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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 XIV.

Episcopal visitation--Conference--Death of Mrs. Lighthurn.

IN 1878 the Bishop of Sierra Leone paid a visit to the Isles de Los, and in his report stated that at Fotobah he found twenty-two children in the day-school and seventy-eight in the night-school. The work there, and at the other five chief stations (Cockles Town, Boom, Rogbana, Crawford Island, and Cassa), was being successfully carried on by the Rev. R. J. Clarke and his catechist, Mr. Thompson. On Fotobah 355 persons had been baptized since May 3rd, 1855. After administering the rite of confirmation to twenty-five persons, and holding a celebration of the Holy Communion, the Bishop went on to Fallangia, where he presided over an important conference of clergy and laity on the 18th and 19th, composed of the ordained missionaries, the native chiefs, and about fifty other laymen. Many practical resolutions were carried at the several sessions for the self-support of the Church at the Rio Pongo. Amongst others were the following:

i. That a capitation assessment of one bushel of ground nuts should be levied annually on every Christian ten years old and upwards.

ii. That all the schoolmasters and catechists should be examined on each visit of the Bishop.

iii. That a catalogue of the Mission property in each station should be sent to the Bishop, and a copy kept in the records of the place, so that the Mission's property might be known from that of the missionaries.

iv. That a native carpenter be kept permanently, who should go from station to station repairing the boats, dwellings, etc.

After the Conference a confirmation was held at Fallangia, and then, satisfied with the good work being done by Mr. McEwen, the Bishop proceeded to Domingia and inspected the Rev. P. H. Doughlin's district. From thence the Bishop, in company with all the missionaries, went on to Farringia, where he introduced as catechist, Mr. David Brown, late student of Fourah Bay College, and a Licentiate in Theology of Durham University. The clergy were hospitably entertained and welcomed by the lady chief Mrs. Lightburn, Mr. Lightburn, Mr. Marsden, and others, The Bishop held a service, at which he. baptized two adults, British subjects. He also preached to a very large gathering of people. At the end of the service the Bishop pronounced the blessing, placing both his hands on the old lady's head. He was very much struck with her devotion. She was old (upwards of eighty), very infirm, and unwell; but still she would not be prevailed on not to kneel. She said: "I am not able to remain sitting while you are kneeling in prayer. I fear God. I am not his equal; I fear him." The old lady spoke a good deal of English while in conversation with the Bishop.

From Farringia the Bishop went to Bashia, on the Fattalah branch of the river, where the C. M. S. first settled in 1804; and as he stood looking at the ruins of the old buildings, the King of Bashia and Chief of Canoffee came to him begging for a schoolmaster. The town was then (in 1878), and is now, under Mohammadan influence. Having visited Canoffee, and Lisso on the opposite side of the river, he returned to Domingia, where he held a confirmation and inspected the schools. Retracing his way to the Isles de Los, he held a Christmas Eve service at Fotobah, and inspected Mr. Clarke's schools. Unable to reach Sierra Leone by Christmas, the Bishop spent that feast in the mission boat with four Susus, and arrived at Freetown, December 26th, 1878. At this time the Rev. J. W. Hayward resigned the office of Secretary of the English Committee, and his place was taken by the Rev. G. F. Barrow.

During his stay the Bishop visited old Mrs. Lightburn at Farringia, prayed for her, and blessed her. It was the last time that he was to see her, for on the night of April 1 she passed away. The news was not communicated until the next morning when a large cannon was fired. This was no ordinary news in the neighbourhood of the Rio Pongo. The very gun which formerly kept guard over the many poor souls which she held in her hands, now poured forth the tidings far and near that her own soul had gone forth into the hands of God. The infirmities of age had pressed heavily upon her ever since her baptism, and at last she died somewhat suddenly. In former days the death and burial of Mrs. Light- burn would have been very different. The usual saraxa or offering to the dead would have been made, and heathen rites performed. But now we cannot doubt but that the merciful Father accepted the offering which she made to Him, even at the eleventh hour, of herself, her soul, and body; and our hope is that our sister "rests in Him."

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