Jehu Lewis Shuck (pronounced Shook) was the first American Baptist missionary to China. He was born in Alexandria, Virginia, on September 4th, 1812 – the same year Adoniram and Ann Judson departed for Burma. He was converted and baptized at age 10, but little else is known of his childhood years.
An excerpt from "Pioneering for Jesus – the Story of Henrietta Hall Shuck (1930 edition)," gives the following account of Mr. Shuck:
"… there are two things in his young manhood that need to be noted. At this time Judson in Burma was sending back thrilling accounts of his work among the heathen, and Luther Rice, whom the board felt financially unable to maintain on the foreign field, was going up and down the land from one end to the other, spreading missionary enthusiasm. "
"…young Shuck had been stirred to his very depths, and was debating in his mind the question of volunteering his services in China. He was a student of theology at the old Virginia Baptist Seminary, from which sprang Richmond College and the University of Richmond. Meanwhile, he had joined the Third Baptist Church of Richmond, now Grace Church. At a certain service, when an offering was asked for foreign missions, a young man sitting in the rear of the church secured a piece of paper, or cardboard, wrote something on it, and dropped it in the collection plate. Later, when the offering was being counted, it was observed that there was much silver, many notes, and even some gold; but that which attracted the most attention was a bit of paper on which was written, "Myself, J. Lewis Shuck." Of silver and gold he had practically none, but such as he had he gave– even himself."
Shortly after this encounter, Jehu Shuck and Henrietta Hall were married. In a whirlwind month, the couple were wed on September 8th, formally commissioned for China on the 10th, began their journey to Boston on the 11th, and departed America's coasts on the 22nd. This young couple, aged 23 and 18 respectively, were tasked with the great responsibility of opening the first American Baptist mission in China. Upon landing on the shores of Macao in September of 1836, Henrietta was snuck inland - her presence creating significant curiosity as the first American female missionary to dwell there.
Though they were young, the Shuck's service to the King was marked by great activity and genuine fruit for the gospel of Christ. Jehu's missionary character was thus,
"He scorned noise and bustle, but delighted in genuine, constructive work. He laid broad, deep and strong foundations. While the converts under his ministry included even the humblest and most ignorant… he reached also the more intelligent, enlightening and influential classes, and some of these developed into invaluable native preachers and helpers. Wherever Mr. Shuck laboured in China, his work was of this solid and substantial character."
After Henrietta died in 1844, Shuck returned to America on furlough with their five children. While there, he married Ms. Eliza Sexton and left three of his children to be educated. Jehu and Eliza settled in Shanghai upon returning to China and established another Baptist mission there. In 1851 Eliza too died, leaving the heartbroken Jehu alone with three children in China. In departing the mission field for the final time in 1852, a heartbroken Mr. Shuck closed the book on a remarkable chapter of his life. Behind him was the fruit of his labours – the three churches he planted, four church buildings and a school erected, the many Chinese manuscripts he had written, and dozens of converts. Ahead were more opportunities for service; however, as he accepted an appointment to serve as missionary to the Chinese people living in California in 1853. In 1855 he began a Chinese-speaking Baptist church in Sacramento – the first in America.
In 1863 the respected missionary moved to Barnwell, SC, for retirement. Shortly thereafter he died at the age of forty-nine. The following lines flowed from his pen.
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