Yu Ligong was born into a Christian family on May 1st, 1920 in Shandong Province, China. His mother, who played a huge role in his life, was a “Bible Woman”; she would often leave her boys with their grandmother and father while she went off to revival meetings.
In 1931, at the age of 11, while attending meetings during the Shandong Revival, Yu trusted Christ as his personal savior and at the same time sensed God’s leading to serve as a minister of the Gospel. In 1938, stepping out in faith, Yu left Shandong with his father and eldest brother and went on foot to Wuhan province. They only had about $2-3 among them. In 1939, when he was 19, his first sermon was given at the Alliance Church in Guilin, China, where his father was killed by a Japanese bomb. This event strengthened his resolve to make the Good News heard, in the hope that God would purify the souls of the invaders as well as the Chinese. It was also his desire that the world be filled with love rather than hate.
Yu attended the Alliance Bible Seminary in Wuzhou, Guangxi, graduating in 1942. In 1943, the Rev. Zhao Junying (??? Calvin Chao) asked Yu to join him to minister on university campuses in the inland parts of China. This experience shaped his emphasis on student work for the rest of his life. He participated in the College Student Revival in China from 1944-1949, and assisted in establishing the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in Chongqing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and Guangzhou. Sometime during this period, he caught a glimpse of his future partner. He said to his brother upon seeing her for the first time, “I feel sorry for whoever marries that girl; she looks like trouble!” In 1946, he became the one that married “that girl,” Xu Zhennan (??? Cornelia Hsu). In 1948, she gave birth to a daughter, Margaret.
Margaret was named after a missionary who had a great influence on the Yu’s family. The day before Yu’s father was killed, he went to Margaret Oppelt and said, “Please take care of my boys if anything happens to me”. At that time Margaret Oppelt wondered why he would make such a request. Why would he want an old single missionary woman to care for his two sons? The next day she knew.
The Moses Yu family arrived in Oakland, California, on Thanksgiving Day in 1949, then moved on to Columbia, South Carolina where their son, Michael Robert, was born in 1951. Soon after, Yu received his Bachelor of Biblical Education from Columbia International University, then known as Columbia Bible College. Seeking further education, he went to Wheaton, Illinois where he graduated from Wheaton College with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. From 1954-1958, he began his pastoral ministry at the Church of the Nazarene in San Francisco. In 1958, he was asked to become the 1st Principal of the Singapore Bible College. He felt it was a great honor, but realized that God had other things in mind when they were denied an extension of their visa. Always the student, he went back to the United States and entered the Baptist Divinity School, now known as Baptist Theological Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California, from which he received his Master of Divinity. In 1960, their youngest child and second daughter, Gloria, was born.
During the next 15 years, he pastored and established several “Gospel” churches. The first was the Berkeley Gospel Church, now known as Hilltop Gospel Church. Eventually, seven churches had been founded by him in the Bay Area and Fresno.
Though he was content to be a pastor to all these churches, in the early 1970’s he sensed God’s leading to start a Chinese Seminary. In 1973, Christian Witness Theological Institute was established in Berkeley, California, with seven students. By the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the school had received degree granting authority from the State of California and were able to issue Bachelor and Master’s degrees. Yu served as the President for 20 years. The Seminary is now known as Christian Witness Theological Seminary. In 1990, with the help of the Rev. Bi Yushu???? Clarence Pi), a seminary in Brazil was also established.
During the annual revival meetings in Hong Kong, several Christians from China asked Yu to go to China. He was in poor health at the time, and instead of going himself, he promised to record his sermons on VCDs. After recording 60 VCDs, he returned home. The VCDs were not compatible with any equipment in the United States, so he needed assistance in fulfilling this promise. This help came when, from 1999-2003, he was asked to act as the interim pastor for the Dallas Chinese Fellowship Church. With the enthusiastic backing and encouragement from several members of the church, Yu fulfilled his promise of recording the New Testament. A total of 510 VCDs were recorded during an eight-month period. While working on this project, Yu was also battling and then recovering from prostate cancer. Also during this time, the Irving Chinese Fellowship Church (now called New Life Gospel Church) was established. In 2001, Yu traveled to Johannesburg South Africa, to receive his Th. D. in Missiology, being the oldest graduate at the age of 81. Again, the Dallas Christians were instrumental in achieving this goal, for they provided support for him to finish his thesis for the Th. D., and helped proofread the manuscript.
The last few years of his life were filled with final last project, called “Little Shepherds.” Yu traveled around the world, training those who yearned to do more for God.
Throughout his life, Yu was always reading and writing. He enjoyed all kinds of theological books, Biblical archaeological publications, and The Economist. He authored many volumes, including a bilingual hymnbook, a Bible atlas, the Yu Study Bible, books on prayer, and other kinds of Christian literature. His love of Biblical archaeology was put to the test whenever he would lead a tour to Israel, of which he conducted over twenty-five, not including the private tours he gave to Mrs. Yu and Gloria.
In his private life, he was a loving and doting grandfather to 4 grandchildren, an affectionate and very humorous father to 3 children, and a generous and devoted husband to his wife, the “girl” who looked “like trouble”. He had an entrepreneurial spirit and was very goal oriented. He began running in his late 50’s and had a dream of running the Honolulu Marathon. In all, he competed in seven marathon races, five in Honolulu, one in New York and one in San Francisco.
In November 2009, though suffering from pneumonia and asthma, after having prayed about the matter, Yu traveled to Hong Kong despite the risks to his health to preach at a retreat for Christians serving in student ministry (among them forty were from different parts of China). Combining the word of God with testimonies from his rich life experience, he taught with understanding and patience. His personal instruction and his exemplary life deeply touched those who heard him, kindling in them a sincere desire to serve and to offer their lives wholly in dedication to the Lord. He thus accomplished what he called “the mission of passing on the heritage.”
After preaching at the Christian Witness Center’s Winter Conference in Missouri at the end of 2009, Yu went to Honolulu, Hawaii, to have a pacemaker implanted and to convalesce for three months. Immediately after his pacemaker was installed, his dizziness waned, and his energy level soared. Unfortunately, other factors came into play, causing him to be hospitalized three times. His strength was sapped by recurring drug-resistant pneumonia, asthma, and the debilitating treatment for aspergillosis. Unable to fight on, he succumbed on March 29th.
Moses Yu’s spirit of faithful service and accomplishing the work of the Kingdom through prayer set an example of what it means to be a servant of God for all who follow.
Adapted from The Life of Moses Yu by Yu Ling and Xu Zhennan, 2010.
- Yejin Tianming by Yu Ligong, Taipei, 2001.