Outside Union Hospital, Wuhan (one of the biggest hospitals in China), stands an imposing copper bust of a Welshman, Griffith John. In 2016 the directors of the hospital are celebrating its founding by John, with a series of special meetings and exhibitions. In recent years, many Chinese Christians have visited Swansea to see for themselves the church which sent out the missionary who first brought the gospel to Central China.
John’s life was one of remarkable courage, adventure and blessing. Born in the slums of Swansea, orphaned as a result of cholera epidemics, he sailed for China with the London Missionary Society in 1855. Then in 1861 he moved to the great inland city, Hankou (now Wuhan), in the province of Hubei. He was the first Protestant missionary ever to settle in Central China, doing so eight years before the formation of the CIM by his great friend, Hudson Taylor. For fifty years he preached, wrote tracts and established churches. He remained in China during the many wars and rebellions that devastated the region in this period. He was the only Christian in the province when he arrived there, but God’s blessing on his ministry was such that when, gravely ill, he returned to Britain in 1911, he left behind him in the provinces of Hubei and Hunan many hundreds of Christian churches with a total membership of over 100,000 Christians.
His amazing and inspiring life deserves to be better known.
John Aaron, a retired physics teacher and school manager, is a member of Ebenezer, Swansea, the chapel from which Griffith John was sent out to China. He is married with two children and five grandchildren. He has produced several books on church history, including The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, and is co-author of Travel through Wales: land of beauty and blessing.