Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

Roy Falls at Norris' gravesite

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Story of 'MOTHER SWEET"

Dr. Norris Held Meeting in Shanghai, China.
China Missions were an Integral part of Norris' ministry.
(In this photo we have highlighted, left to right: Mrs. Norris, "Mother Sweet", Dr. Norris)

The legacy of J. Frank Norris would not be complete without proper recognition of a whole host of people, who at one time or another were allies of his ministry. None were so compelling as the story of “Mother Sweet”.

It is both a romantic and heroic tale worthy of historic preservation.  “Mother Sweet”, as she was affectionately known among her many admirers, was engaged to be married to Dr. W. S. Sweet.  And to hasten the story so that you may know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, Dr. Sweet and "Mother Sweet" indeed became husband and wife and spent the better part of their life as missionaries to China. But before the wedding was consummated, William, confided to his soon to be bride, that his life-long desire to answer the “call” as a missionary, was asking too much of a sacrifice to ask of his bride-to-be, knowing of the rigors which lie ahead.

Upon hearing of his explanation to cancel their engagement, “Mother Sweet” said she had been thinking of doing the very same thing and she herself was planning to call off the marriage. The rest of the story was a life of dedication enduring for over 40 years until the passing of “Mother Sweet” in the mid 1940’s.

In the mid 1930’s, “Mother Sweet” severed relationship with her home missions support (up north) due to the encroachment of modernism that was infiltrating the churches during this period. She then became aware of the ministry of J. Frank Norris from whom she received support, joining forces with two young missionaries, who joined her in the mid 1940’s.

The heroics of “Mother Sweet” happened in 1937, long after the death of her husband. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the Japanese empire had already begun a merciless bombardment of the coastal region in and around the city of Hangchow. Through it all, “Mother Sweet” refused offers of evacuation, choosing to suffer along-side the people she had learned to love. True to her faith, “Mother Sweet” positioned herself on the out-skirts of the city, with her bible in hand and her eyes toward heaven, she was an easy target for the Japanese pilots. When word reached the Japanese headquarters inquiring about this “strange woman”, orders were given to cease the bombing of Hangchow.

Two other persons of interest are an integral part of the “Mother Sweet” story. The name John Birch received prominence by virtue of the “John Birch Society”, named so in memory of John Birch. But the “real” John Birch began with his association with “Mother Sweet”. He, along with Rev. Oscar Wells, sailed from the U.S. in July 1940. Had it not been for the outbreak of World War II, the mission efforts in China would have had a more happy ending.

On another video, I have told in brief the “real” John Birch story. While his missionary efforts were curtailed to a great extent, John Birch’s remaining years were spent as an intelligence officer for the famous Flying Tigers. Dr. John Rawlings is quoted by saying General Claire Chennault claimed John Birch, was more responsible than any one man in winning the war in the Pacific. His true life-story is yet to be told.

Rev. Oscar Wells remained with “Mother Sweet”, refusing to accept evacuation from the warfare. However, those two were later interned by the Japanese. Working with the State department, J. Frank Norris aided in a release and final departure from China. Dr. Oscar Wells, now deceased, is the father of Shannon (Wells) Lucid. She is the lady astronaut who spent 6 months in space about 10 years ago.

Her firsthand information, no doubt could add much in detail about these past episodes.

Roy Falls
January 5, 2011

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