Abram La Rue 亞伯蘭拉路 (1822-1903)
Adopted by Wu Chook Ying, 2011, from an article by John Oss
Basic Biographical facts
Born in New Jersey in 1822 and died April 26, 1903 in Hong Kong.
Arrived in Hongkong on May 3, 1888 abroad the ship Velocity, and labored there for 15 years until he died.
Brother LaRue offered himself to the mission board to go as a self-supporting missionary to China, but was advised to go instead to one of the islands of the Pacific, the mission board no doubt having in mind that he would locate in one of the islands of the Hawaiian group. as he had begun work there as a colporteur in 1885. He accepted this counsel, and in 1888 was on his way to the island of Hong Kong, lying just off the coast of China. “I have kept just within the borders of my commission,” he often said, in regard to his appointment and his final settling in Hong Kong.
Brother LaRue opened a mission on Arsenal Street (軍器廠街), near the sea. “The large room was used for a gospel meeting hall, and a good stock of religious books and Bibles were attractively displayed. Among the soldiers and sailors and wayfarers the place soon became known as the headquarters for any man who needed a friend. The seed cast into the shifting sand of such a soil took root in some instances, and not a few men returned to their homes in the four quarters of the earth, thanking God for the beacon light set at this strategic point on the great highway of the Far East”
Much literature was sold by Brother LaRus among the Europeans in Hong Kong and to the seamen and passengers on the many boats that called at that busy port. He sold books, took orders for magazines, and distributed many tracts. He made several trips to Japan, during which he sold literature, stopping off at Shanghai en-route. In the spring of 1889 when making one of these voyages he was impressed with the possibilities in Shanghai for missionary work, and wrote to the mission board, “Here, too, missionaries are needed immediately.” He reported having sold $102.75 worth of literature on that journey and of having had an interesting visit with the captain of the boat on which he traveled. One reason why he visited Japan, besides that of selling literature, was to visit Brother W. C. Grainger (葛林繼), whom had interested in the truth while he was in California. This brother had resigned his position as president of Healdsburg College to become one of our first missionaries to Japan. The friendship between these men was very close. Brother Grainger later laid down his life in Japan, being one of the first of our people to laid to rest in the Orient.
Selling literature en-route, Brother LaRue also made a trip to the Holy Land, and was contemplating another at the time of his death. It was at Hong Kong, however, that he did his greatest work. Many a wayward, seaman was inspired with new desires after a visit to his little mission. He placed literature on boats that sailed to all parts of the world and was highly thought of by the world and was highly thought of by the foreign community and by the Chinese with whom he came in contact. Shortly after his arrival in the British colony he wrote, “The seed is being sown all over the Orient, and the Lord will take good care of the results. It will certainly be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death.”
In another letter he mentioned that the minister of a certain church met him on the street and spoke roughly to him. Of this experience he said, “He acknowledged that he was tearing up and destroying our publications, and he gave me to understand that my work would be stopped. But when we parted, he had mellowed down amazingly, and I have had no more troubled. They have found that threatening, coaxing, persuading, or hiring will not move me.”
After residing in Hong Kong for some time this man of God became known as Father LaRue. It is said by some that the name originated when some one, thinking he was a Catholic priest, addressed him as “Father.” Or perhaps it was simply because of the friendly, fatherly way that made him seem like a father to all. However the name originated, he became Father LaRue to many.
At the time of his arrival in China, on account of his advanced age, Brother LaRue was unable to learn the Chinese language; but be always felt a burden for the Chinese whom he daily met. He made the acquaintance of a Chinese named Mo Wen Chang [Mok Man Cheung (莫文長)] and there grew up between these two a very close friendship. Mo Wen Chang was a translator in the Colonial Court, and as he went to work each morning, he would stop in at the mission and have worship. Brother LaRue later had this man translate one chapter of Steps to Christ and two tracts, one on the prophecy of Daniel 2 and the other on Daniel 7, and had these printed. These tracts he used in his missionary work. This was the first Seventh-day Adventist literature printed in Chinese.
Abram LaRue, the first Adventist pioneer worker in China, traveled about the world as a seamen till he was about fifty years of age. Then he located in the city of San Francisco, where he invested his earnings of many years. One day a ravaging fire swept through the section of San Francesco where he had his property, and in a few moments the former seaman’s hard-gotten earnings were charred pieces of timber and smoldering heaps of ashes.
Following this experience he left the city and made his home in the mountains north of San Francisco. Through some tracts and Signs of the Times magazines distributed by one of our brethren, Brother LaRue accepted the Advent faith and became an ardent believer. When Healdsburg College [now Pacific Union College] was established [in 1882] he went to this school and took a course in Bible to prepare for more efficient work in soul-saving. He was then past sixty years of age, and it is said that he reminded one of a patriarch as he mingled with younger students.
A portrait of Abram La Rue with his signature
Arsenal Street, Hong Kong, where La Rue stayed
From 1888 to 1902 Father LaRue, as he was now generally called, stood alone. That was a high day in his life (February 2, 1902) when Brother and Sister J. N. Anderson (安得純) and Miss Ida Thompson (譚愛德) arrived to join hands with him in labor. They had been in Hong Kong but a short time, when nine people who had been led into the truth largely through Brother LaRus’s efforts, were baptized. Plans were then laid to open the work on the mainland.
This pioneer of our work in China had many qualifications that it would be well for those who have followed him in mission work to emulate. He was a staunch Christian, a keen Bible student, a man of prayer and devotion. He was patient and sympathetic and constant. His standing for fourteen years alone in a distant land, carrying on a self-supporting work, shows that he had the stamina that is needed in pioneer work. The motive power that urged him onward was firm belief in the soon coming of Jesus. A few days before his death, which came on April 26, 1903, he willed the greater part of the little money he had to mission in China. He gave his all to the cause he loved. Let us by our labor and devotion follow in his steps.
Abram La Rue was buried in Hong Kong, a land where he labored for about 15 years. Although he did not actually set foot in China as a missionary, his pioneering work played an important role in laying the foundation for the entry of Adventism into this great land of the Orient. A church at Ventris Road, Happy Valley, Hong Kong was named "Pioneer Memorial Church" in honour of him.
First Chinese tract produced by La Rue
Group photo taken in 1902 in Hongkong with the sailors from HMS Triumph whom Abram La Rue (2nd from left at the back row) had converted. Also in the photos are J.N. Anderson (1st from left at back row), Ida Thompson and Mrs. Emma Anderson (2nd and 3rd from right seated at front).
The best known picture of Abram La Rue
Grave of Abram La Rue in Hong Kong
Hall, O.A. (1938) "From a small beginning to a large work", in The China Division Reporter, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.4-6, March 1, 1938. Available online http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/CDR/CDR19380301-V08-03__B.pdf.
HKAI: Hong Kong Adventist International Church (2012), Brief history of Hong Kong and Adventism of Hong Kong, retrieved on 10/18/2012 from http://www.adventist_hk/church_history.
Luke, Handel (1990) Light Dawns Over Asia, Philippines: AIIAS Publishing.
Oss, John (1938) "The forerunner of a great movement" in The China Division Reporter, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.2-3, March 1, 1938. Available online http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/CDR/CDR19380301-V08-03__B.pdf.
Oss, John (1960)
Tidbury, A.C. (1938) "Person Testimony" in The China Division Reporter, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.3-4, March 1, 1938. Available online http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/CDR/CDR19380301-V08-03__B.pdf
Updated 1/18/2013 by B. Lo