The Matabele Journals of Robert Moffat, Volume 2, ed. J.P.R. Wallis, (London: Chatto & Windus), 1945, p. 105
Robert Moffat to Mary Moffat, October 25, 1857
This forenoon expounded to my people from the 11th verse to the end of the 1st Thes. 4. It always pains me to see the difficulty--I presume sometimes the impossibility--of some of our readers to find the book referred to, Gospel or Epistle, while they are so intelligent about pounds, shillings and pence, and the colours of oxen which must be arranged n yokes. They read on sabbaths because they cannot do anything else, at least they feel at a loss to fill up vacant time. During the week they are seldom or never seen with a book in hand, though comparatively speaking they have nothing to do. But I shall resume this subject again.
Many Matabele, most of whom could not understand me, drew near, and sat with great decorum during the whole service. in the afternoon, I had a large attendance, and felt an indescribable pleasure in unfolding to them the common salvation. It is pleasing to address people who evidently take a deep interestin in what is said. Immediately after, I went in to the king in striped shirt without jacket--not very parsonic, but here there is not the shadow of a Pope's toe; and when he was admiring my clean, and as he thought, fine dress, I remarked that we teachers did not, from principle, wear fine clothes and that what he saw on me he might see on dwellers of my native land.
The Matabele Journals of Robert Moffat, Volume 2, ed. J.P.R. Wallis, (London: Chatto & Windus), 1945, pp. 127-128
Robert Moffat to Mary Moffat, November 28, 1857
I spent some time with him [Mzilikazi, the king] and as usual found it no easy matter to secure his attention to subjects I wished to converse. He is so fond of talking trifles to those who are in waiting and to messengers who frequently arrive from the many towns. He seemed very cheerful. I had prepared for him a lot of pills, and, being composed of strong materials, warned him to take only one, or two at most. This led to remarks on the difference between the native and the white man's medicine. I told him that with very few exceptions all native medicines were mere charms.
The Matabele Journals of Robert Moffat, Volume 2, ed. J.P.R. Wallis, (London: Chatto & Windus), 1945, pp. 202-203
October 27, 1859 Robert Moffat to Mary Moffat
There are four baipobori [converts] with whom I converse regularly. I give their names as they stand in my reputation. Mariole, Masin, Mogori and Khaneile. The first promises to be, I think, an excellent character, has good scriptural knowledge and clear views. I have lately called on him to take his turn with us in our evening family prayers when a chapter is read and a hymn sung. He appears to have a good gift in prayer. I have heard none pray better. Sebolai and Tolae take their turn, the former improving, leaving a dozen or two of his Khosis out. The latter speaks rapid, difficult to be heard and withal long, and has been induced to dispense with many of his khosis ee tserilen. The two girls give perfect satisfaction. Mogori's profession is rather unstable and Khaneile more so. I gave the former last night a few texts to meditate on.
The planting of a mission among the Matabele, I need scarcely say, weighs very heavy on my mind, notwithstanding my fullest convictions as to the path of duty. Everything considered, it is only what was to be expected. A succession of events has been bringing it on: 'Coming events cast their shadows before.' I could not help sometimes observing shadows of coming events, but the fiances of the Society and the distant and isolated position of the Matabele would not permit me to hope. Their dreadfully savage state--this is no exaggeration--seemed sometimes to require a faith I did not possess; and added to this, the peculiar character of the their government, worshipping their king with the idea that he is superhuman. At the present moment there are about fifty naked warriors (you would say so), with clubs in hand, dancing before my waggon. They know our arrival pleases their king and they dance and sing with perfect enthusiasm. O what a spectacle to a Christian mind filled with thoughts of eternity!
Whatever may be the results, I feel resigned. The commencing of a mission among the Matabele originated entirely with the Directors. The plan was natural enough after the discoveries of Livingstone, and the resolution to send missionaries to the Makololo. The Makololo removing to a more healthy region where they, and especially missionaries, might be expected to enjoy better health than in their present abode, naturally enough suggested the idea that the permanency of such a location could only be ensured by securing the friendship of Moselekatse, who could at any time order a body of his warriors to pass the Zambesi to pillage and drive the tribes out from that quarter, as he had done before.
I am glad that I have uniformly represented to the Directors what would be the character of this mission, and the requisites--faith, prayer, patience, perserverance. I cannot help having my fears, and often, like the man, pray, 'Lord, help mine unbelief'. Why should we doubt? Is it because we look at the instruments? 'Go ye!' 'Lo, I am with you.' 'I will be exalted among the heathen.' 'He shall reign'. 'Yehova o buile' ['Jehovah has said it']. There is no room in the heart where these declarations and many many such mounts of prospect abound, for unbelief. Perhaps my anxieties arise from unfitness in the instruments. This savours again of unrighteousness. I think, if we were all better than we are, and especially myself!--as if our righteousness or sanctity could do anything of themselves! I perhaps never before, at least seldom, felt more humbled than I do now and have done for some time past, and never, i think, before read the psalm with greater enjoyment. 'O give thanks to the God of Heaven; for his mercy endureth for ever'--one of the psalms of today.
Thunder, heavy clouds, and rain.
The Matabele Journals of Robert Moffat, Volume 2, ed. J.P.R. Wallis, (London: Chatto & Windus), 1945, pp. 264-266
Robert Moffat to Reverend Arthur Tidman, September 4 1860
Moselekatse had informed me, some time before leaving, that as he saw he could not prevail on me to remain permanently with him, he would on my apponting a day for my departture, leave at as nearly the same time sojourn a little while at a neighbouring town. Of course when the appointed time arrived, he laid no obstacle in my way, though at last he manifested an almost incontrollable reluctance to part with me. After the usual parting greetings and exchange of memoranda, he holding my hand in his for a long time, pretending to be giving directions to some of his officers, he at last rose from his chair and looking me intently in the face said, 'Hampa khutle' (farewell) adding, 'why should I continue to look on you! I shall take great care of the teachers. I love them etc.' This was so far good, for which I was thankful...
...Thus I parted with Moselekatse, apparently unabated in his attachment to me, fickle and fastidious as savages, and especially despots, generally are. Before parting he pleaded hard that I should receive a present of ivory. But while I gave full expression to the gratitude that I felt, I begged he would excuse me receiving anything of that nature, while I had no objection to receive a few oxen to supply the rather heavy loss of oxen I had sustained from fatigue, accidents and lung sickness. I remined him of the engagement I had made with him on my last visit, when he entreated me to take a quantity of ivory, which I at last agreed to, on condition that he would specify any articles--including what he called a gentleman's waggon--which he desired to have, ammunition and guns expcepted; and as I had to visit him again, I should endeavour to meet his wishes, but only on the sole condition that in future he must not on any account to receive even a gift of ivory. I added that the accomplishment of my iwshes through his kindness was immensely more gratifying to my heart than the gift of all his riches would be. The servants of God had come to live with him and teach his people, and the road was now open, and merchants and traders would gladly supply his wants for ivory.
As he admitted the truth of all I had said in reference to this subject, he ceased to ask me any further, so that I had the satisfaction of returning home without a single ounce of Moselekatse's ivory. The fact is his gifts, like all others I ever receieved from native chiefs, impoverish instead of enriching. I mention these things, being aware that certain people have had the audactity and cruelty of more than insinuating that I have received ivory from Moselekatse on the present journey.
Thomas Morgan Thomas, Eleven Years in Central South Africa, 1873, p. 219
There is much in the character of the Ilindebele to encourage the missionary, and to call forth his most earnest and untiring efforts to bring him to Christ. Yeah, even the darkest traits may, under the renewing and sanctifying influences of the gosepl, be turned to good account. Even that faithful adherance to his false religion, superstitions, and charms, when turned to the right channel, will doubtless, be of the greatest value. And as the African has a character of his own, even in his ignorance, barbarism and sin, so, when he shall awake and stretch his hands to God, his new life will, doubtless, be found to differe somewhat from that of the other great branches of the tripartite human stock. That he will carry with him into the great Chruch of Christ some of the peculiar traits of his present character is very likely, and that those traits will have their place, use and glory, in the great family of regenerated men, seems also clear. But how much he may lose of his own peculiarities, and gain those of his two brothers, in the process from barbarism to civilization and christianity, we cannot fully foresee...Much has been said and written in order to prove the inferiority of the African as compared with the Asiatic and European, and to show the impossibility, as it were, of his ever distinguishing himself in anything that is truly great, sublime or original. This to me appears invalid and incorrect.
Thomas Morgan Thomas, Eleven Years in Central South Africa, 1873, pp. 306-317
Dr. LIVINGSTONE, the great African traveller and christian pioneer, by the account he gave, in 1857, of the extensive and important fields for missionary enterprise which he had discovered on the banks of the Zambesi river, and of the numerous tribes whose territories he had passed on his journey from Linyanti to the east coast at Quilimane, was the first to draw the attention of christians in England to Central South Africa.
There seemed a probability that at an early date, via the Indian Ocean and the Zambesi River, communication between the civilized world and those far interior regions would be effected, while the millions of heathen by whom they were peopled, presented a strong claim upon the sympathies and efforts of the Church of Christ. The London Missionary Society promptly responded to the call, and sent out two missionary bands -the one to the Makololo, on the north bank of the Zambesi; and the other to the Amandebele, on the South bank of that river. When coming to the decision of entering these two particular fields, the board of directors had in view Dr. Livingstone's acquaititance with Sebetwane, the paramount chief of the. Makololo, and Mr. Moffat's influence with Umzilikazi, the Amandebelean king. Besides this, those two inland potentates were considered the most powerful rulers in Central South Africa; and it was hoped that a mission established among either the Amandebele or Makololo, would soon become a central point whence missionary influence and effort might be extended to the surrounding tribes. The idea of sending out missionaries who should proceed up the country and establish a Makololo and an Amandebele mission, was the fruit of mature and sound thought, and therefore the Board were both justified and commended in carrying it out. Nor do the facts--that the Makololo branch of this mission came to an early end, and that so many of the devoted members of it were suddenly cut down; while lower down the Zambesi river, somewhat more recently, another mission failed, and several of the missionaries perished in the attempt to plant the standard of the cross--at all clash with this view of the matter. Upon entering the Amandebele country, however, and viewing the thousands of heathen we had passed in the way from the Kuruman into those. remote regions, it seemed to me premature to take up our position so far beyond the colony; and I accordingly wrote very earnestly upon the subject to Dr. Tidman, who, in reply, referred me to Mr. Moffat, of the Kuruman, for an explanation of the step taken.
On our arrival, with the wagons, in the valley of Inyati, we settled down under a wild plum tree, where, more recently, a school-room has been erected. The first duty there was to build a temporary dwellinghouse. Having applied to the king, therefore, for an architect, a number of natives made their appearance. These men set to work and made me a hut, which was of a circular shape, and consisted of one wattle and clay wall, a door of the same materials, and a thatched roof. This hut was somewhat more convenient and roomy than the wagon, but the many holes left in the roof, wall, and door, afforded such an abundant entrance to rats and snakes, and made our new house so very draughty, that to live in it was neither comfortable nor safe, especially by night. This condition of things rendered the erection of another house necessary. We had been provided by the Society with some tools for the work, also with glass, nails, screws, hinges for the doors and windows ; and the task was accomplished in two months. Our European house consisted of a store-room, bed-room, kitchen, and eating-room. It had three doors and three windows. Anticipating a difficulty in finishing the clay walls during the rainy season, without some means of keeping them dry, the, roof was put up first. This was done by sinking into the ground a number of strong wooden pillars--roofing and thatching the house first--and having secured the shelter for that purpose, the walls of stone and clay were easily got up. Nor were the wooden pillars of small service in keeping them from falling, and supporting the roof until they were perfectly dry. Being the first European house in the country that the natives had ever seen, it was an object of curiosity and wonder to them. Many were their conjectures in respect to it, for some regarded it as a stronghold which we had made for ourselves; some, that it was to imprison them; while others understood our real object in erecting it, and appreciated our superior taste and skill. Many were our visitors for a time after the house was finished, who came chiefly for the sake of seeing for themselves the novel architecture. Even the king thought it worth his while to have a look at it. Of all the wonders connected with it, the window seemed to be the greatest. It was called isiboniboni (seeing-seeing), or reciprocal view or sight.
The new house was furnished with two iron chairs, one iron bedstead, and a number of boxes, which were used as chairs; couches, tables, wardrobes, safes, and cradle. The skins of wild and domestic animals, prepared for that purpose, served as mats for the floor, and unbleached calico did well as ceiling to our best room.
Another necessary was a vegetable garden. This was soon enclosed and sown, but it was some time ere we enjoyed any of the fruit of it. That, in a large measure, fell to the lot of the natives or their cattle. I had watered the peas for six weeks, when one morning, it was proposed to gather those that were ready for dinner that day; and we were rejoicing in
the anticipation of once more tasting this favourite vegetable, when, as I was going out of the house with my dish, I had the mortification of seeing a number of the amakosigazi (queens) enjoying the peas un- cooked; nor did my disappointment and cross looks and words seem to disturb them in the least. This practice was often repeated before the garden fence was made too formidable for our friends to go over it.
As the natives generally washed in the fountain or stream out of which they drank, we made a well in our garden, out of which we might draw clean water. This well, which was small, having been finished and become full of clear water, a big, black fellow thought he would enjoy bathing there. Into it he went; and as he was coming out, I was greeted by him in words which mean in English, "Thank you, sir, for making such a fine bathing place for us."
In time our garden was much enlarged, and wheat corn was grown in it. When the plough was first used, the natives were greatly amused, and came from all directions to see it. They called it ingulabe (wild pig). The chief objection they had to its introduction into their country was the fact that the heaviest garden work would then fall to the lot of the men and oxen, instead of the women; and the latter being freed from a good part of their usual labour, would become proud, talkative, and umanageable. Especially would this be true in the case of the man who had half-a-dozen wives!
The intercourse of the Amandebele with other South African tribes had, for the most part, been of an unpleasant nature. They had generally been at war with some one or other of their neighbours, and were in the habit of deceiving, plundering, and destroying others. Feeling guilty, they suspected strangers, and trusted themselves only. The missionary's first duty, therefore, seemed very apparent. He must gain their confidence and affection--a task, among a people whose language and character he did not know, not at all easy to be accomplished. In the absence of books, the acquirement of the language was necessarily a slow process; but until that was done, we could not reasonably expect much success in our mission. In the meantime we had to speak through interpreters, who were themselves heathen, and were thus ill qualified to be the medium through whom to convey spiritual truths to the native mind. We had been there some months when the two interpreters, called Shupeng and Siama, were placed at our service. After their arrival at Inyati, we lost no time in beginning to hold Divine service on the Lord's Day. This service was conducted at first in the Sechuana language through these interpreters, and consisted of a single address, of which sentence after sentence was interpreted by one of them. The place of worship being the large cattle pen, the king, who had previously been acquainted with our desire of speaking both to himself and his subjects respecting divine things, took his seat under a large shady tree, near the centre of the kraal, and sent messengers to summon the townsmen to his presence. The officers sent to call the men together, each carried a club or staff in the right hand, and spoke with much authority, but brought back only the men the women being forbidden to attend any public meeting. On approaching their king, these men stared him in the face, uttered his praises, and in a stooping posture, took their seats before him in semicircular shape ; and except when he sneezed--at which time his praises were loudly repeated--they listened to the speaker very attentively.
At the end of these first services--at least as a rule one of the chief officers present would stand up and repeat an oration, composed either by himself or somebody else, to the honour of the sovereign, taking care, as often as lie could, to bring in parts of the missionary's discourse just listened to, in order to ridicule the whole of the white man's novel teachings, and to make the new religion an object of laughter. Nor did Umzilikazi himself hesitate to criticise what was advanced by the missionary on such occasions. Listening to an address one Lord's Day, founded upon the words, " Honour thy father and thy mother," he seemed pleased with the first part of it, that is, as long as it was urged upon the child to honour his father; but the moment the mother's honour was asserted, he cried out, saying, " It is all false, believe him not; for what honour is due to a woman, seeing she never goes out to war!"
At one time, as I was waxing warm with my subject, and the large congregation present seemed to be much interested, the king sitting next to me, exclaimed, "Tomasi, you have had some coffee this morning, and I feel the want of mine," and with this he quietly walked away and was followed by a portion of the congregation
Mr. Sykes, who had been appointed as my colleague among the Amandebele having come up and seen the land, returned on a visit to the Cape Colony; and Mr. Moffat, of the Kuruman--who had been requested by the Directors to accompany us into the interior, and to introduce us to Umzilikazi-having seen us settled at Inyati, returned home; while Mr. J. S. Moffat and myself toiled on in the new mission. Our work then consisted in learning the language, holding services on the Lord's Day at home, and visiting two neighbouring villages during the week. On these visits I took a young man with me, chiefly for the sake of his aid in making myself understood, and also for acquiring the language. A small note-book and pencil were always at hand on these journeys, and every now word or expression written down, while the memory had also to be refreshed in regard to those already known.
In 1860, the king having gone about ten miles to the west of Inyati to found a new town there, we moved the Sunday services from the royal kraal to our dwellings, where ultimately, a house for Divine worship was built. Such a knowledge of the language was gained as to enable us to begin short services in it and although very imperfectly done, what we accomplished in this way seemed much more acceptable to the hearers than that which was conveyed to them through an interpreter.
In 1861, a first elementary book was prepared, and sent to the Kuruman to be printed, but the missionaries then at the place thought it premature to print anything in the Isindebele language.
Oil the 13th of August, I was called to see the king, who was very ill, and was requested to prescribe for him. He had just returned from the cold country between Inyati and the Amaswina mountains, in the east, whither, two months previously, he had gone with his army against a chief called Utjibi and was now suffering intense pain from a fit of the gravel, as well as from an attack of rheumatic gout. When requested to tell their lord that the former complaint was so serious that he might die in a day or two from it, my interpreters--Umanqeba and Umakwazindaba--were so terrified that they immediately quitted the, hut, not daring, as I afterwards learned, to speak of the death of their king. Thus his majesty and myself were soon alone in the house,, staring each other in the face. In a day, he was free from one of his complaints, and in a few days longer he experienced so much relief from the agonies of the other, that I was established, from that time until his death in 1868, as a royal medical man.
Our efforts to teach the young consisted in each missionary doing what he could in his own house and among his servants and adherents; but this--in the absence of even a word printed in the native language, discountenanced by despotic government, and distasteful to the children themselves--was indeed up-hill work and little successful. A good deal of my own attention was given to a young man called Khukhwe who followed us from the Kuruman. He was already able to read Sechuana, and wished very much to speak, read, and write the English language. He seemed to me to be a promising youth, and was taught to read English, with a view to his future usefulness as a native teacher. More recently, he was received into church membership, encouraged to teach and speak in public, and is now at the new institution preparing for the ministry. Khukhwe is a man of no mean natural parts; he is a consistent christian, and has the qualifications of a useful native teacher. From a letter just received (June 28th, 1872) from Khukhwe's brother, called Gaseitsiwe who was also my servant, I am very glad to learn that he is also about to join his brother at the Moffat Institution.
On July 11th, 1861, Mr. and Mrs. Sykes arrived and joined us in the Inyati mission. Mr. S. brought with him the very handsome present of guns and ammunition which his Excellency Sir George Grey had so nobly given me, and which at that time was especially useful and valuable, from the unusual course I had adopted in labouring among the heathen. It was a time of famine, because of' the scarcity of rain. Many were suffering from hunger, and some contracted diseases which resulted in death from eating improper food. I then first became convinced that it was my duty to use the gun in order to feed the hungry. Many were the applications for help the poor starving people made to us, from time to time, and to whom could they have gone, or who would have been so likely to compassionate them as the men who had come into their country to succour and do them good? Nor were they wanting in argumentative skill to enforce their claims. One specimen will suffice to show this. Having described the Saviour--as he was going about doing good to men--feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and raising the dead, I was told by my hearers to prove my assertions by doing the same as Jesus had done. " The spirit of which you speak, and which you say is within us, we know not ; we never saw it, never heard it, never knew it, neither do we care to know it; but these bodies we know and feel, and when they waste away from hunger, we suffer and die." To argue with them respecting the age of miracles, and the spirituality of my calling, would have been worse than useless. Besides this, it was very clear that although the age of miracles had long ago passed away, still the duty of caring for the body of man was incumbent upon us, so long as we remained on earth, seeing that both body and soul are the property and care of the Lord. Recognising this, I determined to give the Amandebele practical proofs of my desire to do them good in every lawful way. Accordingly, I went out often and shot, from time to time, some hundreds of antelopes and other game, in order to satisfy their hunger; and I employed dozens of men and women, not so much for their work's sake, as for the sake of feeding them, and teaching them good habits, and the word of God.
Any objection to such a course on the ground that it is incompatible with the missionary's spiritual work, and is also attended with danger to himself, can readily be met. A good missionary must be a man in the, best sense of the word.; must show those among whom he labours that he has all their interests--temporal as well as spiritual--at heart. He will seek to do them good by all the means in his power; and while he will not wantonly rush into danger, neither will he shrink from it, if met with in the path of duty. Like his blessed Lord, he will, as much as possible, be a healer and helper of human wants and woes.
Thomas Morgan Thomas, Eleven Years in Central South Africa, 1873, pp. 320-323
On April 16th, 1862, a letter from Mr. Moffat, of the Kuruman, to Umzilikazi was read to the latter. In this letter Mr. Moffat requested his old friend to receive his son-in-law--Mr. Price--to be a missionary in his country. The king's reply was that he had missionaries enough already, and that if Mr. Price came he would not be responsible for his safety, and he would advise the bearer of the letter (Mr. John Moffat) also to depart from his country. Such was the feeling of his subjects towards white people, on account of the cattle disease at that time raging so fearfully in the land. At the beginning of May, Mr. John Moffat and family left for the Kuruman, and thus the missionary families in the Amandebele country were once more reduced to two in number.
Mr. and Mrs. Moffat had scarcely left when my beloved wife and three children were prostrated by fever. They were taken ill on May 29th. The baby died on June 7th, and Mrs. Thomas early on the morning of the 10th. They were both buried under an acacia where more recently, several other white people have had their last resting place.
The reader will bear with me when I insert here the translation of some extracts of a Welsh letter I wrote at the time, as sketching the family affliction to which I here refer, and as conveying all idea of what missionaries are sometimes called upon to witness and endure in heathen lands.
On the 28th ult., the unhealthy east wind began to blow hard in this neighbourhood, and it seems that Annie and the children caught cold as they were out for a walk. The next was the day on which I should hold service at town about four miles from here, but as she was poorly, I remained at home. The following day she seemed so much better that I held service in the said village. But when I returned, she was worse again. Regarding her complaint as a cold, she took measures to remove it.
About noon on June 2nd, she suddenly became very much worse, and the symptoms of tile disease were most serious, and to me, very complex. Flushed face, anxious features, quick, irregular pulse, white-faced tongue, headache, a degree of deafness, great oppression and difficulty of breathing, delirium, a sense of immediate dissolution, skin hot but dry, looks as if suspicious of all about her. In the absence of a medical man, I had to do all I could to substitute such. If present, lie might have used more active means than I could see my way clear to adopt. As it was, the tendency of all the food and medicine I gave her during her whole illness, was to remove the fever, and keep up her strength. But what avail man's thoughts and efforts if God is against him? She had done her work--finished with earth, and was now to depart. During her short but severe illness, her time was occupied in prayer and praise...Some hours before her death we sang together--'There is a happy land.' I saw a change coming over her--placing her head on my bosom, I asked if she felt worse; but no answer. She lifted up her eyes, and immediately her immortal spirit took its flight. No one but myself and two lands were in the house; it was ten minutes past four in the morning. but there seemed nothing strange or unnatural in what took place. No struggle was at all visible, but a calm lifting up of the eyes to heaven, and sweet falling asleep. In this instance, indeed, death had no terror--not even to the living, and seemed much more like friend than foe.
Mr. Sykes having made a coffin for her also, my beloved Annie, and sweet babe, were interred in the same grave. As a wife she was as like that one described in the second of Genesis, to her husband, as she could have been. I feel lonely to-day. Every thing, and eveyr person bring her to my mind, but my beloved no more makes her appearance. My dear lads, Morgan and David, are companions to me, it is true, but they do not lessen my sorrow--rather do they increase it. Morgan's questions and tears are sufficient to break a heart that is whole; how much more so that which is wounded?
'Papa, where is mama?'
'She is in heaven.'
'Who took her there?'
'For what purpose?'
'To praise him and be happy.'
'Where is heaven, papa?'
'It is up there.'
'When shall we go there? Can't we go now? Where are the wagon and oxen?'
'The wagon and oxen cannot go there.'
'How did mama go there?'
'Jesus took her.'
'And can't we also go?'
'No, not today.'
And then he begins to cry bitterly. To lose a mother like theirs is anywhere a great loss to children; but such a loss in a country like this is ten times greater in christian lands. There are but three persons here who can influence them for good, while there are thousands here who would lead them to destruction. The plan adopted to bring up children in a place like this is always to keep them near us, in order to protect them from the destructive habits of the natives; and the father being often from home, or about his mission work, the care of the children devolves almost entirely upon the mother. Remember, you are not to understand me as rebelling against Divine providence, or as feeling sorry that my dear Annie has bade an eternal farewell to a world so full of woe--has been presented to a crown among the saints, and thus begun to reign with Christ above the skies; nor are you to understand of myself that, although deeply wounded, I am therefore killed. The Lord has not changed, nor as yet has he forgotten His covenant with His people in any instance, and although the present dispensation is trying to the feelings, it is not injurious to the soul.
A. Francis Davidson, South and South Central Africa: A Record of Fifteen Years' Missionary Labours Among Primitive Peoples, (Elgin, Ill: Brethren Publishing House), 1915 , p. 128.
As the natural inclination of the native is toward laziness and filthiness in personal habits, we were opening the door and taking all who desired to come and giving them a home, our aim being to take them out of their degreaded home surroundings...These natives, for sanitary and other reasons, are always given their own separate huts, away from the Europeans.
From H. Kaibach, St. Barbara's Mission, to Native Commissioner, Inyanga, Southern Rhodesia, Jan 9 1935
Boniface Dumwa and Nyanete, the father of Martin, are living together in a kraal on our Farm. Their children have all been to our school and have become members of the Catholic Church with the full consent of their parents. Boniface and Nyanete engaged their children Rosa and Martin respectively. Martin was then a Catholic and nobody thought he would ever be anthing else. He was never much of a character. He went to work and during his stay at Salisbury he left the Catholic Church and became a member of Watch Tower. He returned a few months ago and took Rosa and went with her somewhere. Then the mother of Rosa came to me to complain together with Nyanete. Both were very unwilling that Martin should have done so. I informed the police, the police officer came and took both to your office. Martin was warned that being a member of the Watch Tower he was no longer allowed to live on our farm and the parents were also warned that unless their children were married according to the Catholic rite, they would all have to leave the farm. Such is the rule of the farm.
Native Commisioner Mrewa to Chief Native Commissioner, Southern Rhodesia, 8 Sept 1930
I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of the above Circular with the resolution passed by the Conference of Christian Natives and endorsed by the Southern Rhodesia Missionary Conference on 'Night Dances'...we do have 'Night Dances' and I cannot agree that these dances held at outlying kraals are so great an evil as we would be made to believe by the wording of the resolution. Night dances are a very old institutions amongst the natives (long before the days of Missionaries), and I have seen and attended many of them...I have seen nothing to which I am prepared to take exception.
This is one of those 'Donts' which otherwise well meaning people, without a true idea of the consequences, would try to foist upon the native; there is nothing more wrong with the Native night dances than there is at the Show dance at Meikles, or a Saturday night dance at the Grand. Too many 'donts' makes life irksome to the native, and is liable to do more harm than good, we have quite sufficient of them in our present Native legislation.
Charles E. Maddry, Day-Dawn in Yoruba-Land, (Nashville: Broadman Press), 1939, p. 163.
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and
satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise
in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the -noonday.-
ISAIAH 58: 10.
IT HAS been eighty-nine years since Thomas J. Bowen went out to dark Africa, as the first missionary sent by Southern Baptists to this vast continent. For the first twenty-five years the Mission was beset with difficulties, and several times it seemed that the feeble rays of gospel light would be smothered completely. For a period of seven years, from 1869 to 1875, there was no American missionary on the field, and a faithful native Baptist woman, Mrs. Sarah Harden, assisted by the Wesleyans, kept the feeble light of the gospel from going out completely in our Baptist church in Lagos. V. J. David was sent out in 1875, and the work was greatly revived within a few years. There were times, however, when internal strife, aided by the ravages of African fever, all but engulfed the life and witness of our feeble Baptist churches. It was not until the turn of the century that our Nigerian Mission began to show evidence that it was firmly established, and that the light of the gospel would one day surely penetrate into the darkest recesses of that unhappy land.
We have come now to tell in these closing chapters something of the challenge of the days ahead. The full glow of the noonday light beckons us on. Let us follow its gleam for a season.
'WAITING FOR THE MOVING OF THE WATERS'
Dr. George Green, our first medical missionary to Africa, went out to Nigeria in 1907, but he was compelled to wait for fifteen years for a hospital building. When we think of the delay, we are always reminded of the helpless cripple lying at the Pool of Bethesda. He had been there thirty and eight years, waiting for some sympathetic soul to help him into the moving waters in order that he might be healed. Finally, it was Jesus, the Great Physician, who came by and healed him.
Dr. and Mrs. Green, cultured, consecrated, splendidly equipped, full of the fire and idealism of youth, waited for fifteen years for a hospital building and the equipment necessary for the healing of the multiplied thousands crowding his doorstep. They waited for the "moving of the waters." The missionary doctor, of course, was not idle during those years of weary waiting on the generosity of his brethren in the homeland. They had so willingly promised to "hold the ropes" if he would "go down into the well" of dark heathenism in Africa. On reaching Ogbomosho he had immediately fitted up the basement of the mission house, built of mud, as a clinic and dispensary. He trained a raw heathen boy as general helper and dispenser. The lame and halt and blind came and filled the yard. The new white doctor, whom the natives called the skinned man, was looked upon as a miracle worker. Indeed he did work miracles in spite of the meager equipment at hand. With the help of a native carpenter he made his own operating table and other equipment. Often the odors of the dispensary and improvised operating room, together with groans of the sufferers, penetrated through the cracks in the floor to the living quarters of the missionary family above. Later a small mud structure was erected in the yard, and here for half a generation this ingenious physician, gifted surgeon, and messenger of the gospel carried on his twofold ministry of healing and teaching. The marvelous operations performed and the unbelievable cures effected during those crowded years have grown into romantic and legendary tales, recounted in the market places and compounds of many villages and towns. The medical missionary at the same time was pastor, evangelist, general referee, and arbitrator in every dispute and "palaver" between native brethren. He was often the treasurer and official representative of the Foreign Mission Board in all matters pertaining to the work of the Mission. Truly he was all things to all men that he might win them to Christ.
BEGINNING A NEW ERA
With the going of Dr. Green to Nigeria, we come to a new era of physical well-being and health adjustment for our missionary personnel in Nigeria. Dr. Green was trained in tropical diseases and knew what to eat and what not to eat in Africa. He became the personal physician and health adviser of every missionary. With the coming of a permanent medical missionary into the Mission there was immediately a decided improvement in the general health of the missionaries and their families. Apart from the marvelous service that Dr. Green has rendered as a medical man and surgeon to the natives, the service that he has rendered to the missionaries of our Board in Nigeria, as physician and medical adviser, has been worth a thousandfold more than the Board has ever expended in his support for the thirty-five years since he went to Africa.
PATIENT WAITING REWARDED
The Judson Centennial Movement, launched by Southern Baptists in 1912 and carried to a successful conclusion through the years that followed, was a wonderful blessing to every mission and station of our Board on the several foreign fields.
The 75-Million Campaign was launched in 1919, and the unfinished projects of the Judson Centennial movement were merged with the objectives of the larger movement. Included in the list of needs for Africa was the building of a hospital at Ogbomosho. The Young Woman's Auxiliary of Virginia, led by Miss Blanche Sydnor White, adopted the Ogbomosho Hospital Building as their project. The 'Woman's Missionary Union of Virginia generously supplemented the amount given by the young women. There was great rejoicing in all the Baptist churches of Virginia when it was known that ample funds for the building of the hospital for the Greens were on the way to Africa. Dr. and Mrs. Green are beloved in Virginia and throughout the South.
At last the dream of the years was a reality, and from Africa there came the good news that the cornerstone of the hospital had been laid in December, 1921. The Mission requested Dr. E. G. MacLean, of Iwo, to move to Ogbomosho and give general oversight to the construction of the hospital, the college, and seminary buildings. The hospital unit was completed in the spring of 1923 and was formally dedicated on July 4 of that year.
EXPRESSING HIS GRATITUDE
We were sitting beside Dr. Green, our medical missionary, at breakfast one morning in the home of Missionary A. C. Donath at Oyo, when one of the table boys came in and told the doctor that there was someone in the backyard of the Mission house waiting to see him. Dr. Green excused himself and went out. We thought that it was just one more case of sickness or suffering calling for the professional service of the medical missionary. Presently the doctor returned smiling and, in answer to our inquiry for the reason of the joy that was written in his face, said that an old friend had come to call upon him and, as an expression of his love and gratitude to the missionary, had brought him a calabash of green corn. 'We at once sensed a good story and finally induced the modest medical man to tell us the reason for the warm gratitude of the old black man.
Many years ago, an old blind man had found his way to Dr. Green's clinic at Ogbomosho and had appealed to the doctor to give him back his eyesight. The doctor had examined him and found that he was suffering from cataracts. He had been totally blind for several years. There seemed little hope for a successful operation, but the doctor decided to take a chance anyway. He reasoned that since the man was already blind and would not be any the worse off if the operation were a failure, he would take the chance of operating. After several days of anxious waiting, the bandages were removed, and, to the amazement of the old man and the joy of the doctor, the patient could see. Dr. Green fitted him with glasses, and after a few weeks, when he was dismissed from the hospital, he had almost perfect eyesight.
The joy and gratitude of the old man knew no bounds. And the best part of all the story is that during these days of waiting in the hospital, the medical missionary had taught him the love and mercy of a Saviour, who was waiting to save him. The old man had found in the Mission Hospital something greater than his physical eyesight; he had found the glorious light of the Saviour's face in the pardon and forgiveness of his sins.
He went away and was gone for some days. Then one day be came back leading a string of ten blind men. Dr. Green examined them and saw that some were stone blind, while others were suffering from cataracts or other diseases of the eyes. The doctor took them in and operated on several of them. He was able to relieve some of them and to give them back their eyesight. Finally, the day came when he bad to announce to those who were hopelessly blind that he could do nothing for them. Dr. Green said it was a heartbreaking hour that he would never forget. The blind men cried, wailed, and begged the missionary not to send them away in darkness, but to give them back their eyesight, as be had the others. He tried to explain that he could not help them, but they thought that he was offended with them in some way and, therefore, would do nothing for them. They crawled over the floor, kissed the doctor's shoes, hugged his legs, and said over and over in piteous appeal: "Master, why are you angry with us? What have we done to offend you? Please give us back our eyesight, too."
Dr. Green said that now whenever he visits Oyo, the once blind man always comes, bringing his simple gift as an expression of some of the gratitude in his heart for what the missionary doctor has done for him. We left the breakfast table with joy bells ringing in our hearts and went out to take the picture of Dr. Green and the old ex-blind man, whose face was now so radiantly happy in the light and sunshine of the Saviour's love.
Southern Baptist ministers visit Nigeria, circa 1930s.
Mongo Beti, The Poor Christ of Bomba, (London: Heinemann), 1971. [orig. published 1956], pp. 20-24
Tuesday, 3 February
The village of Timbo begins scarcely five kilometres from Mombet. Which means the people here are just the same as those we left behind. And it also means that the Father hasn't had time to lose his mood of yesterday. Now he is working, as he does every evening, going through the parish registers of Timbo with the local catechist and closely questioning him. I listened as much as I could, and I certainly gathered that there's no hope of things taking a better turn here. If I hadn't cherished any hopes of Timbo last night, perhaps I shouldn't feel so bitterly let down now.
Some of the Timbo catechist's remarks are really frightening. When the Father asked him: 'How do the people think in general, what do they say of religion?'
He replied, after much hesitation: 'Father, they say that a priest is no better than a Greek trader or any other colonialist. They say that all any of you are after is money. You are not sincere with them, you hide things from them and teach them nothing.'
'I? Hide things from them?' fumed the Father.
'That's what they say, Father.'
'My God, what do they mean?'
'They say that you must be hiding things from them. What about all the whites who live in concubinage with loose women in the town, do you ever rage against them? Far from it, you shake hands with them, go to their parties and ride in their cars back to Bomba. Nevertheless you preach that, after baptism, the blacks should cease to visit their own relatives who are not Christians. You are really a very dangerous man, for if everyone listened to you, the wives would all leave their husbands, the children would no longer obey their fathers, brothers would not know another and everything would be upside down. That's what they say, Father.'
At that, the Father was silent. He pinched his lips and tugged at his beard. His cheeks drooped and his eyes swelled out just as they did this morning during the palaver at Mombet. Ah yes, that famous palaver!
When I think how easily everything goes along the main road. There are so few serious matters that most of our time is spent on things of very minor importance. The importance of the palaver is that it's meant to put the Christian village completely in order before the priest departs for a whole year's absence. On the road everyone, having heard Mass and the sermon, attends the palaver in a state of excitement and enthusiasm; for having already judged all the issues at the rumour of our approach, they come in the hope of hearing their own verdicts confirmed. Hence they murmur, clap or burst into wild laughter to express themselves during the proceedings. How I loved to hear them! I didn't fully realize it at the time, but looking back I see our tours of the roads as a paradise.
But hereabouts, good Lord! It's not so much a palaver as a law court, so grave are the cases brought before us. Yet most of those mentioned never even bother to turn up. For them, the Father's court is not a real one, though it represents the one authority truly worthy of respect. If they were summoned by the Administrator's court in town they'd come creeping in like slippery snakes, like guilty dogs expecting punishment. Yes, with his flock of soldiers and policemen to bring them in, he's lucky enough. But at the Last Judgement see who will win, who will prove the stronger ...
And even if they do come to palaver they seem passive and sluggish, as if the whole business were of no interest to them. These Tala people are real bushmen.
Anyway, our palaver was certainly quite a show at Mombet this morning! The unmarried mothers didn't trouble to show up. The Father called out their names, everybody turned round, but not a soul! But it's just as well, really. What could the Father have said to them, and what good would it do? We'll see them sooner or later at the mission when the fancy takes them to get their wretched infants baptized.
Then, a woman came up to the bar, mother of a family and married to a polygamist. She spoke of her son, who had contented himself with a civil marriage. He'd refused to send his bride to the sixa to be prepared for a true marrriage and, though a Christian, had been living with the girl in this state of sin for six months.
'What shall I do, Father?' she demanded. 'My son is big now and doesn't obey me. It's his father that he listens to, but his father isn't a Christian and laughs at our marriages. So what can I do?'
When he questioned her about her relations with the sons, she replied: 'But, Father, I have five boys apart from my eldest. Two of them are at school with you, in Bomba. I have to visit them every week and carry their food. Nearly fifty kilometres every week, and so heavily loaded! Think of it, Father. Here are the other three' (the frightened children were clinging to her gown), 'too young for school yet, as you see. But I have to dress and feed them, which keeps me in the fields until sunset every day, Father. So I scarcely have time to know if the eldest is even alive, especially since he's married.'
She waved her arms as she talked but didn't seem vexed with anyone, indeed she sounded rather amused. Her cotton gown, very soberly decorated, fell to mid-calf, according to the Father's orders about the length of dresses. Her big arms, strong as a man's, made me think of the fury with which she worked on the farm to bring up her children.
'And your husband,' demanded the Father, 'what does your husband do all this time?'
'Oh Father, you know well enough how it is, after all the years you've lived amongst us. I am his first wife, true enough; otherwise I shouldn't have been baptized. But that doesn't mean that my husband has only my children to worry about. We are four wives and over a dozen children! How can he keep all those by his own efforts? We have to help him all we can!'
Even the Father was subdued by this frankness. He was about to speak, but I saw a flicker of resignation cross his face.
'But your husband?' he said after a pause. 'Have you tried to show him God's will in this?'
'Oh Father, I speak to him every moment I can of his soul, of Heaven and Hell, but he answers me with sarcasm, saying, "This white man, this priest, can't you see that he's duping you? There's not a word of truth in it. He lies all day long, like the rest of the whites. How can you believe a word they say, poor woman?" After that, I didn't say another thing.'
Then, shrugging her shoulders, she added: 'How do you expect a poor woman like me to talk back to a man?'
Although she didn't look sorry for herself, this woman filled me with pity.
The next to come to the bar was a young man whose wife was in the sixa at Bomba. She'd been waiting there vainly for months for him to fulfil the conditions of Christian marriage. He didn't wait to be interrogated by the Father but pitched right in: 'I've only come here, Fada, to ask what you intend to do with my wife.'
The Father started and I felt a storm brewing in the air.
The young man continued: 'It seems I have to tell you again, though you know it well enough already. My wife and I were properly and legally married. But one day she took a strange fancy in her head and ran away to your mission. Instead of sending her back to me like a sensible man, you took her in. I have sent word through the catechist that I wish her sent back to me. But it seems he hasn't done anything, so..
'Are you a Christian or not?' thundered the Father, who could stand no more.
That is beside the point,' he replied in a cool, sarcastic tone. 'Certainly I was baptized, if you want to know. But does that give you a right to confiscate my wife? Do you know that I have paid seven thousand francs to have her? Seven thousand . . .'
The Father soon saw that it was no use to bully this firebrand, so he adopted a softer manner: 'Don't you know that a civil marriage counts for nothing, if it is not completed by the sacrament?'
'Fada, I could reply that only the Administrator has authority over me and that only a civil marriage counts with him. But what's more, your marriage will cost me far too much. Oh, I know all about it! All the arrears of the cult dues to pay, both mine and hers, and at the current rate! No, really, I haven't the money for it. In any case, my wife has spent over four months in your sixa and worked for you 4 free all that time. Fada, I think we understand each other. You've had her labour for four months already; send her back to me and quits.
I saw the Father rise slowly to his feet, walk round the table and give the insolent puppy two resounding slaps on the cheeks. And he earned them! Such arrogance! He held his hands to his cheeks and glared at the Father with the most concentrated hatred and rage.