsha for Hong Kong traveling faster this time through Japanese lines with 4 friends in only 11 days. Within 72 hours she and the 3 girls sailed from Hong Kong on the last refugee ship for Los Angeles. Twenty thousand British and American families had left their fathers in China. Fifty thousand women and children in one week alone were evacuated by the British. Charles received a telegram by radio message from the ship that his wife and daughters had left for the U.S. It was a sad time for him the next few days--utterly alone again and for how long? In September 1940. Charles received word that his daughter Miriam. who had just graduated from Wheaton College, was to be married in Glendale to John P. Lee. His oldest daughter, Faith, was to be married to George Kraber the next year in Boston, after completion of her nursing course at Massachusetts General Hospital. Charles' family was growing up, and he felt a terrible loss at missing his children's activities, weddings and graduation in China. He had experienced three years of war between China and Japan, and now Germany was pounding England. His German doctor friend, Fritz Eitel, and he listened together each evening to the BBC radio news and discussed the future. Both had loyal roots to their homelands.
Dr. Eitel had decided to go to Switzerland for a furlough with his wife (a Swiss) in 1938. The German Mission Headquarters were in Basel, Switzerland. While in Switzerland,
he slipped over into Heidelberg (his hometown) and was promptly arrested on charges of murder. The arrest resulted from an event that occurred twenty years earlier in which he had accidentally killed, in a duel, his wife's lover. and thereafter escaped to Switzerland. While in Switzerland, contemplating suicide, he became a Christian. This led him to later dedicate his life as a medical missionary to China. Word was received in Changsha of Dr. Eitel's arrest in Germany. The British Consul in Changsha sent a formal letter to the German court recounting the twenty years of dedicated service Dr. Eitel had given in China and to the international community. Charles, an Englishman, wrote a letter in behalf of Dr. Eitel, recounting his personal experience of Dr. Eitel saving his wife's life in childbirth, as well as the medical services rendered to his mother-in-law and children. All this occurred during the "Battle of Britain." After much prayer from friends in China, Dr. Eitel was released and allowed to return to China and not permitted to return to Germany. Charles and Dr. Eitel continued their friendship, listening to the BBC news, with Charles' son soon preparing to be sent to war in Europe while Dr. Eitel's son was serving as a doctor on the German Anny staff of General Rommel in Africa. It was during this time that Dr. Eitel passed secret word from his son to Charles to send to the British Consul that there * was a plot hatching vs. Hitler's life! Meanwhile. in the spring of 1941, the Japanese invaded Changsha. Charles then closed the high towering metal gates in the wall surrounding the Institute property which now included a hospital, orphanage and refugee residence managed by a German missionary staff. Large Chinese characters labeled the entrance "USA PROPERTY". Several times there were confrontations with the Japanese authorities demanding entrance. Fortunately, after a few days, the Chinese Anny attacked and pushed the Japanese out of Changsha. During these terrible months of bombing and fighting, many casualties were brought to the hospital now on campus, and Charles frequently was called upon to assist Dr. Eitel at crude surgeries with lack of help and proper medicines.
Shortly after this, a group of British Commandos and Anny consultants asked if they could share the quarters at H.B.I. and have English meals with Charles. This was an interesting respite for Charles who loved to chat and play cards in the evening with these young men. There were few foreigners in town, and they would often try to get together to exchange talk, speculations and rumors. He was also delighted to receive cans of coffee and a few special canned meat treats. It had been four years of war now in China with the Japanese, and not much church work seemed to be accomplished. Charles decided to spend Christmas in America and so applied for his American visa. He had reservations to fly from Hong Kong on December 7, 1941. However, his U.S. visa did not arrive, and Pearl Harbor was bombed on the day he was to depart! Suddenly America was at war with Japan, and the door to America was closed. Again he escaped. In the spring of 1942, the Japanese made another attack on Changsha in an effort to complete their control of the railway between Beijing and Hong Kong. Charles knew he could not stay in Changsha any longer, because now he would become a prisoner. He closed down the Institute work and went to Chungking, the war time capital of China, and to his very good friend, Mr. Ernest Yin, the Finance Minister for the cotton and textile department in the Chinese wartime government. Mr. Yin was a dedicated Christian, a graduate of the Harvard Business School, and a supporter of the church and a Christian school called The Holy Light in Chungking now called Chunggqing. He had formerly been the treasurer of all Hunan and kept it in the black for over 5 years--unheard of before! Charles was fluent in the Chinese language and knowledgeable about matters of Chinese culture. Thus Mr. Yin put him to work teaching Bible in the Christian School and holding Bible studies for some high profile Chinese government people. Among them came General Chang Jih-chung whom he had befriended and supported during the Changsha fire. He became a confessing Christian. Mr. Yin frequently sent Charles at night~ by airplane behind the Japanese lines to buy large bales of cotton desperately needed for the manufacture of soldier's uniforms. Word was sent to the farmers that on a particular night a
plane would arrive and the cotton should be ready for immediate pick-up. Mr. Ernest Yin knew that he could be responsible for the thousands of dollars that had to be banded over to specified farmers. Charles made many such dangerous trips. After a year in Chungking, the war in the Pacific escalated, and the German Anny was making headway into Russia. He now decided that he must make a great effort to return to his family in the U.S. It had been six years of great stress and too much separation, and he was weary of the war and many responsibilities. After many weeks of waiting in Kunming. he arranged with the U.S. Air Force to obtain passage out of China via a flight over the Burman Road to India. He arrived in Calcutta with General Wedemeyer on board and 27 Japanese planes chasing them into the airport. The passengers were told that in Calcutta they had only 15 minutes after landing to run for cover. Fifteen minutes later the Japanese bombed the Calcutta airport, the one and only time they bombed India. It was Christmas Eve, and eventually most of the passengers crowded into a local hotel where guests had fled for cover and had a Christmas feast. Charles and some passengers somehow arranged to find this lovely British hotel in Calcutta with gorgeous Christmas food and decorations all laid out. No one was there waiting since the locals had all fled to their homes! At last. Charles had found safety, good food, and clean comfortable quarters. He traveled across India, while waiting for several months of paper work, to get passage on a ship out of Bombay. Hundreds of missionaries an civil authorities were also listed, and there was no departure date set. A few hours notice was all that would be given to certain people to board the ship, whose -destination was unknown except that it was headed west. After several months Charles' ship came in, and all passengers departed in the dark of the night much later to arrive in Durban, South Africa. In Durban for one week they took on five thousand German and Italian war prisoners headed for America. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1943 was extremely dangerous, with an average of 1-3 ships being sunk before they reached New York. When the ship left South Africa it headed south. The days became colder. They observed that the sun was always on the starboard side of the ship. All the time, while the ship passed through the Straits of Magellan, phosphorus water was lighting up the darkened ship. 21
The ship crossed through the Panama Canal, hugging the eastern coastline, arriving in New York the first week in July. Charles had sent a telegram from South Africa that he was coming home to New York. Grace was waiting for six weeks in New York hearing nothing further about his arrival, but staying at Biblical Seminary. In June, Dede had graduated from Stony Brook School with science honors. Miriam's husband graduated from Biblical Seminary in New York. Still, Charles had not yet arrived. The first week in July a message was delivered to Mission Church Headquarters in New York reporting that Charles was looking for his wife! They spent a week alone before heading west by train. Five daughters and a son eagerly and teary-eyed greeted a totally white-haired father at Union Station in Los Angeles. One of the persons overjoyed at seeing Charles was his mother, Louisa. She was at home in Glendale, California, now 75 years of age and suffering pain from cancer. Her face lit up with beaming joy as she saw him walk into the house. It had been six long years since she had seen him. He was thin and tired, with all white hair. It was only the second time that all six children were together that year with his first grandchild, Faith's son Kent. His mother, Louisa, died four months later and was buried in North Glendale. At this time Faith's husband was working for the Navy in Panama, Miriam's husband was a chaplain in the Navy serving with the 3rd Marine Corps in the Pacific, and Charles Jr. would be shortly drafted into the U.S. army, thereby becoming a U.S. citizen. Miriam became a citizen when she married John Lee, while Janet became a U.S. citizen at age 21 later. The other children were U.S. citizens by birth. Miriam would shortly present the second grandchild, Linda, in June of 1944. At the end of a year of furlough in 1944, another difficult decision had to be made. The war in China was still going on while the war in Europe was hopefully ending quickly. Charles was offered a large church at his college town of Ft. Wayne, but he knew his call and ministry lay in China which had become his home for almost 30 years. He applied for an American residential permit and received one of the first "Green" cards.
In September 1944, he returned to China by flying across the Pacific and then flew back to Chungking, the war-time capital to continue to work with Ernest Yin. The multitude of
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