Apple, Estelle B. (Blanche Apple)

1892 - 1972
First woman missionary to Sibu (Woman's Division, American Board of Mission)

Estelle Blanche Apple was born in Champaign County, Ohio on July 2, 1892. Better known as Blanche Apple, she was sent as the first woman missionary to Sibu by the Woman's Division of the American Board of Missions on February 11, 1952 to serve in the women's ministry of the Sarawak Methodist Church. At that time, the Sarawak Methodist Church had women's fellowship groups in 36 churches and a total of 806 members. It was the largest women's fellowship group among Malaya and Singapore Methodist churches.

Blanche Apple had been posted to Hing Hwa (now called Putian) in Fujian, China in 1923 to help with the women's work. She served in the education board of the Methodist Hing Hwa Annual Conference from 1925-1926 and taught at various primary schools. In 1937, she was appointed as board director of Putian Shian-I Girls' School and Yuk Teck Primary School. She was also a committee member of the Work and Plan Committee of the Hing Hwa Annual Conference. Blanche served for almost 30 years in China among the Hing Hwa and had a good command of the dialect. When the Communists took over China in 1949, she was forced to leave. Bishop Raymond Archer then sent her to work among the Chinese in Borneo.

The Sarawak Methodist Church had set up a Women's Society of Christian Service (WSCS) under the Board of Missions in January 1951 and she was to oversee this work for the Malaysia Annual Conference. Blanche worked in Sibu for over three years. She was also the pastor in charge of Tian Dao Methodist Church in Sibu and taught English at the primary and secondary English schools there.

Together with Martha Graf, she travelled by boat to Binatang (now Bintangor) and also around Sibu, visiting and training the women of the Methodist churches to become church leaders. 

In Sibu, Blanche met Paul Prince Wiant, a construction engineer who was assigned to design the Methodist Girls' Hostel. Wiant (1887-1973) had been sent as a construction engineering missionary to Fuzhou, China in 1916. In 1951, his wife was killed in an accident and the following year, he was assigned to Sibu to design and supervise the construction of the Methodist Girls’ Hostel. He and Blanche were married in 1953.

Wiant was later posted to Korea. He served as a missionary in China, Sarawak, Korea and elsewhere for 39 years, designing and supervising the construction of over 400 projects: church buildings, schools, universities, houses, bridges and reservoirs.

Blanche left Sibu after her marriage and Annie Pittman took over her work in WSCS. The Wiants retired in 1956. Blanche passed away on June 17, 1972 in Hamilton county, Ohio. Paul Wiant passed away on October 22, 1973.


© SCAC. This article from Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills is reproduced with permission of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, The Methodist Church in Malaysia, with editing for clarity and brevity. 

[Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills 1 and 2 are compiled by Wong Meng Lei (also chief editor), edited by Tumi Ngae, and translated by Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, and Chang Yi. Book 2 translators are Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, Chang Yi and Ting Kong Sing.]