Stated mission work was commenced in Kumaon in 1850. Previous to that time a few of its people had heard the Gospel from missionaries travelling through it, or residing for a few months in it. In that year the Rev. J. H. Budden, of the London Missionary Society, after labouring for a time in Benares and Mirzapore, was obliged by the failure of health to abandon all hope of continuing in the plains, and took up his abode at Almora, the capital of the Province. The society declined to enter on mission work in Kumaon; but Captain Ramsay, Senior Assistant to the Commissioner, with other friends, came forward with most liberal offers of support, and consent was given to Mr. Budden's entering into an engagement to carry on the Mission as the agent of its local supporters. For some time his entire salary and all expenses were met by these friends. Afterwards a part of the salary was paid by the Society, and for years the whole, but the friends who founded the Mission have on to the present time supported it with princely munificence. At the head of these is Sir Henry Ramsay, the Captain Ramsay of 1850, who has been for many years the Commissioner of the Province, and who continues the warm and liberal supporter of everything by which the spiritual as well as the temporal good of the people may be promoted.
[Sidenote: WORK OF THE ALMORA MISSION.]
As the Mission at Almora was the first, so it continues to be the most important in the Province. Organized and administered by Mr. Budden, and heartily supported by friends on the spot, it has done a work which has told powerfully and happily on the entire country. From the beginning much attention has been paid to the education of the young. For a long time the school of the Mission was the only one in the Province where a superior education, at once native and European, was imparted; and still, both in the number of its pupils and in the extent of its course of study, it stands highest. From it have gone out for many years bands of young men who now fill varied positions under Government, and it is believed they are discharging their duties with greater intelligence and a higher character than those they have succeeded. In remote parts of the Province I have met persons who have spoken in strong terms of gratitude of the benefit they had received from attending the Almora Mission School. A few years ago a large, handsome structure was erected for its accommodation at great expense, towards which the natives contributed very liberally. In addition to this school-house, the Mission has valuable property in mission-houses for native Christians, an orphanage, and a book-room.
[Illustration: MISSION SCHOOL, ALMORA.]
[Sidenote: THE LEPER ASYLUM.]
In other departments excellent work has been done. Female education has been zealously prosecuted under the direction of Mr. Budden's daughters. For many years there has been an orphanage in which destitute children have been brought up and educated. The authorities made over to the Mission a Leper Asylum they had established, and for years it has been under its exclusive charge. Much has been done for the inmates of this asylum at the cost of personal labour, great anxiety, and a heavy expenditure. Suitable buildings have been erected, the wants of the lepers have been supplied, everything has been done which could be done to mitigate their sufferings, and to secure order and cleanliness. The efforts put forth to draw them to the Great Physician to secure their spiritual cure have by the Divine blessing borne abundant fruit. When the Rev. John Hewlett was in charge in 1864-65 there was a movement towards Christianity, which resulted in the baptism of several. Since that time the work has gone on. Christian worship has been regularly maintained among them, and much labour has been bestowed on their instruction. Many have been baptized, after giving all the evidence of sincerity which could be expected, and at certain times the Lord's Supper has been dispensed. Among the lepers there have been persons of very debased character, but the conduct of most has been good, and, so far as we can judge, a number have become the true followers of the Saviour. If the Mission had done nothing more than sustain this Leper Asylum, it would have done a most Christ-like work, deserving the warm approbation and liberal support of Christ's people.
[Illustration: LEPER ASYLUM, ALMORA.]
From the commencement of the Mission a service has been conducted every Sabbath in English for the benefit of our countrymen residing in Almora. Services have been held in the native language for the native Christians and natives generally.
In addition to the work of organizing and conducting the various departments of the Mission, Mr. Budden has made large and valuable contributions to native Christian literature.
I have seen much of the Almora Mission, and have had the privilege of taking part in conducting its operations. Among other duties which I endeavoured to discharge during two seasons was to go, along with my wife, every Sabbath morning to conduct worship with the lepers, and to instruct them. Mrs. Kennedy went besides once every week. There is no work on which I look back with deeper interest than I do on this. We first conducted a brief service of singing, prayer, and preaching. Mrs. Kennedy then took the women and I took the men to see how much of the sermon they understood, and to inculcate the great lessons of God's Word in the way of question and answer. The work was at first very trying, but gradually we became more than reconciled to it. Our heart was drawn forth in deep pity to these poor people, and we left them deeply thankful for the privilege we had of speaking to them of the Saviour, and of telling them of His compassion for the suffering and the lost.