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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER III A NEW VENTURE

The Fulfilment Of A Dream Of Pastor Hsis by A. Mildred Cable

CHAPTER III A NEW VENTURE

|Love has a hem to its garment
That touches the very dust:
It can reach the stains of the streets and the lanes, And because it can it must.

It dares not rest on the mountain;
It is bound to come to the vale;
For it cannot find its fulness of mind
Till it kindles the lives that fail.|
GEORGE MATHESON.

|The world had begun to stare, she half
apprehended the fact, but she was in the presence
of the irresistible. In the presence of the
irresistible the conventional is a crazy
structure, swept away with very little creaking of
its timbers on the flood.| -- GEORGE MEREDITH.

A NEW VENTURE

IN WHICH IS RECORDED THE APPOINTMENT OF THE FIRST MISSIONARIES TO HWOCHOW

THE first endeavour to bring the people of Hwochow within sound of the Gospel proved in every way encouraging. Numbers of men entered the Opium Refuge, and before long a nucleus of twenty were calling themselves Christians. The effort was, however, sterile so far as women were concerned, and Pastor Hsi knew the impossibility of establishing upon a solid basis a work which left untouched those who so largely controlled the home.

The power wielded by the woman in China is immense, for while she may be despised and, in her young days, even ill-treated, her day of power surely dawns, and woe betide the man who has to combat the determined will of mother or wife.

The question of providing women workers for Hwochow became a pressing one, and a visit from the Rev. Hudson Taylor was the occasion chosen by Pastor Hsi to bring before him the urgency of this claim. His suggestion was that single women missionaries should be appointed who could give their time unreservedly to the teaching of women, and preaching. Mr. Taylor pointed out the difficulties and the misunderstanding which would make their lot far from easy, but these difficulties, Pastor and Mrs. Hsi felt, might be overcome, and willingly promised to give all the help which lay within their power. In any case, the claim of the women constituted a call to make a forward movement, and Mr. Taylor promised to give the matter serious consideration. By the end of that year, 1886, two Norwegian ladies had offered for the post.

Miss Jacobsen, an idealist, strong, capable, and critical, gave herself whole-heartedly to the work for which she had come. Enthusiastic and independent in thought and action, she soon acquired the spoken language to a remarkable degree, and with a praiseworthy tenacity she studied the classical works of the Chinese, and at the same time could vie with most of the women in all branches of their domestic activities. Her extraordinary ability is a byword to this day amongst the people who knew her.

She was accompanied by Miss Reuter, a lady of education and refinement, whose grace of manner and goodness of heart speedily endeared her to all with whom she came in contact. Varied as were the gifts and circumstances of the friends, they were one in desire and purpose. Their home was one small room, and here they dwelt and received all who came to them. They wore the Chinese dress, ate the Chinese food, and whether in their own home or in the villages where they preached, ever kept before them the one object of the salvation of souls.

As pioneer workers, enthusiasm sometimes overstepped discretion, and the violation of Chinese custom in such matters as the public playing of stringed instruments and open-air preaching to mixed congregations, led to misunderstanding, and even to the gathering around them of some whose presence was far from helpful.

Desire on the part of Miss Jacobsen to encourage in every way possible those who were already faced with persecution as they left idolatry, led to the preparation, each Sunday, of a simple meal which might be shared with any who walked long distances to attend services in the City Church, and who arrived weary and tired. Others, however, apart from the Christian family heard of this, and if matters of business brought them to the city, Sunday was considered an appropriate day to transact them, as thereby dinner might be obtained free. This naturally led to criticism on the part of the heathen, and many of the more independent and self-respecting people refrained from intercourse with a community of whom it could be said: |They believe for their food's sake.| Acting upon the advice of Pastor Hsi, this practice was discontinued, the missionaries themselves willingly taking no food from morning until evening, that all might fare alike. It could but be evident to all concerned that the mistakes were those of love and enthusiasm, and such qualities do much to counteract any harm that might arise from unwise methods of expression. In every land, the world might well see more of the love that defies criticism, and forgets its own interests in whole-hearted devotion.

Miss Reuter felt the importance of at once reaching the children, and opened a small school for the daughters of Christians. Three little girls were committed to her care, and these she faithfully taught, not despising the day of small things.

She, with Miss Jacobsen, travelled from village to village with the evangelist Cheng Hsiu-chi, and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Cheng was a native of Hwochow, and had, at Pastor Hsi's request, made ready the house for the missionaries when they came. As a young man he had wandered far in the paths of sin, and his mother, eager for his reformation, had spent no mean sum of money upon incense with which to seek the favour of the gods on his behalf. Seeing her devotion, his heart was touched, and he considered seeking refuge in a Buddhist monastery from the |fire of passion, hatred, and ignorance always burning in his heart.| With this in view, he took counsel of a friend who had harboured similar ideals. This man had lately been a patient in the Refuge, where he had learnt of a stronger power to break the bonds of sin than fasting, penance, and self-discipline. With him Mr. Cheng attended a meeting of Christians where, meeting with Christ, he became a disciple. He returned home to face bitter persecution for refusing to pay the temple taxes; it was understood that no robbery of his crops, or ill-treatment of his person, would be punished by the village elders. He had finally no option but to leave his home and seek refuge elsewhere, rejoicing that he was counted worthy to suffer |for the Name's sake.|

He then helped Pastor Hsi in the Hwochow Refuge, and later took charge of the same work in new and hitherto untouched districts, returning from time to time to his own city.

A strong admiration for Miss Jacobsen and her whole-hearted devotion awoke a consciousness that this feeling was not entirely on his side, and gradually, but surely, the difference of race and outlook was obliterated in the love which revealed to each the other's secret.

Those to whom Miss Jacobsen in honour bound confided her purpose, did all in their power to prevent what it seemed might prove to be a catastrophe to the work. She was asked to leave Hwochow, and was sent to another province. Some years passed, but nothing could change the determination which saw in this union a possible wider sphere of usefulness and understanding of the people she had come to love; moreover, the mysterious something which caused her to know that |one man loved the pilgrim soul| in her, could not be ignored. To her trusted friend Pastor Hsi, however, she did turn for advice, and while many fellow-workers found it hard to express their indignation and regret, he, with a clearness of outlook only possible where there is absence of prejudice, told her that while he could not regard it as a sin for a Christian man and woman of different races to marry, he felt convinced that the time had not come for such unions to be desirable.

As is usual in such cases where inclination runs contrary to the advice given, the latter was ignored, and in the year 1898 Cheng Hsiu-chi and Anna Jacobsen became man and wife. Painful as must have been the attitude of Westerners to Mrs. Cheng, a greater trial awaited her when she came to realise that the Chinese, both Christian and heathen, regarded her action with disapproval, and adopted so unappreciative an attitude both towards her husband and herself, that she found only critical antagonism where she had looked for sympathetic understanding. Mr. Cheng proved himself worthy in all ways of the confidence she had placed in him, and by self-sacrificing toil he, both before and after his wife's death, faithfully served the Lord to Whom he had yielded his life. In the year 1915 he too passed to his reward.

Miss Reuter had some time previously married Mr. Stanley Smith; young workers who had joined Miss Jacobsen for short periods had been moved to other places, and when fresh appointments were made it was a time of great difficulty. It was not easy to replace those whose absolute devotion had won the love of the people amongst whom they lived; and while Miss Jacobsen's action necessitated her withdrawal from the staff of the China Inland Mission, and made further residence in Hwochow impossible for her, they could not forget that she was the first missionary who had come to them, and that they were losing with her the man who had been a help to so many of them in their early Christian life.

FOOTNOTE:

It was on the occasion of this visit that Mr. Hsi was ordained pastor.

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