AndrewsJN MD


Andrews, John Nevins MD (1891-1980) and Dorothy Spicer (1903-1979)

From notes compiled by Helen-Spicer Menkel, adapted 2014

John Nevins Andrews (Jan 13, 1891 - Oct 20, 1980), grandson of Elder J.N. Andrews who pioneered as a first Adventist missionary, was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, where his father, Charles M. Andrews (mother Maria) worked as a printer for the Review & Herald.

The family moved to Takoma Park in 1906 after the tragic fire in Battle Creek and he worked in the new R&H Press. After finishing grade 12, he went to California in 1911 to join the second class of the College of Medical Evangelist newly formed in Loma Linda. He was there for two years. The fact that, his childhood girl friend, Dorothy Spicer, a nursing student and eldest daughter of W.A. Spicer of the General Conference, lived in Tokoma Park caused him to transfer back to George Washington University to complete his medical course. He married Dorothy in April 1916 and received his M.D. degree in June of that year.

In those days a medical internship was not required. Within a few weeks of graduation in the fall of 1916, John and his bride, Dorothy, both in their 20's were on a boat headed for China where they were to spend their honeymoon and a year in Shanghai learning the language. They then traveled to Chungking to join Elder Merrit Warren. It was there that their elder son, Robert was born in the fall of 1917.

Dr. Andrews and Elder Warren were sent to find a place close to the Tibetan border to open up medical work. They chose, Tatsienlu (now know as Kanding), which was then a town where caravans of Tkbetans came to trade furs, copper, and silver for tea and gas. At that time there was a China Inland Mission couple and a French Catholic's mission in town nestled in a valley at 8500 feet with rugged Himalayan peaks and a river through the town. Mrs. Sorenson of the China Inland Mission assisted them to secure a Chinese pharmacy compound for them to use.

On their initial trip they encountered a series of holdups by robbers. Along the river each town seemed to have armed men shooting at the boats demanding that they pull over and have their luggage examined. Elder Warren would preach and Dr. Andrews would try to help. Other passengers traveling were robbed and lost jewels and money but they got back to Chunking safely.

Soon John, Dorothy, and little Robert, in 1919, started out for the interior. The sampans - rickety wooden boats were ofter leaky and more than once their belongings had to be dried out on the rocks while the hulls were patched. Linens, clothes and medical books would have to be salvaged. Food was scarce at times but they managed to keep canned milk enough for the baby.

John and Dorothy began in Tatsienlu in a drafty wooden house where the wind blew constantly. John had a small clinic and there was soon a constant parade of people seeking help. Many were deep into the opium habit. These were the days when high class ladies had bound feet and weren't sure if they should have the babies vaccinated.

Dorothy, as a nurse helped John by dripping ether if he was doing surgery which in emergency was lit only by kerosene lanterns. Later they had their carpenter help give the anesthesia. Some of the Tibetan men were so tall that they had to have their heads outside the building to breath their ether!

John went on trips into outer Tibet leaving Dorothy to manage. And during one of these trips daughter, Elizabeth, was born in February of 1920. Fortunately, the wife of a missionary from China Inland Mission was there to assist. It was there, the first Tibetan language track "Law of God" was produced. John also had the opportunity of treating the British Consul Tatsienlu.

In February 1922 second daughter, Jeanne was added to the family, and in 1923, Judith arrived making a family of 2 adults and 4 children.

On the evening of March 24th, 1922, there was a severe earthquake along the Tibetan-China border. Tatienlu was not damaged, but the nearby Dawu-Changgu regin was hit and it was reported that "more than a thousand people were killed and hundreds wounded. Dr. John Andrews was asked by the local magistrate to help and treat the many patients there. Due to the rugged terrain and the extent of damage, it took Dr. John Andrews' team five week to attend to the medical needs of the affected villages. So by the time they returned to Tatsienlu, it was early May.

In October, 1923 John and Dorothy had their first and only furlough. At that time, all four children developed whooping cough. Judith, who was only 5 month old, died in spite of all they could do. In July 1924 the family returned to their post in Tatsienlu. A new house and a larger Clinic was built. At this time there was great unrest and internal fighting all over China, because the country descended into a complex power struggle among rival regional warlords after the overthrow of the imperial Xing dynasty by the nationalist republican movement in 1911 . Following the death of the nationalist leader, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, in 1925, Chiang Kai-shek, consolidated his position in the Kuomingtang, and led the Nationalist Revolution Army north to subdue the regional warlords. Unfortunately, anti-foreign sentiment was still high in China especially in the inland region of the country.

In 1926, John, Dorothy, and the three children had to flee from the interior in midwinter over icy mountain passes to get to Chengdu. From there they went y bamboo raft and a leaky wooden boat to Chungking. When they arrived in the middle of the night, they saw half of the city across the river on fire. Elder Warren and family were there to meet them. Together, they slept on mattresses in the American Consulate with other refugee families until they could be loaded on steamers to Shanghai. In Shanghai, they arrived at the Adventist mission compound, where they joined the Fredrick Lee's, the Scharffenberg's, the Warren's, the Hilliard's, and many others. The youngest son, Edward Andrews was added to the family there in November 1927.

By 1928, thikngs quieted down and Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Hartwell went with the Andrews's back to Tatsienlu. As their steamer traveled up the Yangtze River, it hit a rock and went down, leaving the two families stuck there for three weeks. Then a fire broke out in the cabin next to them , but fortunately it was extinguished in time. As they went through the Yangtze Three Gorges, their baggage were stacked together with those of other passengers along the deck to protect the peopel from bandits shooting at them from the shore.

John Andrews settled back in Tatsienlu. He built a waterwheel for electricity and set up a printing press. Soon thousands of tracts in Tibetan send back with the caravan people. Dorothy met with the townspeople, raised her four children, looked after a garden, and helped teach the young children at home.

In 1932, the Andrews family returned to Shanghai in time for the Sino-Japanese war. Dr. Andrews and Dr. Paul kept the clinic going as best they could in down town. But the Japanese soldiers marched through the Ninquo Road compound. The mission residence watched in horror the bombing of downtown Shanghai from the roof of the mission headquarters.

In 1032, John, Dorothy, and four children returned to America just in time for the Great Depression. Dr. Andrews set up a private practice in Tennessee for two years where doctors were paid with produce. He then returned to Takoma Park and worked with Dr. Henry Hadley Sr. in Washington DC.

At the beginning of World War II, he opened an office in Silver Spring, Maryland and was on the staff of the Washington Sanitarium until he retired in 1968, when he moved to Loma Linda. Always devoted to the church, he was a charter member of the Silver Spring Church, which he helped to built

From childhood, this couple felt that there was no need to acquire material things. They know how easily possessions could disappear forever. They firmly believed that God had a better world and had sustained them in trying to help spread the gospel in their day. John Nevins Andrews was a quiet person who believed in the Advent Movement. He lived a life worthy of his missionary heritage.

Dorothy Spicer Andrews died in April 1979; and John Andrews died in October 20, 1980.

Their son, Robert Andrews became a doctor, served as captain in the US Army in WWII and worked for many years at the White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles. He currently lives in Loma Linda. Their daughter, Elizabeth Andrews Hill became a nurse and reside in Loma Linda. Dorothy Jeanne Andrews Williamson became a Pediatrician and served as Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Loma Linda University. Edward Andrews and family live in Oregan.