Christensen, Jerad Elvin (1914-2011) 高哲懦、and Rose Madonna (Merth) 高俊玫 (1915-1989)
Bruce W. Lo 2022
Basic Biographical Information
Jerald E. Christensen was born on January 30, 1914 in centra South Dakota of a Danish immigrant family.
He attended Laurelwood Academy in Oregon, and graduated from Walla Walla College in Washington in 1939.
He married Rose Madonna Merth 0n June 25, 1939. Together they have three children: Ruth and Helen, and adopted son, Bob.
He and Rose sailed for China in July 1939 and served as missionaries in China for approximately forty years in the roles of departmental secretaries at both mission and union levels and as presidents of Human Mission, Henan Mission, South Taiwan Mission and Taiwan Conference. He was responsible for the founding of the first Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church in USA in San Francisco, California.
Jerald Elvin Chistensen was born in central South Dakota on January 30, 1914, of Danish immigrant parents, the second of six sons. In childhood and youth the brothers assisted their father in farming and carpentry in order to support the family, thus learning the trades of farming and building, along with habits of industry and economy. That was during the pre-depression and depression years in America. At an early age, Jerald felt called to foreign mission service. After his junior year in Laurelwood Academy, he answered the call to the literature ministry, and continued canvassing every summer through college, spending five summers in the book work. The last three summers were spent in the Alaska Mission, traveling the coast and islands of southeastern Alaska one summer, crossing the barren tundra of central Alaska alone by foot, visiting the miners the second summer, and going down the Yukon in a rowboat the third summer, stopping at the Indian villages and mining camps along its banks. He graduated from Laurelwood in Oregon, as valdictorian of his class, and attended Walla Walla College in Washington State. When he received a call to China, to serve in the Publishing and Home Missionary Departments in Central China Union Mission, he accepted the call as a call from God for life, and he and Rose Merth, who was soon to become his wife, dedicated their lives to China.
After graduation from college in June, 1939, Jerald married Rose on June 25, and the young couple sailed from San Francisco on July 10, arriving in Shanghai August 9, where they studied Chinese in the Seventh-day Adventist Language School in Shanghai for a year prior to proceeding to their field of labor.
Because of the Japanese occupation of Hankow, where the Union office was situated, Christensen and his wife were sent to live in Changsha, Hunan Province, to carry out work from there. They traveled by boat through the Japanese coastal blockade and entered China through Chekiang and Kwangsi provinces, arriving in Hunan in the summer of 1940. While serving in Hunan, Christensen was ordained at the China Division year-end meetings in Chungking, Szechwan. Daughter, Ruth, was born August 8, 1941. When Pastor James, President of the Hunan mission, was called to help with the work near Chungking, Christenson was appointed President of the Hunan mission, the duties of which he continued to carry until forced to leave ahead of a Japanese invasion in 1944. The four years in Hunan brought frustrations, also many miracles of Providence. With their infant child, the Christensens evacuated from Changsha three times, up river in a non-motorized boat. The third time, everything that could not be taken conveniently on the boat was left behind, to disappear, along with the bricks of their home and the compound walls, while they were gone.
After leaving Changsha the Christiansen family went to Chungking, where he served as assistant Home Missionary and Publishing Secretary for the China Division until the end of the war in 1945. He was then called back to the Home Missionary and Publishing work of the Central China Union Mission, where he served until his furlough in 1946.
During his furlough (1946-1947) Christensen attended the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, he receiving his M.A. Degree. Returning to China in 1947, he was called to be president of the Honan Mission. Before moving to Honan, he went with the Union president and treasurer to be introduced to his new field of labor. After the Sabbath, the president and treasurer left for Hankow with the evacuating hospital staff members. In a very short time, the Communist army occupied most of Honan. During this time our middle school had been closed down and the hospital burned to the ground. Through the providence of God, Christensen was able to get a permit from the Communist army commander to act as interpreter of several Americans who had been serving on the Yellow River Land Reclamation Project, and thus escaped through the lines to Kaifeng, and by plane to Shanghai.
In 1948, after Communist occupation of Honan, he was sent to work among aborigines of Yunan Province in the mountains of the Mokang area. It was hoped that in that area there would be peace to carry on an evangelistic program; however, in only a month they found themselves in the middle of the battle for the control of Yunan. Mrs. Christensen became ill due to the trauma of the battle for Mokiang, and in 1949, when it was finally impossible to continue preaching the gospel under a new government, they were again forced to evacuate, and they turned their work, their home, furnishings and all their possessions, over to the local church workers, and they traveled for twelve days with Mrs. Christensen on a stretcher, by mountain trail through bandit country and by narrow gauge railroad, to the nearest hospital in Kunming. It was their hope to be able to return later. However, their hopes were to be disappointed when they were sent home on permanent return.
When China closed to them, yet with their life commitment to China, they were dismayed and bewildered about where the Lord was leading them. Not losing faith, they turned their attention to the overseas Chinese in the U.S., who at that time had no organized work among them. Early in 1950, Pastor Christensen began a literature ministry among the Chinese in San Francisco. One day Mrs. Wong, a Chinese Adventist with whom he had been staying, called his attention to the building across the street from their home which was for sale at a very reasonable figure. With its large rooms and beautiful entryway, it would be ideal for a church. She said she would put a deposit down to hold it if he would stay to work for the Chinese. The Central California Conference thought it was a good idea too, and in the summer of 1950 voted to buy the building and called Pastor Christensen to full time work for the Chinese in San Francisco. Before long, a church was organized, the first Chinese church in the United States.
In 1953 Pastor Christensen was again called to the Orient, to be leader of the southern district in the Taiwan Mission. To work in Taiwan, a land at peace, open to the gospel, was a complete contrast with the war years spent in China, and presented a challenge to make use of the opportunities while they lasted. When he arrived, South Taiwan had two organized churches, a branch Sabbath School, and work that had just begun in one mountain village. By the end of their six-year term, with God's blessing, the work had grown from four places to twenty-two places with growing companies and churches.
In 1960 Pastor Christensen was called to the central district, and in 1963 he was elected president of South Taiwan Mission. In 1964, son Alvin Bob became a member of the family by adoption.
Christensen was then elected President of the Taiwan Mountain Mission, which had just been organized. In 1975 he was called to the Ministerial and Stewardship Department of South China Island Union Mission. A few months later, he became Business Manager of Taiwan Adventist College, where he served until retirement in 1979, after 40 years of service.
In 1989, Rose Christiansen, wife and companion of 50 years, died.
In 1990, his great love for the Chinese people again brought Pastor Christensen to Taiwan Adventist College as a volunteer. In 1991 he married Phyllis Davis-Edwards, daughter of veteran China missionary, C. H. Davis, and they continued as volunteers at TAC until the present time, except for a break of one year in 1993-1994. Elder Christensen died late in 2011.
last updated 3/15/2023
Christensen, Jerald E. "Jerald Christensen" in Chinese SDA History <<中华圣工史>>, Samuel Young (editor), Chinese Union Mission: Hong Kong, China, 2002, pp. 718-719.
Christensen, Jerald E. "The Baby That Lacked Milk", in Evangelist: Hundred Years of Adventism in China, Vol 9 2002-02-02, pp.9-10, Chinese Union Mission: Hong Kong, China. 高哲懦, 缺奶的婴孩-毕人圣工百周年记念专刊.
Hook, Milton, "Jerald Elvin and Rose Merth Christensen", in Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed 1/21/2021 https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=98B7&highlight=Christensen,|Jerald .
Wu, Lily, "Remembrance of Jerald Christensen", in Newsletter of North America San Yu Alumni Association, accessed 11/4/2013, http://sanyualumni.org/alumni/archives/1113.