David Howard Adeney (1911-1994) served with the China Inland Mission (CIM) as a missionary in China. But that was only part of what he did.
I am amazed at the number of changes that took place in his life, and how he waited on the Lord each time and saw the Lord birth something new for the kingdom of God. Missionary life involves frequent and often difficult changes. David Adeney lived on the extreme end of that reality.
His parents worked in Romania, however, his mother went back to the UK for his birth. David later completed an MA in theology at Cambridge University. He then spent a year at the CIM training school in London. Those early changes were quite normal - Bedford to Cambridge and then to London. But not much after that was normal.
David moved to China in 1934. After language school, he was sent to work in rural Henan, to a place forty miles by bicycle from the nearest railway station, where he engaged in rural evangelism and church work. Not easy for a recent Cambridge graduate!
By now married to Ruth, he left for furlough in the United States in 1941. During his stay in the U.S. he worked in InterVarsity for a year. Two years later he moved to England, where he served first as Prayer Secretary and then as Youth Secretary for the CIM, encouraging prayer for China and inspiring young people to commit themselves to overseas missions work.
He moved back to China in 1945, again involved in young people’s work as the associate general secretary of the China InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. “The next five years witnessed a remarkable turning to God among students whose lives had been shattered by the war with Japan and then the civil war.”
In 1949, following the victory of the Communists in China, Adeney “continued to serve among the students, who were coming under increasing pressure to renounce their Christian faith.” Finally, he and Ruth left China in 1950 to avoid causing trouble to their Chinese friends.
Back in the US, Adeney worked with the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship for the next five years. A high point was his organising and leading of the Fourth International Student Missionary Convention at the University of Illinois (“Urbana”). “These meetings have been credited with motivating thousands of young people to offer themselves for overseas missionary service.”
In 1956 he relocated to Hong Kong as the IFES associate general secretary in the Far East. Adeney also served for two years as part-time interim pastor for Emmanuel Church.
He moved to Singapore in 1967, where he founded the Discipleship Training Centre to train university graduates in theology. Then back to Hong Kong for six month in 1976 to teach at the newly-opened China Graduate School of Theology (CGST).
Finally, the Adeneys moved to Berkeley, California, where David eventually died in 1994. But not before he embraced one more major transition. As China began opening up to the outside world under Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, he made frequent trips to China to connect with old friends and to gain information and insights into the church in China. This resulted in China Consultations and China Awareness Seminars, informing Christian leaders and others of the latest developments in China and of the fast growing churches there.
I came to know David at this latter stage of his life because he approached me in about 1981 and asked me to consider the position of OMF’s China coordinator in the UK. He held the equivalent position in the USA. In that role I had the privilege of serving with him, at one point driving him round the UK for him to speak on China ministry at different churches across the country.
How could David Adeney keep growing ministries and impacting lives through so many changes and interruptions?
Firstly, he was clear in his life direction. He had “a three-fold ambition: to know Christ, to please Christ, and to preach Christ.”
Secondly, that vision was sustained by a disciplined spiritual life. “Daily prayer and Bible study were practices formed early in his life. These sustained and nourished his soul. David Adeney believed that guidance for life’s service depends essentially upon the closeness of our fellowship with the Lord Jesus. For that reason, he always placed emphasis upon the spiritual qualifications needed for missionary work.
He said that there is no substitute for deep devotion, an experience of the power of the Holy Spirit, and sacrificial service. There must be times of very close fellowship with the Lord, including periods of worship in the Spirit and fervent intercession for others.”
That walk with Jesus was his bedrock. He lived by it productively through every change that he faced.
Source: G. Wright Doyle (Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity).