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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 XIX.

Opening of boarding-school---Plague of locusts--New church at Fallangia--The thirty-eighth anniversary of the commencement of Mission--Conference in London--Management and organization--New station at Kambia--Mr. Cole's interview with "Bey Firma."

THE boarding-school was formally opened on July 1, 1892, and on December 8th Mr. Farquhar held his first examination of pupils, the results of which were most encouraging. The principal of Fourah Bay College, and the Rev. Canon Taylor Smith also examined the school, and sent letters expressing their satisfaction at the progress made in that short time. Some anxiety was caused in 1893 by the repeated visits of locusts. "These destructive creatures," wrote Mr. Cole, "made their appearance on January 28th, and took two hours and twenty minutes in passing over. It looked very much as if there was an eclipse during their transit. Their second visit was made in April, when they continued till June, devouring almost the entire rice-crop that was just springing up. There was much unrest and consternation among the people. Immediately after the heavy rains their third visit was made, when large quantities of guinea-corn, rice, and other plants were devoured. The anxiety for the future is very great, and already food is beginning to be scarce." The new stone church at Fallangia, commenced in 1890, was completed by the end of May, and great was the joy in and around that station when the church was opened on June 4th. The congregation was large, the service was impressive. Mohammadans in large numbers came to witness the scene, and were greatly pleased to see the church completed. They were much interested when thirteen converts were admitted by Holy Baptism into the Church, and the Holy Communion administered to thirty recipients.

November 15th marked the thirty-eighth anniversary of the arrival of the first missionaries, Leacock and Duport; and, in order to commemorate the day, a special service was held in Fallangia Church, to which crowds of worshippers were drawn. An interesting meeting followed, when speeches were made expressing a desire for a Susu ministry. Testimony was also borne by Mohammadans to the great value of the Mission. One Mohammadan priest, indeed, openly professed his love for the Church and interest in its affairs. In October, 1894, an important and interesting Conference took place at the S.P.G. House in London. The two chief representatives of the Mission were present, viz, the Bishop of Jamaica, primate of the West Indian Church, and the Bishop of Sierra Leone, the head of the Mission in West Africa. The Bishop of Jamaica raised the whole question of the management and organization of the Mission, and strongly advised the drawing up of more definite instructions and regulations for the information of persons, both clerical and lay, wishing to offer them selves for work. Another important matter was a discussion respecting the decision recently come to by which it was determined to enter on a new field of work at Kambia on the great Scarcies River. Owing to the many difficulties put in the way of the missionaries by the French authorities, it was felt that there could be no longer much progress in the old stations; and the proposal to push forward further inland, and open "fresh ground" in British territory, met with hearty approval, both in the West Indies and at home. The Bishop of Sierra Leone had recently made a tour of inspection, and pronounced Kambia to be in every way a most suitable locality for the new enterprise. The inauguration of the work was assigned to the Rev. S. Cole, in whom the committee had every confidence; indeed, the reception offered him in this entirely heathen district was an earnest of future success, and, with the blessing of God, it held out hopes of great things to come.

Mr. Cole thus describes his interview with the Bey Firma (King). As soon as he saw me, said: "Well, has our friend last year come again (remembering Mr. McEwen's visit last year). These people truly keep their words; they promised to come this year, and they have come." After mutual salutation he went in, changed his clothes, washed his feet, and came to the place of hearing (this is a large piazza in front of his house, where court is daily kept). Many people were present, say about thirty in all; and having taken his seat, he asked, "What is the news?" The Alikarli (Governor) then related to the whole assembly the Bishop's visit last year, and subsequently that of Mr. McEwen's, and that their object is to plant the Gospel of Christ in our country. How the Bishop has sent this missionary to commence the work, and that he promised to visit us some time afterwards. So saying, he presented the Bishop's letter to Bey Ferma, who handed it over to the next man, and on to the other till it was put in Mr. Johnson's hand, who was asked to read it. The letter was read and explained in the Pimnee language, and the meaning was passed over to Bey Fernia, as is customary among them. This being done, Bey Ferma said, "I have heard." The Alikali then turned to Mr. Johnson and asked for the word. Mr. Johnson had forgotten about a present, and then said: "I don't understand you." "How did Mr. Cole come?" asked the Alikali. "How did the Bishop send him?" I then handed Mr. Johnson the cash, which I had brought with me for this purpose, and he passed it over to the Alikali, who in turn gave it to Bey Ferma. When he had received it, he said: "The news that Mr. Cole brings is a good one. Neither my father nor my grandfather knew anything of this. I am very glad of it. The missionary can stay in the country and do his teaching work. To show that I approve of it, I am the first to give him my son. This is from God, and we ought to hold it. It is a good thing to have a school in our country so that our children can be taught." The other people spoke to the same effect, and five of them also offered their children to me for Christian instruction. After this I addressed them in the Susu language. The Pimnee language is widely spoken in Bey Ferma's quarter, while at Kambia the Susu language more; but all understand Susu. They then brought us some food, which the Bey Ferma had ordered, as soon as he came, to be prepared for us. Before we left he also gave orders to the Alikali, in the presence of all the elders and said: "Take the missionary back to Kambia, keep him there, find a good place for him where he can do his work freely. Tell him that I alone will not be able to keep him in the country, nor do all for him. I will send to tell the other kings around that there is a school at Kambia, and that they should send their children there for education. Give to the missionary any piece of ground he may require, and see that no one disturb him. When I go down to Kambia, I shall call to see him." With these words I left Bey Ferma's quarters, and returned to Kambia, humbly lifting up my heart in thankfulness to God for having prospered my undertaking."

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