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Sea-Girt Yezo

Glimpses at Missionary Work in North Japan.

By John Batchelor

London: Church Missionary Society, 1902.

Chapter II. God's Care over His Servants.

"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."--St. Matt. x. 30.

"IS Yezo a healthy place to live in? Can the missionaries stand the climate there well, or is it dangerous to their life, like some parts of Africa?" In answer to such questions as these I will say at once, and without any doubt at all on the matter, that there is nothing to fear here on that score. Indeed, every one who visits Yezo admits most readily that this part of God's world is blessed with a very invigorating and healthy climate, and that the winters are particularly bracing. It is the very place for those missionaries to come and reside for work who are unable to bear the heat of warmer climes with any degree of comfort or without injury to their health. This is a fact well known by the headquarters staff of our own Society at Salisbury Square, and is recognized by the Europeans who reside in such places as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagasaki in Japan, as well as by those who live in Shanghai and Hong Kong [15/16] in China. Sometimes merchants and army officers come all the way from India to recruit themselves in the delightfully cool breezes of Yezo. Many of the missionaries at present on this island, as well as some few who have gone elsewhere, are standing proofs of the salubrity of the climate. I will mention a few examples of this.

The Rev. J. Williams, who is now labouring for the Master in Hiroshima, was invalided home to England from Kisulutini in East Africa in the year 1875. In 1876 he came to Yezo, where, by the gracious favour of God, he soon recovered his wonted good health, and is now one of Japan's veteran missionaries, having had many years of service in various parts of this land. Upon arrival here he [16/17] was stationed at Hakodate, which at that time was the Society's headquarters and had a population of about forty thousand inhabitants. This city has grown so much since that time that the people now living in it number more than seventy-eight thousand. It has always been an important place because of its harbour and position, so that almost from its commencement as a mere fishing hamlet it has been the mercantile capital of the island. Before the whole of the Japanese Empire was open to Americans and Europeans, Hakodate was the only open port at which foreign ships might call or in which foreigners were allowed to reside. Its harbour, though small, is one of the finest in all Japan.

After Mr. Williams, the writer himself was called upon to migrate to Yezo. This took place in May, 1876, and was owing to a severe attack of fever while living in Hong Kong. When he left that place he was unable to walk without the aid of a stick, but by the blessing of our Father in heaven, the air of this island soon set things to rights, so that he was not long here before being able to throw his stick away, and has enjoyed good health almost ever since. At first he was placed in Hakodate, but latterly his station has been Sapporo, which is the official capital of the island. The population of this city is at the present time about forty thousand. The Rev. W. Andrews, who is now our hard-working Secretary at Hakodate, is another standing proof of the good climate of Yezo. He was obliged to leave Nagasaki and come here because the damp and heat of Southern Japan did not agree with his constitution. The northern air, however, soon made him stronger, so that he has been working here for the Master since the year 1882. Then in 1897, Dr. Colborne, whose health failed him in South China, arrived at Hakodate, where he and his wife are doing a most excellent work among the poorer classes of the Japanese. Nor must we forget the lady invalids. Miss L. Payne found the climate of India too [17/18] trying for her, and therefore came to Yezo. For many years she has been established at Kushiro, working most indefatigably among the Japanese and Ainu in that district. Miss Tapson, too, who is doing such excellent work in Hakodate, was invalided from Osaka to Yezo in the year 1891. The Lord has greatly blessed her and given her many souls. Let us thank Him for this. No doubt, therefore, some of us Yezo missionaries have at one time or other been a sorry-looking people, pulled down as we were by weakness and sickness; but by God's goodness we all got better, and not one of us, I believe, ever regrets having been transferred here. God had [18/19] need of us in this land, and that is why He sent us here. Our illnesses were His messages directing us to our present work. It was because He did not need us where we were first sent that He appointed each one of us to the place in which he or she now is. We accept His directing, and are happy to know that He is our Guide; and that His Word is true which says, "The very hairs of your head are all numbered."

But do not let it be supposed that all the Yezo missionaries came here because they were too ill to live anywhere else in the missionfield, for such is not the case. Thus, for example, the Rev. W. Dening, who was the very first C.M.S. missionary to this island, was sent from Madagascar in the year 1874, being in a very strong and healthy condition. Though not now belonging to our Society, he is still residing in Japan. Then, in 1893, Mr. and Mrs. Nettleship came from South Japan in good health, and are residing at [19/20] Hakodate, where Mr. Nettleship has charge of a school for Ainu lads. In 1894 the Rev. G. C. Niven was sent to us from England, Mrs. Niven coming out later. Their station is at Otaru (see picture on page 19), on the west coast of the island, an important seaport with a population of about fifty-eight thousand souls. Kamikawa is in this district, a city which has thirteen thousand inhabitants. In 1896 the Rev. D. M. Lang joined us, and he is in charge of the Kushiro district. The town of Kushiro itself has a population of about eleven thousand, while Nemuro, which is in this district, has about the same number. In 1896 Miss E. M. Bryant was sent to Sapporo, and, after studying the language, went to live among the Ainu at Piratori, where she has done much good among the people of that district. In the year following Miss A. M. Hughes came to Sapporo, where she has since been working very acceptably for Christ, particularly among the women and children. Then, in 1898, Miss Jex-Blake joined Miss Tapson at Hakodate; and lastly, in 1901, Nurse Evans, who was formerly of Matsuye, on the east coast of the Main Island, has come tollabour with Dr. and Mrs. Colborne. All of these are now in the field. There have been, however, a few others who are not now with us.

[21] By all this it will be seen that our Society has by no means neglected this part of the world. And it would be very easy to show also that the Lord has blessed the labours of His servants' hands abundantly. He has been very good, and is always found true to His promises to those who fully trust Him.

The C.M.S. first began work on this island in the year 1874. At that time there was only one missionary and his family here, and with the exception of one Japanese gentleman whom the missionary brought with him from Nagasaki as helper, there were no Native Christians belonging to our Society in Yezo. Since then the work has grown so large that the Diocese of Hokkaido has been divided up into four districts. The centres of these districts are as follows:--(1) Hakodate, in the charge of the Rev. w. Andrews; (2) Sapporo, in the charge of the Rev. J. Batchelor; (3) Otaru, in the charge of the Rev. G. C. Niven; and (4) Kushiro, in the charge of the Rev. D. M. Lang; while Bishop Fyson superintends the whole. At the end of last year (1901) there were about 2300 Japanese and Ainu Christians living, while some hundreds have since the commencement of this Mission gone to join the glorified Church in heaven. Counting the native helpers with the foreign, there is a little army of workers numbering fifty-five persons. Among them are two Japanese clergymen. The first of these is the Rev. T. Ogawa, who is stationed at a town called Esashi, which is about thirty-five miles towards the north-west of Hakodate, and has a population of about twelve thousand souls; but one is sorry to say that the people residing in that district are very bigoted, so that Mr. Ogawa necessarily finds that a good deal of steady, prayerful patience and perseverance is required of him. The second Japanese clergyman is Mr. Ito, who lives at Hakodate. Of his ordination the Rev. W. Andrews wrote in 1899 as follows:

"The principal events at Hakodate during the past year have [21/22] been the rebuilding of the church and the ordaining of the pastor to the office of deacon.

"The congregation of Hakodate having grown too large for the old building, it was decided to pull down and rebuild, with the result that on September 24th the fifth church that has been built in Hakodate since the work was commenced was opened. It stands towering above all the surrounding houses, its tall white steeple and pointed roof making it a prominent object in this large town of seventy thousand.

"Ito San, who was ordained deacon on September 24th--the same day that the new church was opened--was on that very day, eight years ago, baptized; a small circumstance, perhaps, but one more than sufficient to make us rejoice and trust in the Hand of Him Who [22/24] maps out for each of His children his course through life. Thus, at the opening service in the new church, we not only had the Ordination Service, followed by the Holy Communion, and in the afternoon a baptism, when eight were admitted into the visible Church, but on the Monday the first funeral, and on Tuesday the first wedding. This was the more strange, seeing that in a congregation of about thirty-five families, funerals and weddings are naturally not very frequent."

Miss Tapson, also writing about the same matter, says:--"The thankfulness for having Mr. Ito as our pastor only grows as time goes on, and we all rejoiced in his ordination. I was present at his baptism at Tate eight years ago, and he and his wife are old friends. It is good to be able to consult the pastor about the work and feel sure of an unprejudiced sympathy, and of a careful consideration of the point in question. His Bible-readings for Christians at their own houses four nights in the week are much liked by them, and they must mean the strengthening and building up of the Church."

Mr. Ito has since been ordained priest, and has now full and entire care of one of the churches and districts in Hakodate. This, is a great answer to prayer, and I consider it a very blessed privilege to have been in this Mission almost from the beginning, and so seen the gradual growth of the Church from its childhood to manhood.

Thus, then, has the Lord Jesus blessed His cause in Yezo; and we rejoice and give Him thanks. We know, too, that He will bestow a yet fuller measure of blessing in the future, and thank Him, too, for that. Further details of the work, and how the seed grows in the heart and life, will be more fully explained in the chapters which follow.

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