Lao Li Ming 勞禮銘 (1919 - )
by May Lo, 2013
Basic Biographical Data
My father, Elder Lao, Li Ming, who at a young age, found Jesus Christ as his saviour and dedicated his entire life to serve the Lord in spreading the Gospel. This is his story about misfortune, hope, perseverance, faith and humanity.
Early part of last century in China, the country was in great political turmoil. Living was harsh for most. Luckily, my father was born into a well-to-do banker family in a bustling Foshan, a town just south of Guangzhou on December 9, 1919. He was the youngest child among 15 siblings by two mothers. He had very fond memory of being loved by his whole family especially around the time for New Year celebration. Unfortunately, good time did not last, his father died when he was just seven years old. Soon after, his biological mother, also passed away. All of a sudden, his care free childhood changed for the worse.
After completing primary school, his mother and older brothers wanted to send him on to learn ‘running a business’ for a brother-in-law in a nearby town. Yet, the Lord had a different plan for my father. It so happened, Dr. Loh, Bek Wah, who was an early Adventist convert in southern China, was in town, visiting his family. On the street, Dr. Loh, bumped into my father’s brothers, heard of the plan for my father to learn ‘running a business’. Dr. Loh suggested that my dad should continue study and referred the Adventist’s Sam Yuk Middle School in Guangzhou for him. This chance meeting, propelled my father’s life into one of serving the Lord, Jesus Christ. My father was baptized into the Adventist’s church before the end of his first school year in Sam Yuk. The new found sense of renewal hope in God, motivated my father. By the time he graduated, he answered to God’s call to work for the Adventist church for the next 41 years.
Late 1930s’, the Pacific conflict expanded into Hong Kong. The Clear Water Bay Adventist school compound is located next to a bay and it was strategical for the Japanese army operation. In the early part of Japanese occupation, my dad spoke of frightening moments of how faculties and students had to hide in school building attic to escape from being killed or raped by Japanese soldiers. By January 1942, Elder Lao and 11 other staff was the first group to retrench to Huizhou’s Hui On Adventist Hospital in China. In Hui On Adventist Hospital, he was assigned to work in the accounting department. This first job sealed his life long excellency in running business administration in a variety of church institutions all over Southern Greater China. Aside from prime accounting duties, stories about having to help out medical staff to administer injection and medication to patients in the hospital, were often told by my dad. It was this time, Elder Lao learned of the great humanity the Adventist mission had contributed to the local communities. He found satisfaction in knowing his hard work had lessen the misery for people in a poor country during war time.
My mother, Woo, Man Hing, was studying nursing in the same Hui On hospital where my dad worked at that time. Charming boy met pretty girl, they fell in love. My parents married on Dec 26, 1947. Their first child, Shirley, was born prematurely the following summer. What a joy this beautiful baby brought to their lives. I came into this world a year and a half later and my younger sister, Sharon, came a year and a half after me. Our family life was filled with love.
By 1949, the Communist came after the war. My dad was being assigned to work as the treasurer in the Guangzhou mission. However, Adventist church missions were soon told by the Communist government to retract from southern China and subsequently, moved to Hong Kong. After the relocation, there was no available position for my father in the Hong Kong mission. My parents thought they would just stay in China to promote the Gospel privately. They moved into a small room on the third floor of a pork pen. Life was very trying. When a church position became open in Hong Kong in the fall of 1951, they decided to leave China for Hong Kong. Yet, it required an exit visa to leave the Communist China. Having worked for a Christian church, my parents were accused of being ‘running dogs’ for a foreign organization. They had a hard time obtaining permission to leave the country. Finally, taking the advice from a more sympathetic official told my dad that he should leave town with one of his daughters and after a few months, he should send a letter home stating that because the young daughter misses her mother, she cries every night asking for her mother, this way the immigration official would be more willing to let your ‘sweetheart’ leave town. So, under the darkness of the sky, my dad and Shirley escaped China riding on a boat to Hong Kong in the beginning of 1952. A few months later, my mom, I, his under 2 years old daughter, my newly born sister, also left China, reunited with my Dad in Hong Kong safely. That was a very difficult period in my parent's lives.
After arriving in Hong Kong, my dad worked in Clear Water Bay at the then South China Mission College under the leadership of Pastor Curry. In August 1953, he was appointed to work in the Kowloon Sam Yuk Middle School, formerly MongKok branch of Sam Yuk School, as the school administrator. Given a chance to sharpen his skills in business administration, my dad had submerged in the work. He often told me that success is built upon effort and hard work. By the time he transferred to his next assignment in 1960, Kowloon Sam Yuk Middle School had become a full high school with enrollment reaching over 500. A new five stories school building was constructed to accommodate the increased enrollment. Some of the faculties lived on the top 2 floors and my two brothers were born during this time. During this period, my dad suffered a permanent hearing lost of 60% due to side effect of medication he was given by his doctor. Yet, his perseverance in serving God and supporting his family, had given him the energy to over come this physical handicap. He spoke about how he would work double hard in compensating for the hearing short fall.
January 1960, my dad was once again asked to transfer back to South China Union Mission College in Clear Water Bay as the school treasurer and business administrator. By now, my dad was well known in the mission circle as the person who could plan, execute and balance the financial book. It was no small job in ensuring operations were to run smoothly; expenses were to manage carefully with high transparency. Well run organization is partly the result of good business decisions. Church organization is of no exception. It may even be more complex to navigate when it comes to financial matters. By all accounts, my dad excelled at his job. I remember as a child, during all the infamous Hong Kong threatening typhoons, he made sure school facilities were secured, physical damages were minimized and needed repairs were carried out after the storm. It was also this time, he completed his college degree through night schooling. My dad never slow down when it comes to learning. He is always well prepared for task at hand. He had high standard for himself and people around him.
In August 1967, the Tai Po Sam Yuk Middle School was badly in need of a new manager to revert its falling fortune. My dad, Elder Lao was appointed to help revitalize the school. He was asked to be the school principal. His family moved with him to Tai Po. First month on the job, the school did not even have enough fund to pay teaching faculties. He was told by his teachers that they have not been paid regularly in the past year. Staff would get paid whenever the school had the required funding. Teaches said that they felt so degraded; they felt like beggars begging for their hard earned money. My dad decided right then and there that this kind of situation should never happened to his teachers; staff never had to beg for their rightful earning. God has a way of solving the most difficult problem put before Him. My dad's teachers in Tai Po Sam Yuk Middle School never again had to beg for their salary. At the end of the school year, my dad worked so hard that he got seriously ill. But he didn't want to go to the hospital. He just kept on working, day and night. By then, my dad was bed ridden but he still refused to go to the hospital. My grandma Woo was so upset with my dad that she asked two of my uncles to put my dad on a chair, carried him down a 5 stories building and took him to the hospital. He was hospitalized for five days before returning home to recuperate. My dad is this type of a person. He only knows to put other people’s interest in front of his own, period. We stayed in Tai Po for two years. Afterward, my family moved back to Clear Water Bay. My dad resumed the role as the school treasurer and business administrator. He had special ways with students. He would cross into teaching in both middle school and college classes during this period. He remained there until 1971.
In early 1970s, the Church Union would ask my dad to conduct internal financial audit for the Taiwan Conference. It was one of the most complex audit exercise for any skilled auditors. But my dad was able to trace to the source of the problem that stumped all auditors. Church leadership was impressed by my dad’s ability; my dad was asked to join the Taiwan Conference. After much considerations my dad decided not to take up the offer. But then where should he and his family go? How was he going to support his family? But we know that we serve an all mighty God. If it is His will, it'll be done. He opens doors that no one can open. Our church's hospital system happened to look for a financial controller for the hospital system in Hong Kong. My dad was asked to work there and eventually he became the VP of the hospital system by 1977. He encountered many challenges along the way in the hospital systems. He would roll-up his sleeves and worked on problems of not having enough patients; of not having meaningful work for the doctors; and of not having very motivated staff to support the institution. When he left the hospital system for the Hong Kong Macau Conference as the treasurer years later, the hospital was in its best operating shape ever. That is another miracle that God had performed.
My dad worked in the Hong Kong Macau Conference until he retired in 1981. He spent his last 4 working years mainly on missionary duties in reaching out to people who want to find God. He was preaching most Sabbaths in Macau, and churches aroud Southern China. He told us that those were the most rewarding years he has had.
Before he retired, my parents were trying to decide where they could live after retirement. They have their older daughter, Shirley, in California; their second daughter, May, and the youngest son, Philip, are in Texas; third daughter, Sharon and fourth son are in Canada, all in different parts of North America. Well, they picked Texas since they have two of their children living there.
My parents have been living in Texas since they retired. Actually, they didn't really retired. They helped the church that they attended started the first Chinese Sabbath school in Houston; they visited the shutins; they helped shop for those who can't walk. Most of all, to them, the most enjoyable 'job' was to look after their grandchildren. Welby, Gary and Christopher have been greatly benefited from having grandparents looking after them.
After 30 some years in Houston, Texas, they finally slowed down a bit. They would only go out everyday to the park for their daily walk and picking-up Chinese newspaper. They finally tried to do things just for themselves. They finally allowed their children to serve them a little.
My dad is still teaching the Chinese Sabbath school. He says it keeps his mind sharp. God does bless His children who study His words. My dad is the witness to all God's greatness. Throughout his life, my dad served our Lord with all his heart and soul. In return, without asking, God has blessed him with good health and longevity. We serve an awesome God.