Project Canterbury

Sea-Girt Yezo

Glimpses at Missionary Work in North Japan.

By John Batchelor

London: Church Missionary Society, 1902.

Chapter IX. Methods of Work.

"Precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: for with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people."--Isa. xxviii.

IT has already been pointed out in this little book that a great deal of the missionaries' work in Yezo consists in itinerating. Itinerating is, as you know quite well, just going about from place to place, and the purpose of it is to preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. All true workers always try to remember that they are "ambassadors for Christ," and that they are only sent to be witnesses on His behalf. After having learned something of the language, the message is delivered--the witness is borne--first by simple private talking to a few individuals, and after that by public preaching; and it is always [94/95] our desire to make as many different people hear as we possibly can.

All this requires the exercise of a wonderful amount of patience, both by the teacher and the taught. It is done as the text at the heading of this chapter says, for it is true that "precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." It is here that the missionary needs the grace of patience, for it is remarkable to see how slow some of the people are at learning. Try to imagine how your poor music-teacher must feel sometimes when he or she is labouring to teach you first the notes, and then all about those terrible majors, minors, augmenteds, and perfects, as well as about the seconds and thirds, fourths, fifths, time, and so on! The teacher himself needs patience, does he not? But supposing the teacher is not quite perfect--what then? What a fearful discord he must sometimes make in his practice, to be sure! That is something like the poor missionary. He has to speak in a foreign tongue. He has tried very hard to learn it, but still mistakes will occur. It is then that the learners--the people to whom he is preaching--need to exercise patience. Now, I have found the Japanese very indulgent and patient, and polite and kind to us. Allow me to tell you of a case I heard myself. I once knew a certain missionary who was an excellent Japanese scholar and eloquent preacher. But he had one marked failing in his pronunciation. When talking fast he could not at first say "Kami" (which means "God") very well, but the final i would change itself into e somehow or other; so that the people heard kame for kami. Now kame means "tortoise "! The people therefore began to wonder what the tortoise which the missionary said lived in heaven could possibly be! The Japanese nowadays do not believe that any tortoise is god, though they used to do so. The Ainu, as well as the Red Indians, and some other races, still do, however. [95/96] It was no wonder, therefore, that they began to ask one another what could be meant. They decided at last, and quite rightly, too, that Kami ("God") was intended, and so the mistake was excused.

But it is hardly fair, perhaps, for me to mention the mistakes of a former missionary. I will therefore give one of my own. The Japanese word for "foundation" is dodai; but there is another word a little like it, and that is daidai, a kind of orange. After having preached a sermon one evening, a member of the congregation came to me and said: "We understood your sermon very well indeed, but there is just one thing I should be glad if you would kindly explain. It is this. You spoke about the daidai ('orange') of the world. What kind of an orange did you mean?" I could not imagine what he meant for a time, and then I discovered that I had used the word daidai ("orange") when I meant dodai ("foundation"). So you see teachers as well as taught, and the taught most of all, perhaps, have a great need of the virtue of patience.

But the mistakes do not always happen through using the wrong word, for sometimes they come through misplacing the honorifics. For instance, when talking in Japanese one must be careful to speak of his own things as very ordinary or common, and of those of the person he is addressing as extraordinary and grand. Thus, a Japanese will often speak of his own wife as his "foolish wife," or of his beautiful residence as "my old house "; his beloved children will be "my little 'animals,' or 'brats,'" perhaps, and his beautiful new hundred-guinea gold watch, "my worthless old ticker," or something of that kind.

Now, it is all very well for one to speak of his own belongings in this way, but how would it be to speak of those of another after the same manner? How would it be, think you, for example, to go and say to a man, "Good morning, sir, how is your foolish wife to-day?" Or to a lady, "Good evening, madam, how are those little brats of [96/97] children of yours?" Or again, supposing you were to see a friend riding a beautiful horse or being followed by a splendid dog--it would not be quite the thing, would it, to go and say to him, "What a disgraceful old wretch of a horse that is you are riding," or "What a mangy old cur this is following you"? It would never do to speak in this way of things belonging to another, while, when they are your own, it would be polite to do so. I once heard a very dear old gentleman, a missionary, make a mistake something after the manner just mentioned. He commenced his lecture by saying. "Gentlemen, when I first came to your abominable country about thirty years ago--" He then corrected himself and said, "When your humble servant" (meaning himself) "left his own worthless country and came to your most honourable and exquisite land," and so on. He thus corrected himself right nobly, and all passed off well. Soon after arriving in Japan I remember making my first serious blunder in this respect. It was in this way: I was walking with Mr. Ogawa along the main street of Hakodate when we met a Christian lady and her three children. I addressed the lady, and thought I was saying, "Are these your honourable children?" while in reality I said, "Are these your odious youngsters?" Mr. Ogawa put me right at once and I apologized, and so that matter also passed off all right. Thus, then, you will see that all new missionaries to Japan need your special prayers that they may be helped in learning to speak this difficult language in a way that will not give offence.

As a result of itinerating, many people hear the Word, and, thanks be to God, some believe. These first believers form the nucleus or beginning of a Church, and from these others hear and become interested, and at last join them. As a rule, however, the first Church is generally gathered out round the home of the missionary, and generally the meetings, classes, and quiet services are held in his house.

[98] Thus, when Mr. Williams reached Hakodate there was a small, a very small, congregation of Christians and inquirers already in existence; and besides holding services for them and the Heathen down in the city, he also held his Bible-classes in the C.M.S. house on the hill. This class consisted of five persons only, but they were all very interesting people, and also very much interested in what was read and taught. As soon as I arrived upon the scene I forthwith joined myself to them, so as to pray with them and hear the language spoken, and also to find out as well as possible how they regarded the good things told them. Mr. Terata, Mr. Kimura, poor Mr. Sano, Mr. Murai, and old Mrs. Watanabe (all of whom have already been mentioned) formed the class. Then there were Mr. and Mrs. Williams and myself, with often Mr. Ogawa. It was a small gathering, but very cozy, warm, bright, and helpful. Such classes, which are always held by someone on the spot, form one great means of building up the Christians, and of interesting others who are brought to us by the regular attendants.

At these classes very curious questions are often asked. Let me just quote one out of many: "We read in Genesis iii. 6 that Eve first partook of the forbidden fruit, and thus sin and death were brought into the world. Eve was therefore the cause of death. But in I Cor. xv. 22 it is written, 'As in Adam all die.' How is this to be explained?" I wonder if you, dear reader, can explain this matter? If not, go and ask someone about it. Do not forget, also, the last part of the verse I have quoted, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

As early as possible Sunday-schools are also started, and these do a very great deal of good. Indeed the heathen Buddhist priests of Japan have found out what a power Sunday-schools are, and have actually established some for the children of their own adherents. [98/99] Missionaries never forget the little boys and girls, for they remember the words of Him Who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." The C.M.S. Sunday-school children of Yezo now number more than 2000; they are not all baptized Christians yet, but we hope and pray that they will be some day. I will give you just one incident which shows what kind of good Sunday-schools do in some cases. A little heathen girl of the age of seven attended one of our Sundayschools. Her brothers and sisters, and also her father and mother, were all Heathen. The little girl believed what she was taught by her teacher of the love of the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit worked so graciously in her heart that she asked for baptism. All were surprised at this, and the teacher and pastor both thought it would be best to keep her waiting some time longer, especially as she was so young and her parents both Heathen. She was very much disappointed at this, and kept continually urging her teacher to get her baptized. She was so intensely in earnest and constant in her request that she could not be resisted any longer. Her parents [99/100] gave their consent, and so, after a time, she was baptized, which made her very happy. This little mite of a girl used to teach her brother and sister, father and mother, what she had heard at the Sunday-school and in church. The result of this, so far, is that the brother, sister, and mother have now also become Christians, while the father and grandmother are greatly interested. Praise God for that.

When the workers are so few as they always are in heathen lands, other days are chosen in which the teachers go to the surrounding villages, give their Sunday-school lessons, and in some cases form knitting-classes for the girls and women. These also are a great success sometimes. The Buddhist priests have seen this also and so now imitate us. Through the means of these little classes many doors are open to us, and we are very thankful. I will give you two illustrations showing how the Lord Jesus uses the classes for His glory. The first shows how glory for Jesus Christ may come from a little child. It is this: In a certain heathen village, far away from the home of the [100/101] missionary, preaching services are held two evenings a month, and on the afternoon of the same day the children are collected together and taught the Sunday-school lessons by means of large pictures. They are also taught to sing hymns. On a certain occasion it happened that a tiny boy, about seven years of age, had been adopted into another family and was to leave his parents' home. His father and mother were very poor indeed, and the little boy was greatly distressed because he had no good clothes to wear. The only coat he had was dirty and ragged. Another little lad, who also attended the afternoon school just spoken of, stepped out, and, taking off his nice, clean, tidy coat, handed it to the [101/102] little ragged boy and said, "Here, take this. I am a Christian; I follow Jesus. You may have my coat." His parents, though Heathen, were very pleased, and allowed the other lad to take it away. Both children were unbaptized, but the one who gave the coat glorified Christ, did he not?

The next story is about a Christian family, and has something in it to cause both sadness and pleasure, sorrow and joy. In a certain village there resides a Christian family consisting of a husband and wife, with a little adopted daughter who was about six years of age at the time I now refer to. One afternoon just before tea-time, sad to relate, the father and mother had a quarrel and were very angry with each other. Tea was got ready and they all sat down to eat. The father was so cross that he began the meal, alas! without first saying grace. The little girl set her rice down on the little table and, looking at her adopted father, said, "Honoured father, it is wicked to be cross. You have neglected to give thanks for this food. Jesus will be grieved. I cannot eat my food till you have given God thanks." The parents were much touched at this. Indeed the father was affected to tears, and was moved to say the grace. Peace was thus made at once. We may depend upon it that this little girl got the blessing of Him Who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers."

Then, too, besides such classes and schools as have now been mentioned, there are night-schools in some places, such as that of Miss Bryant's at Piratori. These also do much good and are very greatly appreciated. There are several small elementary schools such as those in the Kushiro and Hakodate districts, as well as some of a higher class like that of the Japanese girls' school at Hakodate, under Mr. Andrews, and the school for Ainu lads, also at Hakodate, in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Nettleship. The good done by these schools is very manifest and it is permanent. At Sapporo there is a "Home" for Ainu girls, where, besides the Gospel of our salvation, such useful [102/103] things as reading and writing, cooking and needlework are taught. Indeed they are taught all things which would tend to make them good and useful wives.

Miss Tapson also, in conjunction with Miss Jex-Blake, has a nice "Home" for Japanese girls and young women at Hakodate. It is hoped that some of those who are trained will by-and-by give themselves up to the Lord for His work as Bible-women. This is a grand work, and the influence of the "Home" is steadily growing.

[104] Then, again, there is a still higher branch of the work carried on in Hakodate. I refer to an institution there for the training of young men to become catechists. Mr. Andrews began this work many years ago, and the benefit it has been to us in supplying workers is indescribable.

And now I must say one more word about another branch of the work, and that is the medical. This is a very good and important part of our Mission, and its influence and power for good are very great. Dr. and Mrs. Colborne are doing a grand work at Hakodate, where Miss Evans has gone to join them and assist as nurse. Many a sick one receives the Saviour into his heart shortly before his death; while others are converted while ill, and when cured of their diseases become faithful witnesses for Christ by word and life. A special feature connected with this work is the little service which is held daily in the dispensary. Every person who is attended to there by the doctor hears something about Christ the Lord. And what is heard there by the people is carried farther, for they almost all talk of it again to their friends. These people are [104/105] really the poorest of the poor, and among such the Gospel always appears to make rapid progress.

Miss Bryant, a trained nurse, also spends many hours a day among the sick Ainu at Piratori and the surrounding villages.

The last thing to be mentioned in this connexion is the "Hospital Rest house" for sick Ainu at Sapporo. This building was completed in December, 1892, and has been much appreciated by the people ever since. Seventy-five patients were admitted in the first year, and every year since the numbers have been between 100 and 160. Very few of those who have come to us have died, and almost all have gone back to their homes cured, while ever one has heard much about the Salvation of Christ. Many have been [105/106] converted there and have gone home to their villages cured both in body and soul.

There is one other mode of working among the people in the spread of the Good News, and that is the distribution of Scriptures, tracts, and good books. All missionaries know the value of these helps and are grateful to the Religious Tract Society.

Thus all these different agencies, such as preaching, schools, and medical treatment, are working together in the cause of Christ for the good of His Kingdom. He acknowledges them all and bestows His blessing upon them; yea, and He will bless them right on to the end. It is through His blessing alone that the work has progressed so far and so well.

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