Rev. Paul Han (Han Ying Chan), 97, overcame poverty and political turmoil in China to devote his long life to service in God’s kingdom.
Han was born to a family of nine in a village near the city of Senyang, which now has a population of eight million. His father was a scholar in calligraphy and Chinese classics. After finishing four primary years of school in his village, he continued at a boarding school in Shenang. High school did not follow for Han after the conquering Japanese closed it down.
But God moved in mysterious ways. At the home of his grandmother, Han met a British missionary through whose ministry he became a believer. Following a Bible conference in Shenang, his calligraphy training paid off, and he became the personal assistant of Rev. Kao, the Scottish-educated speaker.
Hardships were not foreign to the young believer. Serious illness made it necessary to end his promising studies in Beijing. Studies at the North China Theological Seminary (NCTS) in Tengxian, Shandong, followed. His English skills landed him a job at a girls’ school, which made it possible to sponsor his younger brother and sister. During this time he met Ji Xiu Ying (Margaret), who would become his wife and partner for 76 years.
In 1937 the Second Sino-Japanese war started with Japan invading eastern China. The seminary was closed and Han, along with his sister and his fiancée, fled to Shandong. Eventually he returned to NCTS and availed himself of a number of teaching opportunities. More house arrests by the Japanese and the Communists followed.
In 1947, Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Del., welcomed Han as a student, and he graduated three years later. But disappointments followed. The American government discouraged him from returning to China, and so the three-year separation from Margaret was not yet to be ended.
He acquired a master’s degree from the University of Delaware in l952 and completed his course work for a Ph. D. at New York University.
In 1954 he was appointed to teach Mandarin at the U.S. Army Language School in Monterey, Calif. With the help of a highly placed military officer, Margaret received a permit to come to the U.S. with their two children, ending a ten-year separation.
While in Monterey, the Hans befriended some Christian Reformed people, which led to contact with Christian Reformed Home Missions. Later Paul was invited to pastor the Chinese congregation of Hyde Park in Chicago.
With the encouragement of his wife, Han gave up his secure teaching positioning at Monterey and accepted the appointment. His ministry was singularly blessed and became the center of a widely known Chinese ministry in the metropolitan area. To this day, Hyde Park CRC continues to be a vibrant, inclusive faith community that includes a good number of American students.
Han retired in 1983. He passed away on July 21, 2013, and was predeceased by Margaret on January 26.
They are survived by their children David Han, Mary and Alvin Compaan, Luke Han, and Dorothy Han, along with 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. A granddaughter preceded them in death 2011.