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Xi Shengmo

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Xi Shengmo (c. 1830-1896, Traditional Chinese 席勝魔, Simplified Chinese 席胜魔), also known as Pastor Hsi, was a prodigious church planter and pastor in the Shanxi Province of northern China. (In Chinese transliteration, X represents a sound halfway between s or sh in English.)

Shengmo was born in Xi Liaozhi in a village near Linfen. He was born into a wealthy family and trained as a Confucian scholar. For a while he did well as a lawyer. His first wife passed away, but even after he remarried he became troubled and turned to philosophy and religion for answers, including Taoism, which purported to offer immortality. During his study of Taoism, he became seriously and chronically ill. He was persuaded to turn to opium for relief, but became hopelessly addicted to it. Drought plagued the land for several years, bringing famine, starvation and cannibalism. Missionaries arrived from England to deliver aid, preach the Gospel. The rain came and the famine was eased.

The group most opposed to the missionaries were the scholars. To try and reach the scholars, the missionaries offered prizes for essays on spiritual topics. Xi won the top prize and the missionary, David Hill, won his confidence by his godly demeanor. Hill employed Xi to help him with literary matters. Xi became a Christian by reading the New Testament and Hill helped him to overcome his opium addiction. Xi felt, however, that his own earnest prayers were the most important factor for overcoming.

He established a medical clinic, with a chapel in back for evangelism. He then established refuges for the cure of opium addicts in one place after another. These refuges proved to be a very effective force for evangelism and helped open the door for the entrance of Christianity in places that would have otherwise remained closed. The foreign missionaries helped Xi somewhat with such things as periodic Bible training for the native evangelists and sometimes Western missionary physicians.

He was sacrificial in attending to the needs of others, although he tried to keep the refuges self-supporting. His wife sold all her jewelry to finance Christian work. One time when their missionary work was desperate for funds, Xi noticed another literary contest. This time he entered poetry, which won the prize and also initiated within him the writing of many hymns.

But perhaps the most notable thing about him was the way in which he led out in the Christian missionary work in his area. The general pattern was for Western Christians to enter an area, raise up churches and then train local people as pastors and evangelists. Xi Shengmo took hold of the work with such skill and energy that the missionaries stood aside, to a considerable extent, as he established clinics and churches.

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