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Fifty Years in Western Africa
Being a Record of the Work of the West Indian Church on the Banks of the Rio Pongo

By A.H. Barrow, M.A.
Vicar of Billinghurst, Sussex

London: SPCK, 1900.

Chapter XI.

Death of Bishop Parry--Discouragement in the Isles de Los--Losses by fire--New bishop, Dr. Cheetham--Rio Nunez new church--Arrival of Rev. J. B. McEwen.

IN the beginning of the year 1870 the work of the Mission was going forward at four centres. Fallangia, the original station on the little Pongo, where there were two mission houses and a church with outposts at Backia, Yengisa and Sangul, under Mr. P. H. Doughlin, catechist, with Mr. Macauley, school master; Domingia, an important trading-place on the Great Pongo, with a church and mission-house newly erected by the Mulatto chiefs, under the acting chief missionary, Rev. D. G. Williams, with Mr. Bickersteth as schoolmaster, who worked the outposts at Kissiri, Lokatah, and Xundiyeri; Fotobah, on the Isles de Los, midway between the Rio Pongo and Sierra Leone, with outposts at Boom and Rogbana on the same island, Cassa on Factory Island, and the settlement on Crawford island, under the charge of the Rev. J F. Turpin; Gemme St. Jean, on the Rio Nunez, 100 miles north of the Rio Pongo. Here the Rev. J. H. Duport was working, on the invitation of Gura Tasol, the Mohammadan king of the Naloos. The reports received from the stations, as well as those of the acting superintendant, tell of steady progressive work, the two stations of Domingia and Fallangia being now fully provided for, and well looked after by Mr. Doughlin, whose energy was untiring The report tells us that in order to press the people to come in to his weekday evening services, he adopted the plan of St. Francis Xavier, who walked through the streets of Goa, with a bell in his hand, summoning all masters for the love of God, to send their children and slaves to be catechized.

The Mission was now to suffer a great loss in the removal from this world of one of its founders and chief fathers, Bishop Parry of Barbados, the first president of the mission board. He died at West Malvern, on Wednesday, 16th March, 1870, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.

On May 12th, the Rev. Prebendary Bennett resigned the post of Hon. Sec. to the English Committee of the Mission, and his place was taken by the Rev. A. Reece, vicar of Withiel Florey. While these changes in the Executive Committee at home were taking place, discouraging accounts began to arrive from Mr. Turpin of the work in the Isles de Los. The love of some was beginning to wax cold, and the consequent results, neglect and indifference, began to appear. Even among the new church-goers the novelty was wearing off and indifference to good could not last long without the inevitable development of evil. During a visit which Mr. Turpin was compelled to pay to Freetown, a Simoi ceremony was held in the town. This is the kind of devil worship held in memory of the dead. Far out in the bush sacrifices are offered; a cake is prepared from rice-flour, and placed on a large stone. The people first kneel round it and pray, after which they dance round in a most indecent manner, to the sound of the drum. The family of the dead persons then eat of the cake and become members (of Simo); afterwards, in many instances, having their teeth filed. This Simoi festival was held in memory of the mother of a young woman who was a native of Boom; the mother had died, about a year before in Sierra Leone. People came to the feast, which was kept up with the usual drumming, dancing, and firing of guns from Boom Cassa, and the mainland. Amongst the members were some of the baptized Christians who had allowed their curiosity and love of excitement to overcome them.

At the beginning of January, 1871, Mr. Duport left his station on the Rio Nunez for a short visit to Sierra Leone, and whilst on his return home, was met with the painful intelligence that the whole mission premises at Gemme St. Jean were destroyed by fire on Sun day, January 15th, just twelve days after he had left. Nothing was saved, and Mr. Duport's family was houseless and destitute. The fire broke out at seven o'clock in the evening; one of the schoolboys accidentally lighted the grass, from which the fire spread to the buildings. All Mr. Duport's books, presents received in England and the West Indies--among which was a private Communion service--everything of value that he had, was gone. Of the three buildings, nothing remained. It was a terrible blow, and for a time Mr. Duport seemed quite crushed down by it. The sympathy, however, that he received from the native chiefs and English and French merchants, both on the Rio Nunez and Rio Pongo, inspired him with new zeal. His friends came forward and helped him with money so kindly that, in six months after the fire, he was able to remove with his family into a new mission house, and within ten months to witness the dedication of the new church.

During the year 1871 the reports told of steady work at all the stations, although the Mission was short-handed. A new Bishop of Sierra Leone, now arrived from England--Dr Cheetham--who, by the wish of the Board, sent for our two missionaries, and on October 22nd, ordained Mr. Turpin a priest, and admitted Mr. Doughlifl to deacon's orders. The two newly missionaries returned to the Rio Pongo with the Rev. D. G. Williams, who was still visiting superintendent of the Mission, and, after spending a Sunday at Donlingia, the Revs. D. G. Williams and J. F. Turpin went on to the Rio Nunez to assist Mr. Duport at the opening of his new church. The work had been thoroughly done. The ground plan of the church was cruciform, and to it was attached a fireproof vestry in which the books, registers, etc., would be kept.

On the return of Messrs. Williams and Turpin, they found that a new helper had arrived at Fotobah; this was the Rev. J. B. McEwen, who, after a short stay at Fotobah, was sent to Fallangia to relieve Mr. Doughlin, and set him free to devote all his energy to the work at Domingia. Thus, at the end of 1871, after, many great causes for discouragement, the Mission staff was once more built up, and .the work prospering. God was still with his servants, who were battling on amid great difficulties, in this most trying part of His Mission field.

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