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Norman and Amy McIntosh

Norman McIntosh 1934-1935 / NZBTI Diploma, Queen Street Campus
Amy McIntosh (neé Carter) 1933-1934 / NZBTI Diploma, Queen Street Campus

When people in Geraldine heard that young farm hand Norman McIntosh was going to an Institution in Auckland, some thought he was going away for treatment! Entering the NZ Bible Training Institute in 1934,[1] Norman found his two years rich and fulfilling. A call to overseas mission service developed into a conviction that the people of Tibet would be his mission.

Amy Carter, a teacher from Wellington, had started at NZBTI the year prior with a clear call to China. Norman’s shyness, and the strict segregation of the sexes at NZBTI, meant that Amy graduated without knowing of Norman’s interest in her. A delayed departure to China found Amy at a Children’s Special Service Mission house party, also attended by Norman. There, he mustered the courage to declare his feelings. They sailed for China in September 1936 as an engaged couple.

They attended separate language schools before being assigned to Fengxian, a small town in north China. On 7 July 1937 the Sino-Japanese war erupted, and for the next 15 years Norman and Amy served in a country in conflict.

After marrying in early 1938, the couple (known as ‘the Macs’) settled in the mountain town of Shiquan. Norman worked with a national evangelist among impoverished people bound by fear, and under threat of attacks from outlaws. Their first child, Linnet, was born during a cholera epidemic where thousands died. Eighteen months later Norman took over responsibility for the central station of Hanzhong, the nerve-centre of mission activity for the whole area. It was also the target of incessant air raids by Japanese bombers. Norman constructed a dugout in the garden where the family (now with second child Averil) could shelter.

Two and a half years later the family moved further north to Borden Memorial Hospital in Lanzhou. Norman filled a desperately needed role as Business Manager of an 80-bed hospital with adjacent leprosarium. Son Alistair was born, before the Macs had their first furlough after seven strenuous years in China.

World War 2 kept the family in NZ for three years, with two more children, Gavin and Iona, born. Norman conducted deputation work for CIM around the country. The cessation of WWII enabled a return to China in May 1947. This time there was the grief of separation, with the two oldest girls going to Chefoo boarding school while the others travelled back to Lanzhou. With the Communists now the aggressors, Norman dealt with shortages of money, food, and medical supplies. During this time he learnt basic medical skills which were to come in useful in their next assignment.

In May 1948 the Macs travelled to Hualong in the Tibetan foothills, to prepare for the opening of a medical clinic. There were no known Tibetan believers in the area. Once established, the Macs moved to Gui-de, a busy trading post on the Yellow River. Known as “Uncle Doctor”, Norman’s medical skills gave him entry into Tibetan villages nearby. By this time the Communists were making rapid advances through the country, and finally reached Gui-de – ‘liberating’ the mission’s radio the next day.

In late 1950 CIM made the decision to withdraw all personnel from China. ‘Foreign imperialists’ were no longer welcome. Then Norman was accused of being an American spy, of robbing people, and causing the death of many patients. The Macs were put under house arrest, along with colleague and NZBTI graduate, Mary Milner. Norman was interrogated daily, sometimes all day. By that time their four eldest children had evacuated from Chefoo to NZ. After eight long months the Gui-de missionaries received an exit permit for Xining, the last occupied mission station before the coast. In January 1952 they started an 11-day journey to Hong Kong – the police inspecting their possessions at every stop. The Macs, with daughter Iona, and Mary Milner were the last CIM Kiwis to leave China – with this news broadcast on NZ national radio.

After that traumatic experience, the Macs never anticipated leaving NZ again. They settled in Gore, where their sixth child, Lesley, was born. Meanwhile, in Malaya, communist terrorists were attempting to overthrow the British, and the government had forcibly moved sympathetic Chinese squatters into guarded villages. A call went out from the British commander for 100 missionaries to go and live in these new villages. Praying that God would raise up missionaries became a conviction that they themselves should go, and in early 1954 Norman, Amy, and young Lesley, sailed to Malaya. They lived in Gemas Behru, under curfew, among suspicious villagers. Amy ran a Sunday School and Norman preached from outside their front door. After a gruelling year, the Macs were asked to move to Singapore to head up OMF’s literature distribution work. This began an entirely new chapter in their mission service.

Photo Left: Marion Powell, Norman McIntosh, Amy McIntosh, Marg Bush Photo Centre: Norman and Amy's wedding

Photo Right: The McIntosh family

For the next 15 years Norman fulfilled a vision to see Christian literature become readily available –running the Evangel Book Centre in Singapore; then managing OMF Publishers, Philippines; and then establishing a Christian bookstore in Singapore. Having already authored three books, Amy was asked to write a radio script for the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC). This triggered a long-term radio ministry, writing scripts, delivering programmes, and later training script writers. She also taught Christian journalism at the Far Eastern Bible Institute Seminary, and later started a correspondence course for Christian writers.

From 1971-1976 Norman served as the OMF Director in NZ. In official ‘retirement’ he continued as OMF’s South Island representative, and the couple took up temporary pastorate roles in 11 churches from Auckland to Stewart Island.[2] In 1993 Norman passed away, aged 81, and Amy three years later at age 84.

[1] When Norman initially applied to NZBTI he received a decisive reply from Secretary, J.O. Sanders: “You’re such a young Christian ... we suggest you wait two years and then reapply”. However, convinced that this was the step God wanted him to take, Norman replied that he could not wait. He then received a letter of acceptance.

[2] Material for this article on Norman and Amy McIntosh was taken from the book written by their daughter, Linnet Hinton, Never Say Can’t (OMF, Singapore), 1987.

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