Dr. Erik Hjalmar East
Erik Hjalmar Österholm was born
on February 2, 1866 in Vikbolandet, Styrestad Parrish, Östergötland, Sweden.
This is near Norrköping.
The original family name was Österholm. In English Öster means "One
from the East", and holm is "island" or
When his father joined the Swedish army, the family name was shortened to Öster, When Hjalmar's older brother, Fred, immigrated to the United States in 1882 and applied for citizenship, he changed his last name to East, Hjalmar did the same when he came to the United States.
After being educated in the parish's public schools, at age 14, Hjalmar left home and learned the blacksmith trade. Three years later, he worked on sailing ships as a fireman and oilier. Later, back on land, he found a job in a blacksmith shop. During this time, he corresponded with Fred, who asked him to come to the United States. After arriving in Philadelphia in April, 1885, Hjalmar traveled by train to Kansas City, where he found a job in the blacksmith shop of Fred's employer, Union Pacific Railroad.
Fred was "under the influence of the Holy Spirit and surrendered and accepted Jesus as his Savior. This led to my conversion!" In November, 1885, Hjalmar was converted in Armstrong, Kansas, and baptized in January, 1886, in Kansas City, Missouri, by C. A. Sandvall, wrote Hjalmar in Burma Manuscript.
Hjalmar worked in Kansas City for four years before years before moving in July, 1889, to Portland, where he was a blacksmith for five years with the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company railroad shop.
While in Portland, he attended what is now Temple Baptist Church. The church records indicate in 1892, he was the church's Sunday School secretary.
In fall 1895, Hjalmar asked his shop foreman for a letter of recommendation to attend seminary. He asked his foreman if his life has been such that he could recommend him for preparation to Christian work? The foreman replied, "...If any man is worthy, you certainly are." He wrote a wonderful, supportive letter.
Following his quest to serve Christ, Eric entered Swedish Baptist Theological Seminary at Morgan Park Academy, in 1895, in Chicago, Illinois. It was the preparatory school for Chicago University. He also attended Moody Bible Institute for one year. Hjalmar is listed in the class of 1886, in the book "Seventy Five Years--Bethel Theological Seminary."
He then entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating from the seminary and being ordained in Kansas City, he attended the Kentucky School of Medicine in 1898, then the Kentucky University School of Medicine in 1899, 1900, and 1901, graduating with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1901. East family records say he was president of his class. He fulfilled his internship at Skin and Cancer Hospital in New York City.
In early 1901, he was appointed as a medical missionary in Haka, Chin Hills, Burma. The appointment was by the Northern Baptist Missionary Union, later to become the American Baptist Missionary Union, today the Board of International Ministries of the American Baptist Church.
During the summer of 1901, Hjalmar traveled among Baptist churches to, in his words, "stimulate the missionary spirit among them." During the fall and winter of 1901, he did postgraduate work in Chicago, at Chicago Polyclinic and also in New York City.
On December 11, 1901, he departed Boston on a ship and it arrived a short time later in Liverpool, England. Then, after a ship change, he arrived January 26, 1902, in Rangoon, India, He waited there and did missionary and medical work for the Baptist in India until his medical supplies came, he repacked and sent them ahead of him.
He arrived in Haka on March 21, 1902, and immediately began his evangelical Christian work and tending to the Chin people's medical needs.
But, Hjalmar's initial missionary and medical efforts were impacted by ill health, In early April, 1902, he had an acute case of appendicitis. On June 3, 1902, just 75 days after arriving, he left Haka on a stretcher with weeping villagers following him. He left Rangoon on June 24, 1902, and arrived in New York City on August 7, 1902. Five days later his appendix was removed. He recuperated quickly, but the next month he contracted malaria. While still recovering from his health problems, The Baptist Mission gave Hjalmar permission to visit churches in Missouri to raise money to build a small hospital in Haka. His fund-raising was successful. In addition to a hospital, a missionary home was also built.
Another success came while he was in the United States. Hjalmar was introduced to Emily Johanson Johnson in Chicago. She was born January 28, 1877 in Sundsvall, Sweden and raised in Moline, Illinois. Emily was working at Marshal Field and Company department store when they met. Hjalmar was taking a course at Chicago Polyclinic Hospital. They married on August 5, 1903 at Chicago's First Swedish Baptist Church, of which she was a member and church organist.
The History of the American Baptist Chin Mission, said Hjalmar "realized that only with a wife beside him to help could he make the full impact that was needed to turn Chins of both (genders) to Christ. He had made a fine choice, and Emily East certainly became a missionary in her own right, especially in working with women and children." They were a wonderful team. The fact they both learned and spoke the Haka Chin language helped them rend to needs of the Chin people.
The newlyweds sailed from New York City on September 23, 1903, for Burma by way of England, according to the History of the American Baptist Chin Mission. The arrived in Haka on December 28, 1903.
In those days, it took six weeks for Hjalmar and his new bride to travel to their Chin Hills home. The trip, included riding ponies on mountainsides, which was especially challenging for Emily as she was expecting their first son, Allan.
During their time in Burma, three of their six children were born all delivered by Hjalmar. Sons, Allan Wallace, Paul Warren and Kenneth Hjalmar were the first Americans born in the Chin Hills. May 20, 1904, was the birth date of Allan, the first born..
Health problems plagued the Easts: In late 1908, Emily and sons were forced to return to the United States as Hjalmar diagnosed her with incipient appendicitis. Mother and the East boys arrived in New York City on December 21, 1908. They continued to Emily's parents' home in Chicago. Later, she had a successful surgery.
In September 1910, Hjalmar was stricken with heart troubles. As a consequence, he said goodbye to Haka forever. He departed Rangoon on December 10, 1910. On January 27, 1911, his ship arrived in New York City, where Emily greeted him at the dock. They traveled on to Chicago, where the family was united. Alan was age six, Paul was four, and Kenneth two.
As Hjalmar's health improved, he felt he could return to Burma. In April, 1912, he wrote the mission offices: "In May I plan to go to Oregon with a view of locating there until I shall be able to resume my beloved work in Haka. Our hearts are mostly there and the good news from the Hills makes us feel that our lives out there were not in vain; ever district we visited is giving forth harvest. Praise the Lord!"
However, returning to the high altitudes of the Chin Hills and the risk of malaria infection finally convinced Hjalmar he could not return to Haka.
In total, Hjalmar served more than nine years in Haka and Emily almost five. Their time in Burma was eventful. He baptized the first Northern Chin believers in Christ and established the first Baptist church among them, according to the History of the American Baptist Chin Mission. He also helped establish the first Christian organization, The Chin Baptist Association. They gave their love to the Chin people and the Chin's returned the love.
In 1912, the family moved to Portland. Daughters Eleanor Charlotte, Marjorie Emily and Elizabeth Eva were all born there, As with their brothers, all were delivered by their father. When the East family returned to Portland they reunited with Temple Baptist Church and Hjalmar had a successful medical practice in Portland. Hjalmar died in1939 and Emily in 1943. Both are buried in Portland.
The original account of Dr. East on this page was from the book "Seventy Five Years--Bethel Theological Seminary." In 2003, East family members revised the account, using as sources, "History of the American Baptist Chin Mission:" by Rev. Robert G. Johnson; "Burma Manuscript" by Rev. E. H. East, M.D.; and a brief biography, written by Emily East for her children. The original account is incorporated into the revised account with permission of Tim Marsh, one of Dr. East's grandchildren.
The following is text copied from a website of Burma history.
Rev. Carson and his wife started their mission works among the Asho-Chins in 1888. They chose Thayetmyo for their mission station. But, they moved their mission station to Hakha, Chin State, in 1899. The British administrators already were there for 10 years. Unfortunately, the British administration and jurisdiction were exercised only among the Chins in the Northern part of Chin State of the Union of Burma (Myanmar). The British empire was not extended into the Southern part of Chinland in those days. They called it "unexplored or unadministrative area". The Carson's dedicated themselves for education, evangelism, literature, agriculture, and other kinds of development programs. The Karen teachers and evangelists helped them in their programs. Dr. Tilbe, a friend of Arthur Carson, reinforced their efforts to establish their new mission field in 1900-1901. They were joined by a medical doctor, Dr. East and his wife in 1904. Dr. East was not only a physician, but also a real evangelist. Rev. Carson died in 1908 just after he finished creating a written language for the Chins in the Roman alphabet system. He was buried in Hakha.
There are three major places within the Union of Burma today,
the Asho-Chins, the Arakan Chins (now Rakhaing Chins) and the Hill-Chins of where Dr. East
and family served.
Note: A century of Chin Christianity is just a reminder that all of us need to know "How lovely are the messengers that preach us the Gospel of Peace."
The Karen people of north west
Thailand are one of several hill tribe ethnic groups which also include the
Hmong and Lisu tribes. The Karen number some 400 000, and there are 5-6 million
Karen living over the border in Myanmar (Burma). The history of the Karen
in Thailand can be traced back to the 12th century.
To visit the Karen teachers website click on the link.
"If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there you hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast."