jo_fraser_old_bwI had not heard of English missionary James Fraser until a friend lent me his biography. Here’s an introduction:

James Fraser’s parents were Methodists but had separated during his teen years. James grew up with his mother and demonstrated a love for challenges, once walking over 70 kilometres in a day to London and back, and at another time, riding over 300 kilometres on bicycle without dismounting. Gifted in mathematics, he planned to pursue engineering—a promising career in the new 20th century.

During his studies, Fraser became increasingly aware of God’s claim upon his life. The words from a booklet arrested him:

“A command has been given: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ It has not been obeyed. More than half the people in the world have never yet heard the gospel. What are we to say to this? Surely it concerns us Christians very seriously. For we are the people who are responsible …”

“If our Master returned today to find millions of people un-evangelised, and looked as of course he would look, to us for an explanation, I cannot imagine what explanation we should have to give … Of one thing I am certain: that most of the excuses we are accustomed to make with such good conscience now, we should be wholly ashamed of then.”

After graduation, Fraser applied to the China Inland Mission in 1908. Sent to the mountainous Yunnan province in southwest China, Fraser was soon burdened to evangelise the remote Lisu tribe, derided by the Chinese as “monkey people” and steeped in animism while falling prey to drunkenness and gambling.

The difficulties of mountain travel, language and cultural barriers, and ministry were very harsh. Often, individuals and families initially accepted the gospel message only to fall back into idolatry. Fraser battled loneliness and depression and became more aware of the spiritual nature of his struggle.


Then in 1915, Fraser prayed a “prayer of faith,” asking God for hundreds of Lisu families to forsake idols and turn to Christ. He enlisted many supporters to pray faithfully for the work. Six years after arriving in China, over a hundred Lisu families converted to Christ in a four-month period! Hardships continued but God had provided the breakthrough.

“The conversion of the Lisu is one of the greatest stories in mission history. Today, there are an estimated 300,000 Lisu Christians in China, with more among the Lisu living in Myanmar and Thailand. Before his untimely death at only 52 from cerebral malaria in 1938, Fraser devised a written script for the Lisu nationality (recognized by the Chinese government in 1992) and was instrumental in translating the Christian New Testament into Lisu.”*

To learn more of James Fraser’s life and ministry, read Mountain Rain: A Biography of James O. Fraser by Eileen Fraser Crossman. It’s a short read (270 pages) and you will find anecdotes that both encourage and challenge your faith.

*Overseas Missionary Fellowship International provides more information and has produced a docudrama on Fraser.

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About Ben Kwok

Ben is part of a church plant team establishing the Rouse Hill Church. He holds a Master of Divinity degree. Ben and his wife Diahanna live in Sydney, Australia with their four young children.


  1. lumpy 23 September, 2009 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Good post.
    Have long enjoyed Mountain Rain, cannot recommend it highly enough.
    Watched the DVD last night, it was good…………but the book is an absolute treasure!
    My wife tells me that there is a Lisu Bible here at SIL in Melbourne where we are.

  2. Ben Kwok 23 September, 2009 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    lumpy, didn’t know you were in Melbourne — please add us to your prayer email list if you have one!

  3. RoSeZ 26 September, 2009 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Hey, good post. James Fraser is one of my dad’s favourite missionaries. His story is fantastic!!

  4. Jason Harris 4 October, 2009 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    A friend was given Fraser’s biography several years ago and the excerpts he shared with me were a blessing. It’s a biography I would really like to read before too long.

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