Presbyterian missionary work among the Chinese in Victoria began in 1892
Darcy Island Leper Colony

Alexander Winchester was appointed by the Presbyterian Church to the Foreign Mission Committee in 1892. He had lived in China for several years. Winchester began preparation for this missionary work by examining the Methodist John Gardiner's work in Victoria. (John was the son of a Presbyterian missionary who had been born and raised in China. He had been working to help the Chinese prostitutes in Victoria since 1885). Later Winchester travelled to San Francisco and Portland to study the work of Presbyterian missions there. Armed with this information he returned to Victoria and found an assistant. He chose lay missionary C.A. Coleman who had worked in Canton and was fluent in Cantonese.

For the first two years, the mission attracted few Chinese
The mission offered two types of services to the Chinese. One was an evening school that ran five evenings a week with only about thirty men attending. The second was a Sunday evening religious service held at the Chinese school, which only attracted an average of thirteen men. Additional missionary work was performed at canneries, union mines, and D'Arcy Island Leper Colony.

More Chinese became interested in Presbyterianism once Ng Mon Hing became involved in 1894
In 1894 Winchester concluded that he was not reaching the Chinese because he was not fluent in Cantonese. To improve his skills, he travelled to China to immerse himself in the language. When he was there he met Ng Mon Hing, who was a graduate of the American Presbyterian theological school in Canton and had fourteen years of missionary experience among his fellow Chinese. Ng Mon Hing agreed to help Winchester and continue missionary work in Victoria. By 1895, with Hing's involvement, evening school numbers doubled. Ng Mon Hing was ordained in 1911 and became the first Chinese minister in the Presbyterian Church of Canada.

Alexander Winchester's missionary work included visiting the D'Arcy Island Leper Colony
D'Arcy Island is a tiny 83-hectare island in Haro Strait, East of the Saanich Peninsula, off Vancouver Island. From 1894 until 1924, the island was used as a leper colony. In 1899 Winchester reports that getting to D'Arcy Island was difficult, expensive, and time consuming. One man there had previously been interested in learning about God, but on subsequent visits, when the man realized that praying to God would not cure him of leprosy, he no longer wanted to hear about Him. Winchester's hopes of converting these men were slim as illustrated by his report that "none of the others seemed to manifest the slightest interest in the message." (Mission reports, 1900, pg 152)

In 1900 the Women's Missionary Society of the Presbyterian Church in Canada also began work with the Chinese
Carrie Gunn began her missionary work by first learning to speak some Cantonese from the wife of a Chinese missionary. Then she began to visit Chinese families with the goal of preaching to them. Initially she was met with closed doors, but by 1922 she was running classes for about seventeen women and a primary class for about twenty-four children.

Missionary work among the Chinese met with little success in the late nineteenth century
Firstly, the Chinese population was transient, since they needed to move to find work. Chinese men had "a great desire to learn the English language and to conform to the customs of the country," (A& Proceedings, 1896 pg 61) but, although missionary work took place where these men worked, missionaries complained that they had inadequate time to convey their message and achieve conversion. (Jiwu pg 709)

Darcy Island Leper Colony
Secondly, almost every Chinese immigrant belonged to a clan or to a community organization. These groups, such as the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, provided men with assistance so they did not need social services from missionaries. Also, a new society called the Empire Reform Association developed in 1899 after the visit of an exiled politician, Youwei Kang. Kang had been fighting to change China into a constitutional monarchy and although the reform failed, the Society it spawned gained the support of almost half the Chinese population in Canada within two years. (Jiwu 699) Men in the Empire Reform Association believed that a stronger China would result in Canadians treating Chinese men "with the respect to which they as human beings were entitled." (Jiwu 699) Interestingly, the Presbyterian Acts and Proceeding minutes of 1900 refer to this Association as the "Emperor Protective Society" and note that it was effective in restoring Confucianism and ancestral worship. Also, Presbyterians noted that the society had "made a radical departure from Chinese custom in holding meetings every Sabbath Day in halls with pulpit and platform, with patriotic songs and addresses". (A & P 1900, 151) The timing created competition for the missions and fewer men came to Church services.

Thirdly, there was strong anti-Chinese sentiment in British Columbia at this time. The Presbyterian Church felt that it was their duty to establish a mission for Chinese men but whom they described as being "spiritually destitute." The Presbyterian Church's work was made more difficult by strong racist views spread by politicians and union leaders. People spoke of the Chinese as the "yellow peril," which signified the idea that vast numbers of Chinese would enter the country and willingly work for much lower wages. Racists held that Chinese men will "drive our men from our factories, our farms, our workshops; take the bread from their mouths and compel them to look upon their children ill fed, ill clothed and without prospect of doing better...."(The Yellow Peril, Victoria Daily Colonist, January 20, 1899, pg 4) People who believed the notion of the Yellow Peril supported limits being placed on Chinese immigration and by the late Victorian era discriminatory immigration laws were put in place. This negative attitude created mistrust between Chinese and other Canadians. Negative attitudes also added challenges to convincing the Chinese that the principle of Christianity, namely love, was present in Canadian society. (Jiwu Wang's article pg 712)

Acts & Proceedings (A&P), 1900 :
Acts & Proceedings, 1900, p 151
Acts & Proceedings, 1900, p 152
Acts & Proceedings, 1900, p 153

Mission Reports 1893
Source: Organized Protestant Missions to Chinese Immigrants in Canada, 1885-1923, Wang, Jiwu, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 54, No. 4, October 2003. 691-713