The history of the SBC includes thousands of missionaries, pastors, workers, and others who often get lost to history. My goal is to highlight a few of those people in order that we can be encouraged and inspired by their lives and sacrifice.
Robert Beddoe was born to a prominent Baptist family in Dallas, Texas September 9, 1882. His mother was the daughter of RC Buckner, the founder of the Buckner Orphans Home, and his father A.F. Beddoe was both an ordained minister and a doctor of medicine. His mother was later the elected leader of the Texas WMU organization, and his family constantly involved in Baptist work in Texas. He was baptized at the age of 11 by his grandfather in 1893 at Washington Ave Baptist Church in Dallas. He later surrendered to missionary service under the preaching of GW Truett, the famous pastor of FBC Dallas. It’s no surprise that Robert chose to follow his father’s footsteps in becoming a doctor, and then as a medical missionary was able to combine both of his father’s passions.
Beddoe graduated from Baylor Medical School and entered the mission field in China in 1909. After two years on the field, he married Louella Houston in Shanghai in 1911. Dr. Beddoe served as superintendent of the hospital in Yingtak, as the chief surgeon of the Baptist Hospital in Canton, and for a time was the secretary-treasurer for the Orient region of the Foreign Mission Board. In 1918 he moved to be on staff at Stout Memorial Hospital in Wuchow.
There was a great work to be done in Wuchow and Beddoe and his growing family gave themselves to the task. He began to expand the hospital, adding floors, wings, terraces, and living quarters for staff. He raised the money to do all this work himself along the way and was a gifted journalist who used the power of his words to express to those back home the challenge in China. God blessed their ministry and faithfulness. They had not been in Wuchow long, however, before Beddoe had to learn again to trust in the grace of God.
Robert Stanley Beddoe was almost four when he wandered away from his baby sitter and into the construction zone of the hospital. He wandered under some loose timbers used in the pouring of concrete that fell and crushed him. Everyone on staff at the hospital worked valiantly to save him, but he lost his life on February 8, 1917.
Beddoe continued to work, even in the middle of his great grief. The reports of the hospital from 1919 show great progress in the work being done and celebrated the goodness of God, but behind the scenes, his heart ached over the loss of his son.
In 1920 he recorded the following.
“Now God, in his fathomless wisdom, has brought this great sorrow to our hearts, which instead of turning us from our purpose, shall only serve to increase our zeal and efforts to serve the people of China— our adopted county. We can no longer in truth be called foreigners for now the bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh is mingled with the dust of this land. To our gracious Lord and to those who love his appearing, we renew our pledge for service to the limit of what strength may be given us.”
Beddoe did what many who face tragedy have done: turn to God for comfort and continue to work for His glory. Still, he continued to face trials and difficulties, all while trying to do what God called him to. In 1927 he was forced to leave the mission field due to very serious eye trouble. After several operations and treatments, Beddoe was sent back to be the director of Stout Memorial in Wuchow in 1934. The work was great, but he gave himself to it as he always did.
Beddoe wrote about the great need in China:
Some days I can hardly stand up under the strain. These suffering people, and our suffering co-missionaries. The strain breaks out in the most unaccountable times and ways. Some days back I was walking in the rain on muddy, filthy paths after sending a cablegram to you. My heart was bleeding as I thought of recent events. I passed a woman. With her was a girl of eight or nine years. The child was dressed in a few rags and an old sack. She was as thin as a sparrow. The weather was cold and she was drawn together against the wind and rain. She carried a small basket and I noticed her picking up bits of straw, chewings from sugar cane, tiny bits of bamboo and so forth, for fuel. To keep up with her mother she had to travel in a slow trot. Yet, there was a smile on her drawn face and she glanced at me as at a friend and said “American gentleman, friend of China.” Well, the whole picture just broke my heart. I thought of my little girls. In a flash the whole picture of their sheltered lives passed before my mind’s eye. I thought: What if that were my daughter! Without volition the tears streamed from my eyes and I stopped in the rain and wind, leaning against a machine-gun pill box and wept. O God in heaven how can we stand it?
The work was so much so that at times it became almost unbearable. He wrote the Foreign Mission Board soon after arrival in 1934 desperately asking for the help of another surgeon. Near the same time, the FMB received a letter from a young surgeon requesting to be sent on the foreign field. The arrival of Bill Wallace in China was an answer to the prayer of Robert Beddoe. The young doctor was skilled at surgery but not at administration, and so Beddoe let him do what he excelled at, all the while teaching him to lead the hospital as well. Wallace led the hospital during the furlough of Beddoe and became the full-time director of the hospital himself upon returning from furlough in 1942. Wallace owed a great debt to Beddoe as he taught him to be a leader, both spiritually and administratively. Wallace later died in a Chinese jail cell in 1951 and inspired millions through a book and movie about his life.
Beddoe left China in 1947, but the people that he labored for never left his heart. He continued to support mission work from his new home in Oklahoma, as well as training others to go. Beddoe served faithfully in a local church where he was a gifted musician. After the death of Bill Wallace, Beddoe penned the hymn “Let not your heart be troubled,” which he dedicated to the persecuted Christians from China.
Into each darkened life he’ll come
Bringing the light of God’s holy Son
Dying He’ll save you
Living He’ll keep you
Trust Him to lead you safely back home
Robert Earl Beddoe followed the Son safely back home on January 19, 1952.