Passengers on the “St. Paul”

As those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know, one of the unexpected discoveries of my trip across Sichuan with Noel Piper in March, was the existence of two airplanes, the St. Paul and the St. Peter, which were used by the Lutheran World Federation to transport missionaries around China in the 1940’s. I wrote about these planes in a post titled “The Flying Lutherans.”

While I was in Minnesota this summer, I had the chance to meet with a woman who had been a missionary in China in the late1940’s and who had flown on the St. Paul. As you can imagine, I wanted to get her story. This is how she told it to me:


Our ship, the “Marine Lynx” deposited us all in Shanghai. My husband and I didn’t know a soul in that dark, complicated, crowded and unknown Chinese city. Our supervisor up in Qingdao had sent word by telegram that he had not been able to finalize arrangements for our arrival, that we were on our own, but “in God’s hands,” of course. Not having access to the instant communication that we have today, you can imagine what a helpless feeling it was to receive such news.

Some of our fellow passengers from the ship made arrangements for us to stay with their co-workers in Shanghai while we awaited our luggage to be off-loaded from the ship and cleared through customs. Every day for a week my husband, along with the other passengers, would go down to the harbor to try to locate our luggage in the area known as the “go-down.”

There are two things I remember about our time in Shanghai.  One was the bitter cold. My toes began to swell and hurt and I even developed ‘chilblains,’ something I had never experienced before.

The other thing I remember was the hospitality of the people who took us in. Even though we were in a foreign country, we were together with brothers and sisters. In the evenings we had lively times of singing, and they fed us better than we could have ever dreamed.

Once we secured our luggage from the ‘go-down,’ the next question was how to get to Qingdao, our planned destination? My husband learned that the Lutherans owned 2 small planes named the St. Paul and the St. Peter, which transported people around the country.

One of the planes (the St. Peter?) had actually crashed the week before while trying to land in Qingdao, a city on the coast surrounded by mountains. Everyone on board perished. Unbeknownst to us, my parents and friends in Minnesota had heard about this crash and assumed that we had been on board. Some friends even said, “well, it is too late to pray for them; now we need to pray for their parents.”

But we were safe.

We finally made it onto the St. Paul, along with 2 other families and flew north together marveling at the wonderful friendships and shared experiences that God had blessed us with.


flying lutherans


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3 thoughts on “Passengers on the “St. Paul”

  1. Amazing story! Thanks for tracking her down because it brings life to what once was “true” in China before 1949. Also, the strong connection of Minnesotans and Lutherans in China. I’m sure you have more to share from this woman, I really hope you do.