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Selles, Albert H. (1895-1967) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Selles, Albert H. (1895-1967)

Historical Note:

Albert Hendrikus Selles was born in Kampen, Utrecht, the Netherlands on June 19, 1895. In 1910, at the age of 15, Selles and his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Holland, Michigan. At an early age, Selles' mom often told him stories of people around the world that suffered from spiritual hunger. These stories stuck with Selles as he grew up. In 1913 Selles made his confession of faith at Central Avenue Church of Holland. Selles knew he wanted to prepare for a career in missionary work, so he attended Calvin College and continued on with the Calvin Theological Seminary. He graduated with his diploma in 1925. After graduation, Central Avenue and Fourteenth churches call upon him to become their China missionary, and Selles gladly accepted. Also in 1925, Selles married Trena Blom, and together they studied at Kennedy School of Missions in Hartford, Connecticut.

Mr. and Mrs. Selles sailed for China in the fall 1926. While they were studying the Chinese language in Nanking, the first of the Chinese revolutions happened causing the Selles to travel back to the United States. Once they safely returned to the States, Selles became a home missionary in Edmonton and Neerlandia, Alberta from 1927 to 1929. Finally, the Selles family received another opportunity to return to China in 1929. They continued their study of the language in Jukao, and then went off to their mission city of Tsinginang. They did not receive a warm welcome when they first arrived. The missionaries were perceived as "foreign devils" by the locals of Tsinginang.  However, with much patience and God's blessing, Selles was able to set up thirty-two preaching points and five hundred children in attendance of Sunday school by 1935.

When the Selles family went on furlough back in the United States, a war broke out in China, causing a delay in them returning to Tsinginang. In the meantime, Selles became a home missionary in Modesto, California from 1937 to 1938. Despite the still turbulent situation in the county, they returned to China in the Summer of 1938. When they returned to their rented house in Tsinginang, they found that all their belongings had been looted, including doors, windows, and cabinets. With his rudimentary carpentry skills, Selles was able to make their house livable again. However, they also lost invaluable family records and files as well which could not be replaced. Despite this hardship, they moved on with their missionary work. Selles was able to baptize 13 adults and 5 children within a year and half time, with more locals in preparation for baptism. With increasing violence in the area, the Selles were urged to leave by the American consular, however they remained in Tsinginang. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Japanese raided the Selles' home and took the family as prisoners of war. After 100 days of house arrest, the Selles were taken to Shanghai to be placed in a concentration camp. For several weeks they lived in the concentration camp, however they were eventually part of a prisoner exchange for Japanese prisoners. Once they returned to the United States, Selles became a home missionary for Des Plaines, Illinois from 1943 to 1946. At the close of the war, Selles returned to China for his final time. The majority of the mission field was under control of the communist which caused a problem for Selles. Eventually Communism fell over the entire country, and Selles left China with a heavy heart in 1949.

Back in the United States, Selles served as the pastor for Godwin Heights Mission, Grand Rapids, MI (1949-1951); Tyler, MN (1951-1955); Burdett and Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada (1955-1960). By 1960 Selles retired from active ministry.  During his retirement he lived in Holland, Michigan where he continued to serve by calling on the shut-ins. After failing health, Albert Selles passed away on August 5, 1967. He was survived by his wife, Trena, and their son, Donald.

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