MUCH has been said already in the course of the past chapters of this book on the subject of extensive as opposed to intensive methods of work, of the founding and oversight of out-stations scattered throughout a district rather than, or in addition to, the one strong central station to which converts might be brought to live.
It is unnecessary, at this date, to state the pros and cons of each of these systems. Indeed, the truth is that they are not mutually exclusive at all. Out-stations need not be, and generally are not, developed at the expense of the central station, but are necessary adjuncts of it. But it is well clearly to have in mind the two different conceptions of methods of spreading the Christian faith which are embodied in the intensive and in the extensive systems. The intensive method aimed at separating the individual who desired Christian teaching from his natural surroundings, and attaching him to a body of believers. The extensive method aimed at spreading the knowledge of Christian principles over as wide an area as possible and leaving the leaven to work in the national life. Early in his missionary career Bishop McKenzie became, as we have seen, convinced of the wisdom and of the necessity of spreading out. Many of his letters of that period touch upon this subject, and invariably he looks forward to the time when every central station should have its three or four smaller centres.
Charles Johnson was, almost certainly, the man who convinced his bishop that out-station work was a necessity. Quite certainly he was the man who began to do this work, who threw much of his energy into it, and who finally convinced beyond dispute the rest of the diocese that he was right.
There was a time when out-stations sprang up under his feet as he walked the Nqutu district. The thing became almost a joke. His agents were everywhere. Little, and almost incredibly tumble-down, buildings appeared dotting the veld like a scattered flock of goats. It is said that when he paid a visit once to Mr. Frank Fillis's "Savage South Africa" which was showing at Olympia during one of his visits to England, he discovered some Zulus from his own district among the performers who had been sent over to take part in the exhibition. Without hesitation he asked and was given permission to hold a service for them in Zulu on the following Sunday. When news of this reached Zululand his highly gratified colleagues cabled their congratulations upon the opening of yet another out-station, this time in the wilds of Earl's Court.
The truth is that he saw a great opportunity of taking possession of a large tract of country in the name of God and his Church, and he laboured incessantly until he had secured it. No hovel was too mean, no native too ignorant, to be pressed into the service. However poor the hovel, it was yet better than any which the people themselves were able to provide, and to them represented progress and beauty. However stumbling and inadequate his evangelists and catechists seemed to be to the critical European, accustomed to the white collar and the Oxford accent of an impeccable Anglican ministry, they were yet far in advance of the raw heathen amongst whom they worked. He saw the thing with, at once, the eye of the raw Zulu and the eye of the seer. To the Zulu the house and the minister were things beyond his own unaided reach. To the seer they were the beginnings of a great movement towards Christ. So he persevered in spite of some informed opposition, some good-natured banter, and some genuine fears for the outcome.
To tell the story of the founding of each of his thirty-seven out-stations would take far too much space and time. But that of the first few may be related in some detail, with its bits of missionary romance and its witness to the indomitable faith and zeal of their founder.
The story of the opening of the first venture, that of Hlazakazi, takes us right back to the very beginning of Charles Johnson's ministry in Zululand. Writing in 1880, Mrs. Johnson says:--
There is another place [she had just previously referred to the present St. Augustine's, then known as "Hlubi's place"] at which Charles is anxious to make a beginning as soon as possible. This is at Susa's. He is a petty chief in this district, and Hlubi has allowed a good many of the Edendale native Christians to come and settle at Susa's place.
Later she says:--
On Sunday morning Charles went to take a service at a place a short distance off where Hlubi has allowed some of the Edendale Wesleyan Christians to settle. It is about an hour's ride from this, so Charles was back in time to take the service here at Isandhlwane. He had such a nice service over there. He had sent word the day before that he was coming, so that they had prepared to receive him. They had put up a large awning under which were a table and a chair for him, and ranged in a great pile on the opposite side of the table were bibles and prayer books in a variety of dialects, chiefly Xosa, as that version was used first amongst the Wesleyans of Natal. There was a large and attentive congregation. After service they regaled him with bread and butter. They are very anxious to have someone settled at their place to teach them. They promise to build him a house and schoolroom.
It was fortunate that this little group of exiles from the Wesleyan mission station at Edendale in Natal was there to form the nucleus of the future large congregation at that place. Their presence made it possible for a definite work to be undertaken, which, had they not been settled there, would probably have been out of the question until many years after this time. In 1881 Bishop McKenzie took charge of the little work at the new place which he always called Malagata, from the name of a bold hill which rises out of the plain not far from Isandhlwane. Not long after this a native called Jonathan Ngidi, who had been for some years with Bishop Colenso, went to live near the Hlazakazi, and he undertook for a time the work of catechist in charge of the new place. He it was, or so it is said, who by means of asking questions of Bishop Colenso first set his mind working on those matters in which he afterwards departed from orthodoxy. Jonathan was an unusual man in many ways, but he was not a satisfactory catechist, and the bishop removed him from his charge. After Bishop McKenzie's death the place came again under the oversight of St. Augustine's. A stone church was built to take the place of the primitive erection of wood which had served hitherto. The family from Edendale which had first asked for services, that, namely, of Samson Mtembu, has played a prominent part in the development of the work at Hlazakazi and generally in the district. The first Zulu priest of the diocese, the Rev. Titus Mtembu, was a son of this man. The present priest-in-charge of that district is a grandson of his, the Rev. Gideon Mtembu. Another son was a catechist for many years. Two daughters were school-teachers, and no less than fourteen of his grandchildren have helped in some capacity or other in the work of the Church. So that, judging only by the number of living agents that first little work has given to the diocese, it was more than worth all the trouble and pains spent upon it. But that is not all. There stands there now, on the site of the first little hovel used as a church, a really noble building of white free-stone, used every day by the 120 children who attend the day school, and filled every Sunday and holy-day by a large congregation of worshippers. The place is now the centre of a network of ten other out-stations, nearly all of which have started as branches of this first out-station founded so many years ago.
The second out-station to be begun was that at Mafitleng, a spot about ten miles from St. Augustine's near to which Hlubi built the home of his principal wife. This branch was established at the wish of the chief who desired that his children and relations should be taught there. He gave seven head of cattle as his contribution towards the cost of the house to be built. Other Basuto also gave liberally in kind. The same history is found there as was seen at Hlazakazi. By great toil a small place was put up. A temporary catechist was found. The congregation outgrew its accommodation. A piece of roughly-built stonework was added as an enlargement. This soon fell down, and for some time the place looked as though it must come to an end. Then by desperate efforts another and larger house was built, which, to the unambitious workers of those simple days, seemed really palatial. In spite of many set-backs, communicants lapsing into polygamy, the catechist aiding and abetting his people in heathen practices, the abstention of most of the men from public worship, the falling away of all the best Basuto boys because of their heathen initiatory rites, scandals and sins of all kinds, in spite of all these, the work grew and developed until the house which ten years before had seemed extravagantly large and expensive, costing, as it had, nearly £50, was discovered to be small, dark, and inconvenient. Once more the people were called together and exhorted to give and to work. Once more with lagging steps they came to work, with niggardly hands they commenced to give. Time and again the harassed priest-in-charge dashed up to the place and urged and exhorted and expostulated and scolded, until, after months, it may be years, of effort, another new church was finished, making the third since the work was begun. Then the former programme was all gone through again. In truth, out-station work seems sometimes to the prejudiced view of the driven missionary like those dragons which could only be kept quiet by the sacrifice once a year of a beauteous maiden, who must be cast into their ravening jaws. Church after church is built, has its day, and ceases to be. Effort after effort is demanded from the congregation as well as from the priest. Why not, then, the intelligent reader will ask, build bigger churches at first and so save all this constant effort? Nothing could be simpler, nothing so easy, if only the money to build big churches were forthcoming. It never is. It never can be in the circumstances under which the work is done. The income of the average Zulu in Zululand is probably under rather than over £30 a year for all purposes. They give what they can both in money and in work, but their contributions are never sufficient to carry out a large work. Societies in England like the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel always help in these ventures up to the limit of their capacity. But the calls upon their resources, world-wide as they are, make it impossible for them to give what they would wish. They give a fair proportion of the cost of the building, and rightly look to the local congregation to do the rest. At Mafitleng now is a large stone church, cruciform in shape and well built, in which worship and education go hand in hand, as they do at every out-station in the diocese.
The following letter written by Archdeacon Johnson in 1912 tells not only of the growth of the Mafitleng out-station, illuminating by the way some of the difficulties of building which have been mentioned above, but it also gives a most interesting account of how the great work at St. John's, Blood River, came to be started. The letter says:--
After our early eucharist and communicants' class, I had a hasty breakfast, hoping to get off before the crowd of petty trifles commenced. There is always a crowd of people who come with small troubles (not always small to them), and generally I like listening to them, and doing what I can to help; but to-day I was in a hurry to get off to Mafitleng, as I had a very full day in front of me. I did not escape the "petty trifles," and so my "trap" had to wait nearly an hour while I saw about twelve people, most of them only wanting medicine for some petty ailment. Many of my friends, white and black, have said, "Why do you waste your time and strength over these petty things, that others (younger men, with less to do) could do quite as well, if not better?" But the truth is that it is these "petty trifles" that bring me in contact with the native, and assist me to get at "the back of their minds." Time is never wasted in doing this. But it is rather trying, if you want to get off somewhere, to find a whole crowd waiting as you come out to get into your trap. Five minutes before there was not a single person there, but as soon as the trap appeared they came in ones and twos, seemingly from nowhere. When I had finished I got away, and arrived at Mafitleng out-station after an hour and a half's rough driving. Mafitleng road is one of the worst roads in the district. I found the school of 121 native children awaiting me, and many of the parents, hearing that I was expected, had assembled too, so that we had a crowded building. I gained the interested attention of children and parents alike by telling them that I had brought the Coronation medals. I gave them a short address about the "Great White King and Queen," and gave each child a medal as a souvenir of the Coronation as a present from the government. This ceremony took some time, and then we adjourned to the site of the new building that is being built as a school-church. This building is the centre of all our interests at the present time. If my old heart were not already broken into pieces with the many other troubles, the slowness of progress made by this and the other buildings I have on hand would have broken it. But a break more or less does not count for much; and really, I have a great deal to be thankful for, although building out in this part of South Africa is trying to the patience, as I cannot afford a European builder, who would take the contract and relieve me of the trouble and anxiety; and perhaps it is better and more appropriate that the natives should build it themselves. It is to be a large stone building, and to be roofed with timber and iron; the east end and two aisles to be the church proper for daily services and classes, etc., and the west half to be for school, but to be thrown open on Sundays and festivals, forming one large building to accommodate 800 to 1000 people at a "squeeze" (and we can "squeeze" in a wonderful way when necessary).
We have been preparing for this building for some time, as the old thatch place is really done for, besides being too small for either church or school. I took advantage of the visit of Mr. Burton (Minister for Native Affairs for the Union of South Africa) last month to get him to lay the foundation-stone. He was much interested, and the natives were delighted. I wish he could have heard some of the nice things the people said of him afterwards, when they came to thank me for the kind words of encouragement he had said to them in his address. To-day we had a meeting of the people to consider the grave questions of quarrying and transporting stone, and how the workers are to be fed. This year the crops have failed entirely, and the food question is very urgent. If the East Coast fever had left the native cattle alive, this building question would have been a much simpler one. All the people, men and women, are contributing either money (that they have to go and work for) or labour. This place is a good centre, and has grown greatly since we commenced.
The present little stone and thatch building has stood us in good stead, and we have clung to it and patched it up over and over again because of its associations, when we really ought to have built a new one some years ago; but it is difficult to forsake an old place, and especially this one, whose foundation my old friend Chief Hlubi laid. He is dead and gone, but he was so interested in the work here, and especially in the old building that was put up with much trouble in the old days, and of which we were so proud, and where we have knelt so often in prayer together, that it seems disloyal to his memory to forsake it and build a new one. I have spoken about Chief Hlubi in a former report: how he became a convert and was baptized a short time before his death. His death was a heavy loss to me; had he been alive now, this building would not have been such a heavy burden on my shoulders. But that which is my loss is his gain, and the labours of the living are the wages of the dead. I left Mafitleng at the close of our long meeting, and I arrived at St. John's, Blood River, after two hours' driving, in time to take the last preparation service for the morrow's Holy Communion. St. John's, Blood River, is one of the most interesting and encouraging works under my charge. It is one of my first out-stations commenced from St. Augustine's, and commenced, as it were, by accident (if there is such a thing as accident in any work). It is about twenty-five miles from St. Augustine's by road, on the way to Nkandi, another out-station, where I was going one Sunday, in the early days of my work, to hold service, by the invitation of an old headman of that place. I had started early from home, and after three hours' hard riding I arrived about 9 a.m. at old Mabaso's kraal (Mabaso is still living, and his kraal is about half a mile from where the church now stands). He is an interesting old fellow, whose history is worth relating when time will allow. He hopes to be baptized soon, so he told me the evening when he came to see me. "What do your wives say?" I asked him--he has eight. "They love me very much, but they are wishing to become Christians too, and therefore they want to leave me and take up their abode with their sons."
Well, to return to my history of this place. I off-saddled at old Mabaso's kraal, and while my horse was grazing I began to talk to some of the people. Old Mabaso himself was absent, I think, at another kraal; but his chief wife (now a Christian and a communicant) was very good to me, and gave me food, and as the people of the kraal came together, I spoke a few words to them, and knelt down and prayed for them, and promised to call again as I returned in the afternoon. I then saddled up and went on to the Inkandi, had my service there at mid-day, and returned to old Mabaso's kraal about 3 p.m. There I found a great many people gathered together waiting for me, so we had a mission service, which meant in those days: reading a chapter of one of the Gospels, preaching, extemporary prayer, and making the people repeat a verse of a simple, appropriate hymn, and getting them to sing it with me. As I left, the people said, "Come again soon, mfundisi (teacher)"; so I came again often, and eventually established a native catechist. Such is the simple commencement of a great work! Now there is a communicant roll of nearly 218, [Now nearly 600.--A.W.L.] and the work has grown so much that a large school and church are needed, and after a great deal of talk at a great many meetings of all the people, we (last year) commenced a really large building, and the resident magistrate kindly laid the foundation-stone last July. Mr. Crookham, who was visiting Zululand, took some photos of the ceremony, and I hope he will let us have a few copies. The building has reached the windows now, but it will be a long time yet before it will be ready for the roof. How is it all going to be paid for? I did not know, but since then a wonderful thing has happened; an unknown friend in England has sent through the S.P.G. £500; and Mrs. West Jones, the widow of our late revered and much-loved Archbishop, has sent £100. Thank God for it! It has lifted much anxiety off my mind. May the Master who seeth in secret bless both givers!
As these out-stations, of the founding and growth of some of which the story has now been told, increased in size so they increased in number. Their beginnings were varied. Many of them owed their first start to the zeal of the missionary. Many others were started by a Christian family moving from the neighbourhood of a church to a place where there was none. They would begin family worship in their new home, attract to themselves a few heathen neighbours, and begin to teach them. Then they would apply to the missionary for help, and he would come and start a new bit of work. This process is illustrated in the letter which follows, written by one of Archdeacon Johnson's assistant clergy in 1907. He says:--
About six years ago a certain catechist employed in the mission was, while on his way to Greytown, stormbound for a week at the kraal of the chief, Mbuzo, whose district lies in the rough thorn-country between the spur of the Qudeni Bush and the Tugela river. He employed himself, as a Christian should, in teaching the heathen occupants of the kraal. When the river subsided, he went on his way, leaving behind him the leaven of Christianity. A little while afterwards two Christian families left their homes and moved into Mbuzo's ward. They were many miles from the nearest mission-station belonging to their Church, but they kept up Sunday worship, and said their prayers as usual. Some of Mbuzo's people were attracted, and came to see the Sunday morning service. A small class was formed and grew. The chief Christian man could not keep this going unaided--he was a very ordinary Christian--and applied to the nearest Church missionary for help. A catechist was sent up and started work. He proved unable to stand alone, and was withdrawn, leaving behind him nearly a dozen baptized people, and twenty or thirty other adherents in the classes; these people having been received as catechumens and baptized during the visit of a priest. At this juncture the writer was placed in charge of a centre about thirty miles away from the spot, becoming the nearest priest. He visited the place twice, thought the matter over, and came to the conclusion that here was a case in which it would be well to act on the oft-given advice not to extend too far. It seemed impossible adequately to overlook work going on so far from the centre, situated in extremely rough country as it was, and with a gap between it and the nearest out-station of nearly twenty miles. Therefore, no one was sent to take the place of the late catechist. The people were told that the place could not be kept up. They were recommended to worship at the Norwegian mission ten miles away, and the priest withdrew, conscious of having followed the advice of wiser people than himself, and extremely uneasy in his mind at having done so.
Two years passed. The two communicants of the place came down regularly to make their communions, walking thirty miles each way, putting up with friends for the night, bearing patiently with the short commons this generally means, and bringing down always rumours that this little band was still true to its faith and Church. At length one Christmas morning, after the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, a deputation approached the priest asking how long would their father continue to be angry with his children; how long were they to be left as sheep having no shepherd? It was pointed out that there was no question of anger or neglect in the matter at all; it was only that the priest could not undertake any more work than he already had on his hands. Were their children then to go unbaptized? Were those willing to learn to go untaught? Were the heathen to die heathen? Again it was pointed out that there was a Norwegian missionary near them who would instruct them; but they would not hear of this. They had been baptized into the Church Catholic, and in the Church Catholic they would remain. They promised to rebuild the catechist's house, and the church which had been destroyed in the Bambata rebellion of 1906, and they promised to do their utmost to support themselves.
The priest wavered. What was to be done? On the one side there was the risk of losing souls whom God seemed to be calling, of letting children of Christian parents die unbaptized, of allowing communicants of the Church to lapse and be lost; and on the other side there was the danger of placing a man alone in that spot so far away from over-sight, and of weakening existing work by adding another claim on the overseer's time.
Such a choice could only be decided in one way, and in that way it was decided. A catechist was sent up to investigate. He reported that many of the heathen around seemed really anxious to be taught. He found a heathen class of thirty people, and many more promised to come if a teacher were sent.
After a while the priest followed him and saw what there was to be seen. He saw the Norwegian missionary, and found that his work lay away from the Qudeni amongst the valleys on the other side of the Bush, so that he was practically non-existent so far as Mbuzo's people were concerned.
The catechist's house is now being rebuilt, and at the recent baptisms in the district six people from this place were baptized, among them a soldier of Cetsh-wayo's, one of the Nkandempevu regiment, who had fought at Isandhlwane.
All through this period of rapid development the genius of Charles Johnson for this particular kind of work enabled him to keep pace with its demands. Few men can have worked harder than he did during the years 1890 to 1900. His fine horsemanship enabled him to cover distances which would have tired most men out, and to arrive at the particular place to which he was going fresh and ready for a strenuous day's work. In his letter describing the beginnings of the work at Blood River (see p. 78) he gives the reader a glimpse of the manner in which he did this work. Starting as soon as he could get away from the demands of those who wished to see him at home, he rode the ten, twenty, or thirty miles to the station, generally contriving to settle some outstanding difficulty while on the way, and arriving at his destination towards evening. As soon as he arrived, the piece of ploughshare, hung on a rough pole, which did duty for a church bell, would be vigorously smitten and its tintinnabulations would bring the nearby people in a thin trickle from their homes to church for evensong and preparation for the communion of the morrow. After the service there would be a gathering in the house of the catechist attended by those who, for various reasons, had been placed under discipline. All who wished to see the umfundisi would wait upon him there, and until far into the night he would interview them, advise, warn, scold or encourage them as the circumstances required, and finish up by getting them all to pray with him. Then the catechist, who had spent the time of the interviews in acting as usher and master of the ceremonies, would hover uneasily in the offing until called into the room. More advice would follow, more difficulties--and these are always plentiful--would be dealt with, more encouragement given. Then a belated meal would follow, weird and wonderful in its concomitants, but none the less welcome for that. At midnight, or thereabouts, such rest as was possible would be taken. Out-station beds are of a genus seldom met with in other places, a fact for which missionaries can never be too thankful: but custom stales even their infinite variety of discomfort, and it is surprising how deeply a missionary will sleep even when the psalmist's allusion to saints being allowed to rejoice in their beds seems very wide of the mark. At the first streaks of dawn the ploughshare would again be hammered by a small boy, who, in common with the rest of his kind, was overjoyed at the opportunity to make a good lively noise unreproved. Mysterious noises would emanate from the rest of the three or four-roomed house. Scufflings, openings and shuttings of doors, seemingly quite aimless, hoarse whispers from ejected occupants who had passed the night elsewhere enquiring as to the whereabouts of sundry intimate garments, all these sounds floating through the thin partition walls would drive the priest out into the cold of early morning down to the little church, so poor and unfurnished, which represented to him so much trouble and hard work. Mattins at an early hour was attended by a shivering household. A long, long pause followed, during which nothing happened except the constant dropping-in of worshippers. Then more ploughshare, and at last the issue is fairly joined and the service begins. And such a service! There are few things so satisfying to the pastoral heart as the opportunity to join with men and women, newly won from darkness and error to Christ and his Light, in offering the Christian Sacrifice. Sing they never so badly they yet sing from the heart. Let the appurtenances of worship be never so poor, they are yet meet for him who did not disdain to be born in a stable. Even though the faith and love of the people be never so feeble and flickering they can at least touch the hem of his garment and be healed.
It was the outstanding delight of Charles Johnson's life so to worship with his flock. They learned from him and he from them the joy of worship. One characteristic of his ministry amongst them is the manner in which he taught them to value and really to enjoy in an altogether hearty and delightful fashion the great privilege of worship and communion in the Holy Eucharist. Being human, he failed in many respects, but in this he did not fail that the mark of his converts is their passionate clinging to this great privilege. Through sin and failure, through remorse and penitence, through confession and amendment, they see in this great act the high mark of their Christian calling.
After the service there were the classes to inspect. First came the hearers, the abaqalayo (beginners) as they are called. It was in dealing with these people that another of Charles Johnson's great gifts as a missionary was displayed. Dull though their minds were, especially those of the older folk, he could penetrate into them and rouse theta to an understanding of the new lessons they were being taught. With a patience almost unlimited, with an understanding all but absolute, and with a real joy in his work, he would instruct and guide the faltering, groping minds along the new way of knowledge. There would follow the class for the izifundi (the catechumens); and lastly the confirmation candidates would be dealt with. By this time it would be hard on midday and the long over-due meal, which had been so carefully prepared by the housewife, would be consumed. There is an etiquette regarding the eating of meals in a Zulu home which it is well to understand. It is good manners on the part of the host and hostess to depreciate the viands provided. "Father must forgive his children." they will say apologetically, "but the fact is we have nothing to offer him to-day. We are eaten up by famine here and it is long since these eyes of ours looked upon food." Which simply means that they hope that the chicken, potatoes, ground-nuts, and amasi, provided in quantities sufficient for at least three hungry men, will find favour in the eyes of their guest. There was once a missionary whose literal mind could never grasp these poetic flights, but insisted on taking them for truth. It is recorded of him that he went hungry throughout a round of out-stations, because, hearing these excuses, he rode off at once in offended silence, thinking an intentional slight was being paid to him. It is good manners on the part of the guest to lick clean the cup and platter (not literally, of course), to show how highly the food has been appreciated. A Zulu horse-boy in attendance is thus a useful companion. He is always willing to oblige, even to the last ultimate crumb, and so due honour may be paid to the entertainment with discomfort to none concerned. Charles Johnson was a hearty trencherman on these occasions, as, indeed, who would not be after so long a fast with so much work. Once he and a companion sat down to consume the usual out-station fowl, only to find that no implements had been provided for the last rites. It was agreed that each should take a leg and pull, and that the resulting division should be abided by. They pulled legs, with the result that the companion got a leg sans everything else, while the archdeacon got the rest. "Ah!" he said, with a twinkle, "this is not the first time I have pulled a leg successfully."
As the years went on, the number of out-stations increased more and more. For a long time Charles Johnson was almost alone in his control of this vast amount of work. Not for some years after this period of his greatest activity was the diocese in a position to afford him any clerical help. His heavy labours during this time ultimately affected his health, which had never, since the accident related in a previous chapter, been very satisfactory. But that he enjoyed his work is plainly evident from the accounts' which he wrote of it from time to time. The following narrative written by him at a later period well illustrates both his activities and the real pleasure which he derived from them:--
January, 1914, Thursday. St. Agatha. I came over here this morning early from the Umvunyane mission station, where I have been staying for the last few days, to try to visit all the out-stations in this part of my district. We have had our early eucharist--quite a nice congregation for this small central work; there were nineteen communicants. I have examined one class of catechumens, and now I think I have earned my breakfast, or, as a friend of mine styles these 12 o'clock feeds (for it is close on noon), "brunch"--equal to "breakfast-lunch." I am ready for my "brunch" but my "brunch" is not quite ready for me, so I am scribbling a few lines in my diary to try to divert my mind from certain internal longings.
I feel it a greater strain now examining classes before food, after an early eucharist, than I used to do a few years ago; but here comes my "brunch" of sour porridge, to be followed, I hope, by goat's flesh.
I am back again at Umvunyane. I had quite a good time at St. Agatha, but as there is not much accommodation at that place I am glad to be back again here. This place, Umvunyane, is the head centre of this part of the mission. I shall describe what it is like shortly after I have finished with St. Agatha. Old Martha Moloyi came to see me. She was one of the first converts belonging to St. Agatha. She reminded me of the old days (1890) when Mr. Smythe (the late Bishop of Lebombo) and I lived at her kraal while we were digging sods to build the school church at St. Agatha's, "which" (said old Martha) "tumbled down soon after you had finished it." Yes, I can laugh at the matter now, but it was a terrible catastrophe at the time. I had worked my hands into blisters, and then I persuaded the three male converts who were assisting me (there were only three converts altogether at that time) to continue the work while I was visiting some other parts of the district. I returned to find that they had not got on very well, but by dint of urging and working we managed to finish the walls, and I was preparing the poles for the roof when down came a severe thunderstorm, which turned into a "three days' rain." This was more than I or our sod-walls could stand. I went back to St. Augustine's, and the walls fell down. That was our first attempt at St. Agatha. I have learned much wisdom since then. I have learned patience, and I have learned to work by the hands of other people. Our present church at St. Agatha I got my poor old friend Chief Hlubi to give to the mission as a thankoffering shortly before he died. It is now too small for the congregation. There are seventeen new converts that joined the seekers' class during the latter part of last year; there are also thirty-seven in the catechumens' class preparing for baptism, and seventeen confirmands in the confirmation class--total, fifty-four in the preparatory classes and forty-nine in the communicants' class. All the communicants meet on Thursdays at each station and out-station in my district. They meet for instruction and devotion; if the native priest is present he takes the class, and if I am present I take it, otherwise the resident catechist takes it. This weekly meeting of all communicants is a great assistance in the work. We have so few priests that we only manage one celebration of Holy Communion a month at each out-station. At St. Augustine's we are able to have two celebrations a week, as well as on holy days; and I hope, in time, as we get more native priests, we shall be able to celebrate oftener at the out-stations.
Friday. I have had a busy but pleasant day. I started early for the Umhlungwane out-station, getting there at 7.30 a.m., to find the congregation devoutly kneeling in the church (which is very much too small for them). I went straight in and had our usual preliminary prayer with the congregation. I always do this when the members of the congregation have had to come some distance to meet at their centre; they--and the priest too, very often--have thought so many worldly thoughts, and have discussed so many worldly matters while travelling by the way, that it is necessary to try to bring their minds back and concentrate their thoughts on the great devotional service of the Christian Church before commencing to celebrate the Holy Communion. After our service we had a meeting of the congregation to talk over the different matters of the station. This place, Umhlungwane, is one of our hard centres--the people are too fond of their native beer; they do not often take it to excess, but now and then a case of intoxication is brought before me by the catechist; and so to-day one of the Ndhlovu family had attended at a kraal where some heathen were having a big beer drink or orgy, and had taken more than he should; he made no mystery of it. "Yes," he said, "I went there, to Ntombela's kraal, and was offered very nice beer, which I drank; but the beer, instead of going into my stomach, went into my feet, and they (my feet) refused to obey me, and so I sat down and went to sleep; and then when I waked up I found that my feet had come back to me, and so I came home. I am sorry that the beer got into my feet," etc., etc. I always feel that though the congregation as a rule condemns cases of excess like this, some of the thirsty members of that said congregation, listening to a description of how the beer was drank, have at times a very "mouth-watery" look about them.
After our meeting, where there were a good many cases to enquire into, mostly love matters of the boys and girls (and few matters give more trouble), I examined the members of the different classes. I found twenty-seven in the seekers' class, twenty-one in the catechumens' class, twenty-eight in the confirmation class--total, seventy-six in the preparatory classes. There are also ninety-one communicants on the roll, but only fifty-seven were present to-day: all the others had gone to work in Natal or the Transvaal. The daughter of the catechist came to tell me her troubles, which took up quite a long time; but one has to be patient if one wants to do any good at all amongst these people. The catechist's name is Jona Madhlambi; his daughter's name is Esther, and she is married to Ephraim Mtshali. Her story is such an instance of courage, misfortune, and wonderful escape, that I must put it down as she related it. Esther said: "We were married in July, 1912." (I was in England at the time.) "In November of that year Ephraim went off to work at the Randfontein mines, Johannesburg, Transvaal, and got a place in the Robinson mines. It was good to feel that he was earning money, but it was hard for us that he should have to leave me so soon after our marriage. He stayed there six months, and then I received a telegram, sent to me by messenger from our native commissioner, telling me that my husband had been smashed up in a mine accident and that the doctor wanted to amputate one leg and one arm, and that he (Ephraim) would surely die unless this were done at once, but Ephraim had refused to have the operation performed until I (his wife) gave my consent; hence the telegraphic message to me through our commissioner. I started the same day and walked to Blood River railway station in Natal, and went by train from there, arriving in Johannesburg on the third day. I found Ephraim in the native hospital, still refusing to be operated upon until an answer to the telegram came from me. He was very bad, but I said: 'You white men must not cut my husband in pieces, you must not cut any of him off.' The doctor answered, 'He will die, then '; but I would not consent to the operation, so they bound him up in medicine and he commenced to get better. He was soon well enough to be moved, and I brought him away; and here he is with all his legs and his arms." And there sure enough he was, squatting down in the room, very thin and still lame and looking much knocked about, but with both legs and arms complete. But Esther and her man Ephraim had still their misfortunes to endure before getting away from Johannesburg. A fellow-patient who had just been discharged from the hospital offered to go and get Ephraim's pay from the mine "boss" for the time he had worked before the accident, and they being Zulus suspected nothing; and so Ephraim gave him his labour-card; but they never saw the man again. Esther went the next morning to interview the "boss" (compound manager), who said he had paid the man with the labour-card the day before, and she could not get any more money or any compensation for the injury received by her husband while working on the mine. The "boss" said: "I paid your messenger for the time your husband was working as noted on the labour-card, what more do you expect?" There was nothing more to be said, so she was coming away back to her husband not knowing what to do, for they had not enough money to take them home; but then she saw another Zulu who was working on the same mine. To him she told her trouble and how she had been robbed, and the friendly Zulu went to the boss and drew £4 of his own money and lent it to her. With this she brought her husband home to Zululand, and two days after their arrival her baby was prematurely born--dead. The anxiety of lifting and often carrying her nearly helpless husband had been too much for her and she nearly died; but, as she said, "My time to die had not yet come." Her description of their journey from Johannesburg to Zululand was most interesting, but too long to write here. I only record the above as an instance of courage and endurance, and also of how afraid the Zulus are of any mutilation. They would rather their relatives and loved ones faced nearly certain death if there should be but a sporting chance of recovery than consent to a limb being amputated; and the patient himself is just as opposed to amputation. Sometimes they are operated on while unconscious, and then there is very great grief and sorrow. Esther seemed to think that all the trouble she had gone through in fetching her husband home--the losing of her baby and nearly her own life too--was nothing so long as she had been able to prevent the white men cutting some of her husband's limbs off.
Saturday. Nyanyeni out-station. This is one of my out-stations in Boer territory. Boers, as a rule, do not like missionaries to come and teach the natives living on their farms; but the owner of this farm (which is only ten miles from the Zululand border) is very friendly. Some years ago he had a baby very bad with croup when I happened to be visiting some of my native converts near his farm, and he sent a messenger asking me to come and help him if I could, for his baby was dying. Fortunately I had medicine with me in the cart, and so with ipecacuanha and a hot-water bath I was able to relieve the little sufferer; and, after kneeling down and praying with the family, he was so thankful that he gave leave to build a mission church on his land. I have tried since to get him to give me a bit of land for mission purposes, but he won't do it. He would, I think, sell me some of his land if I only had the money to buy it; but that, alas I is beyond me at present.
Oh, if I only had, say, £300 a year for a few years, ear-marked for buying mission sites and building out-station mission churches what a godsend it would be 1 Well, God knows our wants, and if it is good that we should have funds for this, what seems to me, very necessary work, the funds will be sent me or my successor.
The Nyanyeni is not, numerically, a very strong centre. There are fifty-eight communicants on the roll, but at our preparation service this afternoon there were only twenty-nine present. Three others could not come because they had to work late for their Boer master on the adjoining farm; they sent word that they would be here early to-morrow so that I may speak to them in church before the early eucharist. That only makes thirty-two altogether--the other sixteen are away with their Boer masters on the high veld herding sheep, etc. Our catechist here, Samuel Mdhlalose, is not a very learned man, but he is very much in earnest. He has lately lost his wife and, poor fellow, he is in great grief. He is one of my first converts at the Mhlungwane centre; and when I started this work on this Boer farm I called upon him to come and assist, and he was appointed resident catechist. All this territory now occupied by Boers was part of Zululand; but about twenty-five years ago the Boers came in from the Transvaal and took it--simply raided it and annexed it to the Transvaal. I must not allow my pen to commence to write about the Boers raiding this country or I shall never stop. I was close here when it happened, and I had trouble enough about it at the time. I am too tired to write any more to-night, and to-morrow, Sunday, is to be a big day.
Sunday. To-day has been quite a happy day--full of work. First thing this morning, before sunrise, the people commenced to assemble. Three communicants, two men and one girl, who were not able to be present at the preparation service yesterday, came first. They were full of woe and with sore hearts on account of what they considered hard treatment by the (now) Boer owners of the land that formerly belonged to their fathers; but, after talking to them and praying with them, they began to look on the brighter side of the picture--for it has a brighter side. The Europeans--Boer and British--do not give us missionaries credit for bringing peace to the minds of their native serfs--for that is what these people in this district of Nyanyeni are, just serfs under the (now) Boer owners of the land. The simple facts of the case are as follows. The British fought the Zulus thirty-five years ago, took their king Cetshwayo prisoner and took possession of their country, but they did not occupy it. The land was divided into thirteen chieftainships, all under the administration of a resident commissioner; that seemed all right. But the Zulus are warlike and are fond of fighting, and so the thirteen chiefs commenced to fight with each other. The British resident commissioner had only a few native police to back up his authority, and so for a time there was chaos and much bloodshed and much suffering. My wife and I were in it all from the beginning, so we know. We have given refuge to crowds of refugees from time to time, and once we took charge of and cared for eighty-five prisoners taken at one big fight. Yes, it was certainly chaos and bloodshed, but had the British resident commissioner been given a little more time he would have reduced the country to order all right. But the Boers of the Transvaal pretended to be alarmed by the disturbed state of Zululand, which bordered on the Transvaal on the south-east, and under the plea of putting an end to the disturbance by supporting the Dinizulu faction against the Mandhlakazi faction, a party of about 300 well-armed Boers entered Zululand and took forcible possession of about two-fifths of the country--about 4500 square miles. This they did right under the nose of the British resident commissioner. He complained about it, and the matter of the Boer raid of British Zululand was considered in the English Parliament; but the end of it was that the raiders were allowed to retain the part that they had raided. So the present state is this: these natives, who were the former owners of the land, are now mere "squatters," or serfs, at the will of their white masters. The majority of the natives have to work without any wages, but just for the privilege of squatting on the land that twenty-six years ago belonged to them. It does sound rather hard on the natives, but there is another side to the matter, vie., that they (the Zulus) had shed so much blood and devasted so many homes of other native tribes. From Chaka down to Dinizulu there had been constant bloodshed; was it not the blood so recklessly shed that had at last brought vengeance upon them? The Boers were but the instrument in God's hands for chastising them; and, I am afraid, they have not learned their lesson yet. I fear it is true that if they were left to themselves to-morrow, wars and "smelling-out" and killings-off would commence again; and woe to all the white residents scattered about in outlying districts of South Africa if these natives ever agree to bury their tribal jealousies and learn to combine. They are very sore in their hearts. One thing only will heal their sore and counteract their discontent--vis., Christianity. The Christian natives are more enlightened. They know what terrible bloodshed there has been in the past, and they know that were the natives to get a free hand, fighting and bloodshed would commence again, and the first to suffer would be the Christian natives. But all this is rather a digression from the history of the work here at Mya-nyeni. I only state it to give some idea of the position of the natives in this part of the country. At 7.30 we commenced our eucharist, which is always the main service of the day. There was a very large congregation. 9.30 a.m.--Breakfast: boiled fowl and porridge. 10.30.--Admitting of catechumens and adult baptisms. This was quite a big service, the whole country for miles around came to attend; even three or four Boers came as well, although the service was in Zulu. It was all, of course, in the open air under some trees. Our little church was much too small. Fortunately the weather was fine, though the sun was very hot at times. Eighteen catechumens were admitted and eleven catechumens were baptized. All those who were baptized to-day have been over two years attending the preparatory classes. One young man of about seventeen years came to me in great distress, saying that the owner of the farm was taking him away to the high veld to herd sheep; he would be away about four months, where there would be no services, etc. I said that perhaps this was to be his trial to prove what his faith was in truth. He promised to try to help the other herds by having meetings for prayer and teach them the hearers' catechism. He quite brightened up when I showed him that it was his opportunity to do some work quietly in the vineyard for the Master, and that instead of crying out about the hardship of being taken away into the wilderness he ought to rejoice at the opportunity of being able to show, by obedience and diligence in his work, that he was better than the heathen.
We had another big service, when I baptized three infants at evensong. I am tired of talking and I am tired of writing, so I shall end my report this quarter. In my next report I will try to give some history of the two head centres--Mvunyane and St. John's, Blood River.
In later years he was greatly helped in the administration of his large district by the Rev. Henry Hollingsworth, whose business ability was used to bring out-station accounts and statistics under a system which has lasted to this day. To describe this method fully would serve no useful purpose here. But the key of the system was found in the provision of sheets containing questions designed to show each quarter precisely what work the catechist in charge of each station had done, the number of persons under instruction in each class, the number of visits paid to surrounding kraals, the number of children attending the day-school, and the amount of money which had been collected.
The bringing in of the quarterly returns to the centre led, in the course of time, to the establishment of regular quarterly meetings of the whole mission staff, which came to be one of the mainsprings of the work. A description of these meetings is so bound up with some explanation of the manner in which the staff came into being that it will need a fresh chapter to deal with this matter.