J.O. Fraser and the Lisu people in Burma and China.
There was an air of mystery about this talented man who had chosen a primitive pioneer’s life over the applause of an English concert hall and the wealth of an engineering career. Some said that it was wrong for J.O. Fraser to waste his musical and engineering gifts on the mission field. Yet, Mr. Fraser was greatly used of God through prayer and loving labor to turn multitudes of the Lisu people from their slavery to demon-worship to following Jesus Christ.
After mastering the difficult Lisu language, Fraser developed his own “Fraser Script” (a Lisu alphabet and grammar) and translated the Scriptures into the tribal dialect. By 1916 there was a move of the Spirit among the Lisu, resulting in sixty thousand baptisms within only two years. The Lisu church was now sending its own people to evangelize other villages and baptize new disciples. The movement continued to grow and eventually became one of the largest tribal Christian bodies in the world.
By about 1918, Lisu people started to come to Christ in the broader region of the China/Burma/Tibet border. By the 1930s, the movement among the Lisu was expanding rapidly. Other missionaries came to help, but it was native evangelists who did the main work of spreading the gospel to their own people—perhaps in part enabled by Fraser’s deliberate practice of encouraging them to be self-supporting.
The Lisu church continued to grow during the 20th century, at times at a spectacular rate. The Chinese government acknowledged that by the 1990s, over 90% of the Lisu in China were Christian.
Fraser left China for a short respite in the late 1920s, married, and returned. He died of disease shortly after his return and did not see the large part of the results of his prayers and efforts. His primary contribution to the success among the Lisu is considered by many to be his earnest praying. When he prayed it was called by those who worked with him “travailing prayer.”
What motivated Fraser in his work, and especially in his praying? He saw the many millions of unreached Chinese and the mere handful of missionaries there to minister to them. But great as was the need for more missionaries, there was an even greater need. Fraser saw that those missionaries and the indigenous Christians in China needed to be endued with far greater power.
Likewise, Fraser was burdened because the Church at home in Europe seemed to be making so little real impact on the world. So, he prayed. J. O. Fraser is remembered most of all for his devotion to prayer for the Lisu people, the church in China, and church of our God around the world.
Image of Lisu church via gokunming.org