Saturday, October 12, 2013

Search for White Jade & World Vision--the True Story

Tena Holkeboer White Jade World VisionMy wife, Susan Marie, worked for World Vision International (WVI) when I met her in 1981, so WVI has always had a special place in my heart. But imagine my surprise to learn in 2008 that World Vision was founded because of an incident in Xiamen in 1947 involving American missionary Tena Holkeboer, Robert Pierce (World Vision's founder) and an orphaned Amoy girl named White Jade. The subsequent Search for White Jade captured the imagination of Xiamen's people, government and media.

We Remember Auntie Tiger!  In Dec., 2010, I mentioned the White Jade story and Tena in a government meeting on Gulangyu Islet. Prof. He Bingzhong, former curator of the Koxinga Museum exclaimed, "I remember Tena! We all loved her so much--though she was so strict that we children called her 'Auntie Tiger'. When she had to leave Xiamen, my family gave her money for food and clothes; she spent nothing on herself."

5 Days Later... Not only did some people remember Tena, but a couple even remembered Bob Pierce's 1947 visit to Amoy. And only 5 days after that meeting in which I mentioned White Jade, Tena and Bob Pierce, Bob Pierce's daughter emailed to say WVI was preparing for its 60th anniversary and was checking out the White Jade Story. Was there really a White Jade, she asked, and did I think anyone might still remember Tena, or Bob's visit?
Marilee Dunker daughter of Bob Pierce search White Jade Xiamen Gulangyu World Vision International

Chinese Media Seeks White Jade  Two months later, Marilee, daughter Michelle, and 4 WVI people came to Xiamen to seek out White Jade. As I and Chinese reporters wrote articles for the local papers asking for help in tracking down White Jade, "The Search for White Jade" became one of the local media's most widely covered stories. Strangers on the street stopped me, even months afterward, asking, "Did you find White Jade?" But Tena had helped many children, and at the time she could not have known that the incident with White Jade was special, or would have such far reaching consequences. Today, no one remembers which child was White Jade. In 2011, Tena's niece sent me many of Tena's letters, journals, photos, etc.--but again, there was no mention of White Jade. Still--we are certain the incident happened because both Bob and Tena remembered it, though they told various versions of the story, which roughly went as follows:

Bob Pierce Founder of World Vision InternationalThe White Jade Story  Bob Pierce, an enthusiastic young evangelist, gave several lectures in Amoy, and spoke to Tena Holkeboer's school children. Little White Jade said she wanted to be a Christian, and Bob told her to tell her family about it. She did--and was beaten and kicked out of her home. (I've known people that happened to even in the 1990s).

Tena Holkeboer White Jade World Vision AmoyWhat are You going to do about it? The next day, he made his last visit to Tena's Gulangyu Islet school. She met him at the door with a battered, crying little girl in her arms. When Bob heard what happened, he asked, "What are you going to do with her?"

Tena, aptly called Auntie Tiger, shot back at him with, "What do you mean what am I going to do with her? I already have 10 children to feed. What are you going to do about it?"

Bob gave her all of the money in his pockets, about $5, and promised to send more each month to care for little White Jade. Three years later, while witnessing the devastation in Korea and the plight of orphaned children, he started World Vision, which over the decades has helped millions of children all over the world--thanks to the seed planted in his heart by an encounter with an abandoned and battered little girl named White Jade. Bob Pierce later started Samaritan's Purse International, which has also helped millions, and countless other ministries have since adopted Bob Pierce's idea of "adopting" a distant child through monthly support.

Tena Holkeboer White Jade World Vision Xiamen Amoy Gulangyu Kulongsoo Kulangsu
Related Post: Bob Pierce, World Vision, and his Jephthah Vow

Related Post: An Amoy Tribute for Lorraine Pierce--Spiritual founder of World Vision International and Samaritan's Purse

Bill Brown Xiamen University

1 comment:

Bob McNeill said...

Bill: long time no see. I recently heard the story about White Jade from some World Vision people and was intrigued by it. I have some friends here who lived on GuLangYu at the time and needed to pass them something to see what they knew. This article was perfect. Small world.