Life Turns

Olga, Nils, Dagny and Robert.

They gave their all to China and the belief that they could help people by teaching them about God. They went there knowing that this was their calling, and it was to become both their life and death. Nils, Robert and some of their children would never return to Sweden, instead they were buried in China.

I remember when I first saw the photo of my great grandfather Robert’s grave in China. It was impressive. It rose high towards the sky, brick by brick, just like the cumbersome work of the missionary himself.

Denna bild har ett alt-attribut som är tomt. Dess filnamn är robert-berglings-grav-m-dagnyedla-och-martin.jpg
I found this photograph with my great aunt Dagny-Edla and my great uncle Martin, standing by the impressive grave in a book by my great grandmother Dagny.

After having talked to a relative with more knowledge about the conditions in China I understood that this grave was no more. It had been torn down and the beautiful plaque stating Roberts name along with two of his children, was gone.

I gave up on the thought to go visit the site and try to compare the memories from all the letters and photos with what is left of it today.

But then.

You know how life is always going – can’t be done/ can be done, forever changing back and forth leaving you clueless most of the time?

Well, the missionary society that my great grandparents worked with, still exists. Once a month they publish a newsletter describing what happens with their work in China, Mongolia etc. This June, there was one article in particular that caught my eye.

It stated that there is a Chinese man – Liu Hong –  in Yuncheng who has started to collect everything about the missionaries active in that region from 1888 and onwards. The first missionary to open a station in Yuncheng was Erik Folke, who was also the founder of this missionary society. My great grandfather Robert was assigned this particular station in 1895, and opened an asylum to help people in need to get rid of their addiction to opium. He and his wife Dagny also opened both a boy- and a girlschool there.

Liu Hong is part of the Christian congregation in Yuncheng and has collected and translated many items to tell the life stories of the missionaries who were working there. On top of that, they have organized a garden where they are now going to put gravestones with the names of the missionaries who died there – and both Robert and Nils have gotten their stones back!

Part of a photo in EÖM:s newsletter, June 2020, by Liu Hong. Robert in the front left corner, and Nils in the far right corner.

Looking at the Chinese website describing this amazing project – of course I don’t understand anything it says – I can only marvel at the size of the collection of photos. And I recognize my own great grandparents in several photos. What a treasure!

From the newsletter I understand that this collection will be saved for 20 years – so that should give me plenty of time to plan a trip 😊, even though Life might take me for another turn before then…

10 thoughts on “Life Turns

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  1. Dear Therese, a most intriguing story of your great grandparents. Leave the door of opportunity always open. As you do Forge YOUR Trail – love Jaz in Sydney xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Jaz, thank you! It is true you have to keep going whilst knowing nothing might happen the way you think. All we know is that life is pretty unpredictable:) I hope all is well with you! Love, Therese


  2. What a remarkable turn of events! Maybe someone there will know the family of Li-Niang? It seems fateful that you decided to blog about your ancestors in China at the same time that Liu Hong was undertaking his memorial project.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it?! I’m baffled that this is going on over there at the same time as I am digging into my family history. And perhaps there are photos there, that complete my picture of their time in China. I am pretty sure the Christians working on this project must be connected to those who worked with the missionaries at the station or were influenced by them. So there’s a high possibility there are people alive with “the Chinese side” of the story. That is intriguing, since all I have is the viewpoint of the missionaries – which might be a bit one-eyed…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Some interesting new information could turn up! And your blog will become part of the story being told. Sometimes we do things for our own personal reasons, and then realize we’re part of a much larger story or community, and those connections make our personal efforts more meaningful. (I feel that way sometimes about my blog, which makes it much more rewarding.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I love that way of seeing things! If you are passionate about something, chances are someone else is going to be passionate about that as well. I can thoroughly see that with your topic. And how amazing to connect with others around the world!
        With this discovery I also felt something new. Through my research I have become close to my great grandparents and gotten to know them of sorts, and the fact that this man is now celebrating their lives with new headstones really touched me. I didn’t realize how much that meant to me. The fact that there is a place where they are still visible to the world is important, I find. There is something deeply human about that.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi, Therese. It’s good to see a new post from you! I enjoyed the post and the subsequent discussion in equal measure. I hope things work out that you’re able to take that trip to China.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Liz, thank you! I do hope to be able to devote more time to my research this summer, and perhaps get in touch with Liu Hong somehow. I don’t expect to go to China very soon though, but with a 20-year plan I am sure to make it some day 😀
    Until then I am just very excited to see what else turns up along the way. As Brad pointed out, one thing tends to lead to another… So nice to hear from you – I hope you’re doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

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