Minnie E. Tack
Minnie Elizabeth Tack was born April 18, 1899, near Cokato, Minn. At around the age of seventeen, while listening to a revival-style pastor at her family’s church, Tack accepted Christ as her savior. In 1919 she enrolled in the Lutheran Bible Institute in Minneapolis, where she had her first sustained exposure to missionaries.
Certain of her call to China, Tack broke off her engagement to a young man in Cokato. The Board of Foreign Missions of the Augustana Synod offered Tack a call, in July 1921, and she departed for China that September.
Tack’s first year in China was spent attending the North China Union Language School, where she learned Mandarin Chinese. She was then ready to join her station in Yuhsien, Honan Province. Rapid—and then cataclysmic—changes were to mark the China of her day. In her mission field she found that the Chinese Christians segregated by gender during worship, but this practice would soon end. Tack herself had a hand in effecting change locally. In 1923 Tack founded a school for middle class girls at Yuchow—and insisted that the girls remove the bindings from their feet.
Back in the U.S. from 1926 to 1929, Tack’s fervor for mission work in China did not abate, and she sought lecture opportunities to enlighten the U.S. public. Battles were still underway in Honan Province when Tack returned for her second term of service in October 1929. Tack recollected how the early 1930s witnessed a period of religious fervor and revival among Christians in Central China, and she never forgot the fervent prayer meetings. Her second term in the field ended in May 1936.
Tack returned for a third term in Honan Province in December 1938, remaining until April 1944. During this term she taught short courses in villages near Yuhsien, teaching the new Chinese script and the Bible. In April 1944 the Japanese invaded Honan Province and U.S. missionaries were instructed to leave the immediate war zone by their government. As she had done before, Tack spent her three years away from China in 1944-1947 speaking to U.S. groups about China.
I just loved to hear about China...and I knew the Lord was calling me to China.
Tack’s fourth term in Honan Province began in March 1947 and was destined to be her most dramatic as the Communists were about to sweep the missionaries out of mainland China. At 5:00 a.m. on November 3, 1947, Tack awoke to the sound of knocking on the door of her mission in Linju. Communist soldiers accused her of hiding government (Nationalist) soldiers in the mission. She led them through all the mission buildings to prove otherwise. When Tack and the Communist soldiers exited the mission several hours later the sun had risen—and government forces still on the city walls began shooting at them. The Communists fell to the ground but ordered Tack to remain standing. For five minutes bullets whistled around her, with some grazing her hair. Finally someone on the government side recognized Tack and the firing ceased. After the fall of Linju, Tack relocated to Hsuchang, also in Honan Province, but she was forced to flee again. The Communists would soon complete their conquest of Central China and Tack would never return to her beloved Honan Province. Tack’s grief at leaving mainland China was compounded by the fact that she had to leave behind a nine year-old Chinese orphan girl whom she had informally adopted.
Tack’s missionary personnel file reveals that by late 1964 she was weary after nearly fifteen years in Tsun Wan, Hong Kong, and no longer felt effective there. She made inquiries about retiring and returned to the U.S. in 1965. Though already having reached the standard retirement age, the Board of World Missions of the Lutheran Church in America permitted Tack to undertake a seventh term (August 1966-July 1969) as Director of Religious Education at the Fanling Lutheran Middle School (New Territories, Hong Kong). She thereupon returned to the U.S., where her retirement became official July 11, 1970.
These personal papers consist mainly of photographs taken by Minnie E. Tack while serving as an Augustana missionary to China and Hong Kong from 1921 to 1969. Also present are four bound pocket notebooks with handwritten entries, several photocopied letters, clipped feature stories from U.S. papers commemorating Tack’s missionary work and the attainment of her centennial year, and scanned photographs sent to her in 2000 from her former Hong Kong parishioner, Daniel Tsui, showing him in Hong Kong, with Tack, and at the Nobel Prize ceremony.