William E Strong.

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stormy and unhappy debate. Moreover, the controversy
resulted in some loss of receipts, although the seriousness of


the situation was less marked in this particular than in others.
There were threats of separation and the forming of another
missionary board. That such a split did not transpire wit-
nesses to the Christian loyalty and charity of those on both
sides of the debate. Men were not willing to deny the genuine
faith and missionary zeal of those from whom they differed.
Love of the "old Board" and its work, and trust in the spirit
of Christ to guide those sincerely seeking to preach his gospel,
held together the disagreeing constituency in this time of stress.
In particular, the election of Dr. R. S. Storrs as president,
in 1887, upon the death of President Mark Hopkins, and his
broad-minded and mediating policy, frankly announced and
impartially applied, renewed confidence in the hearts of those
who were trying to find a fair solution of the difiiculty. The
outcome was in close accord with the position which Dr. Storrs
took in his letter of acceptance of the presidency. The Board
did not further declare itself upon the vexed question of the-
ology, which by this time had been relegated to the field of
academic discussion; it did not put out of its own hands the
decision as to the fitness of missionary candidates. But it
did declare that neither the Board nor its Committee was a
theological court, that missionaries were to have the same
freedom of thought and speech as their ministerial brethren at
home, and that private or provincial standards of theology
were not to be used as barriers in the way of men in other
respects qualified for missionary service. The heavy losses,
both of men and money, that would naturally have fiowed
to the Board in these turbulent years, purchased for it a
more comprehensive spirit, and, we may believe, forever deter-
mined that there shall be room in the Board, both in support
at home and in service abroad, for all who feel that they are
called to preach to the world the redeeming grace of God
through Jesus Christ.

Among the readjustments which this struggle involved was
the loss to the Board of its home secretary, Dr. Edmund K,


Alden. Possessed of marked executive ability, unusual gifts
in the discernment of character, imtiring industry, and a loving
and kindly heart, Dr. Alden was also able to portray the mis-
sionary enterprise with memorable eloquence and power. His
inflexibihty in maintaining the theological standards to which
he committed himself and to which he sincerely beheved
every missionary should be as firmly committed, and the zeal
and adroitness with which he for a time carried his point in
the administration of the Board, unfortunately obscured at
the last a career of distinguished service. .

The withdrawal from the same cause, in 1893, of Dr. Augustus
C. Thompson and Mr. Elbridge Torrey deprived the Pruden-
tial Committee of two most efficient members, the former its
chairman. Dr. Thompson had served the longest term and,
with the exception of Charles Stoddard, by far the longest
term of all those who have been chosen to the Committee.
For more than forty-four years, or over half the lifetime of the
Board, he had sat week by week at the Committee's table
and had rendered freely an amoimt of laborious and skilful
service such as money could not purchase. As a result, he was
easily the best informed man on the Committee in matters
pertaining to the work, not only of this Board, but of all other
foreign missionary societies. Clear in his judgments, frank in
the expression of them, strict in his allegiance to the convic-
tions which he had carefully formed, Dr. Thompson was gra-
cious in bearing and generous of heart, while the flash of his
wit often relieved the strain of discussion at the Committee's

Another result of these years of controversy was the read-
justment of the American Board's organization to relate it
. more closely to its constituency. In the theo-
zation logical debates it was frequently charged that as

a self-perpetuating corporation the Board was not
sufficiently sensitive to the will of the chm-ches whose agent
it really was; that it claimed the gifts of the chm-ches as con-


ducting foreign missions for them, while it managed its affairs
as an incorporated body, independent of their control. The
growing tendency among Congregational churches, especially
those of the West, toward a more developed oversight and
direction of denominational affairs by state and national
organizations, pointed the appeal that the Board should attach
itself organically to the churches it served. Now that other
denominations, formerly working through the Board, had
withdrawn, the way was easier for such readjustment.

During these troubled years various committees were
appointed to investigate different phases of the Board's organ-
ization and action. As a result of one of these lines of inves-
tigation, a plan was adopted in 1894 which, with subsequent
modifications, provides for nomination to corporate member-
ship by district and state bodies of Congregational churches.
The corporate membership has thus been greatly increased in
numbers during this period, the limit being raised from 350
to 500, and the churches have now the main responsibility
in the proposal of members, though the corporation itself has
the right to nominate a certain proportion of new members
at large.

It was during this period of reconstruction under pressure,
also, that the president and vice-president of the Board were
made ex-officiis members of the Prudential Committee. The
legal right of the Board to elect women to corporate member-
ship was also established, but so far has been exercised in only
a few cases. The Canadian Congregationalists, as making
the Board the medium of their foreign missionary operations,
have been granted representation in the corporation, though
outside of the national organization of the Congregational
churches to which the Board is directly attached.

But the most significant expansion of all in the life of the
American Board in this period has been the broadening of its
aim. In all the periods of the Board's history its missionaries
have gone forth under a strong sense of loyalty to Jesus Christ


and his great commission. But their attitude toward the peo-
ple to whom they have gone has gradually experienced a change
amoimting almost to a revulsion of thought. The
In Aim early missionaries regarded the heathen world to
which they went as utterly depraved and doomed,
feeding on lies and clinging to reUgions that were the invention
of the devil. They viewed both with horror and with pity
the wretched people among whom they made their new home,
and set themselves with all the ardor of their Christian faith
to snatch those whom they could reach from the death in
which they seemed already involved.

A closer acquaintance with these people, bringing better
knowledge of .their customs and faith, their ideals and modes
of thQught, did not lessen the sense of horror over their condi-
tion and of pity for the bondage of superstition in which, in
all these lands, they walk in darkness. But it did bring a
juster apprehension of the religious spirit underlying the crude
and mistaken forms and of some points of truth and value
in many of the oriental faiths to which appeal could be made,
and, beyond that, of the potential strength of races which
might be won for the building up of the wide kingdom of God
on earth.

Moreover, the new science and philosophy which had begun
to shape modern thought in all other fields of interest inevi-
tably affected missionary motives and aims as well. The
importance of man's envirormient, the unity of his nature, in
which body and spirit are combined, the influence of racial
and geographical elements as affecting character and habit,
these and other new and constructive ideas in modem thought
have tended greatly to broaden the conception of the mis-
sionary enterprise. From being what Dr. Dermis has called
"a kind of slum work among sunken, degraded, and altogether
degenerate races," wherein the effort was in pity to hold out
a helping hand to such as would be saved, there is now a new
appreciation both of the value of these belated nations and


of the necessity of seeking to redeem them in order really to
save the people within them. The task is recognized still
as primarily working for individuals, but now they are con-
tinually thought of and addressed as representatives of the
race with whose life and fortunes they are bound, and in the
regeneration of whose society and the Christianizing of whose
national Ufe they are to be factors. To the awakening, trans-
forming, and equipping of these individuals both in the interior
springs of their lives and in their outer action, so that they
may become Uving forces in the redemption of their own
people, the missionary sets himself with renewed purpose.
And that Christian influences can be imparted to all the
varied life of these ancient lands until the customs and ideals
of their people are penetrated with Christian conceptions is the
great and gladsome hope that inspires the Board's missions

Chapter XIX


West Africa

When it became possible to think of entering upon new
fields the Board turned at once toward Africa. The project
Spying of another mission in that land was taken up with
out the utmost care. Dr. John 0. Means, then record-
Land jng secretary of the Board and soon to be elected
corresponding secretary, was appointed to make the investiga-
tions. His inquiry was painstaking and complete, involving
not only a study of the literature on Africa, but consultations
with officers of other Boards in England and on the Continent,
and with officials of high importance in African affairs and in
world politics. The report, presented to the annual meeting
of 1879, was so complete in its survey of the land and its mis-
sionary possibilities as to be a docimient of first importance,
not only for the American Board, but for every student of

The recommendation with which Dr. Means' report closed
pointed to Bih6, in the province of Angola, on the west coast.
The as on the whole most nearly meeting the desired

Location conditions. This location, some 250 miles east
atBihe from the port of Benguella, with an elevation of
5,000 feet above sea-level, was accessible, healthful, populous,
and in a potentially important field. Its tribes of vigorous and
capable Africans, Bih6nos, and Bailundos, nominally under
Portuguese jurisdiction, were measurably untouched as yet by
the vices of the coast, with no defined rehgious system or object
of worship, and wholly imreached by missionary operations.

The Board promptly accepted this report and determined to



plant another mission in West Africa. The event has fully-
attested the wisdom with which the selection was made.
The region has proved healthful, the people responsive, and
the chain of stations lies directly along the line of roads between
the coast and the interior. As railroads are now being
built in the province, it seems that they are to touch these
highways of travel which the missionaries chose and to make
access to the mission still easier. The Umbimdu speech, also,
which the missionaries of this Board were the first to acquire
and reduce to written form, is a leading dialect of the great
Bantu language and widely diffused throughout the interior.
A Scotch missionary of a neighboring field has said that Bih6
cannot be overestimated as a center for missionary work; he has
found its people traveling in every direction, their word every-
where believed; it is his conviction that a more enterprising tribe
of men does not exist in all central and southern Africa.

The first missionaries were sent out in 1880: Rev. Walter W.
Bagster, an Englishman of the family associated with the
The First famous Bible publishing house; Rev. William H.
Mission- Sanders, son of American Board missionaries in
^^s Ceylon, where he himself was bom, and Mr. Samuel

T. Miller, son of a freedman in Virginia, educated at Hampton
Institute, imordained but fitted, it was believed, to be of
special service in the establishment of work in Africa. The
party landed at Benguella in the middle of November, and
were civilly treated by the Portuguese authorities. But the
customary delays and difficulties in dealing with the easy-
going natives made it a wearisome and vexatious task to
secure porters and prepare for the inland journey.
After many disappointments at last they got started on

their slow and adventurous journey of three weeks,
th^ v\d^ ^^^> ^^^^ naany vicissitudes, arrived at Bailundu,

only a short distance from Bih6, March 28, 1881.
It was a picturesque procession that wound into this Afri-
can village. Beasts of burden not being available, the loads


were carried by porters, and the travelers either had to walk
or be carried, African fashion, in tepaias suspended from
poles on men's shoulders. Mr. Bagster, who had already-
suffered much from coast fever, rode an ox; Messrs. Sanders
and Miller, who started in tepaias, walked most of the way;
then there were seven donkeys taken for use in the interior,
and some sixty natives, each carrying a load of about sixty
pounds. Including all the clamp followers, ninety-five persons
were in the company. The party was cordially received by
Kwikwi, king of Bailundu, who fairly compelled them to
remain there as his "children," although the king of Bih6 was
likewise eager for their coming and had even sent out his
"secretary of state" to extend his hospitality. With the
coming of reenforcements in the next two years, including a
skilled mechanic and teacher and a medical missionary, it
became possible to open a second station at Kamundongo,
six miles from the king's residence at Bihe.

The pioneers were quickly estabUshed in temporary quar-
ters and began to make acquaintance with the people and

their speech. Soon they were occupied in building
_ . permanent homes, constructing a written language,

winning confidence, and beginning instruction. In
1882, before work was fairly under way, the mission was sad-
dened and depleted by the death of Mr. Bagster, who suffered
heavily from coast fever and upon whom the labors and hard-
ships connected with the founding of the mission had put a
harder strain than flesh could bear. The first to offer himself
for the new mission, in a sense its leader, combining rare good
sense and practical efficiency with a deep and sensitive spiritual
nature, Mr. Bagster was fitted for superb service in this
field. A letter written to his father shows the sense both of
shock and appeal with which the eager missionary viewed the
raw heathen: "When the real, live, dirty, naked savage comes
before you, not in book or letter, not in fancy or passing notice,
but under yom- own eye; when you place your hand upon his


shoulder and feel the dirt and nakedness; when you turn that
man's face toward you, and there you read — 'no good thing';
when the foulest pictures, thoughts, and words fail to show
him as he is, then, and only then, you have to go to Jesus for
faith to believe that for such Christ died; then you need to be
very humble and look upon this poor creature and say, 'My
brother.' Oh, father, there is much to be done. There are long
hours, days, months of patience, labors and prayer needed
to raise such. There is enough to do, and yet how powerless
we are."

A sentence from another letter, written after he got to his
task, reveals the same sensitiveness of soul and the reality
and splendor of his missionary faith: "The same belief I have
now that I had before I left America, only with this difference:
it is real now, it has entered into my own experience; it has
become a part, not only of my convictions and belief, but it
has grown into me, become mine; it is no longer hazy and far
off, it has touched me; I have felt the coolness of the chill of
Death's hand — 'dead in trespasses and sin' — touch me, and,
thank God! even now I can say with all the same feehng that
often swept over me in California, Boston, and England, 'In
this name we conquer' — Jesus — 'for He shall save his
people from their sins.'"

Hardly had the mission recovered from the loss of its leader
when, in a whiff of suspicion, and as it proved, instigated and
Expulsion bribed by unfriendly traders, in May, 1884, King
of the Kwikwi stirred up his people to drive out the mis-

Mission- sionaries. So sudden and threatening was this out-
*"®® break that from both stations they were compelled

to flee to the coast, leaving most of their possessions to be plim-
dered by the natives and with their labor apparently altogether
lost. Several of the missionaries returned to America; Mr.
Walter remained at Benguella to defend as might be possible
the interests of the mission. Happily, after a short time, the
chiefs, convinced of their mistake, and influenced by the


governor-general of Angola, invited the missionaries to return.
Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, who had only gone to the coast, were
back at Bailundu the same year; in due time their associates
joined them and the mission was reestabhshed, with Mr.
Walter settled for a while at Benguella as its business agent.

Aside from this outbreak no serious opposition was experi-
enced from native ruler or people. The king of Bih6 did show
The a disposition to treat Mr. Sanders harshly, but, while

Mission stirring his people to an attack, he fell dead in a
Planted drunken carouse, and the missionaries were relieved
of further danger from that quarter. New stations were
gradually opened, as at Chisamba, by Mr. Currie in 1888.
This station has from the beginning been maintained by mis-
sionaries and funds from the Congregational churches of
Canada, operating through the American Board. Schools of
various grades, under the instruction of missionaries, were
established at all the stations; a press was set up and books
and papers put into circulation; new houses were erected both
for the missionaries and for those natives who had yielded
themselves to the influence of a Christian civilization. Preach-
ing also was begun, religious meetings being held, before there
was any chapel, in the homes of the missionaries on Sundays
and week-days.

At Bailundu, in 1887, fourteen young men, the oldest not
more than twenty years of age, were baptized and organized
into a church, with deacons from their own number, and with
their most promising representative soon chosen as pastor.
This first church erected at its own expense a house of worship,
and began evangelistic work in the surrounding villages. The
significance of the step which these lads took appears in the
fact that they solemnly renounced the use of alcoholic drinks
and tobacco, and the practises of slavery, fornication, and of
idolatry, that is, fetishism of every sort.

The further story of this estabhshed mission belongs with the
record of the other African fields and is told in a later chapter.


East Central Africa

At the annual meeting of 1879, when it was determined to

open a mission near Bih6 in West Africa, it was decided also

, to start one on the other side of the continent. The

PuTDose Board's early purpose to found an interior mission

in East Africa had not been forgotten. It was
never meant that it should confine its operations to the small
territory occupied in Natal; and even that was now further
limited by the incoming of other missionary societies. Also
the development of the Christian Zulus required a larger field,
where they might exert their influence and broaden their
horizon. The time seemed ripe for the venture and all signs
pointed to Umzila's kingdom as the location. Umzila was
then the great chieftain of the region in South Africa lying
south from the Zambesi River and stretching to the latitude
of Delagoa Bay, where it joined the territory claimed by the
British. Portuguese authority was hardly recognized here
except along a narrow strip of coast. The whole interior,
commonly called the Gaza country, was under the control
of Umzila. On this vast and fertile tableland there was a
field as yet untouched, with people absolutely heathen, yet
with fine native capacities and belonging to the same Bantu
race as those of Natal. They were a direct challenge to the
Board's expanding purpose; it might yet be possible to plant
through Umzila's coimtry a line of mission stations to touch,
on the lower Zambesi, the waterway that reached almost to
Bih6 on the western side of the continent.

Accordingly, in 1880, Mr. Pinkerton of the Zulu Mission
was appointed to organize an exploring expedition, and, if

the way opened, to prepare for starting the new
xponng jjjjggjQQ I'lig yoimg missionary set about his task

enthusiastically, only to be stricken down in the
malarial region, through which, either unwisely or by adverse
necessity, he had laid his route, and where his lonely grave


became the first landmark in the march of Christianity into
that new country. Mr. Richards, sent to join the enterprise,
bravely took the place of the fallen leader and pushed his
way safely to Umzila's capital on the high lands, where he
was cordially received, and urged to begin missionary work.
A ringing appeal was sent to America 'for four families to
answer the call of this African chief. But these families could
not be found, nor were the Zulu helpers ready to offer them-
selves, and Umzila's invitation was unanswered. The door thus
allowed to close was never again so easily to be opened.
When the Board was ready to make new trial, in 1888, and
another expedition, consisting of Messrs. Wilder and Bates,
with difficulty approached the royal kraal, and, after weeks
of delay and spying, at last got audience with the new chief
Gxmgunyana, they found that the temper had changed. Others
had preempted the groimd; a foreign prospector was searching
the land for gold; the Portuguese were actively negotiating.
The king gave courteous attention to the missionaries, but
finally replied: "Your feet have been too slow in coming.
We have other missionaries now; we cannot take you also."
With this reproach weighing on their hearts, the messengers
of the Board were forced to turn back.

A temporary location had been made at Inhambane Bay by
Messrs. Wilcox and Richards, in 1883, until the way should
Temporary open to the interior. Rev. and Mrs. Benjamin F.
Location at Ousley and Miss Nancy Jones, negro helpers from
Inhambane America, came to their aid, and the East Central
Africa Mission was really organized there. Several locations
around the Bay were occupied, and Mr. Ousley reduced the
Sheetswa language to writing so far as to translate into it
some of the New Testament. The region, however, proved
too unhealthy to allow the mission to lose sight of the original
plan of settling on higher land away from the coast.

With the passing of Gazaland into the control of the British
South Africa Company, the Board renewed explorations into


the region which then came to be called Rhodesia, and in 1893
the new mission was formally organized. It was planned to
employ native Zulu evangelists; to make industrial
at Last ^^'"'^ ^ strong factor in the development of the
mission; and to fix the central location at Mt.
Silinda, from which highland station systematic work could
be attempted, particularly by native helpers, and during the
winter months, at least, on the lower part of the Busi and
Sabi rivers that drain the coimtry. The exploring party
of 1891 had the good fortune to meet Hon. Cecil Rhodes, from
whom they received many courtesies. When their purpose
was explained to him he expressed his approval of it, promised
them a concession of several thousand acres of land at nominal
rent, and taking a map marked out what he considered the
most favorable location for the mission, which later proved to
be the very spot selected for the Mt. Silinda station. To
this region in the highlands, 4000 feet above sea-level, on the
upper waters of the Busi River, about 200 miles inland from
the coast, with fertile land all about, and the one fine forest
of the region adjoining, the foimders of the mission, Messrs.

Online LibraryWilliam E StrongThe story of the American board: an account of the first hundred years of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions → online text (page 28 of 44)