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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,228

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This is the grave of Bill Wallace.

Now, I had never heard of this guy before and I didn’t go to this cemetery to visit him. But when you see something like this, I mean how can you resist?

All I can say about this guy, who isn’t very well known, is that in Southern Baptist Land, a place I do not recommend spending much time in, he’s seen as a hero to the cause. A martyr to Christ against those ungodly Chinese commies. Here’s this piece from some sort of website to great missionaries, as if a missionary can really be a great person.

For a young surgeon in the middle of an operation, bombs dropping on the hospital might prove distracting. Dr. Bill Wallace, however, remained committed to his patients and his calling to medical missions, in spite of the war raging around him. He completed the operation and made plans to continue the care of patients at Stout Memorial Hospital in South China for as long as possible. His presence, and that of other missionaries, changed the negative thoughts many had of the foreigners and their hospital. The Chinese had heard missionaries preach sermons before, but Jesse Fletcher wrote, “in Bill Wallace they began to see one, and that made a difference.” Many began to treasure his medical skills, but also his commitment to Christ.

The ones who were not touched by Bill’s compassion and love were the Chinese Communists. Bill represented the things that the Communist regime wanted to wipe out. Based on evidence planted in his room, Communist authorities arrested and imprisoned Bill as a spy. Those who were able to visit him reported that he was being interrogated and tortured. He urged his friends, “Go on back and take care of the hospital. I am ready to give my life if necessary.” Bill died in jail less than two months later. In addition to his missionary colleagues and family in the U.S., he was mourned by thousands of Chinese. They risked punishment by placing a monument on his unmarked grave with the words, “For me to live is Christ, Phil 1:21.”

I really don’t know what to even say here. So I will say this. The entire idea of a missionary is repulsive to me. I can think of almost nothing less conducive with modern liberal values than missionaries. The entire idea of a missionary–the raîson d’etre–is that I have the truth and you don’t and if you don’t listen to me, you are doomed to Hell. It’s a really revolting situation. Moreover, these missionaries were absolutely agents of American imperialism. In the earlier days, really before many of the missionaries were Baptists, the missionaries usually came from middle and upper class backgrounds and were writing home to their family about all the great economic and political opportunities in China and Hawaii and other places that Americans then sought to take advantage of.

What I do know about Wallace is that he was a doctor in China since 1935 after attending the University of Tennessee and getting his medical degree. He claimed to be saved by God while working on the family car as a teenager. I don’t know if that means it dropped on his head or what.

This means that Wallace was in China during World War II. In the missionary world, which is like a different planet from where you and I live, there’s a whole literature on the man, but I am not going to subject myself to that literature for this grave post. It’s just a moment to consider the weird world of missionaries and martyrdom. The missionary bosses wanted him to come back home during the Korean War since the future of their missions was obviously over, but Wallace refused and he died for it in a Chinese prison. Well, good for him. Sometimes in life, you get what you ask for.

Bill Wallace is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee. Obviously, this is not the first grave site.

If you would like this series to visit other missionaries, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Peter Parker is in Washington, D.C. and Adoniram Judson is in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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