Son of the owner and publisher of the Toronto Globe, Jaffray converted under the preaching of Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) founder A. B. Simpson. He was trained in Simpson’s New York Missionary Training Institute and was sent to Wuzhou, Guangxi, China, in 1897. This became his headquarters for 35 years, and from there he soon began to serve as leader of all C&MA work in south China. In addition to extensive mission administration, preaching, and evangelistic itineration, he helped found the Wuzhou Bible School (later the Alliance seminary in Hong Kong) and served as its principal. The Chinese-language Bible Magazine, which he edited and for which he wrote many of the articles, was read in Chinese communities all over the world.
In l9l6 Jaffray opened for the C&MA the first Protestant mission field in the French colony of Annam (now Vietnam), directly to the south of Guangxi. He served as its superintendent, visiting frequently from Wuzhou. In l928 Jaffray surveyed the need for C&MA missionaries in the East Indies (Indonesia) and sent Chinese missionaries to serve in Borneo. In 1931 he moved with his family to Makassar, Celebes, Indonesia. From there he led a rapidly growing mission until 1942, when he was arrested by the Japanese, who had captured Indonesia. He was kept in a series of internment camps until he finally died of illness and malnutrition just before the Japanese surrender.
Jaffray married Minne Donner in 1890, and had a daughter, Margaret; both were effective participants in the programs he led. The enormous energy Jaffray manifested in his work was expended even though he had been weakened from childhood by both a heart condition and diabetes.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- A. W. Tozer, Let My People Go: The Life of Robert A. Jaffray (1947, 1990).