John Stronach was born in Edinburgh in 1810 and studied at Glasgow Theological Academy. Serving with the London Missionary Society, he arrived in Singapore in March 1838 with his wife, Margaret, and brother, Alexander. He worked as secretary for the Singapore Tract and Book Society, helped with English services, and worked on translating the New Testament into Malay, while Margaret ran a Malay girls’ school.
His close friend, Samuel Dyer, joined him in Singapore in 1842. They fit together “like the pinions of a clock” (Broomhall). Stronach sailed with Dyer and Alexander to Hong Kong on July 18, 1843 (a month after the Treaty of Nanking) to attend the LMS Conference of Missionaries and the Convention of Missionaries on Bible Translation. Stronach and Dyer both fell ill that year with malaria, which eventually took Dyer’s life, while Stronach was spared. John and Alexander buried Dyer next to Robert Morrison in Macao and wrote to his loved ones about his last hours.
In 1844, the Stronach brothers and their wives moved to a new mission station in Amoy (Xiamen). Working along with Alexander and William C. Burns, and joined by Carstairs Douglas, he pioneered a vibrant Chinese church there, which at fifty-two members was the largest of all the Chinese congregations at the time. He worked closely with the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (later the Board of Foreign Missions of the Reformed Church in America), and they made their cooperation official in 1855. One of the few early converts resigned from his post as a military official to become a preacher for thirty-eight years. Seventy-seven were baptized in 1855. Margaret passed away on her way to England in 1846, but John continued serving there for a total of thirty-eight years, leaving only from 1847-1853 to work on Bible translation in Shanghai. Though he began on the Delegates’ Committee, after disputes over translation, he joined Medhurst and other LMS missionaries in translating the New Testament into Mandarin. It was completed in 1857, but was soon superseded by a more accurate version.
Stronach was a gifted, scholarly man who had mastered the Chinese classics. He was able to paraphrase scripture in rhythmic idiomatic wen-li and defend the faith by quoting Chinese classics when educated Chinese disputed with his sermons. He worked for 30 years without taking furlough, then retired to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1878, where he died in 1888.
- A.J. Broomhall, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century: Barbarians at the Gates, 277-8, 280, 308-9, 407.
- A.J. Broomhall, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century: Over the Treaty Wall, 162.
- A.J. Broomhall, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century: If I Had A Thousand Lives, 37-8.
- A.J. Broomhall, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century: Survivor’s Pact, 220.
- Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China, 246, 262, 264, 430.
- John Roxborough, “Stronach, John,” Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson, (1998).
- R.G. Tiedemann, Handbook of Christianity in China, Volume Two: 1800-present, 153-4.