The History of Outreach at HPUMC: The China Mission
Foreign missions have always been a strong part of the outreach efforts at HPUMC. The congregation has provided various levels of support to countries around the globe including Costa Rica, Haiti, Africa, Guatemala, and China.
HPUMC’s outreach efforts in China began with Rev. Hubert L. Sone in 1929. While stationed in Huchow, China, Rev. Sone was the first foreign missionary that the church supported financially. Rev. Sone was a Texas native that had lived in China since 1921.
The first all church support drive for Rev. Sone was held during Holy Week in 1929. It was a success and thereafter during the 1930s, Palm Sunday became “Sone Sunday” where the offering financed the Sone family’s salary for the upcoming year. Thanks to the generosity of the HPUMC congregation, support for Rev. Sone survived even though the financial hardship of the Great Depression.
In the late 1930’s, Rev. Sone was among those who witnessed the Japanese invasion of Nanking. Sone and his family refused to leave China during the invasion, despite words of warning from the presiding bishop of the Methodist Conference, Paul Kern, who briefly served as senior pastor at HPUMC.
Sone detailed the “Rape of Naking” and its impact on his students in letters addressed to the Senior Minister at the time. The letters were also published in the church bulletin and newspaper, The Tower.
“Many of our students were faced with great difficulties,” Sone wrote on March 14, 1937. “Some had to try to reach their homes over roads and areas occupied by the Japanese forces… Fortunately I learned of the special gift of more than one hundred dollars which your church had sent for special relief work, and I began to draw against it even before it arrived.”
Rev. Sone remained in Nanking to help with the relief work, even after his family was moved to another Chinese province for safety.
In one letter to the church Rev. Sone wrote, “Everything of value seems to be gone. So little seems to remain. But we still have faith and hope that we can rescue many from their despondency, and point them to One who is able to heal the wounds and bind up the broken hearts.”
Sone was recalled to the United States and was stateside when Pearl Harbor ended foreign missions in China during World War II. He returned to Nanking only after the war was over to help rebuild the theological school there. He remained in Nanking while the Chinese Civil War raged, teaching Old Testament and directing the agricultural school.
In 1949, the Communist won the Civil War and in the coming months banned foreign missions and made the nation officially atheist.
With great sadness, Sone and his family left China in 1950 and relocated to Singapore. He taught there through the 1950s until his retirement. The church continued to support Sone during his early years in Singapore.
After his retirement, Sone made the rounds to speak to Texas churches, in order to help them understand the religious and social situation on the Asian mainland.
HPUMC’s historic ties to China received new life in 1963, when the congregation helped build North Point Methodist Church in Hong Kong. Over the next 20 years, that church would go on to help at least 11 other United Methodist Churches open their doors in Hong Kong.
Sone died in 1970 and was buried in a Fort Worth cemetery. Despite years of persecution during the Mao years, the Church in China survived and continues to thrive.
Author: Alex Johnston
Since its foundation, Highland Park United Methodist Church has reached out beyond the walls of the church to offer help and hope to those in need. Though the ministry has been known by different names at different times, the mission has remained constant: spread the Gospel in word and deed, be the hands and feet of Jesus, and teach the next generation what Christian service looks like.
The mission of spreading God’s love far and wide is etched on the walls of the Sanctuary. Carved into the east wall is the parable of the lost sheep and to the west are the words of Psalm 67.
“This reminds us weekly of the worldwide scope of the Gospel,” says HPUMC Archivist Kent Roberts.