Magazine article Free Inquiry

True Religion and the 'Mishkids.' (Negative Experiences of Children of Missionaries)

Magazine article Free Inquiry

True Religion and the 'Mishkids.' (Negative Experiences of Children of Missionaries)

Article excerpt

Christianizing China? A joke!" quipped Madalyn Murray O'Hair, atheist-par-excellence. Her realistic conclusion targeted, of course, the hordes of foreign missionaries who, between 1850 and 1950, infested that "godforsaken" land, bent on extricating those "filthy heathens" from the jaws of Satan.

Libraries abound with books depicting the most massive missionary thrust into a foreign land the world has ever seen. The literature, however, lacks one segment of the story - one that I, at long last and now in my eighty-first year, have decided to divulge, family image notwithstanding. This footnote of history, somewhat tragic, and not easy for me to tell, is my firsthand account of the negative effects widely experienced by the offspring of missionaries ("Mishkids").


It was back in 1898 that a certain honor graduate from the Oxford University School of Theology (my future father) jumped on the Jesus bandwagon. Ablaze with zeal, Harrington "Hank" Littell set sail for China, where he soon became embroiled in that bloodiest of all riots, the Boxer Rebellion. For 32 years he preached, baptized, battled bandits, fought famine and disease, and scaled walls to dodge "Down-with-the-Foreign-Devils" demonstrations.

The Littell family consisted of five boys and two girls, reared in the wilds of Kiangsi and Hunan provinces, central China. We coped fine in some ways. But in others, alas! Like thousands of other "Mishkids," we were the unseen casualties of this religious rat race.

His faith and fervor forever burning, Father claimed to have made countless conversions. He never cooled - not even when Mao Tse-Tung triumphed and missionaries fled for their lives. "Aren't you dismayed," he was often asked, "that your whole life's work has been in vain?" "Never!" he flashed back, "Communism? Just a temporary setback. To God's glory, we have planted the seeds for the One True Faith. All of China will, one day, burst forth under the banner of Christ!"

For his "outstanding dedication" as Chairman of the International China Famine Relief Commission, my father was awarded the medal of the "Order of the Felicitous Grain" by President Sun Yat Sen. To this day it is preserved in the archives of St. Andrew's Cathedral, Honolulu, Hawaii. He became the fifth Episcopal Bishop of Honolulu, serving from 1930 to 1942. Much beloved, some called him a "saint."

But for his wife and children, the void of his absence at home was unbearable as constantly we raised to heaven our lament: "But where is Father? Will he never come home?" For months on end, Father was "up the Yangtze" baptizing everyone in sight. His love, time, and most of his vast fortune was bestowed on hospitals, churches, and schools. Although we lauded his generosity, still, paternal neglect was the heavy price his family was forced to pay. As someone said: "He begets, then he forgets."

Never close, never knowing a heart-to-heart chat with him, I began to harbor heretical doubts about his beliefs and the whole missionary movement. …

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