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Eight Years in Kaffraria, 1882-1890.

By Alan G. S. Gibson, M.A.
S.P.G. Missionary to the Pondomisi, and Archdeacon of Kokstad

London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1891.

Chapter XI. Review of Eight Years' Extension of Work

IT is, of course, unquestionable that the duty of missionary work is absolutely independent of the results that may accrue from it; that the Church can never insist too much upon the principle of carrying out our Lord's parting command, quite apart from personal considerations of love for this man or that, interest in one part or another of the mission-field; that much injury may be done, and perhaps often is done, to the missionary cause by the impatience of those at home who clamour for results until they force the hands of those who are labouring abroad and drive them into a precipitancy by which alone they can purchase continued support; and yet to all this there is another side. We may legitimately test the methods of our work by a consideration of results, taking the results in the widest sense, not only of the tangible growth, but also of the preparation for Christ and the gradual leavening of a lump of heathenism.

Let us, then, see, whether from the history of these eight years in Kaffraria we may fairly conclude that--in spite of all our many shortcomings, of hindrances from failure of funds, of errors of judgment and the like--still our methods as a whole are right, and God is in the midst of us, so that we may thank Him and take courage.

Without any doubt, infinitely the most important thing in mission work, far beyond a well-filled exchequer, and noble or convenient buildings, is the living agents. Now a comparison of the roll of clergy at the beginning of 1890 with that at the beginning of 1882 brings to light the following facts. In 1882 there were on the diocesan staff, besides the Bishop, nine priests (one a University man) and eight deacons: at a corresponding date in 1890 there were seventeen priests (five University men) and seven deacons, giving a total of twenty-four, as against seventeen, and the number is still increasing. It is true that we have had, during that period, to mourn the removal by death of our two archdeacons: first, of Henry Tempest Waters, the father of all mission work in Kaffraria, who laboured unweariedly for nearly thirty years in the Transkeian territories, his name a household word through the length and breadth of the land; and then of Thurston Button, the beloved missionary of Clydesdale, one of the most Christian-minded men that our age has seen; both alike felices opportunitate mortis, in that they died in harness; and after them of the head of the diocese, Henry Callaway, its first bishop, who gave up a lucrative practice in London to go forth as a missionary to Natal, where he did so much both for native translation work and for the native ministry, continuing his labours after his elevation to the Episcopate, until increasing infirmities led to the demand for a coadjutor in 1882-83, and his resignation in 1886, and culminated in his death in 1890; true that, immediately after the period that I have taken for my eight years' retrospect, the diocese was deprived of the invaluable services of William Mouat Cameron, who may be truly said to have made the College; but we do not doubt that the prayers of all these, of those who are in Paradise not one whit less (nay, surely more) than his who is still in the flesh, are perpetually going up for the country where they laboured, and that in no small degree it is through their intercessions that the stream of clergy (though still far too few) labitur et labetur. Where in 1882 there was not one clergyman of our Church between Ncolosi and Kokstad, there are now, on the lower road, two white priests, one native priest, and one native deacon, on the upper road two white priests: where in February 1882 the hamlets in Tembuland and the Transkei, saving only S. Mark's, had not one resident clergyman, now both Butterworth and Gala are the homes of priests of our Church.

Or mark how women's work has developed. At the beginning of 1882 there was one lady engaged in scholastic work at Umtata: there are now six at Umtata in charge of schools and hospital, and three at Kokstad. Through their instrumentality the hospital work, under its zealous missionary doctor, D. W. Johnston, has enormously developed; and here again we may say that the number is still increasing.

Of the number of native catechists and teachers no comparative figures are at hand, but it is quite certain that, as the work has extended, so must their numbers have increased as well.

We are struck by the same great phenomenon of development if we consider the church building that has taken place. In this the archdeaconry of S. Mark's has set a praiseworthy example. In eight years, churches for white congregations have been built at Umtata, Port S. John's, Butterworth, Idutwya, Gala, Engcobo, and Umtentu; while at the north-east end of the diocese, the Umzimkulu district can point to the Townsend Memorial Church, and Zuurberg and Glengarry chapels. The air over the rest of the diocese is filled with the sound of church-building. A church has been commenced at Kokstad, tenders have been called for at Matatiela, and funds are being raised for Maclear and Mount Frere, as well as for a memorial church at S. Mark's, at the far west end of Kaffraria. Here again, through ignorance of all that has been done, I am compelled to omit mention of all the numerous native churches and chapels that have been erected; although some, such as that at All Saints, are fine substantial buildings. This great work is being carried on, not by diocesan funds, which were available for only two or three of the places named, but by local effort in the main, backed up by the generous help of the S.P.C.K., and, in many cases, of the "Churchwomen's Association" of Scotland.

At Umtata the two-storeyed girls' school has been built during this period by special funds given to Bishop Calla-way, and a house has been purchased for a girls' school at Kokstad by private benefaction. So that, whereas eight years ago there were no Church girls' boarding-schools, there are now two at the two great centres--one for white girls, the other containing the two departments of white and native work. Both t are flourishing, and the latter, though in a large building which has already been once enlarged, is so rapidly outgrowing its habitation, that a fresh extension of some kind or another has become an imperative necessity.

We may look again at the hospital. Eight years since it consisted of one {or two) verandah rooms; it is now composed of two houses, which, with their seven rooms, can comfortably accommodate fourteen native and two white patients.

In close connection with this, and indeed an outcome of it, due mainly to the representations of Dr. Johnston, must be mentioned the new departure (new for this diocese) that is being made in the way of medical missions, thanks once more to the ready help of the S.P.O.K. A doctor and a priest are about to take up their abode at S. Andrew's, in Pondoland East (the station commenced by Bishop Callaway, where he once thought to make his home), and thence work among Sigcau's independent people; while at the present moment W. Vice is beginning a medical course in Edinburgh, with the hope of eventually returning as a duly qualified medical missionary to tend to and evangelise Umqweliso's people in Pondoland West.

Nor is it a point of least importance that the finance of the diocese, weak as it still is, has been put on a firmer basis than ever it was before; and that of the total income available for religious and educational purposes by the Church of the diocese, one quarter is raised locally, in apparently about equal proportions by whites and natives.

It is a matter of regret that statistics are not at hand here in England showing the number of baptisms and confirmations in a year. Taking, however, the report of one parish, where the work was mixed, for 1887 and 1888, we find in the former year--Children baptized, 102; adults, 21; confirmed, 74; and in the latter--Children baptized, 138; adults, 35; confirmed, 77.

At this date there were eight parishes in active occupancy, omitting those of S. Andrew's and Port S. John's, which were vacant. In some of these, such as S. Mark's, the numbers would doubtless be considerably larger than those quoted above, and in others they would be less, so that the statistics which I have given may be taken as representing a fair average annual parochial work under those heads, and, multiplied by eight, would convey a fair idea of the annual tangible growth throughout the diocese. Of course, in very many cases, at first starting the development must be very slow, and the work is confined to breaking up the ground.

But, after all, this is only the shell--the visible outside. Far more important is the question--Is the outside a fair index of the inside? Do baptisms really work a perceptible regeneration, and confirmations a perceptible strengthening? Are Christian Kaffirs better than heathen Kaffirs--purer, more sober, more industrious, more honest, better citizens--or are they not? For, if not, surely again (while the duty to evangelise, and after evangelisation, to edify, remains absolutely untouched) the methods must be at fault somewhere or other. And if the Christian Kaffir is, all round, a better man than the heathen Kaffir, how are we to account for the strong prejudice that undoubtedly exists in many colonial minds against missions and missionaries?

The subject has been dealt with by the present Bishop of S. John's from one side in a most able and interesting paper, which appeared in the Mission Chronicle of the Scottish Episcopal Church, No. LIL, entitled, "Our Converts: are they the better for their Christianity?" The words of one the whole of whose working life has been spent in Kaffraria, cannot but command the most respectful attention; and it is remarkable to find that my own conclusions, arrived at after careful observation and consultation with Kaffrarian laity, but never with the Bishop, are fortunate enough to coincide entirely with the far greater experience of his Lordship.

The question of the prejudice sometimes entertained against missionaries--a few words about which will be found in the Mission Chronicle of the Scottish Episcopal Church, No. LI.--may be passed over here; and we may proceed at once to consider the character of our converts, and the native Christians of the second generation.

But, first, is it not the case that the existence of a strong (though by no means universal) colonial public opinion against missionary work, must ipso facto condemn it, and falsify the statements that are about to be advanced?

By no means: for there is a very tangible ground for the feeling, with which we may deal first; and in the second place, it is open to the gravest doubt whether those who condemn missionary work and its apparent results among the natives, have the very slightest knowledge of that of which they are talking.

Now, generally speaking (it must be remembered that there are many notable exceptions), the average white layman in such a country as Kaffraria, and the missionary, start from entirely different points of view. The former holds firmly that the white is, per se, better than the native; that the former is, and is to remain, the dominant class; that the latter belongs to an inferior race, and is to be kept in his place, which is to serve as a hewer of wood and a drawer of water: in fact, the white layman, intensely republican and democratic with reference to those of his uwn colour, is in reality in most cases a strenuous supporter of an oligarchy. The missionary, on the other hand, is in danger of running into the opposite extreme: taking as his starting-point the truth that all souls are equally precious in the sight of God, and, after a while, adding on to this his experimental knowledge that the Kaffir is in no whit behind the Englishman in intellectual capacities and gentlemanly instinct, he runs the risk of being driven, by the force of a natural reaction, into thinking too much of the natives, and too little of his own fellow-countrymen.

Of course, stated crudely, as it is stated here, the first of these two theories seems startling and revolting, and in many cases there can be little doubt that it is held quite unconsciously; but if, until recently, we English were inclined to look down upon all foreigners, it can readily be understood that this feeling becomes accentuated and exaggerated when, we have to deal with those whose colour is now generally looked upon as a badge of servitude, and who are, at present, confessedly far behind us in civilisation. The Bantu races may be held to represent the Saxons in the time of the First and Second Williams, while the white races stand for the Normans.

Now the ordinary "red Kaffir"--that is, the native who has never been brought into close contact with civilisation--who has acquired no education, and learnt nothing of religion, accepts his position: not so the ordinary "school Kaffir." There are no forces in the world so levelling, viewed from certain points of view, as education and Christianity, as Europe has learnt again and again. So is it with the school Kaffir: he is struggling upwards; he knows alike from tradition and history that he has a prior right in the soil to the white man; he is conscious in himself of abilities which have already won a reputation for some of his fellow-countrymen; he has learnt from the Bible that although rule and authority come from God, and are therefore to be respected and obeyed, yet there is also in God's sight an inherent brotherhood of men; he has perhaps caught mutterings of socialism and communism which come from European lands; and just because he finds that he is not treated off the mission station with the courtesy to which he thinks (and perhaps quite rightly) that he is entitled, he asserts himself sometimes, it may be, unduly. That self-assertion is never pleasant: nor is the transition stage in the history of a nation more attractive than it is in the history of the individual: nor yet again does the dominant class care to see its position, as it thinks, imperilled. These are the sentiments which are really at the bottom of much of the unintelligent dislike to missions and mission natives.

But it would be very unfair to think that this was all: that none of those who declaim against missions have more to say for themselves than this. There are not a few who would say that, of their own knowledge, they have found the Christian native less honest, less industrious, less sober, less pure, than the heathen native; and that that is the reason why they prefer to draw their servants from red Kaffirs rather than from school Kaffirs.

Now where have our critics been brought into contact with these people whom they condemn? They would tell you that they have become acquainted with them on farms or in towns. Then may be put the further question, Who are these natives who migrate into the towns, and who go out to service? I asked a trader once to tell me from his fifteen years' experience of mission stations, what sort of people he had observed going out to service? His reply was, that it was hardly ever the communicants who went, but usually the riff-raff of the station, school natives rather than Christians. In fact, in the present condition of Kaffrarian towns, and until the servant question has been more taken up by masters and mistresses, and (it must also be added) until the Church has learnt better how to deal with natives in towns--as she is learning to do at Umtata, by the labours of a Fingo, the Rev. J. James--we missionaries would never allow our people either to go out to service or to go down to towns if we could possibly prevent it. The Bishop, whose experience is unrivalled, is emphatic on the point that, as a rule, Christian natives neither go out to service nor go to the towns; and a very careful observation of my own native stations during the years through which I have been connected with the work, has led me, quite independently, to a precisely similar conclusion. There are, of course, exceptions, but we are dealing with the generality.

In fact, in the present condition of affairs, to go out to service is contrary to the genius of the Kaffir nation. They are a people living at home on their own lands, leading a pastoral and agricultural life, having few wants, and those such as they can satisfy without leaving their homes. In brief, they are, for all practical purposes, in the position of peasant-proprietors on a small scale, and prefer their independent home life to the attractions of the moderate (but quite sufficient) wages offered by employers of labour, coupled with continuous employment. It is probable that the great demand for native labour at the goldfields, joined with the very high pay offered, may change all this; but we are not now dealing with the future, but with the past and present.

The ordinary white layman, then, does not usually come in contact with native Christians at all. The "school natives" whom he meets are, in the majority, of cases, not baptized, for "school Kaffir" and "Christian Kaffir" are by no means synonymous terms. On almost all mission stations--it is a fact, perhaps, much to be regretted--there will be found living a certain number of heathen. They are related to some of the Christian residents, and thus have been received themselves, or they have fled to the station as a sanctuary, after having been smelt out. (I have been told that two large Wesleyan stations, near which I have often passed, are in large measure composed of people of the latter class.) These men are, in all external respects, like the Christians. They are clothed, attend service, send their children to school, and probably it is only their clergy who know that they are unbaptized. They have most likely received a smattering of education, and yet have not the special gift of God's Holy Spirit to enable them to use it rightly; and perhaps the most deplorable of all things is a purely secular education, knowledge without godliness. When the Christian Kaffirs are condemned, in nine cases out of ten, I believe, it would be found that it was really non-Christian school Kaffirs on whom the condemnation was being passed.

And beyond that, may we not fairly protest against Kaffir town life being taken as a fair criterion of Kaffir life? To select a sphere, confessedly full of enormous temptations, confessedly totally different from all to which the native has been accustomed; and one with which missionaries plainly acknowledge that they have not yet learnt how to deal; and because Kaffirs fall just there where there is most of sin and least of Christianity, to condemn Christianity among the Kaffirs? How would it be if we applied this train of reasoning to white people?

Certainly it is noteworthy that magistrates, who may be considered to be unprejudiced, who are white people themselves, and who have probably a better opportunity of forming a sound judgment than any one else, are almost, if not quite, invariably well-disposed towards mission work.

We contend, then, not that the work going on among our Kaffirs is perfect, or that their characters are perfect, but that the work is real, and the character a far higher and more useful one than that of the heathen.

These features may be noted. First of all, loyalty. This is a point on which I cannot speak of my own knowledge, because no wars between whites and natives have taken place since 1882; but the history of the last war, of 1880, is a striking instance of the loyalty of Christian natives, and the Bishop of S. John's bears strong testimony to it in Mission Chronicle No. LII.

Again, it is the Christian who is the industrious man. I have already compared the homesteads of Christians and heathens. I might point also to another fact which has often struck me that the heathen are inveterate beggars to the highest pitch of shamelessness; not so the Christians. Immediately around me at S. Cuthbert's lives a Christian native congregation, and beyond them lies a huge mass of heathen. I recall very well how one year, when there was a partial failure of the crops, not a day passed without some of the heathen Pondomisi coming to beg from me, crying that they were starving; and yet during that same time not one of the Christians (drawn from all tribes) came to ask me for any help, although they had suffered equally. It was not only that they had more self-respect, but also that they had laboured more, and so had more to fall back upon. And yet these same Christians have many more payments to make than 'the heathen, for they have to provide Church contributions, and to procure decent dresses for themselves and their children. It is their greater industry which enables them to do this.

As regards personal honesty, I do not know that there is much to choose between the heathen and the Christian; I should readily trust either, as a rule; our doors generally remain unlocked by night, and large sums of money are constantly sent by hand when quarter-day arrives. But it is notorious that the stock-lifting, which embitters the white farmer so much against the native, is essentially a heathen's and not a Christian's sin.

The attention given to sermons, and the way in which they are acted on, is certainly remarkable. I recollect on one occasion preaching at the Tsitsana on the duty of parents towards their children. While emphasising the point that a secular education was not sufficient, but that children must also be habituated to going to Church, I noticed a small boy at the far end of the building going out. My first thought was that the boy could not understand my Kaffir, and was going out from weariness; but in a moment I saw him return, bringing in with him two or three children who had been outside--a very practical carrying out of what he had heard. A more noteworthy instance of this occurred at S. Cuthbert's. In the course of the Sunday sermon stress had been laid upon the duty of paying debts promptly. On the following day, being uncertain whether a right word had been used in one place, I asked the catechist about it. He immediately replied that the people had fully understood all that was said, and that, as a result, one man had come to him that morning and discharged a debt.

Attendance at Church, frequentation of the sacraments, carrying children thirty miles to have them baptized: these are facts pleasing and encouraging, and constantly to be noted.

On the question of purity, it is obvious that much cannot be said. The Christian, however, recognises that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and that impurity is a deadly sin--an idea which is utterly foreign to the heathen. Many of them are co-operating earnestly with the Bishop and clergy in their efforts to establish and spread the Guild of S. Mary and the Guild of S. Titus, for cultivating and developing this virtue, which is almost unknown to their heathen fellow-countrymen.

With temperance, as with purity, we must acknowledge that the state of affairs is very far indeed from being what we should like to see, for it is only now that our Christians are beginning to understand that immoderate drinking (especially prevalent with Kaffir beer), as distinct from drunkenness, is also wrong. But it is from the mission stations that efforts are being made to check intemperance, and it is the heathen, and not the Christians, who spend a large portion of their life in doing nothing but going from kraal to kraal looking for Kaffir beer.

We believe, then, that the progress is very real; that there is not only an outside show, but a genuine building up of the Church of Christ.

And yet, though when we look back we may thank God and take courage, as we look around or forward we are appalled at all that yet remains to be done--470,000 heathen to be evangelised!--that alone would be much, but that is only one item in the great account. The College has to be completed at the cost of £1000. This, it is to be hoped, may be done as a fitting memorial to the late Bishop Callaway. But when that is finished, it is imperative that the Augusta School should be enlarged; and the building of a proper Cathedral has long been a desideratum. If the European work in Griqualand East is to flourish as it should do, a good public school at Kokstad is a real necessity. Then, when we turn to finance, we find that only half the Bishopric Endowment has been completed, only £5000 out of £10,000; and yet again, for the clergy of the diocese, excepting £70 per annum for a theological tutor, and glebes given by native chiefs at S. Mark's, Umtata, S. Cuthbert's, and Clydesdale, there are no endowments whatsoever, but all are living from hand to mouth, dependent on annual grants or very variable contributions. Surely here is a list of objects which may well appeal to the charity of those at home who have the means of furthering with their purses the Master's last command.

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