Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, January 01, 2010

Fraser and Pollard 

Went to an amazing art show last night at the 798 Art District. It has to be the most extraordinary art display I have ever seen. Mostly oil on canvas, but also some avant-garde stuff like the one pictured.

The artists are all Christians from the Lisu and Miao minorities, and the show is to honor two men, James Fraser and Samuel Pollard. Pollard and Fraser were both missionaries with the China Inland Mission. What they have in common is that they both developed a written alphabet for the indigenous group among whom they were called to work.

James Fraser worked among the Lisu tribesmen in Yunnan Province. Because they had no written language, he developed the Fraser alphabet in order to translate the New Testament into their language

Before Fraser went to Yunnan, the Lisu were a wild, savage group. Largely because of the work of Fraser and Isobel Kuhn, a later missionary who was inspired by his work, the Lisu today are widely recognized in China as a Christian tribe. Kuhn is probably better known than James Fraser, because she was a very gifted writer, so she is most responsible for making the rest of the world aware of mission work among the Lisu. I think the reason Fraser was being honored is because he is the one who designed the alphabet that gave them the scriptures.

Samuel Pollard was a missionary to the Miao (Hmong) people in Guizhou Province. Like Fraser, he developed an alphabet in order to give the Bible to the Miao people. That alphabet is still used today. Pollard's alphabet is unique in that he incorporated the tones of the language into the structure of the script. He was aided by work that had been done in translating the Bible into the language of the Cree Indians in North America.

Perhaps the most striking work of art was a large modern art display. Four tons of rock salt, a row of giant candles, and two wooden coffins used by minority people. The salt is there because Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth." The candles are there because Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world." And the coffins are there to honor two men who gave their lives to bring the light of the gospel to the Miao and Lisu people. Now that is what I call a statement.

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