THE Mission of the West Indian Church to Western Africa was inaugurated in the year 1851, although its actual work was not commenced on the banks of the Rio Pongo before the summer of 1855. After less than a two years' residence in that country, its first missionary, the Rev. Hamble James Leacock, was cut off by death just as the arduous work he had undertaken was giving the promise of great success. Early in 1857 the first secretary to the English Committee, Dr. Henry Caswall, published the life of Leacock under the title of the "Martyr of the Pongas." This book was in no sense a history of the Mission, which was only then in its infancy and had but a year's history to record. Since then, nearly half a century has passed away, and no attempt has been made to give a consecutive story of the Mission which has continued its efforts to the present time. Amid untold difficulties and discouragements, a little band of missionaries, catechists, and schoolmasters have struggled on and persevered; and one by one, as they have rested from their labours, their places have been filled. Indeed, the combined records of the extension of Christianity could scarcely afford a nobler example of how the Gospel may, with the Divine help, be effectually propagated. Of the courage, the self-devotion, and the zeal which have characterized the efforts of these few labourers, it is not the special object of the pages to speak; but they are sent forth to tell their own tale in the hope that the blessing of God may rest upon them, and that they may win the favourable consideration of Christian people.
The sources of information have been Dr. Caswall's "Martyr of the Pongas," and Bishop Parry's "History of the Early Days of the Mission," published many years ago in the Mission Field. In addition to these, the present author has made full use of the "Story of the Mission," continued the story to the present time, and given such other information as his office of Secretary for the last seventeen years has naturally brought him. [Compiled in "the eighties" by the Rev. J. R. Izat, Vicar of Streatley and Assistant-Secretary of the Mission.] The original intention to give a faithful record of all events has not, however, been carried out, as just half of the manuscript has had to be set aside in order to bring the book down to its present proportions. This will account for the omission of a large number of incidents and the somewhat journalistic form of the closing chapters. Many thanks are due to the Rev. Professor Caldecott and the Rev. Canon Bindley for their kind assistance and revision of the manuscript.
THE readers of this book will find it to be an interesting story of the West Indian Mission to West Africa, often called the Rio Pongo Mission. The writer, as Secretary of the Committee in England, has given much time and labour to promoting this enterprise, and is well acquainted with the facts. A connected account of the beginnings and later progress of the Mission was much needed, and I hope the story herein told will encourage its old friends to continue their efforts, and will help to raise up new friends both in England and in the West Indies.
This Mission is only a small one, but it is the embodiment of a great and fruitful idea, and has already done much to quicken, among the people of the West Indies, a desire to make known the Gospel of Christ in that land from which the forefathers of many of them came.
I commend the book to the attention of those who desire to become acquainted with genuine efforts made for the extension of the Kingdom -of Christ, and the Mission itself to their prayers and sympathetic help.
Primate of the West Indies.
LONDON, July 20, 1899.