Record Rewind: Dr Rabbit

Remembering Eric Burnham Hare—missionary, leader, storyteller.

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Burmese fisherman. (Photo: Unsplash)

Eric Burnham Hare was the second son of Pastor Robert and Henrietta Hare. He was born in Victoria, Australia, in 1894. His early education took place at the Fitzroy School in Melbourne, where he formed life-long friendships—particularly with Roy Allan Anderson, who would later make an enormous contribution to the work of the Church internationally as an evangelist.

Eric graduated from the missionary course at Avondale College in 1911 and the biblical-academic course in 1913. Having also taken a two-year nurses’ course at Sydney Sanitarium (now Sydney Adventist Hospital) and married Agnes Fulton (daughter of pioneer missionaries to Fiji, Pastor and Mrs J E Fulton), the young couple were ideally suited for mission service in the South Pacific.

In time, five children were born into the family, all while their parents were missionaries, with the youngest, Verna Mae, developing severe hearing problems in early infancy.

Missionary

The newly-married couple soon received an unexpected call to mission service, beyond Australasia, to the Karen people of Burma (now Myanmar). There Eric was revered as “Dr Rabbit” and his first two years were taken up with health work. A gifted musician, Eric soon established a brass band—the first ever in Burma—and this proved enormously popular. Eric and Agnes and their five children continued their outreach to the Karen people until 1934 when they relocated to California (US) so that Verna Mae could get help with her hearing problems. She soon learned to lip-read successfully. In California, Eric became a youth leader for the Church.

Returning briefly to Burma in 1941, Eric and Agnes continued their pioneering work for the Karen people until the Japanese bombing in 1942 forced their evacuation. Having been evacuated to India by steamer from Burma the following year, Agnes and the children waited there for Eric’s evacuation. During this time, Eric and some of his fellow workers made a hazardous journey to safety overland and after many dangers and miraculous escapes” he was eventually able to rejoin his wife and children and the family returned to America by sea.

While their second term of service in Burma was short, the Hares served as missionaries in Burma for almost 19 years in total.

Leader

Back in America, Eric was once again called to head up the youth work of the Southern California Conference, and then the Sabbath School work at the Pacific Union Conference, until in 1946, when at the General Conference session, he was called to serve as an associate secretary of the Sabbath School department at the world headquarters of the Adventist Church.

Well-known all over the world for his remarkable ability to tell character-building stories to small children, Eric continued his work at the world headquarters of the Church until his retirement in 1962. His life came to an end on June 1, 1982, while Agnes lived on for nearly a year until April 25, 1983.

Contribution

Eric authored Jungle Storyteller, Clever Queen, Fultons Footprints in Fiji, Jungle Heroes, Jungle Stories and Treasure From the Haunted Pagoda.

He had a brilliant combination of energy, enthusiasm, wisdom, wit and storytelling skill, all in consecration to Christ. His life attested to the title on one of his 13 books: In His presence there is Fullness of Joy.


Dr Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre.

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