Mei Ling was born into a poor farming family in Xinning in Guangdong Province, on March 15, 1851. After both parents died while he was in his teens, he migrated to Portland, Oregon in October 1872. There he worked as a household servant in the home of Civil War General O. O. Howard, a noted Christian. By 1877, he had become a Christian and opened a night school for other Chinese immigrants, training them in English, citizenship and the Christian faith. In 1882 Mei Ling sought church sponsorship to help him manage the growing operation. He found a good match and began a life-long partnership with the Woman’s Missionary Association (WMA) of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, which had been seeking to begin an educational outreach to Chinese on the West coast. In 1883, they sent a superintendent for his school, and Mei Ling joined the church, continuing to serve the mission as assistant superintendent, teacher and interpreter. Soon a new building housed the school and a new church.
In 1889, Mei Ling helped the WMA of the “United Brethren - New Constitution” open a mission in China on the island of Henan [Honam] Island, the south bank of the Pearl River just opposite Guangzhou city on the north bank. (Canton Christian College would move nearby in 1904). Mei Ling married the granddaughter of the Baptist Rev. Wong Mei and she went with him on his return to Portland in 1890.
In 1899, there was a transfer of funding and sponsorship for the Portland school and church to the “United Brethren - Old Constitution.” Mei Ling was ordained in 1902, the first Chinese person to become an ordained elder in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Mei again served as the mission superintendent and raised funds to buy a new building in 1918-21. In 1924, although already 70 years old, Mei Ling worked with Canton Christian College (later, Lingnan University) Professor Zhao Enci and his wife, Wen Jizhen, to help the WMA in launching an educational mission for the United Brethren - Old Constitution Women’s Missionary Association also in Henan Island near Guangzhou. Two years later, Mei Ling died after serving Chinese immigrants in Portland for nearly fifty years. But his work was carried on there under his assistant until 1931, and the work in China under the Zhaos until 1952.
- Luke S. Fetters, “Sovereign Foundations and Educational Antecedents to the Hong Kong Conference, Church of the United Brethren in Christ,” paper for a conference entitledMissionaries and Translation: Sino-Western Cultural Exchange in Early Modern China, 1850-1950 held at Peking University in May 2004.
- Luke S. Fetters, “The Church of the United Brethren in Christ Support of the Community Education Work of Moy Ling among the Chinese in Portlnd, Oregon, 1882-1931: Implications for a Missiological Understanding of Partnership,” unpublished dissertation completed in 2005 at Ball State University Graduate School.
- Luke S. Fetters, “Moy Ling.” Salt & Light: Lives of Faith that Shaped Modern China, Volume Two. Carol Lee Hamrin & Stacey Bieler, editors. Pickwick Publicaitons (forthcoming).