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Devon or Cumberland Station.

By John Alexander Mackay.

From The Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor, London, 1865, pages 148-149


THE native minister, the Rev. J. A. Mackay, is in charge of this station. It can hardly be regarded as a Mission station, but as a little Christian flock gathered together in the wilderness. The few wanderers from the very thinly-populated heathen districts afford the only opportunity of direct Missionary work.

Mr. Mackay writes--

Jan. 4--As another year has closed, the time has arrived for laying before your Committee some review of the state and progress of this Mission. Six months have now passed since my appointment to this post. During that time I can report very little progress among the heathen around, as my tune has been almost wholly taken up with the duties of my charge. Of these the same may be said as of Christians elsewhere: the tares are mingled with the wheat, but at the same time it must be acknowledged that they are free from much of the superstition which still clings to many of those who have passed a great part of their lives in heathenism. As a body, our people are regular in the use of the means of grace set before them. I believe that there are very few families in which family
prayers are not regularly conducted, and the Sunday services are well attended. The chief cause of discouragement is the tendency to drunkenness. This vice has been promoted by the fur-traders, who distribute their rum and whisky, in order that they may the more easily secure the produce of the poor Indians' hunting. However, I am thankful to state that, except in very few instances, there has been no drunkenness among the Christian Indians for the last six months.

In regard to temporal matters our people are suffering a good deal from scarcity of food. The fishing and hunting resources of the place are becoming poorer and poorer every year. The present winter bids fair to be one of uncommon scarcity. Many of the people have already left the station to seek subsistence where fish and game are more plentiful. Others are preparing to move also. I fear that the greater part of my congregation will be dispersed for the winter, and the school will be also greatly diminished.

Since taking charge of this station, I have administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper twice, viz. in September, when many of the people leave for their hunting-grounds, and on the Sunday after Christmas-day. The number present on the former occasion was seventy-nine, and on the latter, eighty-three.

A Missionary in such a place has often to turn his hand to all kinds of work. We read in Mr. Mackay's journal--

To-day I commenced ploughing a field for next year's farming, but found it rather a difficult business, our stock of draught animals being limited to one ox. I also discovered that the plough-irons were too much worn to penetrate the tough surface of the soil. Not to be hindered, however, with the assistance of the schoolmaster I extemporized a forge by building a fire and placing a large stone at a convenient distance to servo as an anvil, and thus succeeded in beating out the ploughshare to a serviceable state.

No blacksmith at hand, so the Missionary has to make his own forge and become his own smith. In [148/149] this cold land, you may be sure, warm clothing is much prized. We read--

The cold weather having fairly set in, I distributed to the old and needy among us the presents of clothing sent by kind friends in England. There are many poor around us, and more distress than one can effectually relieve; but it is a great privilege to be able to do something for our poor people, I felt deeply grateful to those kind Christian friends who remember us, although they know of us only as followers of a common Lord. May they be abundantly rewarded for the love which they bear to his name!

To-day, assisted by Mr. Macdonald, the schoolmaster, I distributed the gifts of clothing to the schoolchildren. The supply was rather limited, owing to our not having received the presents sent out this season, but, nevertheless, many little hearts were gladdened, and many ragged little forms comfortably protected from the severity of the cold.

Perhaps some of our readers assist at the working parties, and help to increase the joy and comfort of the little Red-Indian girls and boys. Mr. Mackay can tell of many of your brothers and sisters, in Rupert's Land, who, by God's grace, have learned to fear and love Him--who have put on the Lord Jesus Christ--and who love you in Jesus because of what you have done for them for His sake.

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