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Uygurs: Tornissa and the Unlikely Letter


Uygurs [also spelled “Uyghurs;” pronounced “WEE-gurz”] are a people group living mainly in northwest China. Almost all Uygurs are Muslim. China’s communist leaders want to control all religions in their country. Officials are often suspicious of Muslims or Christians who take their faith seriously.

Much has been reported in the news about internment camps for Uygur Muslims in northeastern China. However, Christians, Buddhists, Kazakh people, and other perceived threats to the Communist government are also imprisoned in the camps.

Learn more in Bold Believers Among China’s Uygurs, available in the Downloads section.

Read below the story of a Uygur girl who learned about Jesus from missionaries in the 1930s.

In the late 1800s, Swedish missionaries and other Christians worked among the Uygur Muslim people in Xinjiang, China. Then during the 1930s, a great persecution of Uygur Christians began. Missionaries were kicked out of Xinjiang.

Tornissa, a Uygur girl, was raised by Swedish missionaries in a Christian orphanage. She was 14 years old when the missionaries were forced to leave Xinjiang.

After the missionaries left, Chinese officials put Tornissa in prison for two years. She was treated badly in prison. She thought she would die from the harsh treatment. But God healed her after she was released.

When she felt better, Tornissa visited the city officials to ask why she had been put in prison. She learned that her crime was, “being brought up by the Swedish mission!”

Tonissa continued walking with the Lord despite all her hardships. She often thought about the Christian women who cared for her at the orphanage. She called them her “mothers.” Tornissa decided to find out if they were still alive.

In 1967, 30 years after the missionaries left, Tornissa wrote a letter to one of the women that said: “As the trees of the Himalayas are ever green, so your love for me, Mother, is ever green in my heart. Are you still alive?”

(The Himalayan Range is a mountain range in Asia.)

Tornissa wrote the letter in the Uygur language. She wrote on the envelope, “Swedish Mission, Sweden.” She wrote no name on it, and no proper address. There was little chance that the Chinese post office would send out the letter. It seemed even less likely that anyone who remembered Tornissa would receive it.

Surprisingly, the letter was delivered to a Swedish mission. Workers sent it from one mission office to another until finally one of Tornissa’s “mothers” read it. How happy she must have been to find out that Tornissa still followed Jesus!

Tornissa and her Swedish mother wrote loving letters to each other for almost 20 years. In 1985, Tonissa visited her mother in Sweden for a joyful reunion. After a lifetime of faithfulness to God, Tonissa died in 1991.

(Source: From Sweden to Xinjiang: Caravans of Hope, a RUN Ministries DVD)

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).