By Lonette Berg
Executive director, Alabama Baptist Historical Commission
Missions has been a part of Dr. August Lovegren’s identity his entire life.
August was born in China in 1921 to missionary parents, Dr. Levi and Ida Lovegren, who served with a Swedish missions agency in Ya’an, China. Levi Lovegren’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden.
August Lovegren’s formative years in China were shaped by his parents’ emphasis on evangelism, Bible readings, Scripture memorization and daily times of prayer.
Songs of childhood
August says he has memories of sitting in a children’s chair at a Chinese church and singing along to worship songs in Chinese. At 98 years old, after having not lived in China in decades and after having learned Arabic, August still remembers how to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in Chinese.
August graduated from Howard College, now Samford University, where his father was a professor at the time.
August Lovegren went on to medical school and then to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, before being appointed by the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) to serve as a missionary in Jordan. He served in several places in the middle East, including Jibla, Yemen, where he became friends with Dr. Martha Myers, who was martyred there, and after whom our state missions offering is partially named.
Dr. Lovegren’s primary station was as a surgeon at the hospital in Ajloun, Jordan, where he was during the Six Day War of 1967. The danger was great, and the American consulate wanted all missionaries to leave. All were evacuated, but Dr. Lovegren stayed to keep the hospital going and treat suffering patients and refugees. He slept in the hospital and took his meals there, so he didn’t have to risk crossing the compound to his house where bullets occasionally whistled past and planes flew overhead on bombing runs of the radar facilities a few miles away.
For six weeks, Dr. Lovegren was the only American missionary in Ajloun. He persevered and was fruitful. Now at almost 99, Dr. Lovegren will tell about his missionary service, but what he really wants to talk about is God’s protection and faithfulness.
The Lovegren family has a long and deep commitment to global missions. August’s sister, Mildred (Millie), who was also born in China while their parents were on the field, was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board to serve in China as well.
Levi and Ida Lovegren returned to China as missionaries after his work at Howard College and his military service in Army intelligence. Levi was accused of being a spy by the Chinese government and was put in prison for almost five years. But the Lovegrens did not lose hope.
Millie wrote in an April 5, 1954, letter: “Pray that while the Lord wills that these be held in China, that their testimony for Christ may be glorious and that the word of God may be remembered in their hearts and minds. The Communists fear the Bible. (My father has not been permitted to have a Bible for more than two years.) Then pray that in the Lord’s time these may be speedily brought to freedom.”
These prayers were answered, and Levi Lovegren was released from Chinese prison on his 67th birthday.
August’s younger sister, Edith “Edie” Lambert, now 91 and living in California, has written two books about her family: Called and Determined: The Story of Lee and Ida Lovegren and Millie’s China. Both are available in the library at Samford University.