1871-1873, vol. 28: Periodical accounts relating to the missions of the Church of the United Brethren established among the heathen
Publisher Brethren's Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel
Place of Publication London (England)
March, We left town on the 12th of January, early in the morning, in order to make use of the tide, which was of great advantage to our rowers. Instead of entering the Para, which flows into the Suriname, about six miles above Paramaribo, and in order to avoid its great curves, we proceeded a distance of 20 miles on the Suriname, and then came through the canal which unites the two rivers, a German mile in length, into the Para, and out of this into the small river Corupina, on which Beersheba [Bersaba] is situated. This sail was very interesting ; for the eye was charmed with the various grasses and flowers which grew in the water, especially the so-called Mocco-Mocco plant (Caladium arboreseens et aculeatum), and with the variety of trees on the forest-covered banks of rivers. Out of the thick tangled mass of numberless creeping plants, the flowers of the tree-orchids shine forth, as well as those of other parasite plants and of trees, around which flutter butterflies of the most varied and brilliant colours. The screams of parrots and other birds are to bo heard. All this life in the vegetable and animal world helps to revive tho vital powers, which are depressed by the tropical heat, and the confined communication by means of rivers instead of roads. We were fortunate that no fallen tree blocked up our water-highway, as is frequently the case, because in case of the want of a hatchet no small difficulty, as well as delay, often arises. About dusk we reached the station of Beersheba, where the black school-children received us with singing. The hospitable meal prepared by Sr. Braukmann, as well as the succeeding night's rest, were welcome after the fatiguing journey of the day.
Beersheba was erected in 1858. It stands upon a portion of land, about 20 acres in extent, which was very kindly made over to us by the owner of the estate La Prosperite. Tho station is a great blessing for this distant part of the Colony, where heathenism ami idolatry still prevail to a sad extent; for on the neighbouring estate there lives a " Winti-Mama"—or idol priestess—who holds a secret idolatrous service, and puts off the frequently repeated invitation of the missionary to come to church with the same words : "mi so kom," i. e. " I will come." A further evidence of the still existing deep- rooted heathenism is found about five miles off, in a charm-tree, which stands in tho forest, and is reverenced as an idol by the heathen negroes. It is the seven-leaved silk-cotton tree, (bomba gossipium or penlandrum). The broad well-cleared road through the forest to this tree shows that it leads to an object of special interest. As an offering for the spirit of tho grangado, or even for evil spirits, and the spirits of the dead, which are supposed to live in the tree, some old bottles and broken earthenware had been deposited around the trunk. A heathen negro will never lay his axe to such a tree. These trees very much resemble our giant oaks, towering above all others in the forest and are furnished with roots, which extend like supports about five feet up the trunk; by means of these, they with their spongy kind of wood are able to bid defiance to all storms. The Lord has already done very much in this "Para district;" and although here and
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there the power of darkness still shows itself, it is only a last conflict with tho steadily advancing power of the Gospel, which is proclaimed from Beersheba on thirteen different estates on the Corupina and Para. As the military station, " Fort Republic," two miles distant, with its garrison of twelve men, was erected in order to prevent or quell any disturbances among the negroes in the neighbourhood of the Bush country, so has Beersheba been established in order with the sword of the Spirit to fight against the Prince of darkness, and to win from him one stronghold after another. But the brother who is stationed here greatly needs our intercessions. May the Lord soon cause the Gospel to triumph, that the clear light of saving truth may overpower the shades of heathenism!
On the Sunday, which I spent here, a large congregation assembled, some persons coming from a distance of more than twenty miles. They were very attentive to the impressive sermon of Br. Clemens, and to my address. Among them were souls truly alive to spiritual things. This was especially the case with the helpers and chapel-servants, whom wo afterwards met at a love-feast, aud encouraged to persevere with faith and patience in their appointed labour of love among their countrymen. A corial-journey on the small river shaded wdth forest trees, brought us on the following day to Fort Republic, and beyond it to tho estate, " The Four Children," [plantage De Vier Kinderen] on which Catholic priests from town are endeavouring to work. Many heathen are still to be found here as is easily seen by observing the outward appearance of the inhabitants in a walk through the negro village. We visited one who had been baptized, and fried to show according to the word of God his sin in living with more wives than one, buthe was not sufficiently advanced in knowledge to understand it. I could not but be struck on this occasion by the thought, that it is in the power of a Christian owner to effect immense good to his people, if he interests himself aright for their real welfare. His outspoken objection to heathen practices on his property would tend strongly to their discontinuance. It is a pleasing fact that many children from this estate attend the school at Beersheba. The teacher, a former pupil at our Training Institution, is still a beginner, and has a field of labour among the 85 children from tho neighbourhood, for the cultivation of which we desire to see in him increased faithfulness, and a clearer understanding of tho importance of his calling. The remaining days of our stay at Beersheba, fully occupied with a continued examination of the work, passed only too quickly, but it was a time of blessing, in which the responsibility of the missionary calling and the result of it wore brought to view, as likewise tho earnest exhortation to " work while it is day, for the night cometh in which no man can work." We left on tho 10th of January, returning at first by the same route by which we had come ; but on reaching the Suriname, after a voyage of seven hours duration, we turned aside at the estate Chatillon, and met with a kind reception from the manager, Mr. von Ernest, an intelligent, well educated German, and his wife. We also met here
Sr. Clemens with her two children, who on the following day went in company with us to Bergendal [Berg en Dal]. Before, however, we pursued our journey, after a refreshing night's rest in hammocks, we visited the adjoining estate, " The Three Brothers," [De Drie Gebroeders] on the opposite bank, in order to take a look at the school held there by Nicolas Manille, who for a long time laboured at Maripastoon [Maripaston]. We found twenty children present, among whom the Chinese boy, Kuuntze, twelve years of age, made a very favourable impression. He is the best scholar, and desirous to be baptized, because the grace of God is working in his heart, and its transforming power evidently impresses itself upon his friendly countenance. An older Chinese boy, named Hossu, a servant to the proprietor, is also among the number of candidates for baptism. Nicolas not only keeps school here, but conducts meetings on week-days and Sundays, reading and expounding the word of God, and praying with the people. He is a rich blessing to the numerous labouring at presenton this estate, consisting of negroes, Chinese, and coolies; would that they valued his services more. Another school exists on the next estate Acaribo, the teacher of which we saw and spoke with. Nicolas Manille is a quiet, zealous, faithful helper, and though sixty-three years of age, is sufficiently strong to be active in this manner among his countrymen. As a slave boy, he came fourteen years ago from Usobo, on the West Coast of Africa, to Surinam. Whilst in the service of a Lutheran minister, he acquired a knowledge of the Dutch language, and learned to read and write. At a later date, he became acquainted with the Brethren, by whom he was baptized, and was appointed to school service, in which he has continued to the present time out of love to the Lord and His cause. We then lost no time in proceeding on our journey. The limit for this day was the so-called Jews' Savanna, which we reached after a voyage of 4 1/2 hours on the Suriname river, in order to remain for the night at the now empty dwelling-house of the former commandant of the abandoned military station Gelderland. Before making use of the short night's rest, we examined the neighbourhood and the spot where once the splendour and luxurious life of the rich Portuguese Jews had been exhibited, whose synagogue still stands there as a memorial of that time, but now in its decay loudly proclaims the passing away of all earthly glory. The former Jewish village, which was founded as early as the seventeenth century, stood on the picturesque hill, the first elevation of the land which meets the eye of any one coming from Paramaribo, and covered as it is with bush and richly-flowering shrubs, forms a charming contrast to the deeplying alluvial land commonly to be seen on our journeys. Rain prevented us from visiting the burial place of the departed Jewish congregation, which lies farther inland, and is said to be well worth seeing with its marble gravestones, and memorial-tablets with Hebrew inscriptions, but we were pleased, instead, to see the last survivor of the Israelitish colony, the aged synagogue-keeper, now in his 79th year, whi still feasts on the memory ot the flourishing time of that colony of the old-covenant people. He lives here in the most needy circumstances, and is waiting for his depar-
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ture, but alas! without knowing the only Consolation and Hope of Israel, Jesus our Saviour. To declare Him afresh was not possible for us on account of his complete deafness. The brother who travels on the Suriname visits him from time to time, when ho comes to hold service for the negroes living in the vicinity.
After scarcely four hours' repose in our hammocks, we already- prepared for our journey at one o'clock in tho morning, in order to take advantage of the advancing tide, and to reach the limit of our journey before the close of the day. By the light of the lanterns, we with difficulty got into our boat, which was propelled by the rowers up the river in the darkness of the night. At sunrise men from Bergendal saluted us, who had come to meet us with the mission-boat, and took us on board.
The banks of the Suriname now become high, and tho vegetation alters, but is not less rich; the woody parts display different aspects, and the trees are larger, and profusely hung with elegant creepers. In view of this scenery, we had our breakfast upon a mica- rock in the middle of the river, and reached Bergendal, which lies at the foot of the Blue Mountain about 11 o'clock. The negro-flock, both young and old received us with singing in front of the mission- house, and then with a friendly look saluted us with their " odi masra," (" how do you do, Sir").
The station is not only important for the negro families who reside here, and have long been baptized members of the Church, but especially also for our Bush-Negro Mission on the upper Suriname, which can be visited from here more frequently than was possible in former years; the little congregation at Gansee can also be more satisfactorily cared for.
Bergendal was in the year 1834 established as a preaching place. Some negroes here had been instructed in reading and in the New Testament history by the grandson of the well-known John Arabi.* By this means a desire for further instruction was created, and a way opened for the entrance of the Gospel, the power of which soon showed itself in the overthrow of idolatry, and the destruction of the idol-grove with its obeahs, which stood on the brow of a hill, while in its place the church was built in 1839, and is still used for the diligently attended services ; now it stands sadly in want of thorough repair. The approach to this elevated building is by a flight of steps. Under the roof there is a small room, which is now inhabited by the school teacher, but formerly served as the guest-room, in which many a brother visiting here on his way to the Bushland has rested, and worked, and no doubt prayed much for the conversion of the inhabitants. It is the little room, in which the faithful Sr. Hartmann lived in her time, and laboured with such blessing.
* John Arabi was the son of Abini, a chief or captain of a bush-negro tribe, residing on the Senthea Creek, about a day's journey above Koffycamp, in Lat. 4.40. N. Long. 55 W. The father showed great kindness to the missionaries Stoll, Daehne and Jones on their first entering the country, and the son was tbe first baptized convert of his race, and subsequently a valuable fellow-labourer in furthering the cause of Christ among his countrymen.
Her memory is still cherished with gratitude by several of the negro brethren and sisters living here.
The first day of our sojourn was not very refreshing on account of along negotia oarers on this estate, who had many and groundless complaints to make to us as proprietors of the land ; the following day was so much the more pleasant and blessed. The 20th of January was celebrated as a church-day,the congregation assembling in goodly numbers, to hear what my visit meant, and what I had to say to them. The afternoon hours I spent with the helper-brethren and sisters of the Gansee congregation, who had come hither to salute me. With these excellent black brethren and sisters I could speak unreservedly concerning the state of their small congregation, and rejoice over the love of the Saviour. In the evening meeting the old helper, Augustus, spoke with hearty gratitude in the name of the congregation, in reference to the word of exhortation and instruction given in the forenoon. In a later conversation, the old helper Cleophas told me he had belonged to the first heathen, who here in Bergendal turned to tho Lord, adding that it was then very slow work passing from heathenism io liberty, for they had had " a strong master," who held them fast, but as soon as twenty heathen at once had given in their names, the power of their " strong master " was broken, and others in larger numbers followed their example. The dwelling-houses of the negroes are of wood, and built upon posts, forming a small village, which certainly can make no high pretensions to order, cleanliness, and civilization; still it has the character of a Christ village, with huts, in which God's word is read, prayer offered, and the Saviour served. Visits to the houses will soon convince one of this, but also of tho fact that there is still room enough for the educational activity and the pastoral labour of tho resident missionary here. The schools loo, with their black teacher, a faithful assistant to Br. Lehman, made a favourable impression. The 72 children showed pleasure in learning.
On Sunday. January 22nd, the bell announced the Lord's-day as early as six o'clock. At the same time, the helper brethren and sisters assembled of their' own accord in the church to pray together, which has been for a long time their custom. At nine o'clock the church was already filled to overflowing, as members of the congregation from Victoria and Koffy Camp had also come in their corials. After the helper brother Louis had prayed the Church Litany, Br. Clemens preached on the subject of justification by faith (Rom. iv. 1-8), and was listened to with attention. In the afternoon we united with the helpers in a love-feast, in which their hearts overflowed in an edifying manner, and we enjoyed in fellowship with them a rich blessing. It was a pity that during our stay the weather was not favourable enough for ascending the Blue Mountain, 350 feet high, and from thence to enjoy at least a peep at the Bushland, whore for the last hundred years the word of life has been preached, the first-fruits of the Bush negroes, John Arabi, having been baptized by the Brethren on the 6th of January, 1771; where Stoll in the olden time, and Easmus Schmidt in modern days laboured faithfully unto their end ;
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where hard battles have been fought against the kingdom of darkness, and glorious victories gained. Defeats have also been sustained, for the climate has carried off many a warrior, and the small number of believers thus left defenceless was not always able to withstand the renewed attacks of the enemy of souls. But it is a land in which the Lord has had a seed to serve Him, in the little congregation at Gansee, which shines as a light in the darkness, and is a pledge to us, that the glory of the Lord will yet be seen over the whole of tho Bush country. Br. and Sr. Lehman think of soon paying a visit to Gansee, and the Gansee people are already delighted at the prospect of it. It is a great festival for them when they can welcome the corial, which they recognise by the flag of peace, and call the " tjari fri." It has upon a white ground a red cross with the words upon it: " mi tjari fri kom" (I bring peace), and hence the mission-boat is called by the negroes " tjari fri." May it still make many blessed voyages of peace! On the 23rd of January the congregation once more assembled for a farewell-meeting, in which a parting word of exhortation was addressed to their hearts. After this both small and great came to bid adieu, and many endeavoured to show their gratitude and love in various ways. Some of the men expressed their " great thanks" to the "gran lerimans" (the great teachers in Europe); adding that they wished to do according to tbe word of exhortation, but that the flesh was weak and easily fell into temptation. One schoolboy specially thanked me, and assured me, without being asked, that he wished to live for Jesus. Although at the speakings, and on nearer acquaintance, many things turn up which present a sad aspect, yet it is very evident that, in the absence of a stated ministerial serving of the congregation the Lord's mighty power through His word and His Spirit, has been most graciously manifested. During our brief stay this station became so endeared to us, that it was not without emotion that we left it on the morning of January 21th. We entered our boat by lantern-light, having a long day's journey before us. After a favourable beginning, the latter part of the voyage was less pleasant on account of wind and rain, but with thankfulness to the Lord we arrived at our destination, and found renewed hospitality awaiting us. The next morning we could speak to none of the labouring people, who belong to this congregation, except a sister holding the office of chapel-servant, for all bad gone early to the sugar-cane field. But from the communications of this sister it appeared that many here do not let themselves be guided by the Spirit of God, and that the meetings and the school, which a negro who can read sometimes conducts, are not so well attended as could be wished. The directing hand of the missionary, or at least the influence of a faithful and qualified native is, under these circumstances, much wanted. When we landed at Paramaribo towards evening, after a somewhat difficult voyage on the Suriname, which was agitated by the vehemence of tho wind, we received the affecting intelligence that the funeral of Sr. Menze had taken place. It was a severe stroke to dear Br.