Monday, April 03, 2017
A Missionary with Ink in His Veins by Rose McCormick Brandon
R. A. Jaffray (Rob), born in Canada to Scottish immigrants, entered the New York Missionary training Institute at age 20. There, he came under the influence of A. B. Simpson, founder of the school.
Robert’s father, publisher of The Toronto Globe (forerunner to today’s Globe and Mail), refused to finance his son’s education unless he agreed to attend a Presbyterian school in Canada which could have led to a respectable ministerial position. Rob’s heart was set on becoming a missionary to China and he longed to sit under the tutelage of Simpson, one of the leaders of the missionary revival and a man Rob’s father considered a zealot.
Jaffray who suffered from diabetes and a heart problem, was an unlikely candidate for missionary work in China. But, after working his way through the New York school, he went to China in 1897 where he met and married missionary, Miss Minnie Donor, who had arrived in China two years earlier.
A fervent soul-winner, Jaffray believed that churches should be established in every location where a handful of believers lived. Soon after opening a church, Jaffray would establish a Bible College to educate and train new converts for service. Next to evangelizing and teaching, Jaffray believed in the power of the printed page.
For most of his life he kept the presses rolling, turning out a ton of Christian literature for distribution throughout the Orient. His publishing work was carried on with a zeal amounting to a crusader’s passion. He had been reared in an atmosphere never free of the smell of printer’s ink. The talk around the table had been of newspapers, the power of printed ideas, the influence of the press for good or evil, and he had not forgotten anything. (A. W. Tozer, Let My People Go)
Jaffray’s Bible Magazine was printed on good paper using a professional layout. Best of all, its content was of the highest quality. It was said of Jaffray that his pen was always moving. His writing style was conversational. He wrote, not to gain a name for himself, but to persuade readers and call them to action. Besides being principle writer, he edited and published articles in many languages always being careful to be true to the scriptures.
For many years, Jaffray served as chairman of the South China field, pastor of the Wuchow church, principle of the Bible School, head of the South China Press, editor of the Bible Magazine and coordinator of mission activity on the field. Jaffray went to Vietnam and Indonesia where he established Bible Schools and printing operations. His goal was to equip Christians so they could work independently of foreign missionaries. Like first century Christians, Jaffray witnessed many miracles in his ministry.
Duringthe depression when money for missions had dwindled, Jaffray received his inheritance which he used to fund the work. At an age when most people retired, God called him to the West Indies. His pen and his presses went with him.
In 1938, with the Second World War looming, Jaffray, nearing the end of a year’s furlough, said, “If I do not go back now, there is little likelihood I can ever go back at all. I must return to the Far East. I want to die out there where my life has been.” His words proved prophetic. The Japanese captured him. He spent a year in a camp with his wife and daughter and then was moved to a men’s camp, a former pig farm. On July 29, 1945, a short time before the war ended, Robert Jaffray died of starvation while lying on a prison cot in the Toradja Mountains of Indonesia.
Four years before his death, R. A. Jaffray, with skilful pen, wrote:
“One day it will all be finished, and the weary feet, all scarred and bleeding will cross the last mountain, tread the last trail, reach the last tribe and win the last soul. Then He Himself will exclaim, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Let us keep our eyes steadily upon the goal. For when we hear the shout from the skies, all else will fade into utter insignificance. Ere long the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”(A. W. Tozer, Let My People Go)
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. She writes personal essays and devotionals for several publications.
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