IN THE PREPARATION OF WOMEN
Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions,
Held in Rochester, New York,
THERE WAS a time when the woman journeyed along the path of life several centuries behind the man in all matters which concern educational privileges. Now, she is well-nigh abreast of her brother, and the companionship which this approach has brought about is charged with advantages both to men and women themselves and also to the work to which they are devoting their energies. But that department of education which trains for a sacred calling has not moved onward as quickly in the case of the woman as has her secular education.
The ministry of men in the Christian Church is of such a character, and is such an inseparable part of her life, that systematic preparation and due authorization are the legitimate steps to its exercise. But the woman also has her ministry in the Church of Christ, and foremost among her opportunities to serve is the calling of the missionary. It is to be greatly deplored that her preparation for this calling should often be merely an offer on her part to undertake the work and, after certain inquiries satisfactorily answered, a glad acceptance of her services. It is because of my connection with a theological school for women which is striving to provide a religious education to be compared favorably with that given to men, that I have been bidden to speak to you of the training school and the woman missionary.
The training school exists for two purposes--to test and to equip. I would therefore deal briefly with the woman who comes to be trained and with the training she receives.
After due inquiry and investigation, the candidate enters the school on probation. Her minister has pronounced her qualified in character and ability, and her physician has given her a certificate of health. Now I am sorry to tell you that the principal of the school soon learns that neither of these guarantees is of necessity to be depended on. Various serious limitations of intellect and temperament may show themselves under the school discipline, and it is not impossible that the candidate may prove to be a nervous wreck! And now begins the difficult task of the Principal. Does the good outweigh the evil? Will the strength conquer the weakness? What verdict shall be rendered at the close of the period of probation?
The candidate for work in the mission field should be a missionary, potentially when she enters the school, for the school develops latent capacity; it does not create. We do not wish to produce one type of woman for missionary work--many types are needed for many places--but there are certain types which are unsuited to missionary work in any place, and these should be recognized promptly and the rejected candidates led into work more suited to their limitations.
In our earlier days of leadership in these schools we principals are prone to ask ourselves whether we must not count upon the power of the Holy Spirit to produce the needed change--but later we keep in mind the truth that the Holy Spirit is the Protector and Guide of this weak personality; that it is not His office to create out of this inferior material a totally different person--and what we need is a totally different person. Therefore, it is no lack of faith to consider disqualified one who is clearly capable of walking with God and yet not capable of expert effort for Him.
But, given the woman who is a missionary potentially, who possesses the substratum of a college or good higher school education, what should be her equipment for work in the mission field? The training provided in an approved school falls naturally into three divisions: (1) The Scholastic; (2) The Practical; (3) The Devotional.
Of this threefold training I am led naturally to speak from personal experience in the school with which I am identified.
The course of study should resemble closely that of a theological seminary--solid, painstaking, up-to-date. The Old and New Testaments should be studied not only devotionally but as history and literature. The New Testament Greek if not required should be an elective. Holy Scripture is not, however, the only work to which the student should devote herself. How largely the study of theology is left to the clergy! We hear it said, "People grow controversial when they come to know a little about the dogmas of the Church, and often very narrow-minded." "Dogmatics serve to glorify truth," theologians tell us. If then the student grows controversial she makes a grave mistake. As to narrow-mindedness--it is enough to remind oneself that enlightenment drives out narrow-mindedness in every other branch of learning; it is not to be believed it has been left to the "queen of sciences" to usher narrow mindedness in. Believing ignorance is to be affectionately tolerated in a little child, in man or woman it is to be deplored, for it is not believing ignorance but educated faith which stands firm in times of pressure or assault.
Church history should be taught as the greatest external evidence of the truth of Christianity and as the source, second only to Holy Scripture, from which we may draw lessons in faith and courage, stories which will teach the convert to be a faithful soldier and servant and answers for the cynic who does not see breaking on the horizon the dawn of a brighter day. A class in teaching is necessary--an informal class in which methods are examined and discussed and practice work done. Missions should be carefully studied and a missionary society should be a feature of the school, that contributions may be made by the body of students to certain missionary fields and a daily service of intercession for missions be maintained.
One is often asked why such thorough scholastic training is thought necessary for missionary work. It is necessary, first for the woman herself. She possesses knowledge about those matters which count for most in life, and in the hours of loneliness which are surely in store for her she will rejoice both in her thoughts and in her books. It is no less of value to her in her work. The intellectual impetus, the furnished mind, are with her in every situation she faces and her poise is firmer in consequence.
The second division of the training to be given is the practical training. In this division of our subject will appear both those practical courses of instruction such as Music, Sociology, Hygiene, Cooking, and visitation of parochial and institutional work, also such special work as may be required for the particular field to which the candidate is going. The summer term in a school modeled as is the New York School is devoted to hospital or vacation home work. In the hospitals, the student learns, not to be a trained nurse but to acquire a knowledge of first things, to overcome the ignorance which renders her helpless in an emergency, and to be the valuable friend in those homes among her people which are visited by illness and death.
But the chief part of this training is that which strengthens the student in living a devout life. The first thing for her to attend to is herself. It is what she is more than what she says or does which will count in the end. The missionary, though trained to a life of activity, should ever bear in mind that work without prayer and meditation is a sadly imperfect thing. Her life, like that of the clergyman, is spent in the midst of the people, in the midst of urgent calls upon time and strength. It is left to her, therefore, to form her own habits of devotion.
During her training she learns the value of the grace which has been well named, sweet reasonableness. She becomes more self-disciplined, more wedded to her faith, more wedded to prayer. The training also teaches her that wisdom, no less than duty, lies at the root of obedience, and a line, more and more clearly defined, is drawn between conscience and self-will. She is sure philanthropy was never made to stand alone and she puts it in its true position, following after, and closely dependent upon, the "first and great commandment." She works as the disciple worked on the Galilean hillside, passing back and forth between Christ and the hungering multitude: forth at the bidding of his Master, laden with the wondrous bread, back at the bidding of his own heart with hands out stretched and empty.