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A Letter from Stanley, N. W. America.

From The Church Missionary Gleaner, May, 1870, pages 58-60.

London: Seeley, Jackson and Halliday, 1870.

THIS station is situated about 700 miles from the Red River Settlement, on the Missinippi or English River, whose waters divide the Chipewyans on the northern shore from the Crees on the southern. There are forty families of Christian Indians around this point. Their dwellings are chiefly along the bank of the [58/59] river. As the Bishop of Rupert's Land, on his recent visitation, was approaching this station, the Christian Indians in their canoes joined his boat, so that when they came up to the beautiful church and Mission house, he was followed by a long procession. There are four out-stations at various distances, to which Missionary journeys have to be made.

The cold in the depth of winter is intense, penetrating every where, above and below the ground. The Rev. R. Hunt, who commenced this station in 1853, thus describes what it was in his day--"We are obliged to confine the children to the bed-room, the only part of the house we can keep at a temperature they can support, without roasting their faces before the fire, while their backs freeze. Even there the thermometer indicated 29° of frost at half-past five o'clock A.M. In the room where we breakfasted, although there was a great fire, the temperature on the table was 25° of frost, and at dinner, in the same room, the water froze in our glasses so quickly that we broke the ice again and again in order to drink. If the plates ate not taken hot from the fire, anything put on them in a semi-fluid state quickly congeals. The knives and forks also must be put to the fire before they can be used with comfort."

A ladies' working party, with which the writer of this article has the privilege of being acquainted, has been in the habit of sending out a bale of goods, ready-made garments of various kinds, to the excellent native pastor at Stanley, the Rev. John A. Mackay, for distribution among the people. We doubt whether the kind friends who take part in these working parties are sufficiently aware how welcome the proceeds are to some far off Missionary at some lonely post like Stanley, where, amidst difficulties and privations, he is labouring for the salvation of the poor Indians. But let this letter from Mr. Mackay be widely read, and it will serve as fuel to the fire, so as to make their zeal burn more brightly.

December 21st, 1869.

I am often very much concerned at not being able to acknowledge the kindness of Christian friends in England, who send us gifts of clothing. My failing to do so does not proceed from ingratitude or carelessness, but from ignorance of the donors, or their places of abode. I received, in September last, a small parcel from the Ladies' Working Party, Christ Church Parsonage, T.W. I have been led to believe that this Is your address, and I therefore desire to express to you, and to the other ladies of the party, my deep sense of your kindness to one who is unknown to you, except as an humble labourer in the work of the Gospel. The parcel was forwarded from Cumberland Station by Mr. Budd, by whom the bulk of the clothing was received; but it matters little by whom such gifts are received; they are equally valuable at every station among the poor of our severe climate, and we as earnestly pray, that the [59/60] blessing of the great Head of the church may be with you for your love to the cause of Missions.

We are now approaching the season of Christmas. It is in England, as I have read and heard, a season of rejoicing, of family gatherings, and happy re-unions. Here, too, we have our gathering at Christmas. Our Indians come from their distant hunting-grounds, some of them several days' journey, to join in, the religious services of the season, and to gather around the table of the Lord. I have just come in from our daily evening prayers and lecture in the schoolroom, where I had the pleasure of seeing some who have been absent for months.

I should like to give some details of my work, but I fear that I have little to write of an interesting character. I wrote to you in August last, through our kind friend Mrs. Hunt, shortly after we had enjoyed the privilege of a visit from our good bishop. Not long after, I went down to the Frog Portage, two days' travelling from Stanley, to visit a party of Indians who were desirous of instruction. I travelled in a small birch canoe, with only an Indian boy. The Indians whom I went particularly to visit, belong to Deer Lake. They were never before instructed by a Missionary, but they have been, I trust, won over to the truth by two of our Stanley Indians, who have visited them at different times to impart to them the light of the Gospel. After my return from this journey we had holy communion, as usual, before the Indians dispersed to their hunting-grounds.

A good deal of my time was taken up this autumn in completing and fitting up a new schoolroom. The carpenter work had to be done almost entirely by myself, as our Indians are not skilled in any handicraft.

As soon as winter had fairly set in, and the lakes and rivers were sufficiently frozen over to allow of travelling on the ice, I left, in company with a party of fur-traders, to visit an encampment of Indians, a week's travelling from the station. On the second day after leaving home, we reached a trading station, where we heard of an unfortunate accident, the death of two young men from drowning. The circumstances were peculiarly sad. Their father had left the station, to spend the winter with a family of heathen Indians, in order to instruct them in the truths of the Gospel. He expected his sons to join him, and they were endeavouring to fulfil their father's wishes when they met their sad fate. They embarked one evening in a small canoe: the weather was already cold, and ice forming in the lake, and nothing was found to tell the sad tale, except their canoe crushed among the ice. In a small community like ours, where all are connected by ties of friendship and relationship, such an event casts a gloom over all. I returned alone from where I heard the sad news, giving up my intended Missionary journey, to go in search of the bereaved family, to acquaint them with their loss, and to impart Christian consolation; but after six days' travelling I was obliged to return, without accomplishing my object. The parents had already moved off to fulfil their mission, and they are still, therefore, ignorant of their loss. Such is Missionary work in this country. A Missionary has often to undergo much toil and hardship, without any apparent result from his efforts. The eldest of the two young men mentioned above hat left a widow and three small children.

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