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Full text of "A missionary's life in Nyasaland"

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

Ex Libra 

SIR MICHAEL SADLER 

ACQUIRED 1948 

WITH THE HELP OF ALUMNI OF THE 
SCHOOL OF EDUCATION 





A GROUP AT LIKOMA. 



A MISSIONARY'S LIFE 
IN NYASALAND 

BY THE REV. G. H. WILSON, M.A. 



Deus lo volt ! 



THE UNIVERSITIES' MISSION TO CENTRAL AFRICA 
9 DARTMOUTH STREET, WESTMINSTER, S.W.I 



Preface 

THERE are some happy beings, no doubt 
of finer clay, who go through life with 
a serene confidence. They always seem to 
know the right course, as though by divine 
inspiration, and are never at a loss. With me 
things have been very different. Whenever 
I have had to make an important decision in 
my life, it has been made at the cost of a 
bitter inward struggle. More than ever in my 
life was this the case when I felt the first 
promptings to offer myself for missionary work. 
Was it my duty or was it not ? I could not 
tell. Moreover, probably through my own 
dulness, I was quite unable to picture to myself 
what sort of life a missionary priest's might be. 
I felt that I ought to have some idea, for it 
seemed an important factor in solving the pro- 
blem. Then I was lucky enough, though I ought 
not to call it luck, to come across Miss Gertrude 
Ward's inimitable letters. It was that book, 
I think, which led me to offer myself to The 
Universities' Mission to Central Africa. I am not 
so foolish as to think that I have Miss Ward's 
pen, but I would fain do something of the same 

5 

662744 



6 PREFACE 

sort for my own diocese. For this reason, after 
fifteen years of experience, I have made some 
attempt to draw a picture of our very happy 
life in the diocese of Nyasaland. It has been 
written at odd times, mostly at night. It must 
needs, therefore, be scrappy and uneven, and 
can have no literary merit. Such as it is, I 
offer it in the hope that it may help some one, 
who is in the same fix as I was, and who wants 
to know something of the actual life out here, 
before he sums up on the great question. 

I should like to add that, though I have 
written entirely about my own Mission and 
Diocese, it is not because I selfishly disregard 
the interests of other Missions. I am trying to 
present a picture of a small part of the Mission 
field, well aware how small it is, because I 
happen to know about it. I do most earnestly 
sympathize with every effort to spread abroad 
the knowledge of the love of God in Christ 
in every land and in every race. 

I have written from my own personal experi- 
ence, with but little advice from others. Some, 
doubtless, will not agree with all that I have 
said. I alone am responsible for what is written. 
I alone must bear the blame for all that is 
amiss. 

G. H. WILSON. 

MPONDA'S. 
June 8, 1920. 



Contents 



I THE COUNTRY . 

II THE PEOPLE 

III THE VILLAGE . 

IV THE DIOCESE . 
V THE STATION 

VI MEDICAL WORK . 

VII TRAVELLING 

VIII NATIVE CHRISTIANS 
IX THE MISSIONARY 



List of Illustrations 

A GROUP AT LIKOMA .... Frontispiece 
A LAKESIDE VILLAGE .... Facing page 34 
THE s.s. "CHAUNCY MAPLES" AT OLD 

LANGENBERG ,,44 

A MOTHER AND BABY .... 60 

MAP OF EAST CENTRAL AFRICA . . page 94 

MAP OF LAKE NYASA .... ,,95 



A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN 
NYASALAND 



The Country 

THE diocese of Nyasaland nominally covers 
a very large area, but our work for the 
most part lies on, or not very far from, the 
great Lake Nyasa. The size of the lake generally 
comes as a surprise to English folk, accustomed 
to think in terms of our own Lakeland or, at 
most, of the Swiss Lakes. It is about 360 miles 
long rather longer, in fact, than from Berwick- 
on-Tweed to Southampton stretching roughly 
from the latitude 93o' to I43o' S. It is about 
sixty miles wide at the broadest part, but 
generally a good deal less. It forms a long 
strip of water running almost due north and 
south, except that about fifty miles from the 
southern end a broad arm stretches out towards 
the south-west to a distance of about forty-five 
miles from the main waters of the lake. The 
water is, of course, fresh, and in places it is very 

9 



io A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

deep. It will be easily understood that such a 
large sheet of water is apt to become very rough 
at times (at least/ for such small craft as ply 
on the lake up to the present). The strong 
wind is the south wind, called Mwela by the 
natives. This often blows with great violence 
in the cooler months, from May to the end of 
July, and sometimes for several days together. 
The other wind most dreaded by the natives 
is the north-wester, which often springs up with 
great suddenness in the early part of the rainy 
season. It comes with tremendous fury, but 
generally only lasts for a short time. Even in 
a short time it lashes the fresh water into angry 
waves, enough to be very dangerous for canoes. 
At other times the lake is more often calm than 
not, lying a lovely blue under the tropical sun. 
At night it is almost always calm, except when 
the Mwela is blowing. One can generally see 
the flares of the fishermen, often far out at sea, 
and one can often hear the peculiar signal for 
drawing the net, made by tapping the canoe 
with a paddle, carried a tremendous distance 
through the still night. 

The Lake country seems to me to be extra- 
ordinarily beautiful. With the exception of a 
part of the western side, there are generally 
hills close to the shore. These are wooded, 
sometimes right down to the water's edge. It 
is impossible to describe the beauty of these 



THE COUNTRY n 

woods, and they are so different from what I 
had expected a tropical forest to be. I thought 
to find enormous trees above, through which 
the sunlight could scarcely find its way, and be- 
low an impenetrable jungle. As a matter of fact, 
the trees are small but they are extraordinarily 
graceful in shape, while the undergrowth, though 
tiresome enough to walk through, is not very 
dense. Indeed, after the bush-fires, when the 
new grass is sprouting, one sees green glades 
of bright-looking turf such as one might find 
in an English park. Of course, there are bigger 
trees. There is the baobab, a sort of a hippo- 
potamus of a tree, of enormous bulk and quaint 
shape. Also in the river valleys magnificent 
timber trees are to be found, and very beautiful 
these valleys are. But it is the forest-clad hills 
that seem to me the most lovely. Crags of 
grey granite stand out, just as the limestone 
rocks do in my own Derbyshire hills. They 
stand always the same, or almost always, for 
in the rainy season one often sees glittering 
patches, where water trickles over them. But 
the forests themselves are always changing. 
I can never make up my mind at which season 
I love them best. In July and August the 
trees stand bare of leaves, of a delicate silver 
grey, except a sort of plane tree, whose white 
trunk stands out here and there in startling 
contrast. In the spring the forest shows every 



12 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

colour from the palest green, through orange and 
red, to purple. Even trees of the same species 
growing side by side put forth their new leaves 
of widely different colours. Then there are the 
dark, rich greens of summer, as beautiful again 
in another fashion. Lastly, autumn brings its 
amazing wonder of colour. Truly Africa is a 
fair place. 

I am no naturalist, so I had better not attempt 
to describe the creatures that haunt these 
woods, yet even to an unscientific person they 
are intensely interesting. There are antelopes 
of all sizes, from the huge eland to the tiny 
klipspringer. There are elephants, though 
indeed I have never seen one. Often enough I 
have seen their tracks and the fearful devasta- 
tion wrought where they have passed. There 
are birds of all colours, and some which sing 
quite passably, though they cannot equal the 
English nightingale or blackbird. There are 
dangerous beasts, too, both lions and leopards. 
Snakes also abound, a few dangerous, but mostly 
quite harmless. It must not be thought that 
these beasts are a great danger to Europeans. 
I have never heard, since I came into the 
country, of a European being hurt by a lion 
or a leopard, except when hunting them. With 
natives it is very different. They live in frail huts, 
they have no lamps to carry about at night, 
they often sleep out when on a journey, they 



THE COUNTRY 13 

have to watch their fields by night. There is 
a sad tale of natives killed by wikj beasts every 
year. I have never heard in my time of*a single 
person, native or European, dying of a snake 
bite. There are baboons and monkeys, platoons 
of them, wild dogs and pigs. There are butter- 
flies and other insects ah me ! how many ! 
bats and lizards, an innumerable multitude of 
creatures. At night what sounds one hears 
when one camps in the forest ! One may hear 
the fateful note of the horned owl bird of 
ill omen in native folklore the appalling howl 
of the hyena, the curious treble pipe of the 
wild dog, the deep bass roar of the lion and 
countless other sounds, recognized and un- 
recognized, which tell of the teeming life of the 
forest. A naturalist would surely find this 
country an earthly paradise. 

The climate of Nyasaland has been badly 
maligned, as it seems to me. To the feelings 
it is almost perfect. It is never desperately 
hot. The heat is seldom above 96 or 97 
in the shade, though I have known it a good 
deal hotter. The cold is seldom below 52. 
Oddly enough, this feels very cold, and a new- 
comer will be surprised to find how real is the 
need of thick clothes at times in this tropical 
country. I speak, however, of the lake-level. 
There have been frosts at Mtonya, and I have 
myself seen 111 in the shade at Port Herald, 



14 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

I admit a strong dislike for the rainy season, 
but then I haj^ a good deal of travelling about 
to do. ^Even then we have some sun most 
days, sometimes for many days, to the grievous 
destruction of crops. The rains are roughly 
from November to the end of April in the Lake 
district. Here at Mponda's thirty inches is 
not a bad fall. At Kota Kota they expect 
seventy inches. My last year at Likoma we 
had forty-five inches, which was a record fall 
up to that time. But the rain doesn't last 
very long, nor, as we have seen, does it rain all 
the time. It is merely a time when one expects 
rain, much as one expects rain almost at any 
time in England. Certainly, as far as feelings 
go, I would not wish for a better climate. 
Of course, there is malaria, but modern medical 
science has done wonders in prevention and 
also in curing us again when we do get fever. 
There are also other tropical diseases, such as 
dysentery. But my own opinion is though I 
daresay it isn't worth much that the real 
danger lies in the fact that somehow the country 
does take a good deal out of one. Maybe the 
food is not very nourishing, or perhaps we need 
" a brave north-easter " now and then. Any- 
way, most people get thin in Nyasaland and also 
most people get rather nervy, even though they 
escape all tropical diseases. That seems to me 
to be the reason why we should be rather more 



THE COUNTRY 15 

careful than we have been to refuse folks who 
are not reasonably strong. It is not fair on 
them or on the Mission to let them come out, 
and indeed break-downs have been too frequent 
in the past. But I don't believe that any 
normally healthy person has much to fear for 
his health's sake, if only he will not run foolish 
risks and will take reasonable precautions. 



II 
The People 

THE district round Lake Nyasa is very 
thickly populated for Africa. Almost 
every little bay on the lake has its village, or 
even several villages. There is a succession of 
villages on the banks of the streams that flow 
into the lake, right up into the hills. Even 
streams which appear to run dry in the dry 
season often have their villages, and the village 
folk get water by digging deep pits in the 
apparently dry bed of the stream. 

This population is made up of a large number 
of tribes. I could not possibly enumerate 
them myself, and if I could it would be un- 
necessary for our present purpose. It is perhaps 
better to consider those peoples with whom the 
Mission comes in contact according to their 
languages, for language in this country is not 
always a clue to the tribe. For instance, the 
Angoni (Zulu) have almost entirely dropped 
their own tongue and now talk a sort of Chi- 
Nyanja. The Mission works among four 

16 



THE PEOPLE 17 

languages which, of course, are all dialects of 
the Bantu family. Far the largest part of 
our work lies among those speaking different 
forms of Chi-Nyanja, whom we may perhaps 
call Nyasas (Wa Nyanja), if we remember that 
it is a linguistic not a tribal name. To the 
south-east live Yaos, speaking Yao. I am 
inclined to think those who speak Yao are 
much more of one tribe than those who speak 
Chi-Nyanja, though I know small Yao-speaking 
villages whose folk call themselves Yaos, but 
who are not really of that tribe. Up north, in 
conquered German territory, we have two more 
dialects. I don't know what are their proper 
names. For convenience they are called by us 
Wa Manda and Wa Mpoto. Amongst one folk 
we have a large number of stations, amongst 
the others only four or five. Though I can give 
very little information about these Northerners, 
it is worth remembering that they are extra- 
ordinarily ready to receive Christianity, and 
their importance must not be judged by the 
scanty information that I can give. For the 
rest the ground is covered by Nyasas and 
Yaos. 

There are certain things that are worth 
remembering about these two divisions. Speak- 
ing of them as we meet them, the Yaos are cer- 
tainly the more advanced politically. They are 
organized in large divisions under great chiefs, 



i8 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

, though if the man who occupies the traditional 
position of the great chief happens for the 
moment to be a feeble person, the organization 
becomes very loose. Nyasas, on the contrary, 
are organized in separate villages. For instance, 
they would not be greatly moved if a neighbour- 
ing village were raided, except for feelings of 
natural pity or for fear that their own turn 
might come next. Hence, when Yaos and 
Nyasas have clashed, the Yaos have been 
generally victorious, for obviously the large 
tribe has an overwhelming advantage over the 
single village. Certainly this shows the political 
superiority of the Yaos, though I doubt if it 
necessarily proves the personal superiority often 
claimed by Yao admirers. Also, once in my 
knowledge, Nyasas, fighting Yaos on equal 
terms, were completely victorious. On the 
other hand, I think that Nyasa morals are 
unquestionably higher than those of the Yaos, 
but this may be owing to the effect of a low 
type of Islam. Of this I shall hope to speak 
later. Here one may note that Nyasas are mostly 
heathen and Yaos are in the main Moslems 
that is, of course, where they have not yet 
accepted Christianity. 

Having mentioned these differences, I shall 
now speak of the general characteristics which 
are met with in both peoples, for to a great 
extent they are- the same. Now I hear people 



THE PEOPLE 19 

say sometimes that they can distinguish at 
once between a Nyasa and a Yao by their 
appearance. I should very much like to test 
this claim. I admit readily that there is a 
difference, but I could not myself undertake to 
distinguish at sight between a Nyasa and a 
Yao, except in rare cases where the difference 
was very marked. It is often amusing, too, to 
hear Europeans, both missionaries and others, 
claiming that the tribe amongst whom their 
lot is cast is far the superior. I have lived and 
worked among both and, if I live another 
year, I shall have spent an equal length of 
time amongst each people. I still cannot tell 
the difference between them at sight, and I am 
still at a loss to know which of the two I like 
best. 

These people are not black, but a sort of 
chocolate colour. One good priest of our 
Mission used to tell his cook to roast coffee 
beans till they became not black but the colour 
of his own arm a very sound maxim for 
roasting coffee, and the reader will see at once 
the colour of the cook. I think myself there is 
a great deal to be said for the colour. In 
children it is really beautiful. In adults, too, 
it will bear comparison with our own pale 
faces, for a European complexion does not 
look its best in Central Africa. I never realized 
this till my first trip home. I remember 



20 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

standing amazed at the beauty of the com- 
plexion of the Southampton dock-hands not 
generally, I suppose, regarded as a high type 
of English complexion ! The natives almost 
always have soft, brown eyes. Our greys and 
greens seem inexpressibly fierce to them. I 
admit that the nose and lips are hard to defend, 
but in spite of this I have certainly seen beautiful 
faces amongst them, and some even noble. 
To me the African face is generally very attrac- 
tive. They have beautifully white teeth and a 
charming grin, and have also an open air of 
frankness which is very engaging, an air which 
is conspicuously lacking among the Eastern 
peoples. If this frank air makes the simple 
new-comer think that the African is but a 
shallow person, easy to be understood, he will 
find himself grievously mistaken. The African 
is simply a born actor, indeed I think he is 
acting most of the time, sometimes I fear with 
real intention to deceive, more often in naive 
unconsciousness. In figure the African is often 
magnificent. He is not very tall, shorter a 
good deal on an average than the Englishman, 
but he is commonly beautifully built. The 
women, especially the young ones, carry them- 
selves splendidly, sometimes with a load on 
their heads and a baby on their backs. Some 
people tell me that they find the African 
repulsive. I cannot understand that myself. 



THE PEOPLE 21 

I think it must be some unconscious prejudice 
at the back of their mind. For my own 
part, from the very first I felt a great at- 
traction towards the Africans of Nyasaland. 

When one comes to consider the character 
of these folk I think that again one must admit 
that they are a very lovable people. Of course, 
I don't mean that their character is perfect, 
far from it, but when one fairly considers their 
opportunities I think they will bear favourable 
comparison with other races. I do not pretend 
to give an analysis of African character, that 
would indeed be a rash thing to do, but one 
cannot live many years amongst people of 
another race without acquiring certain definite 
ideas about them. I give these for what they 
are worth. At least they may be found interest- 
ing, and I should like to think that some of 
my readers may some day have an opportunity 
of correcting my impressions by their own 
experience. 

There seem to me to be two special failings 
in the African character which constantly show 
themselves. I will mention these first and be 
done with them. In the first place the African 
seems to lack something, some stiffness of 
character, some backbone I do not know what 
to call it. This is often very exasperating to 
an Englishman, for it makes some of the best 
Africans fail one just when one least expects 



22 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

it. It is not that they lose their heads at a 
crisis. Some do, of course, but I have myself 
seen a native show splendid presence of mind 
in moments of difficulty and also of danger. 
It is not that they lack staying power. Can any 
one who has travelled in Central Africa ever 
forget his carriers, weary, patient and enduring ? 
The pathos of it ! Perhaps an example will 
best show what I mean. My teacher is a good 
fellow and has a real zeal for his work I speak 
generically but if he happens to feel unwell 
in the morning he simply drops everything. 
He has certain quite important duties to do, 
but he just lets them go. He does not live fifty 
yards away, yet he would not think of sending 
me a message. I should probably find out 
before school-time, but if I did not there would 
be no bell and no school. Nor could he be 
brought to see that he was in the least blame- 
worthy. This, of course, is not a very serious 
case, but I fear it would be just the same where 
really important issues were involved. Then 
think of the contrast. The European, in the 
first instance, would generally fight against 
his illness as long as he could. When obliged 
to give in he would try his best to arrange so 
as not to leave all his work in confusion. I 
suppose our religion and civilization have ground 
into us the importance of duty, while the African 
does not as yet feel a very strong sense of duty. 



THE PEOPLE 23 

No doubt he will improve, but at present, even 
in some of the best, men whom I regard as 
real friends, I fancy I see traces of this lack, 
whatever it be. 

The second failing comes as a shock to one. 
At first one is greatly struck by the honest 
expression of the African face. As a matter 
of fact dishonesty, in word and deed, is a notable 
characteristic of the Central African folk.* I 
say this very sadly, but with deep conviction. 
In village life I do not believe that there is 
any disgrace attached to dishonesty, unless 
it be found out. I am not speaking so much 
of the relations between Africans and Europeans, 
though there it is distressing enough. But 
still one can admit some excuse. We seem 
inordinately rich and also selfish, and more- 
over the climate tries the temper. I do not 
think it seems very wrong to a native to help 
himself to our superfluous wealth, which seems 
to him selfishly hoarded. Nor dp I think it 
unnatural that they should use deceit to avoid 
or appease our fierce wrath. What really 
hurts me is the plundering of some poor old 
widow's field, the sneaking of hardly earned 
coppers from a companion in the dormitory, 
the robbing of some poor traveller. In a 
native court lying is carried to a fine art. It 

* This statement would not be endorsed by every one 
in the U.M.C.A. PusrtsHERS. 



24 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

is a disgrace to give away your own side by 
speaking the truth. It is as bad as for an 
English public school boy to sneak. However, 
one hopes that Christianity will alter this. 
Indeed it is doing so, but slowly, I am sorry to 
say. I fear it cannot be disputed that this is a 
marked trait of Africans in general, though 
one is thankful to have known many who 
are exceptions, the more honour to them. 

We have told the worst, and even these 
bad traits could be paralleled among many 
so-called higher races. No doubt, too, there 
are many other faults, such as are found in 
other peoples, immorality, drunkenness and 
such like. Where are they not found ? But 
when one has said all this, I am still convinced 
that the natives of Central Africa are a most 
lovable people. Let us now consider their 
good points. 

The first thing that strikes one is their 
cheerfulness. They don't seem to have too 
much to make them cheerful, but they make 
the best of things. They live almost entirely 
in the present, so that when all is well they are 
full of careless happiness. Perhaps because 
they are so thoughtless they are soon cast down. 
In sickness, as we saw before, they collapse. 
A death in the village casts a shadow over the 
whole place. Travellers who hurry through 
Africa speak as if a native's life was a supremely 



THE PEOPLE 25 

happy one. I do not think it is at all, but 
they make the best of it, and it is a very good 
trait in their character. Your passing traveller 
does not see much of the seamy side of native 
life. How should he ? 

Perhaps connected with their happy disposi- 
tion is their extraordinary good temper. It 
is true that, when once roused, the African 
temper rises almost to a frenzy. Indeed that 
may be partly why he has had to learn to keep 
it under control, unless greatly exasperated, 
for village custom demands heavy damages 
for blows, heavier still if blood flow. Even 
if this be so to some extent, I am sure that they 
are also naturally good-tempered. I have often 
watched boys playing 1 football, and in dead 
earnestness too, but I have very seldom seen 
any one lose his temper. In this large and some- 
what unruly village how seldom there is a 
serious fight ! Even then it is nearly always 
caused by drink. There is incomparably less 
quarrelling here than in some of our slums at 
home. 

Africans, too, are extraordinarily ready to 
forgive, as soon as their momentary indigna- 
tion has passed off. It is astonishing how they 
forgive us Europeans our blunders and mistakes. 
I do not often whip a boy, but for one or two 
serious offences a whipping is the recognized 
punishment. It is the last thing, short of 



26 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

expulsion. I once whipped a boy for a flagrant 
offence. Soon after his complete innocence 
was suddenly established by a strange chain of 
coincidences. I at once apologized and gave 
him a present to show my regret. Indeed I 
made all possible amends, for I was horribly 
ashamed of myself. Now I don't believe the 
boy ever bore me a moment's ill will. He 
knew that I was acting justly, as far as I could 
see, and he seemed to think it rather splendid 
of me to own up and make amends. He forgave 
me readily enough. It was not nearly so easy 
for me to forgive myself. 

Unselfishness is another splendid trait in 
the African character. If you give some sugar 
or salt to a boy, he shares round to the last 
grain. ' The man who eats alone " is a pro- 
verbial term of contempt. In native eyes we 
seem fearfully selfish. If you have some cigar- 
ettes and smoke one, keeping the rest by you, 
when you know that all around would like one, 
it seems almost brutal. You might at least 
pass round the lighted one for all to have a 
suck ! The African is really unselfish and 
feels the keenest shame if he has been betrayed 
into an act of selfishness. A woman once came 
to me in the greatest distress, for she felt that 
she had committed an appalling sin. She had 
refused a traveller water, who came to her 
house to beg a drink as he passed by. I may 



THE PEOPLE 27 

say that she has to fetch every drop of water 
from quite a distance in a great earthen pitcher, 
which she carries on her head. There was no 
doubt at all that the poor woman was really 
overwhelmed with the sense of shame. It is 
true that she was not a raw native. She was a 
Christian and one of the best. Now I wonder 
how many European Christians would have 
felt the sting of conscience for driving a 
tramp from the door, even though they 
had but to turn a tap to satisfy his 
wants. 

I think far the most striking point in the 
African character is their family affection. It 
is simply wonderful and naively taken for 
granted. They stand by one another through 
thick and thin, at home and abroad. When 
separated they love to write and receive letters. 
They will go long journeys to see a distant 
kinsman, especially if he be ill. This affection 
is not limited to one small family circle, but 
it extends to kinsfolk so distant that we find 
it hard to express the relationship. Death 
makes an appalling breach in the circle. The 
wailing after a death is a dreadful sound and, 
for the time at least, the sorrow is genuine. I 
admit that so thoughtless a 'people soon forget, 
but that is only what one would expect. They 
love their children just as much as we do, 
possibly more. This intense love often shows 



28 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

itself in an unfortunate way, for they seldom 
correct small children and they are apt to get 
spoilt. Often enough I have pressed a woman 
to insist on an urchin of seven or eight coming 
to school. She replies in despair, " But he 
refuses," as if that settled the question. They 
love them too much to punish their children, 
but, though they are unwise, it is real love. 
A friend of mine was once speaking to a native 
who had just returned from the Somali campaign. 
He had been serving in the King's African 
Rifles. My friend expected him to enlarge on 
such things as big guns and maxims and those 
sort of horrors, which must have been a terrible 
experience to a village lad. But the horror 
that seemed most to dwell in his mind was 
that he had seen Somali women fleeing from the 
enemy, who threw their babies away into the 
bush in their terror. That seemed to him the 
accursed thing. He added, as a very natural 
corollary, " But we beat them and made them 
take them up again." All through the village 
relationships, it is the family which counts ; 
the individual is only important as one of 
the family. If a lad is earning wages, it is to a 
large extent for the family, and he is expected 
to share round, and he admits the claim. One 
must remember, however, that the family is 
not constituted like ours. The father is outside. 
He has no rights in the children. They belong 



THE PEOPLE 29 

to the mother's family. Native custom makes 
the most careful provision for the protection of 
the mother and children in the interests of 
their family. Inheritance goes not to a man's 
own son, but to his sister's son ; that is, it 
remains in the family and does not pass to the 
mother's family, according to native ideas. 
But though the family be differently consti- 
tuted, the family tie is real enough and it is 
enormously stronger than the ordinary family 
tie in Europe. Christianity is rapidly changing 
the organization of the family. It is possible 
that it may for a time weaken its force, 
where the Christianity is not very sincere, 
but I have not noticed a sign of this. It 
merely seems to bring the father into the 
circle, who was before outside. 

There is one fact which, as an Englishman, 
I take great pride in telling. During the whole 
Central African campaign in the late war, 
whatever happened, none of the ist King's 
African Rifles (our Nyasaland battalions) ever 
ran away. In ordinary life natives are ready 
enough to run away, especially when they 
see no particular reason for standing their 
ground, but I always felt that there was real 
courage behind. When trained by British 
officers, as all military men tell me, they made ' 
magnificent soldiers. This is not only true 
of the old ist/ist, a splendidly disciplined 



30 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

regiment, but it is equally true of the newer 
second battalion and also of the latest raised 
third. All honour to them and to their officers 
who led them ! 



Ill 

The Village 

THE centre of African life is the village. 
A European has to get away from his 
conception of a village as a place where so many 
folks happen to dwell, because of work or 
inclination or what not, and from this mere 
fact of dwelling together, become an organized 
community. In Africa the village is the home 
of a clan, together with its slaves. We 
commonly speak of slaves, but I think it would 
be more proper to call them " serfs." If the clan 
is large, parts of it may live in different actual 
localities, but in native eyes it is one village. 
It is quite common round Mponda's for a 
village to be divided into two or three parts. 
Part of Malunga's village live by the lake 
and part in the hills, twenty miles away, but 
both parts together make up Bolela the 
village name. Hence to live, as folk live at 
home, amongst strangers, perhaps not even 
known by name, is simply inexplicable to a 
native it is more, it is horrible and unnatural. 

31 



32 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

The village is like a large family, of which the 
chief is father and he rules in patriarchal 
fashion over it. The slaves are the property 
of the family. They have generally come into 
the family either as prisoners of war or as 
payment for some crime. This cannot happen 
now under British rule, so there are only the 
descendants of slaves. I don't think slaves 
are ever sold now. A few years ago a big 
Yao chief in the Portuguese hills sent a present 
of a slave wife to a chief in these parts. That 
is the nearest approach to slave-dealing that 
I have met myself, and that was so unusual that 
it caused a tremendous sensation. I speak 
with caution, for it is difficult to be certain, 
but I don't think these slaves are badly used, 
on the whole. Of course, they are still slaves 
and have no part in the village politics. It 
may seem strange to English ears to hear that 
there are still slaves under the British flag. It 
is quite true that any slave may go before the 
magistrate and claim his freedom. If he knows 
his own ancestral clan, certainly he can go 
there and live as a free man. Even then, if 
it were too near, it might be dangerous. If 
he does not know his own folks, he is at a stand- 
still. He cannot go and live in another village. 
He would merely become the slave of new 
masters in another clan. An African without 
a village is one of the most desolate creatures 



THE VILLAGE 33 

on earth. If he has no folk of his own, his only 
niche in society, such as it is, is his position 
of slave in the village of his masters, and he 
had far better stay there. Things, however, are 
changing. I suppose he might now make 
his way to South Africa and begin life afresh 
in one of those native conglomerations near 
some large town. 

The village 1 is generally a picturesque object. 
From the lake one sees a bright stretch of 
sand in some bay or other convenient spot, 
behind which there lies a collection of huts. 
A few of larger size will stand out, the huts of 
the leading men of the community. One of 
these will be the chief's. Generally a shady 
tree has been left near the chief's house, or he 
has built his house purposely near to one. 
There he holds his court. Also the village 
dances and other public functions are held there. 
It is the "agora" or "forum" of the African 
village. On the sand just clear of the water 
there will be two or three dug-out canoes. 
Above again it is likely that a large fishing- 
net is spread out. This is the common property 
of the village, and men are generally to be seen 
mending such rents as have been made during 
the last night's fishing. Still higher up, almost 

1 I have described a lake-side village. An inland vil- 
lage is much the same if you take away the canoes and 
fishing nets. 



34 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

among the huts, there is generally a shelter, 
just a thatched roof standing on poles. Under 
the shadow of this shelter one sees a few old 
men, twisting fibre into string (by rubbing 
it on their thighs) for mending the net, or for 
making a new one. Behind the huts lies the 
village field and behind that again the forest. 
Sometimes the forest is close behind the village, 
and then you must seek the village field farther 
away. All around the great common field, 
at the edge of the forest, are little thatched 
shelters. They are generally placed on higher 
ground, perhaps on an old ant-hill, so as to 
command a view. Often they are raised on 
poles, as much as 10 or 12 feet. Night and day 
the fields must be watched, from the sowing, 
in November or December, until the maize 
is safely stored at the end of May. Baboons 
and monkeys are ever on the watch to sneak 
in by day. Wild pigs may swarm in by night. 
Then as the grain forms and ripens, birds must 
be scared away. One day or one night may 
be long enough to destroy most of the crop, 
if the villagers neglect to watch. The principal 
crop is the maize. There is also millet, some- 
times running nearly up to 20 feet. This is 
eaten in porridge and is often used to make gruel 
for the sick, but its main purpose is for brewing 
beer. If there be a marshy spot, there will also 
be rice. Between the maize stalks, beans and 



THE VILLAGE 35 

pumpkins of many sorts are grown. Monkey- 
nuts have a patch all to themselves. 

The houses are built of poles, sunk into the 
ground and about 18 inches apart. Between 
them the space is filled in with reeds, or some- 
times millet stalks or even strong grass. The 
whole is generally plastered over with ant-mud, 
within and without. The floor, too, and the 
space under the eaves is also mudded. The 
roof is thatched with grass, and the eaves hang 
over, making a sort of .verandah. Some houses 
are round and some oblong, but the chief's 
is generally oblong in these parts. Behind 
is a courtyard, shut in with a grass fence, 
for the sake of privacy. Here the woman 
generally does her pounding, and often the 
cooking, too. There is little furniture within. 
There are sleeping mats, often a bedstead just 
a wooden frame tightly strung with palm-leaf 
ropes and exceedingly comfortable. There are 
also pitchers and an earthen cooking-pot and 
various baskets. There is a hoe and an axe, 
with a very narrow blade. In the lakeside 
villages, or in a village near a large stream, 
there will be small nets and a fish trap. This 
last is a really clever piece of work, made of 
split bamboo. In the courtyard is the inevitable 
mortar, for pounding maize, fashioned out of 
the bole of a tree, together with two or three 
heavy pestles. 



36 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

The most important question in village life 
is the food supply. Work is begun in the fields 
in September or even earlier. The ground 
has to be cleared of weeds first. The Yao 
villages in the hills change their fields every 
few years. If it is very far, the whole village 
moves too. They then ruthlessly cut down 
acres of beautiful trees. They use what they 
want for building purposes and firewood, and 
pile the rest in heaps and burn it. This is a 
tremendous undertaking with their tiny axes, 
and they often begin operations before the 
harvest in the previous year. As soon as the 
rains are thought to have begun in earnest 
the seed is sown, it may be in November, but 
more generally in December. When the rains 
are very late they may not be able to sow until 
January. When the corn is getting ripe, the 
old store-houses are repaired and new ones 
built. They look rather like little huts on 
short legs. The roof is movable and can be 
lifted off to get out the contents, and there is a 
rough ladder attached. Then comes the harvest. 
Up till now, both men and women share in 
the work. Now it is the women who carry 
the maize home in large baskets and pour it into 
the store. Thenceforth it is in the woman's 
charge. No man may venture to go to the 
store to help himself. Custom absolutely forbids 
it. An offended lady may refuse supplies 



THE VILLAGE 37 

to her lord for days, and, if he has only one lady, v 
he is in a sorry plight. It is the woman who 
takes the grain out of the store, puts it to soak 
and ferment for several days, then dries it on 
a mat in the sun and afterwards pounds it 
in the mortar, and finally prepares the porridge. 
On Likoma this porridge is generally made of 
cassava, treated in much the same way. With 
this porridge a relish is eaten, beans or fish 
or, on very rare occasion, meat. In the lake- 
side villages it is the men's business to provide 
fish. Whenever the weather is fit, some of the 
men spend part of the night fishing. Sometimes 
small private nets are used, but more often the 
big common net of the village. In that case 
the chief, or one of the head-men, divides the 
catch. When the food is cooked, the men eat 
first by themselves, afterwards the women. 
A boy new to table work is amazed at our 
custom of helping the ladies first. He is 
equally amazed that we leave food uneaten 
on the table. One meal a day in the evening 
is the usual custom in the village. That should 
be porridge. It is not a meal if there is not 
porridge. At the same time, when they may 
be come at, other things are often eaten between 
times, such as maize or monkey-nuts, roasted 
casually over a fire of grass or what not. Folks 
often go about gnawing sugar cane, or the sweet 
stalk of the millet. Just before the harvest, 



38 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

everybody is munching green corn, and grievous 
pains in the middle prostrate youngsters on all 
hands. 

But the regular supply of food is often 
interrupted by some mischance befalling the 
fields. As has been seen above, the beasts of 
the forest may cause great havoc. Besides 
baboons, monkeys and pigs, there are the bigger 
game. Herds of buck may do much mischief. 
Elephants are especially dreaded. Not only 
will they invade the gardens, but they will 
come into the village and overset the stores, as 
happened close to us here about a month ago. 
The villagers told me that they lit flares of 
grass and beat tin cans, but the elephants 
took not the least notice. But the weather is 
the worst danger. A spell of dry weather in 
the rainy season, when the crops are young, is 
disastrous. Or too heavy rain may wash 
whole gardens away. Every year brings the 
villagers face to face with this anxiety. It 
must be remembered that there is no means 
of importing food, and it is impossible to save 
surplus stock for long in their primitive stores. 
Even though there may be plenty of food 
in a neighbouring district, transport is so 
difficult that it is hard to keep up the supply 
in the area of scarcity. Practically the only 
means of transport is by carrier. Last year one 
saw on the roads an unending stream of weary 



THE VILLAGE 39 

men and women, carrying loads of food from 
the district round Lake Malombe to the hungry 
villages in this neighbourhood. 

The politics of the village are simple. The 
chief is the centre of authority, and behind him 
are the head-men. The chief is not the son of 
his predecessor, but his sister's son. There are 
generally more than one in the right relation- 
ship and then the village chooses. They seem 
to follow the old Anglo-Saxon custom of 
choosing the ablest man of the royal race- 
though the royal race is reckoned on a different 
principle. Of legislation there is little. There 
are temporary orders, but they, in a small way, 
rather resemble our orders-in-council. A recog- 
nized body of custom takes the place of the 
law. This is very complicated and covers 
every possible contingency in life. It is abso- 
lutely binding. I never yet heard of a man 
venturing to defy custom. Hence the chief's 
duty, as a judge, is to decide questions in his 
court according to custom. Each side tries to 
prove that he has. custom on his side. If he 
succeeds, that settles the question. A native 
court is really a very wonderful thing. Each 
side has its spokesman, who takes the place of 
our barrister, and wonderful orators they are. 
Witnesses are not separated, but give evidence 
as they are called. First one spokesman 
explains his case and then the other, but that 



40 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

is not the end. They go on in turn, sometimes 
for hours, until at last they agree that they 
have had " enough words." Then the chief 
takes one of the orators in hand and questions 
him very rapidly, taking him through his case 
with a running fire of questions, which only 
need an answer of yes or no. Sometimes it is 
not the chief himself who questions. He may 
depute one of his head-men who are sitting 
with him. They are extraordinarily clever in 
questioning and, if there be anything shady in 
the case, it generally comes out, upon which 
the opposition laugh with intention in high glee. 
Then comes the opposition's turn, and the other 
side marks the discrepancies with derisive 
laughter. Finally the chief, or the head-man 
deputed by him, sums up and gives judgment. 
I cannot say how far custom is apt to change 
in normal times. During the war the whole 
system of village life was brought into sharp 
contact with European civilization and no 
doubt the shock was tremendous. Wherever 
a European goes he seems to carry some subtle 
power of change. Whether it be the govern- 
ment official, the missionary, the planter or the 
trader each is working for change, whether he 
knows it or not. It is too early to assess the 
effect of the war, but at least it must mean an 
enormous amount of change. I feel that the 
whole present condition of native life is likely 



THE VILLAGE 41 

to be radically affected in the next few years. 
This is a matter of great anxiety to all who love 
Africans, for I cannot feel at all certain that 
this change must necessarily be for the better. 



IV 

The Diocese 

THE history of the diocese can be read in 
the general history of the Mission. One 
may, perhaps, just mention the principal facts, 
for convenience. Our first missionaries, though 
they aimed at settling on the lake, never got 
there and finally failed to establish themselves 
in the Shire Highlands or at Morambala. It is 
a tragic story of a splendid struggle against 
tropical disease at a time when medical science 
could not give very much help. Bishop Tozer 
had to withdraw to Zanzibar, at that time 
the centre towards which all East African 
interests tended. His eyes were still turned 
towards the lake, but meanwhile it was hoped 
that the missionaries might get more experience 
to fight the climate, and also might learn some- 
thing of the languages of the interior amongst 
the crowds of strangers and slaves in Zanzibar. 
Bishop Steere once more planned an advance 
to the lake. Archdeacon Johnson and Mr. 

42 



THE DIOCESE 43 

Janson were his messengers. I wish Arch- 
deacon Johnson could be persuaded to write 
the history of those days. They arrived in 
1882 at the lake and since then the work has 
gradually grown. In 1895 Nyasaland and 
Zanzibar became separate dioceses, each having 
its own bishop. 

The head-quarters of the diocese are at 
Likoma Island about half-way up the lake. 
Here is the Cathedral Church, and the Bishop 
has his permanent home there, though much 
of his time is necessarily spent in travelling 
about his diocese. The doctor also has his 
head-quarters at Likoma and the central store 
of the medical department. The diocesan 
library and the printing press are naturally at 
head-quarters. At the north end of the island, 
at Makalawe, St. Michael's Training College 
for teachers is now permanently established. 
St. Andrew's Theological College is at the 
opposite end, at Nkwazi, but during the 
war the college had to be closed. Likoma 
Island is a station apart. One has every 
reason to hope that in a few years it will be 
altogether a Christian island. Though the 
head-quarters of the Mission are at Likoma, 
the treasurer and the general store are at 
Mponda's, as being more nearly in touch 
with the outside world. The engineering shop 
is at Malindi, which thus becomes the head- 



44 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

quarters of the steamers. There is to be an 
engineer permanently in charge of this shop for 
the future. 

The principle on which the diocese is organ- 
ized is to have a number of head-stations, from 
each of which a large district is worked. Before 
the war the s.s. Chauncy Maples, and before 
her the s.s. Charles Janson, were practically 
movable head-stations, from which a large 
district was worked along the lake shore and, 
in some cases, stretching far inland. When the 
war broke out, the steamers were commandeered, 
and after that the Chauncy Maples was under 
repairs. The steamer district is to be divided, 
for it had grown to unmanageable proportions. 
In the districts worked from the head-station 
or steamer are a number of sub-stations. Each 
of these is provided with a resident teacher. 
He conducts the school, teaches the hearers 
and catechumens, takes services on Sunday 
and short prayers on week-days, and generally 
presides over the Christian community, often a 
very small one. It is his business also to keep 
in touch with the villagers, to encourage the 
children to come to school and to influence the 
elders, as far as possible, to listen to the 
Christian message. 

It will be seen at once that these native 
teachers play a very important part in our 
work. They are selected from the most promis- 



THE DIOCESE 45 

ing boys in the different schools. They must 
pass an entrance examination before entering 
college, which is an intellectual test, and they 
must have the recommendation of their priest- 
in-charge, which means that he has assured 
himself that the boy is one who may be reason- 
ably expected to show the right moral qualities 
of a teacher. They then enter St. Michael's 
College, where they have a course of three 
years, with a break of a year at the end of the 
second year in residence. During the year's 
break they are put under some experienced 
teacher, so as to learn the practical part of the 
work, before going back for their last year at 
college. Every effort is made to imbue these 
students with a right spirit, for their work is 
to a large extent ministerial work. The chapel 
is the centre of the college, and their work as 
messengers of the gospel is kept continually 
in view. When the teacher leaves college with 
his final certificate he is set to work, at first 
generally under an older teacher. When he is 
married he can be put in charge of an out- 
station. It is unfortunately quite impossible 
to put an unmarried boy or even a widower to 
live alone in charge of an out-station. There 
would always be danger, but apart from that, 
native custom makes it all but impossible. It 
has been seen above that the food is the 
woman's business. It is most improper for 



46 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

a woman to cook food for a man who is not 
her husband or a near kinsman. An un- 
married teacher can only be put with another 
teacher, whose wife can cook for both, and if 
they eat together there is no scandal. It is 
from the teacher class that we look for our 
future ministry. We have already seven na- 
tive priests and two deacons, besides a number 
of senior teachers, commissioned as readers or 
evangelists. 

The diocese, with all its organizations, is for 
one purpose, the evangelization of the native 
Africans, so it may be well here to say some- 
thing of the religion of the people to whom we 
preach. The work of the diocese is divided 
sharply into two very different kinds. In some 
parts we are preaching to heathen, in others 
to Mohammedans. As I have said before, the 
Nyasas are mostly heathen and the Yaos mostly 
Moslems. This is only a rough division, for 
there is a good deal of Islam amongst the 
Nyasas at Kota Kota and in the Monkey Bay 
district and farther south. There are also 
exceptions among the Yaos, but they are much 
more insignificant. 

I have found it very difficult to learn any- 
thing very definite about the beliefs of the 
heathen. I am inclined to think that they are 
rather vague themselves, though a heathen 
native would be apt to be reserved about his 



THE DIOCESE 47 

religion when speaking to a mission "padre." 
Certainly they believe in a supreme God, perhaps 
in one God, but it is difficult to be quite sure 
of the latter statement, for they certainly believe 
in evil spirits in a way which reminds one of the 
daemons or lesser gods of Greek mythology. 
Still one is on solid ground when one starts 
from their belief in a supreme God. Their 
relations with God seem to consist mostly of 
deprecation. To escape misfortune, bodily and 
spiritual, is their chief concern. They believe 
that spirits live on after death in the form of 
ghosts, and they are horribly afraid of them. 
I doubt if the native worries himself much 
about the future. As in material things, he 
lives in the present. Death is so very appalling 
to him that he puts all thoughts of it as far 
away as may be. It is of ill omen to use the 
word. Used carelessly it may involve a curse. 
Children are often called by names in which 
the word death is found, such as " Little 
death," " He dies to-morrow," or "He dies 
for nothing." I think that this is done under 
the idea of avoiding evil by affecting to expect 
it. No one who has ever heard the wailing 
after a death in the village can doubt that it 
brings dismay and horror to the survivors as 
well as grief. One may say, it seems to me, 
that the religion of the heathen consists of a 
vague belief in a supreme God and a multi- 



48 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

tude of evil spirits, and an anxious desire to 
escape ill by means of charms and propitiatory 
invocations. Beyond this one must add a 
vague idea of survival in a spirit world beyond 
the grave. 

With Islam all is different. Their beliefs are 
definite enough theoretically. I am apt to 
doubt how far these professed beliefs have 
really sunk into the native mind. It is the 
custom to rail at Islam and the reasons are 
obvious, but I must confess that to me it seems 
for men a distinct step up from heathenism. 
Even in its debased form, as we see it here, it 
does produce some characters who command 
our respect. And it is a very debased form 
which we meet in Nyasaland. Mostly folks are 
very ignorant about Moslem doctrines. I have 
more than once asked a village Moslem teacher 
to read his prayer-board for me, and he has 
done so, tracing his finger from left to right. 
I can't read Arabic myself, but I know it runs 
the other way. Rammadan is observed and 
folks even fast to some extent. All join in the 
excitement, when Rammadan is over. Prayers 
are said in the mosques, especially on Fridays 
and in Rammadan. There is a mosque in most 
of the villages in these parts, generally a tiny 
reed-and-pole hut. The Koran rules about 
intoxicants seem to be quite ignored. The 
women take a distinct share in the worship at 



THE DIOCESE 49 

the mosque, which is good, but rather surprising, 
when one considers the position which they 
hold. Somehow Islam has got into the position 
of a native religion, while Christianity is dis- 
tinctly regarded as European and foreign. I 
don't know whether it is by chance that Mos- 
lems have got into this position or by craft, 
but it is a disaster of the greatest moment to 
missionaries. For when I admitted that Islam 
is a step up, I mean that it is an isolated step, 
not a step on a ladder. It blocks the way to 
anything higher. Also, though it produces some 
fine characters, it has had a sadly bad effect 
on general morals. With the heathen a mar- 
riage is a breakable contract, but divorce is a 
very serious business. The parties must appear 
before the village court. Damages are assessed. 
Finally a reed is split down the middle before 
the assembly, and then the union is dissolved. 
A Moslem may tell his wife to go at any moment, 
and that is the end of the union. The result 
is that the marriage tie is appallingly slight. 
Folks change their partners continually, and 
just such a degradation of morals follows as 
one would expect. For the women especially 
this state of things is disastrous. Their stan- 
dard of morals is very much lower than that 
of the heathen women and, what is worse, they 
seem quite content with it and to have no 
higher aspirations. One would have expected 



50 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

that the women would have resented bitterly 
being treated as chattels and dismissed at plea- 
sure, but they do not seem to do so. Islam, 
such as it is, has a great attraction for Africans. 
Partly, as we have seen above, it comes to 
them as an African religion for Africans, which 
alone gives it a tremendous power. Then un- 
doubtedly it does give a heathen more intelli- 
gent and definite relations with God. It teaches 
that the one great God does really rule and does 
care for his people, at least for Mohammedans. 
It is attractive, too, to human frailty in that it 
makes no great demands and is able to effect 
a compromise with existing customs in a way 
which Christianity cannot do. It allows a low 
moral tone and gives religious sanction to it. 
This means a great deal to a race which has 
never learnt to practise self-control or even to 
regard it as a virtue to be desired. Here, too, 
where the connexion with Zanzibar and the 
coast is still remembered, it gives a man an 
appreciable social lift. This does, perhaps, help 
a little towards self-respect, but it also ministers 
to a very sour kind of spiritual pride. It will 
easily be seen that Islam is a very serious 
enemy to Christianity. I have tried to speak 
fairly of it and to recognize such merits as it 
has, but as a Christian missionary I regret 
the spread of Islam very much. It is at most 
but a step up from heathenism, and as a stum- 



THE DIOCESE 51 

bling-block to any further advance, especially 
towards Christianity, its influence is simply 
deplorable. 

In the religion of the non-Christian natives, 
both Moslem and heathen, there are two points 
which any one, who has tried to understand 
them, must have noticed. 

The first point is that they seem to lack a 
sense of sin. Perhaps this does not quite 
express what I mean, for natives are extra- 
ordinarily ready to confess a fault, if one can 
only keep one's own quick European temper 
under control and deal kindly and patiently 
with them. What I mean is that they have no 
sense of guilt for past sin. They do not seem 
to feel that anything is seriously wrong with 
themselves. There is none of that haunting 
conviction that something is vitally wrong with 
men, which was such a striking feature in the 
Graeco-Roman world in the first days of the 
Church, a conviction that makes a man welcome 
the idea of redemption. An appeal to such a 
feeling leaves a native quite cold. That much 
is wrong with external things he is quick to 
recognize, but he does not realize at all how 
much is wrong with himself. Any one will see 
at a glance that this makes the missionary's 
work very hard. It is not on this point that one 
can find any leverage to lift the native from his 
present position, 



52 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

The second point is this. Whatever Islam 
may teach, the old superstitions linger on, as 
they do in the Church to some extent, and I 
am persuaded that the chief factor in native 
religion, whether Moslem or heathen, is fear. 
All their lives they stand in deadly fear of 
charms and witchcraft. To them these things 
are terribly real. I learnt only the other day 
that a Moslem here has been driven from his 
village, because his boy was taken by a crocodile 
and he is supposed to have had some occult 
part in it. I had another striking instance of 
the reality of their belief in witchcraft. Soon 
after I left Likoma five canoes started to cross 
over to the western side of the lake. They 
were overtaken by a storm and two canoes were 
lost and twenty-two people drowned. I wrote 
a word of sympathy to the old chief, for he was 
rather a friend of mine. He wrote back, or 
rather he got some one else to write for him, for 
of course he cannot write himself, telling me all 
about the disaster and the names of his people 
who were drowned. Then he said, " And we 
know who did it. We went to the magistrate 
at Chinteche to bring a case against them. But 
he said, ' It is the hand of God, there is no case.' 
But (nampo kaya) that is as it may be." Now 
that old man is as sure that his enemies caused 
that storm by witchcraft as we are that two 
and two make four. There is another form of 



THE DIOCESE 53 

witchcraft which causes unspeakable terror. 
There is supposed to be a secret society, and I 
believe there is, who dig up dead bodies and 
are said to perform the most ghastly rites. 
These people are credited with fearful powers. 
Again, as we have seen above, there is always 
anxiety about food. A failure of the rains 
means famine. Now it is held that there are 
evil-disposed persons who can prevent the rain 
by secret practices. Moreover wild beasts are 
a really serious danger, but superstition adds 
further horrors. No non-Christian native 
doubts that it is possible for a man to as- 
sume the form of a wild beast, just as the old 
Anglo-Saxons believed in werwolves. Now I 
am not particularly fond of having a man- 
eating lion about the place myself, but just 
think what it would be if I thought that this 
lion was after me, endowed with all the cun- 
ning and malice of some special enemy. It 
is amusing to see natives jump, startled at 
some sudden noise, but at the same time to me 
it is unspeakably pathetic, for it seems to tell 
of the age-long reign of terror under which 
they and their ancestors have lived. It is 
this terror that seems to me to be at the 
bottom of all their charms and incantations, 
and to be the main factor in whatever religion 
they have. 



The Station 

THE head-station is the home of us European 
workers. It is astonishing how one gets 
attached to one's station. We are all quite 
sure that our own is the best and dislike moving 
to anotho* vjery much. Though, when we do 
move, we soon find that after all our new station 
is the best. The regular staff for each station, 
according to the Bishop's scheme, consists of 
the priest-in-charge, a layman, a nurse and a 
lady teacher. Where the work is larger this 
minimum staff must be augmented. In others, 
alas, at present it falls short. Any one who 
knows anything of our work will see at once 
that the Bishop is right when he says that this 
ought to be the minimum staff on every head- 
station. 

We live almost a family life. Each one of us 
has our own separate house. It is built of brick 
or stone and consists of two rooms. There is a 
common dining-room, where we take all our 
meals together. This seems an admirable plan. 

54 



THE STATION 55 

It is not only a great saving of expense, but 
insures cheerful, social meals, which prevents 
one from getting too much wrapped up in the 
cares of one's work. Unfortunately it has one 
drawback, for it means a great deal of work for 
the housekeeper, generally the nurse, who has 
already more than enough to do. To run the 
housekeeping successfully and economically is 
no easy task. It is just one of those side-shows 
in missionary life which are but little noticed, 
and yet we owe a tremendous debt to those who 
unceasingly attend to our wants. It is of great 
importance to health in this exacting country 
to have our simple meals well cooked and nicely 
served. The cook and table-boys can turn out 
quite a successful meal, but they need con- 
stantly looking after. When this is done native 
table-boys are very deft and attentive, if not 
flurried. 

At most of our stations the dining-room is in 
some central position. The ladies' houses are 
on one side, and somewhere within reach are 
the girls' dormitory, the girls' school and the 
women's hospital. The church is generally a 
little to itself, for it is obvious that one does 
not want a general congregation dispersing 
through the European part of the station or 
through the women's quarters. On the other 
side are the men's houses, the boys' dormitory 
and school, the teacher's house and the men's 



56 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

hospital. A spare house for native travellers 
is also a necessity, for Christians passing through 
naturally come to the Mission to sleep. The 
surgery is, if possible, somewhere between the 
two hospitals. I hope to say something about 
the medical work later. The dormitories are a 
feature of station life which needs explanation. 
All the pupils of our schools feed at home, with 
few exceptions. At present I have only three 
feeding on this station. One is a boy from a 
distance, who is learning the surgery work and 
two are cripples, cast off by their own kinsfolk. 
But all Christians and catechumen boys sleep 
on the station. In the village no unmarried 
boy sleeps at home with his parents. As early 
as at the age of six or seven they have to turn out. 
They sleep in common houses, unmarried men of 
all ages, and, as may be supposed, these bachelor 
houses are often not very desirable places. 
We follow the native custom, but insist that our 
Christian and catechumen boys should sleep in 
a common house or dormitory on the station, 
away at least from the worst temptations of 
village life. One can do a good deal in the 
way of securing decency and we have regular 
prayers for the boys, which no doubt are a great 
help. It is not quite the same with the girls, 
though they, too, have sometimes common 
houses. They generally, however, sleep in a 
sort of out-house annexed to their parents' hut. 



THE STATION 57 

Here, and I think at most big stations, it is 
found best that the Christian and catechumen 
girls should sleep in a dormitory on the station, 
under the care of one of the ladies. We have 
boys' dormitories in the same way at our out- 
stations, but I have never ventured on a girls' 
dormitory. Teachers change and go for holi- 
days, so at times there would be no supervision, 
and in any case the responsibility is more than 
I dare undertake. 

The schools form a very important part of our 
work. In all times missionaries have done well 
to get hold of the children. It is a great thing 
if the teacher has the gift of making school 
bright and interesting, for, unless a child's 
parents are Christians, one can exert very little 
pressure to induce children to come. It is a 
source of wonder to me that they come as well 
as they do. We teach the three R's and just a 
smattering of English. The top classes are rather 
more advanced, for it must be remembered that 
it is from these we hope to recruit our teaching 
staff. Of course, above all we teach the Bible 
stories and simple Christian doctrine. There is 
generally a special course of lessons for Christian 
children. We charge no fees at all in our 
schools. I am sometimes inclined to wonder 
whether natives might not value our teaching 
more if they paid a trifle for it. It would 
probably lessen our numbers, but this might be 



58 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

compensated by increased earnestness of those 
who persevered. On the whole, I should prefer 
to go on with our present system in this Moham- 
medan district. The Scotch and Dutch Re- 
formed Missions charge school fees, and I am 
told that it works well. I only know by actual 
experience the work of the United Free Church 
of Scotland, and the education side of their work 
is wonderful. One of the staff told me that 
the school fees in the Bandawe district amounted 
to 70 in a single year, an amazing tribute to 
the intelligence of the natives of the district 
(Atonga) and still more to the good work 
of the missionaries. That was years ago, 
and doubtless the work has increased since 
then. 

In these schools we have a constant supply of 
young people coming on towards baptism. 
Since the war our schools have been under a 
cloud in this Moslem district, where opposition 
is much stronger of late, but even here, though 
our numbers are small, we have recruits still 
coming on. For the elders we rely on village 
preaching, the influence of our medical work, 
and such personal influence as it is possible to 
bring to bear on them. When first people are 
attracted to our teaching they are written 
down as " hearers." They are under no 
promise, for as yet they are in no position to 
make one, for they do not know enough. They 



THE STATION 59 

simply come to learn about Christianity. They 
have classes twice a week, to which the school 
children come, as well as adults, and also such 
patients as happen to be in hospital and are 
fit to come. They continue to hear for a period 
of from one to two years. By that time, if they 
have paid attention at classes, they know a 
little about Christianity. If they feel dis- 
inclined to accept Christianity, they can give 
it up without disgrace. If they really seek to 
become Christians, they are then definitely 
enrolled as catechumens. There is a short 
service in church; they make simple promises. 
When I can get them, I generally give a small 
brass cross to be worn round the neck. It is a 
reminder to themselves and it is also a protec- 
tion, for every one in the village knows that 
there are things which those who have professed 
Christianity cannot do. As catechumens they 
can now come to a part of the service in church, 
but they sit behind a rail by themselves, not 
with the Christians. Like the hearers, they have 
their classes twice a week, but now it is a course 
of definite preparation for baptism. They are 
expected to come fairly regularly for two more 
years. It is regularity in attending the classes 
which is a great point when the time comes for 
choosing catechumens for baptism. This is not 
quite the mechanical test which it seems to be 
at first sight. To be regular and punctual .is 



60 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

not an easy thing for a native. If one has come 
regularly for two years, it is no bad sign that he 
is really in earnest. 

One of the chief causes of anxiety, before I 
came to Africa, was the fear that I should be 
horribly puzzled as to how to present Chris- 
tianity to the heathen. As one realizes that 
these poor folk live in the bondage of fear, fear 
of things physical, of witchcraft, of death that 
they have no hope for the future and only look 
to grow up, and pass away in their old age into the 
unknown darkness, through the awful doors of 
mysterious death one feels with a rush what 
Christianity has to offer. There are no doubt 
many other avenues of approach, but one can 
never be wrong in using this one. One realizes, 
perhaps, as never before the meaning of the 
Light which came to lighten every man, for 
native Africans indeed sit in darkness and the 
shadow of death. 

At last comes baptism, a day poignant with 
hope and fear. At any rate, one may practically 
take it for granted that for the time at least 
the candidates are in deadly earnest. They are 
clad in a white robe, marked with a scarlet cross. 
They assemble with their godparents in the 
catechumens' part of the church. They have 
been carefully taught the meaning of the pro- 
mises and they make them solemnly enough. 
Then follows the rite, the men first and then 




A MOTHER AND BABY. 



THE STATION 61 

the women. The priest then moves to the 
catechumens' barrier and admits them one by 
one into the congregation of Christ's flock, and 
they pass on to take their place with their 
Christian brethren. I wish I could describe 
what it means to the missionary priest. He has 
worked and prayed for these new Christians for 
so long. The day has come when he sees his 
work crowned. But behind his thankfulness 
there is the knowledge of all that lies before 
them, amongst the awful temptations of an 
African village. They are admitted Christ's 
soldiers and servants, and it is a grim fight 
indeed before them. 

Lastly I come to the church. We follow 
native custom as far as possible. There are no 
seats. The people sit on large mats. Also 
the men sit on one side and the women on the 
other, just as they would do naturally in the 
village. The native tongues lend themselves 
admirably to music, for all vowels are long and 
all syllables are open, none end with a consonant. 
Central Africans are very much at home in 
church. The mothers bring their babies. If 
these infants are taken with a peculiarly noisy 
fit of screaming, they are taken outside to be 
comforted. Punctuality is not a strong point, 
and people go in and out in a very casual manner. 
Of course, this is not very desirable but at least 
there is no question, they feel at home in their 



62 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

Father's house. Also they are all bare-footed 
and move very deftly, so there is no distressing 
clatter. There is a sung Eucharist every Sunday 
and Holy Day at 7 o'clock. Thairis the prin- 
cipal service of the day and there is a sermon. 
Immediately after this comes the catechumens' 
class. My native deacon takes this, while we 
hungry Europeans must needs have breakfast. 
At about half-past nine Mattins follow. My 
fellow padre, or the deacon, or my great stand- 
by, my lay brother a licensed Lay-Reader 
takes this service. I am engaged taking the 
hearers' class under a big tree. The regular 
hearers attend and odd people from the village 
come and listen. We have an English evensong 
and address at 4.15, followed immediately by 
native evensong. We have a daily Eucharist 
in English, except on Thursdays when it is in 
the native tongue, and a daily Mattins and 
evensong also for the natives. Besides these 
services we have daily sext and compline in 
English. On Fridays we have a sung native 
Litany, just at the close of school a very popular 
service. These arrangements have to be broken 
into from time to time, especially where there 
is but one priest. He is bound to be away 
frequently to minister to the out-stations. But 
in spite of this drawback I think we may be 
thankful for our church privileges. My fellow 
missionaries will, I'm sure, agree with me that 



THE STATION 63 

it is in the church and before the altar that we 
find the centre of our work and that it is there 
we get strength and inspiration to carry us 
through. 



VI 
Medical Work 

THE medical work is a very important part 
of our organization. Our Master's own 
example in the first place consecrates all such 
work. It is also the one concrete example 
of what we mean by Christian charity, which 
cannot be misunderstood. I think that both 
these points should be kept in view. It is a 
very pitiful thing to see sick or maimed people 
in this country. The natives have little or 
no idea of nursing, though I'm sure they do their 
best, and every sort of discomfort is added 
to that of illness. One sees poor emaciated 
creatures lying on a mat on the hard floor, 
with no blanket or pillow, though often a 
kinsman will support the aching head upon his 
knee. The only invalid diet which they know 
is a washy sort of gruel that looks most unin- 
viting. It is not only in serious illness that 
they are to be pitied. They know nothing 
of the body and a touch of fever, or even a bad 
cold, which can make one feel horribly ill, 
makes them think that they are in great danger 

64 



MEDICAL WORK 65 

and is apt to prostrate them utterly. For 
the same reason they will often neglect a serious 
illness which does not happen for the moment 
to cause them acute discomfort. Moreover, 
here at Mponda's, there are cases of crocodile 
wounds with terrible frequency. I cannot think 
how people ever get away when once gripped 
by those horrible jaws. But they do, and then 
the terrible wounds almost always become 
septic, even when no bones are broken. How 
should a poor soul treat a horrible septic wound 
in the village ? A man must be hard-hearted 
indeed, if he does not long to help these poor 
things in their sickness. Then there is the 
other point. In helping such one is surely 
preaching the Gospel as words alone never 
will. I may preach and teach, but at the back 
of his mind the native thinks, I believe, that 
after all it is my business, an odd one to be 
sure, but doubtless there is some advantage 
behind it. When they see the nurses spending 
themselves to allay their pain, strangers, too, 
who seek no reward, it must indeed be a wonder- 
ful thing. Think, too, what it means in this 
Moslem district. There are no Mohammedan 
hospitals. The sick Moslem may have jeered 
at the Mission when in health. He comes 
humbly enough for help when sick, and it 
must make a great impression on him as 
indeed I know that it does. 



66 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

We have unfortunately but one doctor in 
the diocese, attached to the Mission. His 
head-quarters are at Likoma, but he goes round 
to the other stations as often as possible. On 
some stations we are fortunate enough to be 
within reach of Government doctors. We, at 
Mponda's, owe a great debt of gratitude to 
successive Government doctors stationed at 
Fort Johnston. They have constantly shown 
themselves glad to help us whether Europeans 
or natives. It was the same during the war. 
The military doctors were extraordinarily kind 
to us. I certainly owe my own life to the 
kindness of a doctor in the King's African 
Rifles. But, while we are so lucky in this way, 
other stations are out of reach of a doctor. 
It would seem as if we ought to have at least 
one other, especially as the doctor is bound, 
like other people, to take his leave from time to 
time. 

This lack of doctors leaves the nurses with very 
heavy responsibilities. I have avoided all per- 
sonalities as far as possible, but I cannot forbear 
to say how fortunate the Mission has been in 
its nurses, ever since I have known the diocese, 
and we have every reason to be proud of them. 
It is a matter of profound thankfulness that 
this should be so, for the work makes great 
demands upon them. We need not only nurses 
of high professional skill, but we need those 



MEDICAL WORK 67 

who are missionaries at heart, and more, those 
who have the gift of getting on well with natives 
and inspiring them with confidence. For one 
so gifted there is an almost unlimited scope of 
usefulness in Nyasaland. One is glad to think 
that such work is going on at all our stations. 
Everywhere the old prejudice against European 
treatment has broken down. No one hesitates 
to seek our help in serious cases. A patient 
grievously torn by a crocodile is brought straight 
to our surgery, and the most painful treatment 
is submitted to with confidence. Only the other 
day I saw an amusing instance of this confidence. 
One of our local chiefs, as I happen to know, 
is very hostile to Europeans. He is naturally 
a Moslem, Mohammedanism being regarded 
as the native religion as against Christianity, 
the foreign religion. He is therefore much 
set against the Mission and once prevented 
me from opening a school in one of his dependent 
villages, where the people were really keen 
on having one. However, a violent earache 
brought him a humble suppliant to the Mission 
and I watched him meekly submitting to the 
English nurse's treatment, with some amuse- 
ment. I hear that the treatment was entirely 
successful. I wonder if it will make any 
difference in his attitude to the Mission. 

The nurses have native dressers under them. 
One or more is being trained on every station. 



68 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

I am told that these boys are very useful and 
that one at least is really clever. Whether 
we shall be able to train our boys to attain 
to still higher qualifications remains to be seen. 
As it is, this part of the work must be not a 
little interesting. 

In a short time we hope to have permanent 
hospitals, that is of brick or stone, on every 
station. These are generally plain buildings 
with a fire-place and a cement floor. At 
Mponda's we now have iron bedsteads strung 
with palm-leaf rope. We have room for twenty- 
two or twenty- three men. Our new women's 
hospital was begun as soon as post-war condi- 
tions allowed. The war came just as we were 
about to begin it, and it has been waiting ever 
since. I shall be very thankful to see our 
women patients better housed. The surgery, 
which is close by, should also be a better building 
when funds permit. This is crowded every 
morning and evening with patients of all 
sorts. I suppose that the characteristic ulcer- 
ated sore is far the commonest complaint. 

There is no fixed fee, and no serious case is 
ever sent away, but the patients are expected 
to bring some form of offering. Sometimes 
they bring pennies, sometimes chickens or eggs. 
Others bring a bunch of corn-cobs or millet. 
The Indian traders are often patients at the 
surgery, and they always seem very grateful 



MEDICAL WORK 69 

and gladly make a substantial offering. I 
always feel rather sorry for these exiles. I 
once let one of them have some milk, when he 
was sick, and his gratitude was quite over- 
whelming. 

All this work must be having a profound 
influence. It will not show all at once. Every 
year is making our medical work better known 
and more appreciated throughout the district. 
Often, going through some strange village, I 
am jiailed by some one whom I recognize as 
an old hospital patient. He invariably sends 
his salaams to the nurse. It is a case of casting 
bread on the waters, we do not see immediate 
results, but it must certainly bring a rich harvest 
some day. 



VII 
Travelling 

A LARGE part of a missionary's life, 
especially if he be a priest, is spent in 
travelling. If there were no other reason, 
he is bound to go round his out-stations at 
least once a month to celebrate for his Chris- 
tians. Where there are few or no Christians as 
yet, as is the case on newly-opened out-stations, 
the teacher and his wife have special claims 
on us in their isolated position, and have a right 
to expect reasonable opportunities of making 
their communions at least. But this is not 
the only reason. One ought to keep in touch, 
as far as possible, with these outlying parts. 
Africans have not the same staying powers as 
Europeans in methodical work, and one must 
do what one can to encourage them. I do not 
mean that they always get slack and lazy, but 
a teacher is apt to get discouraged at times, 
especially among these difficult Mohammedans 
in our own Yao district. Also there are cases 
cropping up continually with which the teacher 

70 



TRAVELLING 71 

cannot deal and which he must refer to his 
"padre." These are often unpleasant enough 
to deal with, but they only get worse if one's visit 
is delayed. I know nowhere where the policy 
of grasping the nettle is more important than 
in Africa. You may take it for granted that 
all troubles which are not met and dealt with 
at the earliest opportunity grow worse in the 
meantime. 

A journey in Africa is not like a journey in 
England. In the first place you will generally 
have to walk. In the next place you will 
find no accommodation at the journey's end, 
except a bare roof to cover you. Everything 
you want you must take with you. African 
food does not suit an English stomach. It 
would make things much easier in every way 
if it did. As it is you cannot get food on the 
way, except such raw materials as eggs and 
chickens or fish, if it be by the lake. You 
may also get African sweet potatoes and pump- 
kins in their season, and at times bananas. 
Some people generally take a tent. I never 
do myself. It means at least two more loads 
and those heavy ones. I trust to hiring a 
native house or sleeping in the Mission school. 
At worst I have slept in the open, but I confess to 
being a bit of a coward, and I don't like it. 
A fire burns down so quickly and, if one is 
asleep, one does not notice it, and I admit that, 



72 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

when the fire burns down, I am a little shy of 
creatures. There still remain quite enough 
things to carry, without a tent. One needs 
quite a staff of men for one's journey " ulendo," 
as it is called by black and white alike, all 
through Nyasaland. 

I generally manage with four carriers. The 
first carries the heaviest load, a tin box. In 
this box I carry a change of clothes and such 
matters, and also my church things. It should 
be fairly water-tight, or you will have a sorry 
time in the rains. It should not be very big, 
not too big for a one-man load. It should be 
provided with a lock. You may want to send 
your loads on ahead and in any case you cannot 
always be sitting on it, and it is really important 
to have your money safe. Even if you are one 
of those careless people, who do not seem to 
mind the loss, and are rich enough to replace 
the Mission money yourself, you have no sort 
of right to put temptation in the way of weak 
vessels, to whom a few shillings, or even a few 
pence, seem riches. Number two carries a 
bed bag, with a light camp-table, an "X 
table " I always use. You will need blankets 
in the cool season, both above and below. The 
damp cold comes through a canvas bed in a 
very distressing manner, and a native hut does 
not keep this damp cold out as a solid house 
does. You must also take a mosquito net. 



TRAVELLING % 

Even on these rare occasions, when there seem 
to be no mosquitoes about, you should put it 
up, unless you want bats flapping in your face 
or noisome insects falling on you from the roof. 
Once I got in late and very tired, and I did 
not bother to put up the net. A scorpion fell 
from the roof, and got me, too. Of course, it 
was quite dark and I couldn't think what had 
happened. I thought I had touched some fire. 
I hastily struck a match, with tingling finger, 
and caught sight of the beast running for its 
life. It escaped, moreover, somewhere in the 
blankets and I expected more trouble, but I 
was too tired to search -and, as a matter of fact, 
nothing further happened. Your bed-bag 
should have a bar lock. That does not prevent 
a reckless thief, for he merely slits the canvas, 
as happened to me once at Zomba, and I lost 
two beautiful new blankets. But it does 
stop your boys borrowing them, if you send 
your loads on a day ahead. I feel rather selfish 
in cold weather, but I do not like having my 
blankets borrowed, or even the thought of it. 
Number three carries a camp-bed, an " X bed," 
tied up with a chair. This sounds rather 
luxurious, but it would not do so to any one 
who knows the insect life of Africa. Unless 
you want ants crawling into the corners of 
your eyes and mouth while you are asleep, take 
a camp-bed. There are also worse than ants, 



74 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

ah ! how much worse but I will draw a veil. 
Happily, these creatures generally seem loath 
to climb a camp-bed, unless, for your sins, 
you are sick and have to lie there for some length 
of time. Number four carries the commissariat. 
Now this needs thought, for except an earthen 
cooking-pot, you can get nothing to help you 
in the village. A native cooking-pot, too, is, 
to say the least of it, greasy. When I once 
forgot to take any sort of vessel in which to boil 
water, I made shift with a cigarette tin. I 
made tea, in three boilings, and even boiled 
two tiny African eggs, or rather my boy did, 
but even he seemed to find it awkward, though 
he plays recklessly with live coals in his bare 
hands with impunity as a rule. You must be 
careful then to take a kettle, a pot, a frying 
pan and a teapot, and also crockery. Neither 
must you forget tea, sugar, salt and such. The 
house-keeper here is good enough to put up my 
food basket for me when I go travelling, and it 
is rare to find anything short. Over the top 
of the basket go two washhand basins, one for 
the ordinary purposes of a wash, and the other 
for the kitchen department. For a bath there 
are convenient streams on my own j ourneys. But 
besides these four carriers, you must have a 
cook. He generally acts as overseer or " kapi- 
tao " of the whole caravan. He cannot be 
expected to wash up and do odd jobs, so you 



TRAVELLING 75 

must take a boy, too. My house-boy always 
goes with me and he is just a school-boy. 
His business also is to carry the hurricane lamp. 
In a country where the sun always sets about 
six o'clock a lamp is highly important, especially 
if you have to sleep without a door, as one often 
does in Mission schools. I always hope that 
a little light in the doorway will scare away 
wild beasts, but I should feel rather more 
comfortable at times if I felt sure of this. 

Another thing to consider is that all these 
folks must have food, " posho " as it is called. 
When there is plenty of food about, it is simple 
enough. One just gives them a penny a day, 
according to the length of the journey, with 
something over. Then they do well enough. 
In times of scarcity you must take food with 
you, which means adding to your numbers. 
But, at whatever cost, never run the risk of 
being unable to feed your carriers. That is 
the deadly sin of " ulendo " work. You can 
go short at a pinch yourself, for you have no 
load to carry. They cannot, or even if they can, 
and they are wonderfully plucky, they ought 
not to have to do so. You will need simple 
medicines and quinine for yourself. I always 
take a flask of brandy with me. Natives are 
subject to fearful attacks of colic, especially 
in the green maize season. A little brandy 
seems to put them right. Let not the astute 



76 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

reader smile and think that the wily carrier 
has only to feign a stomach-ache to get brandy 
out of the simple missionary. It has only 
happened four or five times in fifteen years, 
but when it does happen, you may want it 
badly. I was once miles away from anywhere 
in the bush and one of my carriers went down 
with colic. The rest had gone on and we were 
all by ourselves. I felt in a most unpleasant 
fix. However, a dessertspoonful of brandy 
allayed the trouble and, after a rest, the plucky 
fellow went on. I couldn't have carried the 
load myself half a mile. I was thankful indeed 
for the brandy then. 

When I go to my more distant out-stations, 
I always send my loads off the day before. 
The walk by oneself next day through the 
forest is wonderfully interesting. One meets 
all sorts of people on the path, and they love to 
pass a word or two. I am something of a 
gossip and enjoy these chats. There are all 
sorts of birds and beasts to be seen. One sees 
antelopes occasionally. Once one nearly ran 
into me. As I said before, the country is very 
beautiful. I love wandering along alone, at 
one's own pace, enjoying the real Africa, far 
from everything that ever smacks of Europe. 
I am glad to say that I have only twice seen 
dangerous beasts, for I never bother to carry 
a rifle, and they appeared at least as anxious to 



TRAVELLING 77 

avoid me as I was to avoid them. In each 
case it was a crafty-looking leopard, who stole 
across the path, crouching low, and, seeing 
me, bolted again into the bush. Of course, I 
speak of daytime. I do not go wandering 
about at night without a rifle. 

When one arrives at one's destination there is 
plenty to do. After a rest and a cup of tea, 
a good many cups in the hot weather, there are 
various troubles to consider, which the teacher 
comes to report. It may be necessary to call 
several people if it be a subject that needs 
talking out. The sick must needs be visited, 
if there be any. The school must be looked at 
and perhaps examined. It may be well to 
hold a village -preaching. The space near the 
chief's house is generally the best place and 
evening the best time. Nearly always enough 
people will collect to listen, if only to look at 
a European, to examine his boots and his 
clothes. Anyway, there are always children. 
It is a very moving scene in the dusk. There 
are the children nearest, the boys not in the 
least shy, the girls rather more timid and a 
little further off. Then there are the ordinary 
grown up people, and amongst them a few poor 
old creatures. One thinks how much they need 
the message and how it might brighten their 
lives. One longs to know the right word 
which might touch a chord in their hearts. 



78 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

Before one leaves there is the Eucharist in the 
early morning. Often it is in a tiny building, 
and it is but a small flock that gathers round. 
But we plead the one, all-sum cient sacrifice, 
just the same that is being offered in all the 
splendid churches of Christendom. 

I should add that it is very important to be 
polite to the chief. I am on terms of friendship 
with all the chiefs in the villages where I have 
work. I am really fond of most of them, 
though one or two of them are rather tiresome 
people. I am sure that it is a duty to show them 
respect. When young men reach such a pitch 
of culture that they can read and write, they 
are apt to look down on their elders. Such 
things are known even in England. This is 
not only very bad for our Christian youths, 
but it. is also very bad policy. The missionary 
then ought to show all due respect to the 
responsible ruler of the village. It is right that 
he should, and it will help the younger genera- 
tion. I hope our Christians will win influence 
in the village by strength of character and by 
being good citizens of their small community. 
I do not want them to be a tiresome anarchical 
element in village life. It is well to give the 
chief a small prize occasionally. I only give 
two or three shillings myself. I don't want 
him to think that it is his interest to have boys 
at school, merely for the sake of presents. 



TRAVELLING 79 

In that case he would just send a few slave- 
boys. Of course, I should be glad enough to 
get them, but I want the others, too, who will 
some day have all the influence of free men 
in the village. 

A missionary must expect a few discomforts 
on his travels, but now that all able-bodied 
men have experienced war service, these should 
seem small enough. The wet weather is cer- 
tainly unpleasant. A native path, through 
tall, wet grass, is rather dreary, if one has many 
miles to plod. It is also very unpleasant if 
one has no opportunity of drying one's things 
and one has to put on wet boots and clothes 
again for next day's tramp. It is tiresome, 
too, if one goes sick, especially if one be far away. 
But when all is said, an " ulendo " is a pleasant 
change and is certainly nothing for an active 
body to worry about. 



VIII 
Native Christians 

NOW it is a fair question to ask, What 
sort of Christians do native Africans 
make ? I can only answer that in many ways 
they are very unsatisfactory. But this answer 
does not cover the ground. One must ask 
further, What do you expect ? Now to that 
question I should answer without hesitation 
that they are a great deal better than I should 
have expected. One must consider that they 
are the first, or in a few places the second, 
generation of Christians. That means that the 
whole background of their lives, their villages 
and the customs in which they live are hea- 
then or Mohammedan. One must remember 
that a sense of guilt before God is a new 
lesson and one hard to learn. They live very 
much in the present and are little awed by the 
prospect of future punishment. They have 
to learn that God wants a pure heart that a 
man may rise from his fallen state to be God's 
own loved child and may find his highest 

80 



NATIVE CHRISTIANS 81 

happiness in the beauty of holiness which is 
God. That God is justice as well as love is 
another lesson difficult to learn. Of course, 
the native Christian has been taught all this, 
but it is only partly assimilated. Now it is 
difficult to build up a Christian character 
until these foundations have been laid. He is 
in process of assimilating, but in the meanwhile 
the Christian character is only in the process 
of being built up. Take away the knowledge 
of these things from us, or suppose we were only 
beginning to assimilate them, should we be 
likely to be startling examples of the work of 
grace ? 

Again, I wonder how many of us can form any 
adequate conception of the temptation in which 
they live. One would be appalled at the idea of 
submitting a pure-minded English boy or girl 
to such temptation. In the war one saw only 
too sadly how fatal these temptations were to 
many a white man, with a thousand years of 
Christianity behind him. As I sit in my room 
at night, I can often hear the drums at four 
or five different beer-drinkings, going on at the 
same time. There I know is drunkenness and 
orgies, euphemistically called "dances," and 
many other deeds of darkness. The noise only 
bores you and me. To my native boy it is 
about the only form of amusement he knows. 
He knows what the particular rhythm implies. 



82 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

He knows that probably his kinsfolk are there* 
Also the wretched rub-a-dub-dub is music 
to him and brings to his mind a picture of a 
bravely burning fire, of laughter and good cheer 
and the vice, ell, he is only just getting a 
firm hold of the fact that it is vice at all. Add 
also the natural impulse to follow the crowd, 
even stronger here than it is in England. 
Nor does any one, least of all in youth, find it 
easy to bear ridicule and the jeers at the odd 
European teaching that would fain ban the 
brave old customs of his fathers. Do you 
wonder if he sometimes fall ? I don't. 

Then there is the marriage question. His 
brothers, his father, his uncles, all his clan have 
married several wives and changed them again 
as often as it seemed good to them. His own 
mother has haply had three or four husbands 
in her time and likely enough all are still alive. 
He is in process of learning that this is wrong 
and of learning of the love that is but one, 
that ideal union between man and wife, which 
is even a type of the union between the Divine 
Son of God and his Church. He is learning, 
good lad, but how when the sudden pinch comes, 
the first serious quarrel of his married life ? 
I don't know which is in fault, but both honestly 
think it is the other. The girl runs off home. 
He has perhaps struck her and she is trembling 
with pain and indignation. She shrieks insults 



NATIVE CHRISTIANS 83 

at him, that she has done with him, that he 
had better seek another. Bitter wrath rises 
in his heart as he hears her insults. Even 
then there would be hope, but a crowd of jeering 
onlookers tell him to be a man and not to stand 
it. Others are telling the girl to show a proper 
spirit. And, ah me, how they talk all the time, 
for the African has the gift of tongues, as I 
verily believe no other race has. Do you wonder 
that they find it hard to forgive one another 
all at once, and are apt, at any rate until the 
exasperation has had time to wane a little, 
to make other unions, just to show their inde- 
pendence, unions which in the eyes of all their 
non-Christian kinsfolk are just as good and 
just as respectable as the marriage made in 
church ? They know that we say it is wrong. 
In calm moments they too know that it is 
wrong. But it is not burnt into- them as it 
has been burnt into us and ours for centuries. 
Then there is the question of dishonesty. 
In the village if a man gets into trouble because 
he will not tell a lie, people merely think what 
a blockhead he must be. Everybody lies, in 
private life or in the court, and everybody takes 
it for granted. As I said before, the African is 
a born actor. If he wants to do so, no Miltonic 
Belial could lie more sweetly. It is the same 
with stealing. I once heard a casual conversation 
in a village thirty-five miles away. The whole 



84 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

group were laughing over and unquestionably 
admiring the amazing performances of a trans- 
cendent thief. What was my horror to find that 
the hero was a Christian, a boy of one of my 
villages here ! He was a boy whom I had 
baptized myself, the pity of it ! Not that I 
was under any delusions about that young 
man. I knew long before that he was a heart- 
breaking failure. But I did not know that he 
was a popular hero, just as really as Robin 
Hood was to our own ancestors and without 
his excuses. Do you wonder that it takes 
time to drive home into African hearts the 
beauty of honesty ? 

But if African Christians are sadly apt to 
fall, albeit under the most grievous temptation, 
they are also apt to repent. When their con- 
science honestly condemns them, when they 
have had time to think calmly over things, 
they do most sincerely repent. The best thing 
is to walk in the straight path, but, if one has 
erred, the next best thing is to turn and repent. 
Even those who have tied themselves up in a 
permanent state of sin, say a bigamous marriage, 
are by no means filled with fierce hostility 
towards God and the Church, which must needs 
cast them out. They look back wistfully enough. 
They grieve that they can meet no more in 
the congregation of their Christian brethren. 
No, they have not the strength often enough to 



break the bonds of their sin, but they half long 
to do so. I had such a case only a while ago. 
We had here an elder of the Church (or church- 
warden) who, after long faithfulness married 
bigamously, not without serious provocation 
from his real Christian wife. He knew he was 
wrong. He used to look bitterly ashamed of 
himself when I chanced to meet him. He 
grieved, I am sure of it, over his position. 
Then he was stricken down by influenza and 
soon it became clear that death was at hand. 
As I knelt by him he gasped out what seemed 
to be penitence, but he was almost inarticulate. 
I shall never forget the scene. He lay in an 
untidy hut. He was dripping wet, for in native 
ignorance he had had cold water poured over 
him to allay the burning fever. He was in 
agony of body, but I am sure that he was in 
greater agony of mind. The wistful look on 
his face, as he tried to make me hear, wrung 
one's heart. He was a mission failure, I suppose, 
but I still hope and I dare not condemn. 

I admit that there are many failures amongst 
our African Christians, but there are also many 
penitents. On the whole, however, I am 
convinced, as I said before, that they are 
better than one would expect. Do Europeans 
never fail ? Moreover, there are, thank God, 
some at least who are of the salt of the earth. 
Also there are many, many who in spite of all 



86 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

temptations, in spite of being of the first 
generation of Christians, in spite of all, live 
pure and honest lives. They are, perhaps, not 
of the most deeply spiritual sort, but they are 
faithful. Indeed, I believe that in serious 
temptation, even in cruel persecution, they 
would still be faithful. To me African Christians 
are wonderful. Even if they were far, far 
worse, it would but give point to the old prayer, 
" Come over and help us." 



IX 

The Missionary 

WHEN one is trying to decide whether 
one is called to missionary work, I am 
assuming in this case in Central Africa, there 
are certain things which I feel one ought to 
know. It is true that they are mostly obvious 
enough. One might easily guess them at home, 
but somehow one doesn't. 

The first consideration is health. I put it 
first, for it is the one that weighs most with 
one's friends. I take it that if a body is not 
reasonably strong he will regard this as a 
perfectly clear intimation that his work does 
not lie in an exacting climate in tropical Africa. 
But so much is talked at home about that 
awful scourge, malaria, that even the strongest 
begins to think that it is little short of martyr- 
dom to come out to Africa at all. As a matter 
of fact, an ordinary attack of malaria is not a 
very serious business. I speak, of course, as a 
layman, not as a doctor, but I am sure that a 
doctor would say the same. The fever runs 

87 



88 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

its course and one lies in bed till it is over, 
and then one feels all right again. Nor does it 
leave one in the prostrate condition which 
influenza does, unless one gets a succession of 
fevers, but that is no more common than any 
other serious illness at home. For my own part, 
I have felt just as wretched with a heavy cold 
at home as I have ever felt with a fever in 
Africa. I admit that I am one of the lucky 
ones. Headache is, I suppose, the worst part 
of fever, but I have never had a headache in 
my life. Still, folks who have headaches with 
fever no doubt have headaches with colds at 
home. Certainly there are other tropical 
diseases which are bad enough dysentery, black- 
water fever and tick-fever but these one does 
not expect to get. Malaria, such as it is, you 
are pretty sure to get. In spite of all precautions, 
there are few who get through the first two 
years without it. 

This brings me to such precautions as one 
ought to take. I am convinced that it ought 
to be a serious matter of conscience to obey 
the medical rules. You will sometimes meet 
people who jeer at quinine. They say that 
they never have fever and they don't touch 
quinine. There are, no doubt, a few peculiarly 
constituted in this respect, just as there are 
other sorts of freaks. Also, no doubt, medical 
science has still much to learn. Still, the broad 



THE MISSIONARY 89 

fact remains that after careful research in all 
parts of the world/ covering millions of in- 
dividuals, scientific men have arrived at certain 
conclusions and give us certain advice. The 
soundness of their teaching has been proved 
by the almost miraculous change which it has 
brought in tropical countries. Such as it is, 
it is the best advice we have, and for a layman 
to jeer at it seems to be mere conceit. God 
has given us only one life, and we have no right 
whatever to throw it away. Nor ought one 
to take foolish and unnecessary risks. It is 
surprising how reckless otherwise sensible people 
can be. I once knew a bishop, no less, who 
shall be nameless, who got soaked to the skin, 
clad in white drill, and he was not for taking 
the trouble of changing his clothes. It was 
warm and he said he didn't mind. I worried 
him till he went and changed, but he did it a 
thought resentfully. There are times when one 
must take risks, just as anywhere else, and in 
that case there is nothing more to be said. 
I was once sent for to baptize a catechumen 
who was suddenly taken ill. He lived more 
than a mile away and it was pouring with 
heavy, tropical rain. I was myself suffering 
from dysentery, though I didn't know it. Of 
course, I had to go. But to have taken that 
walk for nothing would surely have been 
criminal. 



90 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

When I first thought of coming out here the 
thing I most dreaded was the appalling isolation, 
as it seemed to me. Not only would one be 
away from one's friends, but from the world, 
its interests, its politics and everything that 
goes to make up civilization. Now one must 
grant that one misses books. That is a really 
serious deprivation. But even so one can have 
a certain number of books sent out to one, and 
one can get books from the diocesan library at 
Likoma, though seldom of the latest. For the 
rest I found isolation almost as much a bugbear 
as fever. I don't know if I unconsciously 
regarded natives as things, as machines. To my 
astonishment I found them human, I found 
myself in a new world, a real live place full of 
human interests. Mponda's village has about 
the same population as my own little town in 
Derbyshire, and it is just as full of all manner 
of interests, indeed in some ways fuller, for 
one comes on so much that is new and un- 
expected. As soon as one gets a little over the 
language difficulty there need be no fear of 
isolation. Could anything at home equal such 
a drama as this, at any rate in pre-war days ? 
I once sat under a tree by the lake-side and 
listened to the story of a raid which had taken 
place while I was away on leave. The narrator 
was one of the warriors who had taken part 
in the defence. As he sat he pointed tc, the 



THE MISSIONARY 91 

places of interest in the story. It was like a 
passage of Homer, except that it was full of 
close personal interest, not a long-told tale. 
The teller's voice vibrated with emotion at 
each crisis of the story. He began in anxious 
tones to describe the searchings of heart in 
his own village when they heard shots and 
saw the flames in the next village, a kindred 
village of their own. His tone became firmer 
as they resolved on pursuit. It rang in triumph 
as he told of the victorious fight. It fell again 
almost into a minor key as he told of the dead, 
and especially of a poor woman speared by her 
brutal captor when he found that there was no 
escape. It is true that one does not often 
come upon exciting incidents ' like this, but 
nor does one meet them in England, or did 
not in pre-war days. No, there is far too much 
human interest in an African village. One need 
not be isolated. Also, while entering into this 
new world, one does not really lose touch with 
the old. One gets newspapers, albeit six or 
seven weeks late at least. But there is no 
vital necessity that a man must lose interest 
in affairs if he does not get the news next 
morning. Were English people bored with the 
news of Waterloo because it did not come for 
a fortnight after the battle ? I think that I 
take as much interest in politics, home or 
foreign, as ever I did, except that 'from this 



92 A MISSIONARY'S LIFE IN NYASALAND 

distance home politics often look rather petty, 
but that may be really a juster view. I read 
of religious and social questions as eagerly as 
ever I did. Nay, even at my age, I still rejoice 
when Oxford wins a boat race or when St. 
John's goes up a place on the river. When on 
leave last year I watched Oxford's interesting 
victory at Lords with much the same feelings 
as I watched a 'varsity match twenty years 
ago. I am sure no one need fear becoming an 
isolated fossil out here. If he does become one 
he is the sort of man who would have become 
a fossil in London or Paris. 

When a man comes to Africa he must expect 
to meet with difficulties. In the first place 
there is the language. Neither Chi-Nyanja nor 
Yao are hard as languages go, I think, but 
they must be learnt. Moreover, the European 
will never have done learning. Behind the 
language there is a still greater difficulty, and 
that is to get at the point of view of the native. 
The background of his life is so different from 
ours. All his customs and ways of looking at 
life are new to us. However, half the danger 
is gone if a man is sensible and knows when he 
doesn't know. Nor when one makes a mistake 
must one lose heart, for one meets difficulties 
everywhere. If we were to lose heart there is 
no one else out here to take our place. Also, 
every year will bring fuller knowledge and fuller 



THE MISSIONARY 93 

usefulness to the man who humbly tries to do 
his best. 

Every man must decide for himself in the 
last resort as to what he believes to be God's 
will, but I am sure that if in the end he finds 
that his lot is cast in Africa he will find it a 
fair place. All he can do, with his head or his 
hand, all he has ever learnt, will come in useful 
here. Here, too, he will find the battle well- 
defined, and will see his duty plain before him 
as one seldom can among the puzzling questions 
at home. He will find it a good country to 
live in. I will go further, for I know something 
of death in Africa. If it be good for a man 
that death should find him following God's 
calling with a stout heart, then I say that 
Africa is also a good country to die in. 



Printed in Great B itain by Butler & Taaner, Frome and London 



KotaKota 



goo 
Msumba 
MtenguU 




NYASA 



. The . 

Universities' Mission to 
Central Africa. 

Proposed by Livingstone, 1 857. C. F. Mackenzie, First Bishop, 
January, 1, 1861. 

President THE RIGHT REV. BISHOP GORE. 

Head Office: 9 DARTMOUTH STREET, 
WESTMINSTER, S.W.L 



SPHERE. 

Between the Equator in the North and the River Zambesi 
in the South. 

DIOCESES. 

Zanzibar, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. 

OBJECTS. 

To free Africans from heathenism and Mohammedanism, 
to build up an African Church, to maintain schools and 
training colleges, teach handicrafts and nurse the sick. 

NEEDS. 

(a) More priests and lay workers to fill vacancies and for 
the extension of the work. 

(b) A largely increased income to meet increased charges 
and the loss on exchange. 

MAGAZINES. 

"Central Africa" (2J.). "African Tidings" (Id.). 
Monthly. 

SECRETARY 

' Rev. CANON TRAVERS, U.M.C.A., 9 Dartmouth Street, 
Westminster, S.W.I. 



Catalogue of publications sent free on request. 

THE LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF C AUFORIOA 
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