Norwegian Missionaries in China 1899-1949 (March 2011)

Lodge Meeting: March 18, 2011

In March as we enjoyed a film about Norwegian Missionaries in China 1899-1949  and a  talk by Dr. Liliane Willens. The evening started with a potluck dinner at 7:00 p.m., followed by the  program at 8:00 p.m. and business meeting at 9:00 p.m.The meeting featured the debut of Tim Christenson who volunteered to serve as master of ceremonies at our meetings.

Dr. Liliane (Lily) Willens, a member of our Lodge since 1995, and a speaker who has given talks to our Chapter on “The Sami People” (Nov.1998) and “Fridtj of Nansen” (Oct. 2008) will introduce this video and narrate it. The original is in Norwegian. The Mission Covenant Church of Norway sent in 1899 their first missionaries to China to proselytize Christianity to the Chinese people. The missionaries lived in the hinterland in regions of extreme poverty and famine and tried to spread their faith, but without much success. During their stay, China was in the throes of the anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion, the downfall of the Manchu empire, civil wars and the takeover of the country by the communists. Yet the missionaries stayed there for half a century until forced out by the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Lily Willens knows China well since she was born and raised in Shanghai where she attended a French lycée. She, her parents and sisters lived under the Japanese occupation, the bombing by American planes during World War II, and the civil war between Chiang Ki-shek’s government and the communist rebels. Because of difficulties in obtaining an immigration visa to the United States under a very restrictive quota system, she remained in Shanghai for two years after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. After immigrating to the United States, Lily attended Boston University where she earned her PhD. in French language and literature and taught these subjects at Boston College and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lily eventually moved to Washington, DC where she worked for the U.S Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps.

When Lily retired, she lectured on history and culture aboard cruise ships sailing around the world. Presently, she gives talks at various venues on China and on her book, a memoir of her life in Shanghai, Stateless in Shanghai published in 2010 by the China Economic Review Publishing (HK) Ltd. for Earnshaw Books. It is now in its third printing. For those wishing to learn more about China’s historical and cultural background during those years, copies of her book will be on sale after the Q&A and she will be glad to sign them.  

 Lily has a personal web page lilianewillens.info