An Astonishing Mission Story

A Letter from Choon and Yen Hee Lim, with Choon serving as regional liaison for East Asia, based in South Korea

October 2019

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Dear Friends in Mission,

Before our retirement, Yen Hee and I want to make a biographical dictionary or directory of Presbyterian missionaries from 1884 to the present, including the pre-1983 Southern, Northern, and then United Presbyterian Church, and PC(USA) missionaries to Korea. Many Korean Presbyterians want to learn more about their Christian ancestors and often ask us about the life and work of missionaries in relation to their own congregations, institutions, and organizations. There is no such official guidebook in Korea now. If we make such a guidebook, it will benefit the Korean churches in general and Korean Presbyterians in particular.

Our Korea Mission PC(USA) office in Seoul began the project this past June, gathering information from our partner churches, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea (PROK), and others. But we were having difficulty finding enough data. We struggled with the project due to the lack of information and Choon puzzled over whether we could continue to do it, as he is already very busy with his other mission responsibilities in the region.

To get more information on missionaries to Korea, we decided to visit the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, PA. Before our visit we emailed them about our purpose for coming. When we arrived and started to read the wealth of stories of former missionaries, our hearts were touched. We saw their dedication and hard work to spread the Good News to Chinese and Korean people by word and deed. Reading these moving stories gave us the energy to continue our research for seven days, beginning at 9 a.m. and staying on until the building closed. Each evening when we left, our eyes were red and our bodies exhausted—yet the next morning we couldn’t wait to read more stories of mission work.

We found many fascinating and inspiring tales, but one particular story touched us, which was the story of Rev. Dr. Reuben Archer Torrey, Jr. who was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 16, 1887. Rev. Torrey married Janet Slade Mallary in 1913, the same year that they were appointed as missionaries to China. They served Christ together for 45 years in China and Korea and retired in September 1958. God called Rev. Torrey to higher service on February 23, 1970.

Rev. Dr. Torrey’s 45 years of fruitful service for Christ can be divided into three major periods. The first period took place in the pioneer years of itinerate evangelism in North China from 1913 until he, Mrs. Torrey, and their youngest son were interned by the Japanese in 1941 during World War II. During this period, the richness of his gifts became increasingly evident as he gave himself unsparingly to the spiritual and physical needs of the Chinese people whom he loved so deeply. In addition to constant itineration to the villages, sound Bible instruction, organizing new churches, and training pastors and lay evangelists, Torrey looked for ways to revive the poor and uplift the destitute. Improvements in agriculture, economic uplift and effective famine relief programs were conceived, organized and administered by God’s servant.

The second period of Dr. Torrey’s service runs from World War II until missionaries were forced to evacuate China because of the Communist conquest of the country in 1949. This time was marked by the years of his increasing administrative labors. Repatriated to the U.S. after Japanese internment, Rev. Torrey returned to China to serve as a liaison officer between the Chinese and U.S. military forces. During that time, an army truck in which he was riding had an accident and his right arm was crushed. His companions drove him eight miles to an aid station and then flew him 400 miles to a hospital. There, doctors amputated his right arm. This great personal loss and the suffering which he experienced proved to be the seed which was to bear glorious fruit. He said, “I knew I’d face life maimed, but I knew the Lord still had work for me to do.”

The third period from 1952 to 1958 is marked by his six years of service in Korea. These closing years of ministry overseas mark the climax of Rev. Torrey’s missionary career. At age 65, he responded to the call to do something in the name of Christ for the thousands of destitute Koreans who were maimed during the Korean War that had ravaged their land. Rev. and Mrs. Torrey went to Korea, where he organized and directed the Taejon Amputee Rehabilitation Project. During these six years, over 4,500 Korean amputees were rehabilitated, not only physically and economically, but in a large majority of cases, spiritually. The Church of Christ in Korea is richer and stronger today because one day in the far west of China, God’s servant, viewing his mangled arm, looked up in an agony of suffering and said to God, “All things do work together for good to those who love the Lord.”

Rev. Torrey was truly chosen, prepared, and sent by God. The work of God is written across the pages of Rev. Torrey’s history; he was a servant of God through whom God worked by the power of the Holy Spirit. Please continue to support us financially so that God’s love and care can prevail continuously in East Asia, especially in China and Korea.

Peace in Christ,

Yen Hee and Choon Lim

P.S. We would like to express our appreciation for the Presbyterian Historical Society. During our visit, we experienced the staff’s dedication and hard work. We thank them for their wonderful work and humble service. Without their assistance, we could not have done our research.

Please read this important message from Sara Lisherness, interim director of Presbyterian World Mission

Dear friend of Presbyterian Mission,

Greetings in Christ! As the interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, I am grateful to have the opportunity to thank you for your continued support of PC(USA) mission co-workers.

The enclosed newsletter bears witness to some of the many ways in which God is at work in the world through long-standing relationships between global partners and the PC(USA). These partnerships are nurtured and strengthened by the presence of mission co-workers in over 40 countries; you are an important part of this partnership too, as you learn about and share how our church is involved in global ministry; as you pray for our partners and mission co-workers; and as you take action to work with others for God’s justice, peace and healing.

I write to invite you to continue joining us in partnership in three ways. First, your prayers are always needed. Please pray that God will continue guiding the shared work of the PC(USA) and global partners as we engage together in service around the world. Pray, too, for mission co-workers, that they may feel encouraged in the work they are doing under the leadership of global partners.

Second, please consider making a year-end gift for the sending and support of at least one mission co-worker. There is a remittance form at the end of this letter and an enclosed envelope so that you can send in a special year-end gift.

Finally, I encourage you to ask your session to include one or more mission co-workers in your congregation’s mission budget for 2020 and beyond. PC(USA) mission co-workers’ sending and support costs are funded by the designated gifts of individuals and congregations like yours; your gifts allow Presbyterian World Mission to fulfill global partners’ requests for mission personnel.

Faithfully in Christ,

Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness
Director, Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry
Interim Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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