Lo Tak Tsuen (Pinyin Luo Dequan) 羅德全
by Luo Fengyang 羅鳳陽, with the assistance of Luo Fengyi 羅鳳儀, 2012
Basic Biographical Data
Lo Tak Tsuen was born in 1895 in Xingning, Guangdong, China; died in 1981 in Toronto, Canada.
In 1925 he married Yu Li-zhen. daughter of a wealthy landowner from a neighbouring village.
Siblings: Lo Tak Tsuen was the youngest of 3 sons and 1 daughter in the family.
Education: Taught as a child by his own brother who was a classical scholar. He also attended the Church's training institute in Shanghai.
Service: He laboured tirelessly for many years in remote areas of the Hakka districts in Guangdong province, Southern China, and also worked for the Hong Kong Macau Mission.
My father Lo Tak Tsuen 羅德全 (Pinyin Luo Dequan), alias Shenxiu 愼修, was born in 1895 in the village Sanbian 三變村 in the district of Xingning 興寧縣, Guangdong province, to peasant parents. He was the youngest among their three sons and one daughter. His father died when he was only a small child. His mother, a very capable and hard-working peasant woman, brought up the family on her own. His father had been told that some time in the past his family had suffered a great loss in disputes over ownership of land due to their inability to read the land deeds. Himself unable to read or write, he was keenly aware of the disadvantage of being illiterate. So he vowed that his sons would be educated. Subsequently the eldest son, who was much older than my father, having achieved a high standard in traditional scholarship, acted as teacher to his youngest brother. Classical texts and poetry were the staple diet in schooling in those days. As a result my father had an excellent command of classical Chinese and written Chinese.
Began Service for the Church
How exactly my father came into the Seventh-day Adventist church is not clear within our family. As in so many families, the children seldom give much thought to their parents’ life story until it is too late, and from fading memories of patchy conversations at home I can give only a sketchy picture. It was early in the 20th century, and China was undergoing a huge change. A traditionally educated young man could no longer forge a career through the old examination system. So my father left home for Guangzhou, seeking new opportunities. He chanced upon an evangelical meeting, got interested, and was recruited by the missionaries. He was sent to the Adventist college in Shanghai to be trained as a church worker, and before long he was assigned to various posts within the church organisation. At one time he was teamed up with the American missionary Pastor J. P. Anderson to open up a mission field in the Hakka districts of Guangdong province. Being a Hakka himself, he acted as a valuable guide and liaising assistant for the missionary, and together they toiled with fervour in harsh conditions for several years, walking for hours every day from village to village, staying in villagers’ homes, enduring all the discomforts and trials. Pastor Anderson later moved on to more important posts, but after those years of shared experience he would continue to show great kindness towards my father throughout his working life.
Mr and Mrs Lo Tak Tsuen taken in Hong Kong, ca. 1952
Mr and Mrs Lo Tak Tsuen with their two older children in Guangzhou. ca. 1933
After gaining some years of experience, it was time for my father to be ordained as minister to a congregation. But first he was required to marry, in accordance with the policy and teaching of the church. A marriage was arranged at home in the time-honoured way. At the age of 30 he married my mother Yu Li-zhen 余利貞. She was 19, the daughter of a wealthy land-owner and respected scholar, and the headman of a neighbouring village. The girl’s father was determined not to have another disappointing son-in-law, so he chose my father, an educated, honest man and most importantly a Christian who did not smoke opium, even though his social and economic status were well below that of the bride’s family. It must have been a frightening experience for the young bride, plunged into a completely alien environment, to live in close proximity to ‘foreign devils’, to be taught Bible doctrines and baptised. However, the Christian love in the church community and the kind and understanding American missionary wives were a great help during these early days of their marriage. My mother being a very intelligent woman quickly adapted to her new life. Under the guidance of my father she made fast progress in her reading skill and was eventually able to read the Bible, from cover to cover. She remained a traditional wife and mother all her life, supporting her husband wherever he was sent to do the Lord’s work. She had a quick mind, very good at improvising and solving domestic technical problems. Her skill in knitting, crochet and embroidery made her a valuable member of the Dorcas Society at church. She was also a very good cook.
Children of Lo Tak Tsuen gathered at Oxford, UK for a family reunion in 2006.
Front row from left to right: Fengyang, Qian Zaoyan, Fengyi, Liao Yaoming, Jixi, Fengwen. Second row from left to right: Glen Dudbridge, Ted Fong, Fengzhang, Lin Aihua, Huixi, Xia Zongche. Back row: Grandchildren.
In the 1920s and 30s my father worked in various posts in the Hakka districts. Most of them were in very poor and remote areas containing a number of villages. Visiting church members was the most important part of this ministry. The only means of transport was on foot, covering huge distances. My father was much respected among his flock, not only for his dedicated spiritual ministry but also for his medical ministry. He was well read in Chinese medical writings. Combining that with knowledge of folk herbal remedies he was able to give advice in treating many common ailments. His herbal powder for diarrhoea, potion for minor eye infection, and ointment for bruises and muscle pain relief were particularly effective and much in demand.
In 1937 my father was sent to work in Taipo, New Territories, Hong Kong, a Hakka-speaking area. A number of people were brought into the Church through his evangelistic meetings. One memorable convert was a blind lady, Miss Shen 沈姑娘. She learned to play the piano at the school for the blind. After she became a regular member of the SDA church she played for all the services at the Taipo church. Life was very hard for disabled people in those days. She could only make a meagre living by taking in knitting work for people who were kind enough to offer it. When my father saw her predicament he persuaded the church authorities to give her a regular monthly subsidy, which made her life slightly more comfortable and secure.
Challenges During The War Years
A turbulent period followed. It was the Second World War. Japan invaded China, and in 1941 Hong Kong fell. The church organisation was in chaos, the Sam Yuk school and the administration had retreated into mainland China. Completely cut off from the church authorities, my father stayed at his post and held out for some time. But with a large family of six children to feed and no salary coming in, life became impossible. In consultation with members of the congregation and another church worker, a decision was taken: all agreed that my father had to take the whole family back to his native home in Xingning; once the family was settled at home in the care of his kinsmen, he would come back to Taipo. Attempts were made to contact the authorities to explain the situation, but communication was impossible. In desperation my father had no option but to start on the journey home with money advanced by a kind church member Mrs Leung. The family reached home after a long and perilous journey only for my father to receive a letter from the church leaders dismissing him for ‘absence without leave’. It was a harsh and unjust punishment to mete out at this time of upheaval and chaos to a faithful worker who had no chance to defend himself. Without a job to go back to my father stayed with the family in the home village.
Thus began the most difficult and impoverished time in our family history. When my father decided to take the family back home it was in the belief that he had a share of the family income from the land in the form of grain stored up after the harvest. The grain could be sold to buy other supplies for the family. But when he reached home, his second elder brother, who had become the head of family after the death of the eldest, simply informed my father that all the grain had been sold and all the money was gone. He gave no explanation. So our family was destitute. All my parents could do was sell what little was left from my mother’s dowry and borrow money to survive. They worked extremely hard on the land, undergoing the hardships and learning the farming skills of peasant life. Even the two elder children in their early teens had to perform tasks beyond their age. My father was in exile for about two years. During this period my father never lost faith nor ceased attending Sabbath meetings. These took place in the home of Pastor Luo Daoyuan (羅道源) in another village about 20 minutes’ walk away.
Many Adventist colleagues and members felt that my father’s dismissal was truly unjust. Pastor Xu Zhuopeng (徐卓鹏) fought hard for my father’s reinstatement. In spring 1943 my father was exonerated. The church authority also recognized that my father, who had worked in the Hakka districts for so long and had good contacts and knowledge of the area, would be a great help if the church organization ever needed to uproot from Laolong and seek another sanctuary. He was called back to work in the Sam Yuk School located at Laolong (老隆) at the time, working in the administration office and teaching ‘agriculture’.
Post War Service
In 1946, after Japan had surrendered, Sam Yuk School moved to Guangzhou and then, when the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalist government broke out, to Hong Kong. By 1949 my father was working not in the Sam Yuk School, but in the Hong Kong and Macau Adventist Administration headquarters in Happy Valley, Hong Kong, as a general assistant. Hong Kong was and still is a Cantonese speaking place. The fact that my father never managed to speak Cantonese with ease prevented him from working as a minister in Hong Kong. In the mid 1950s he was again sent to Taipo, originally a Hakka-speaking area, to be in charge of the church there. But the Cantonese dialect soon took over there too. So after a couple of years he was assigned to the Voice of Prophecy department. His duties included marking the Bible correspondence course work and helping with the translation of the Sabbath School lessons from English to Chinese. He stayed at this post until his retirement in 1962. In the late 1950s he was made Elder in the SDA church in Boundary Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong. From then on he was known as Elder Lo until his death in Toronto, Canada, in 1981. In retirement he faithfully attended Sabbath worship, preached when asked to, and devoted much time to re-reading the classical texts and poetry, even writing some poetry himself.
Despite his long years of service my father never reached the rank of pastor. By nature he was not an ambitious man who sought worldly rewards. He dedicated himself to serving the Lord without questioning, and would go wherever he was sent. He was totally reliable, trustworthy and conscientious. He knew only poverty and hardship throughout his life, but he never ceased praising and thanking the Lord for all the blessings He bestowed on our family. He brought up six children in the Adventist tradition, instilling in them true Christian values. He could be proud that all of them have made valuable contributions to society in their different walks of life. He was truly God’s good and faithful servant.
Among my parents’ eleven children only six, 2 boys and 4 girls, survived till adulthood. They are, from eldest to youngest:
Luo Fengyi 羅鳳儀, married to Qian Zaoyan 錢藻彦
Luo Jixi 羅緝熙 MD, married to the late Liao Yaoming 廖瑤明
Luo Huixi 羅惠熙 MD, married to Lin Aihua 林艾華
Luo Fengyang (Sylvia Dudbridge) 羅鳳陽, married to Glen Dudbridge 杜德橋
Luo Fengwen (Bessie Hsia) 羅鳳文, married to Xia Zongche 夏宗徹
Luo Fengzhang (Alice) 羅鳳章 MD, married to Ted Fong 鄺富偉
Dudbridge, Sylvia Luo Fengyang (2012), article author, Oxford, UK.
Qian, Luo Fengyi (2012), provided information by private communication.
Last updated 7 Jan 2013 by Sylvia Dudbridge