In Yanghwajin Foreigners’ Cemetery in Seoul are 145 graves belonging to Christian missionaries and their families who dedicated their lives to Korea during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
These missionaries profoundly influenced Korean society, not only by establishing hospitals and schools, but by being God’s agents in far-reaching spiritual revival which transformed the soul of the nation, abolished class hierarchy and laid the framework for remarkable cultural and economic development.
Typifying their spirit was Ruby Kendrick (pictured), a Texan nurse who died only months after arriving in Korea in 1908 aged only 25. Her words, ‘If I had a thousand lives Korea should have them all’, have inspired literally thousands of Korean Christians since to leave home and country and serve abroad in Christ’s name.
Ruby Kendrick was born to John Tyler Kendrick and Kate Barnett Kendrick in Plano, Texas on January 28, 1883. When Ruby was four, her mother died. John Kendrick, Ruby, and her two sisters moved in with his two sisters, Mrs. Rachel Klepper and Miss Ellen Kendrick.
RubyKendrickRuby Kendrick graduated from Plano High School in 1903.
Interested in pursuing missionary work, she attended Scarritt Bible and Training School in Kansas City, Missouri for two years. After graduating, Kendrick spent a year as a teacher of Bible at the North Texas Training School in Terrell, Texas and also served as a pastor’s assistant at the church there. She spent the following year (1906-1907) at Southwestern University taking additional courses to acquire additional skills for missionary work.
In 1907 the Ladies’ Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South appointed Kendrick to serve five years in Korea. She set sail on August 29, 1907. In Korea, she was a language student and Sunday school teacher. Less than a year later, on June 20, 1908, Ruby Kendrick died of appendicitis at Severance Hospital in Seoul. At her request she was buried in Korea. Her last words home were, “If I had a thousand lives, Korea should have them all.”
In the letter she wrote just before her passing away, she wrote following words
“Dad, mom! This land, Chosun, is truely a beautiful land. They all resemble God. I see their good heart and zeal for the gospel, and I believe that in few years it will be a land overflowing with the love of Christ. I was children walking over 10 miles on barefoot to hear the gospel and the love of God in them encourages me.
But the persecution is getting stronger. Two days ago, three or four of those who have accepted Christ less than a week have been dragged away and were martyred. Missionary Thomas and James were also martyred. There were orders from the mission board to return, but the most missionaries are in hiding and worshiping with those whom they have shared the gospel with. It seems that they are all planning to be martyred. Tonight, I have strong desire to return home.
I remember you mom who resisted to the last moment of me leaving the port because of the stories of the hate of foreigners and opposition to the gospel.
Dad, Mom! Perhaps, this may be the last letter I will be writing. The seed that was sown in the backyard before I came out here must be filling our neighborhood with flowers. Another seed bear many flowers in the land of Chosun and they will be seeds to other nations.
I will bury my heart in this land. I realized that this passion for Chosun that I have is not mine but God’s passion toward Chosun.
Mom, Dad! I love you”