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Snapshots from the North Pacific
Letters written by the Right Rev. Bishop Ridley (Late of Caledonia).

Edited by Alice J. Janvrin.

London: Church Missionary Society, 1904.

Chapter VII. New Work and Old

"Wave on wave, a courier be,
Carrying tidings joyfully,
Spread, O Spirit, idle sails,
Filling all with steady gales."

LATER letters will tell of the work on the Stikine River. Although much on the Bishop's heart, it was up to this time almost untouched, till the fund provided in answer to the appeal of one of the Indian chiefs made it possible to go forward. Even so, it was only a beginning. The work did not really develop until later years, when it became a memorial to Mrs. Ridley, whose life was devoted to the Indians, and whose death made such a deep impression on them. The Bishop wrote at the beginning of 1892:--

"Ten years ago I made an attempt to go among the Stikine River Indians, but just as I reached the mouth of the river the only steamer on it was wrecked on a bar. So I returned. Since then I have several times been on the point of making another attempt, but the troubles near at hand always hindered me. Now I could not go because my walking powers have been sapped by la grippe. Still I feel bound to try to lead them to Christ. If I cannot go I must send.

"These Indians, unlike all others I have yet met with, have no settled homes, but are hunters, and live entirely by the chase. No white man knows anything of their language. The gold-miners tell me they are very shy, especially their women, which is as commendable as unusual among Indians. They have no belongings beyond what they and their dogs can carry on their backs. Their powers of endurance are said to be extraordinary. The cold they seem to defy. The summers are delightful. Whoever undertakes the duty of missionary pioneer must be a great itinerant. I should license him to a district as large as the two Provinces of Canterbury and York, with Scotland thrown in. He must be sound in wind and limb as well as in the faith. He must not have a wife. During the winter a log hut will be home. Servants will not be required, therefore accommodation for one will suffice. As soon as the confidence of the Indians is won, then some of the boys of the tribes can be received as boarder pupils, and the hut enlarged to admit them. Eventually the Indians will settle down near the missionary for part of the year, and so become civilized as well as evangelized. This work is really heroic and requires a man inspired with spiritual fervour strongly flavoured with common sense.

"Where to find him God alone knows at present. I pray that he may quickly obey the King's command."

The above letter was soon followed by one telling of the Bishop's serious illness, and of his need of change. He determined if possible to reach England in time for the May meetings of 1892. The following touching account is given of the affection of the Indians for their Bishop:--

"I must tell you of a beautiful thing. When the Indians were no longer allowed to see me, they met every afternoon in the church for special prayer on my behalf. Men and women prayed in succession, eight or nine at every meeting. They did not tell our Mission party of it, who heard of it accidentally. I saw Mrs. Ridley slip out of the room every afternoon, and heard her leave the house. Curiosity led me to inquire the meaning of it. Thus I learnt of their love for me. I knew it was there before, but not to this affecting extent. I suppose I was weak at the time, which accounts for the narrow escape I had from tears. It was some time before I recovered from the melting mood. No pastor at home could be better loved, I think."

In 1893 the Bishop wrote to the S.P.G. on his return to his diocese from England, and an extract from the letter will show that the maintenance of the Evangeline proving too costly, she had to be relinquished, and passages taken in any steamers that might be plying up and down the coast--a proceeding which, it will be soon, was not always satisfactory!

"In the spring, as soon as the doctor thought me sufficiently recovered from a long attack of inflammation of the lungs, brought on by long exposure to inclement weather, he sent me off for a year's rest and change, recommending California. But I chose the old country, and spent four months there, of which three were spent in inactivity caused by extreme debility.

"I returned within the six months to my post, but very unfit for work, waiting for the healing hand of Him Who has been more precious to me than ever before. Because I have been unfit to buffet with storms, I have not attempted to use my own open boats in visitation, but did the best I could by taking my chances on the trading vessels that ply on these waters. My own diocesan steamer, my Evageline, I was forced--shall I confess the truth?--by poverty to sell. Could I have kept her, I should, I think, be hale now instead of an invalid. I had to choose between the extension of the Gospel, and a safe and expeditious moans of keeping in touch with our work and workers that has cost me from £200 to £400 per annum, and with occasional costly repairs sometimes exceeding my income.

My last effort to reach Mr. Price, working among the Kitlaup Indians and whites in Gardner's Inlet, was, like several preceding ones, a failure.

"A steamer was advertised to call there on her homeward voyage, and I accordingly embarked. Before we reached the entrance of this long inlet the ship had gathered up her full complement of passengers and freight. With many apologies the captain told me he could not then go up the inlet (two days' sail there and back), but would proceed thither on his outward voyage. So I was taken to Victoria, and stayed at an hotel until she again sailed northward. Again I embarked. On the voyage we met with frequent storms which detained the ship at various anchorages, and just before we reached the entrance of the inlet again the captain made his apologies, saying that he was extremely sorry (as he really was) he could not proceed to the head of the inlet, because of the impatience of the crowd of passengers to reach their destinations farther along the coast.

"I was set down eventually at the same point from which I had embarked, having sailed 1,200 miles, wasted nearly a month at sea or in an hotel, and spent about £20! "

The Bishop succeeded in reaching England just before the Anniversary, but his stay was a very brief one. In September of the same year, 1892, he returned to his diocese.

The year 1893 was marked by much blessing along the Naas River. At Kincolith there was a great increase of earnestness, manifested in a desire of the Christian Indians to reach their heathen brethren. The work begun in the winter was continued when Archdeacon Collison followed them to the spring fishing. Many were brought in, backsliders reclaimed, and permanent results followed the efforts made. No wonder that the good news so rejoiced the Bishop's heart that it improved his bodily health, rendering him once more able to resume active labour. He wrote in July of that year:--

"It would not be fair for me to tell you the good news I have heard from the lips of our brethren in the North Pacific Mission, especially from Archdeacon Collison and Mr. McCullagh. The story should come from the pens of the chief actors themselves. It will be no small loss to you if they find no leisure to record the work of the Holy Spirit on the Naas River, where the Christians have been powerfully energized in trying successfully to win the Heathen for Christ. From time to time written accounts reached me and cheered my seclusion as with spiritual tonics.

"The joy of these tidings, I believe, really improved my health, which you know has been broken for about two years. During the winter I have been an unwilling prisoner, so that the pastoral care of this place has been entirely in Mr. Gurd's hands, and they have been efficient. This enforced seclusion has been ordered for the best. The discipline must have been required or it would not be imposed by the Divine Bishop of souls. No longer do I impatiently chafe as a caged bird, though I am glad to be on the wing, sot free to go and come by the same kind Hand that shut me in.

"Sympathy is very sweet, and of this I have had innumerable proofs. But my weather-tanned face and hands hardened by the paddle make no further claim. Since April my writing-desk has been rarely opened because of my constant voyaging. My fingers, lately so thin and pliable, now are stiff and scarred and blistered. On the twenty-seventh anniversary of my wedding day I paddled sixteen hours in steady rain, and during the week's travelling slept two nights in the bottom of the open boat anchored close in shore. As I dozed I was startled by what I at first thought was a steamer's whistle, but it was only the buzz of a bold mosquito exploring my ear, which I smartly boxed to kill the poisonous intruder. He did me a service, however, for, being wide-awake, I became conscious that on my right side my blankets were soaking in the rain water that accumulated in the boat. Wringing them out, I tucked them more tightly round me for the night, and next day, on my arrival at Kincolith, Mrs. Collison hung them round her kitchen to dry.

"I can scarcely realize that I am the same man that spent the winter months watched and tended as an invalid. It has its advantages, for though often weary with bodily infirmity I was able to devote an average of six hours daily to linguistic work, which has already proved valuable to my brethren, and will be yet more useful to new missionaries. As long as I was able to follow my out-of-door episcopal work I could make no leisure for the literary department, so God enforced the leisure, and it has borne as good fruit as the most active winter I have ever spent in this country.

"Another effect of seclusion is in keener sensibilities and perceptions towards Nature as showing forth the glory of our God. Long absence enhances the delights of once more wandering among the sweet solitudes of forest, and river, and ocean. How many voices harmonize in the concert of praise! The birds are envied no longer, for I have wings, too, stronger and more than they. The mountain ridges stoop down, not only to faith, but to fancy and imagination to form the substratum of the mountain of the Lord's house, with the ensign of redemption crowning all.

"I must add yet another pleasure I have enjoyed, and that is the meeting amid their work our honoured brethren who are God's instruments in winning souls and building up His Church in regions where a sympathetic visitor is welcomed as an angel of God.

"How little does even the true Church, much less the crowd of self-centred Christians and the world, know of the travail and joy of the missionary'? Not that he thinks of this; his one concern is his work, a commerce directly between, him and his Master, Who makes His servant's life as full and complete as may be possible amid the city's concourse, and much more healthy. It makes him self-contained, and this tends to make him reticent and to restrain his pen when a full record of the common incidents of his work would be as fuel to kindle sacrifice of praise in many a pure and devout heart at home. Often do I wish they would write just what they tell me, for though it is the fruit of faithful endeavour, it has the bloom that only the sunshine of heavenly grace can paint.

"The real romance of Missions is not yet written, and never will be, because God's greatest works are like the diamond and dew--perfected in the secret places of the Most High, and await the great day to reveal them. Then will they go to swell the praises of eternity. God is a true economist, giving sufficient but not wasting His grace on us, shedding gleams of His glory now to cheer, but concealing more in order to reveal it when He shall have accomplished the number of His elect.

"Rarely do I write of those who die in the Lord, because a consistent life is a greater triumph than a happy death; but the latter is sometimes worthy of remark. The most inclement winter we have ever known here has been wonderfully conductive to health. At our Naas River stations not a death occurred. Here we lost a young man who had been long ill. The day he died he asked for writing materials, and though he was in a state of exhaustion he intended to write a letter to his brother living on the Skeena. So he wrote, 'My dearest brother,--I am going to Jesus, and I want you to come." His task on earth was done; he could write no more.

"An old chieftainess, a woman of great force of character, who gave to the Society the land on which the Mission premises are built, had been ailing for more than a year, and after much suffering passed away. Just before she died, after having lain many hours in silence, she began to recite the Apostles' Creed in Zimshian. Her strength failed before she could finish it, but she proceeded, I believe, as far as 'He sitteth at the right hand of God.'

"At present nearly all our staff are concentrated at the mouths of the Skeena and Naas Rivers, ministering to all classes of people engaged in the great industry of canning salmon for foreign markets. Formerly as the Indians dispersed from their winter homes the missionary remained behind and ministered only to the mere handful of feeble people unable to accompany the rest on their hunting expeditions. Half the year was spent in a solitude.

In 1886 I outlined a plan of following the people. Now the rule is that the whole year is economized. Services and school work go on with redoubled energy. Already is plainly evident the solid results of this continuous labour. Our young people are steadier and the children more advanced. Formerly they forgot in summer what they learnt in winter, and so the work had to be done over and over again. Now there is a marked contrast between the behaviour of our Christians and others, so. the employers of labour say, and of course we see it yet more plainly. Our school children are far advanced beyond all others. I am most glad to hear and see such testimonies.

"Dr. Ardagh, from Essington as headquarters, is expected to regularly visit all the other little fishing towns, so render ing good service. The work is arduous. Mr. Gurdhas been most successful at Claxton, where he has been instrumental in building a very pretty and substantial church to seat 150 persons. The S.P.C.K. has kindly made a grant of £20 towards it. Mrs. Gurd's activity has largly contributed to the success. Miss Dickenson and Mr. Keen, in succession after Miss West, and now Mr. and Mrs. Hogan, have worked at Sunnyside, chiefly among the Indians, who came over annually from Mr. Duncan's ill-fated station in Alaska to work in this diocese. Many of thorn call on me and behave most courteously. They deplore the blunder they made, and cannot understand why they may not be allowed to enjoy the privileges their brethren here possess. Not only is the Holy Communion forbidden them, but also Baptism. Several infants of theirs were baptized by Mr. Gurd. Last week they asked Miss West to write to Mr. Duncan on their behalf to obtain his consent to her instructing their children with ours.

"Miss West has spent already three months at the Inverness fishery, where she has won many hearts. Until Sunnyside could be supplied she held school there once a day and once at Inverness, rowing her own boat over the mile and a half between the two places. Swift are the tides and often difficult the landing on the slippery rocks; but in all weather she pursued her steady course, so that she has become an expert sailor, handling her sixteen-foot boat all alone as well as any man on our staff. She had it all to learn--to her cost. Once she got into serious difficulties, being capsized in deep and rough water, and was half drowned before she could climb back into the boat. It was a risk to appoint a lady to such a station single-handed where there are some hundreds of Indians, Chinese, Japanese, and a band of white men unaccustomed to social or religious restraints. The issue has justified the methods. The sick have been assiduously nursed, the' children regularly taught twice daily, and Bible-classes held for adults. For the Sunday services a band of suitable Indians was organized, and, what is more important, carefully instructed in the subjects of the sermons. The Divine blessing has manifestly sealed these strenuous efforts with a success that disarms criticism. At first the white men asked what they bad done to have a woman sent among them, forgetting they had threatened (though they were idle words and not really meant) to drown the parson if he ever came again among them. It was the old outcry, 'Let us alone, what have we to do with thee?' This is all changed now. Frowns have been turned into smiles and rudeness to respect. They saw how true womanliness accorded with self-sacrificing service for Christ, and therefore dropped their scornful arguments, ashamed to use them against this type of ministry.

"Miss Appleyard, our latest arrival, entered on similar work the week after her arrival, and will continue it to the close of the fishing season.

"It must not be inferred that only the unmarried ladies actively promote the great work. The missionary's wife in several instances resists the tendency of absorption by domestic affairs. In these instances they have succeeded in speaking the native language, and so become valuable yoke-fellows with their husbands in spiritual husbandry. But those who do not attain to this standard often prove themselves valuable accessories in their vocation."

"July 26th, 1893.

"The only fiction about this is the calling it a second letter. I wrote the former pages working till nearly midnight yesterday, and resume my task this morning because I am in the humour, and on Friday must start again on further voyaging, when letter writing will be impossible.

"On the 10th inst. I started to the Naas River station, via Fort Simpson, and back. Bowing and sailing, we only accomplished on the first day thirty-seven miles, between two in the afternoon and ten at night. Then we had some trouble in finding water shallow enough to anchor in, because it was a dark night, and the narrow sea was hemmed in by lofty mountains that added to the gloom. As soon as we found anchorage we dropped the anchor and moored also to the shore. It was perfectly still. At two a.m. we were aroused by our uncomfortable position. We had not reckoned rightly the condition of the tide at this distance from the ocean. A further step was out of the question. I lighted our little petroleum stove, got ready the oatmeal, and water for the coffee. The pots we had to lash to the stove to keep them from slipping off, on account of the list of the boat. Then my cook took it in hand, but as our kitchen box was under his bed boards, it was difficult to get at a spoon. But burnt porridge is unpalatable. Stirred it must be, for we cannot take off the pot without unlashing both. It was too hot for a finger and too deep for a rowlock. My umbrella stowed away for use on shore was within reach, and after looking in vain for anything else, I handed it to the cook, who first washed the ferrule, then stirred the porridge!

"At 2.30 a.m. we were afloat, and the sea like glass. Fortified with our repast and prayer, we bent to our oars, and after about nine miles' rowing got a breeze, which, as the day advanced, grew stronger, until we had to shorten sail, and then run before the half gale, with the crests of the waves flush with the gunwale. On we bounded exultant, my hand for nine hours on the tiller and eye on the stem, the wind steadily rising, until twelve hours distant from our weighing anchor we ran into the river at the back of Kincolith, and received such a welcome that we soon forgot we had been hungry.

"From Kincolith, next day we sailed to Echo Cove, the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. McCullagh. During the fishing season they, with their little daughter, contrive to be happy and extremely useful in a hut consisting of one room with a narrow lean-to, as we call this kind of shed. Wonderful parsonages some of them are! I will suppose your committee room is at least say 55 ft. by 28 ft. Into that space you could set up the two parsonages at Echo Cove and Sunnyside, my picturesque old palace at Hazelton, and leave a choice of situations to pitch my tent on. A cabman's shelter would make a commodious parsonage by dividing it into two parts, thus adding a luxury.

"We called again at Kincolith on returning, where contrary winds detained us two days, which our hosts would gladly have seen extended to many more. This detention gave us a chance of recruiting our strength, for the short nights and long days induce weariness."

The last extract of this chapter, written November, 1893, relates to an interesting opening among another tribe:--

"I have had but a glimpse of the Kitkatlas this year, but enough to see that there is continuous progress. It is probable that one of the first baptized of the Kitkatla Christians will be sent as missionary to the Kitlaups. I visited the latter in June, and found them willing to put themselves under his instruction. They are a very backward tribe, residing at the head of one of the most beautiful inlets I have ever seen, distant about 180 miles. Several of them are able to speak Zimshian very well, and through them I communicated with the rest. The chief is an enormous man, larger than Sheuksh, who married his brother chief's sister. I cannot but think that Sheuksh's influence is powerfully felt for good by his brother-in-law, and this may account for the tribe's readiness to receive a native teacher and erect a school-house."

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