Rev. Hugh Ritchie 李庥 牧師
Hugh Ritchie 1840-1879The Wind beneath the Wings
Shortly after Dr. James Maxwell rooted his medical ministry in southern Taiwan, the Presbyterian Church in England decided to send a missionary to help Maxwell in much needed church ministries. It was Rev. David Masson (馬大闢牧師 1838-1866) who began his journey to Formosa about a year after Maxwell settled in Tainan. Unfortunately the ship Masson took sank in the troubled water of South China Sea. In the midst of sad news, the church started looking for a substitute missionary. There came Rev. Hugh Ritchie (1840-1879) who was just ordained, newly married (with Eliza C. Cooke 伊萊莎．庫克) and accepted the mission all within the year of 1867.
The journey began on July 14, 1867, barely two weeks after their wedding. They arrived in Kaohsiung on December 13, 1867. Among the first things he did was to learn Taiwanese and Hakka. Amazingly he was soon able to preach with simple Taiwanese in local churches, and became the first pastor to baptize the believers in Toa-Sia (大社/神岡) area as early as September 1871. That was the year Canadian missionary Rev. George L. Mackay arrived Taiwan. Ritchie worked with Mackay in southern Taiwan for two months before encouraged Mackay to start his mission in Tam-Sui, northern Taiwan. Their agreement was that the British missionaries would stay south of Tai-Ka river (大甲溪) and Canadian missionaries in the north.
With his long range vision, Ritchie started the Preachers Training Center (傳道師養成班) as early as 1870 in Kaohsiung area. The Center turned into the first Taiwanese higher education institution known as Tainan Theological College under the direct supervision of Rev. Dr. Thomas Barclay.
Between 1869 and 1874, Rev. Ritchie opened up 13 churches throughout the central and southern Taiwan. In 1875 Ritchie extended his mission to the Eastern Taiwan. Within few years, he had helped other missionaries into the aboriginal tribes besides the Pi-Po’ (平埔族) and Hakka (客家族.)
Ritchie looked beyond the routine missionary tasks. He and his wife Eliza thought of the education the women seldom received while men took it for granted. Unfortunately he never lived to see the establishment of the first girls school in Taiwan. He died of Asiatic cholera at the age of 39 in Tainan Sin-Lau dormitory (台南新樓宿舍.) Earlier, his younger son also died of chorela. With his last will in mind, Rev. Ritchie was laid to rest with his son by a hill near Kauhsiung where they first came ashore.
Even though Ritchie was the very first ordained minister/missionary at the beginning of the Presbyterian church in the second half of the 19th century, among many others, such as Maxwell, Mackay, Barclay and Landsborough, he was the least known. There was no known memorial church for Ritchie. And according to the Taiwan church history report, his tomb became anonymous during the graveyard relocation project because nobody seemed to acknowledge or claim to be his next of kin.
Besides his mostly quiet yet wide spread ministries, Ritchie also left something for the church in Taiwan. Ritchie wrote a simple yet touching hymn named “Jesus, My Best Friend - 我有至好朋友” using an Welsh hymn melody. The hymn is still available in the Taiwan Presbyterian church hymn book, hymn #285.
Eliza Ritchie (1828-1902) continued Rev. Ritchie’s unfinished business in Taiwan, served as the first lady missionary of the British Presbyterian Church from 1880 till she retired. In 1884, with the help of another British lady missionary Miss E. Murray (馬姑娘,) Eliza's life savings and donations from England, the Sin-Lau Girls School (新樓女學校 later known as 長榮女中) was established. Eliza should also be credited for the beginning of the Taiwanese Church Women Mission Fellowship (女宣) – one of the most effective and dynamic church groups.
Rev. and Mrs. Ritchie were really the wind beneath the wings of the early church in Taiwan. Directly and indirectly their contributions and sacrifice should always be noted as the foundation of the Taiwanese church and beyond.