|That Church controls the future which can demand of her members the greatest sacrifices.| -- Dr. JOHN
|When earth's last picture is painted, and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died -- We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it -- lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of all good workmen shall put us to work anew.
And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame; And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame; But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star, Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are.| RUDYARD KIPLING.
BEING A REVIEW OF THE PRESENT SITUATION
IT is now thirty years since foreigners came to reside in Hwochow, during which time three generations of women missionaries have succeeded each other. The period has been divided accurately at the fifteenth year by the Boxer riots and massacres. The many who have helped in varied ways to make this work possible may rightly ask; |Is not this period sufficient to establish a self-propagating Church independent of foreigners?|
It would be hard to over-emphasise the need of the wisdom required at the stage immediately preceding the final lapse of total responsibility upon the shoulders of the native Church, that the move should not be made too hastily or at an inopportune moment; even more emphatically, that the Church should not be driven to establish on a factional basis a so-called independent sect in opposition to the foreigner, in order to secure the freedom and control for which it was ripe. Faith, hope, and courage, without which the pioneer missionary's work must inevitably fail, find their counterpart in the spirit of wisdom and understanding required for the proper adjustment of the new relationship, whereby the Chinese Christian, not in word, but in deed and in truth, may take precedence. It is easy to gain ready acquiescence to this theory of equality, but as was immediately evidenced when the strong and independent Pastor Hsi arose, the situation in its practical bearing is not easily handled.
A word to the intending missionary: Be ready to lay aside your preconceived ideas as to how the Gospel should be preached, how Church matters should be handled, discipline enforced, and your own position in the Church.
Come as a learner, and men who were Christians before you emerged from childhood will give you the benefit of a ripe experience, and if you prove worthy of it, admit you to fellowship in service.
In view of the preceding chapters, few words will serve to review on general lines the situation as it has developed during these thirty years in Hwochow.
The first fifteen called for unremitting effort in breaking up new ground, broadcast sowing of the seed, and establishing between Chinese and foreigner some measure of confidence. The second period has been one of reaping from the very commencement. Extraordinarily rapid development on every hand brought about new conditions which in turn necessitated new methods, so that the missionary is no longer the main instigator of Church activities, but takes his place in a large and far-reaching organisation.
The work of evangelisation and all elementary teaching require no foreign help, but we still seem to be necessary for the organisation which is giving training and advanced teaching to the men and women whom we hope to see equipped in every respect as well, and better, than we ourselves have been.
All non-institutional work amongst men is already in Chinese hands. Pastor Wang and eight deacons take entire oversight of the Church of nearly four hundred members, the examining and accepting of candidates for baptism, as well as arrangements for Sunday services in each of the eight out-stations, where the local Christians have, at their own expense, supplied a building for public worship where daily service is held. In addition to this, the entire evangelistic organisation, Elementary Boys' School and Opium Refuge, form part of their responsibility.
The more aggressive work includes a Chinese Evangelistic Society entirely free from foreign money and control, the object of which is to open up new districts, preach at fairs, and widely distribute Gospels and tracts.
In the busiest thoroughfare of the city, a preaching hall is daily opened which is freely frequented by merchants and travellers.
The systematic instruction of men, both Church members and inquirers, is supplied by means of short station classes held at convenient times by the Pastor, or by some foreign missionary whom he may invite.
With the exception of the Elementary Boys' School just mentioned, the men's institutional work is carried on in the neighbouring city of Hungtung, where, under the presidency of the Rev. F. Dreyer, a Bible Training Institute for men has been established. The students are drawn not only from our own, but other provinces, and during the two years' course a careful and thorough training is given in theoretical and practical work. A long preaching list is served by these men in conjunction with a large band of local preachers. To Mr. Dreyer's influence amongst these men we, as many other stations, owe some of our best helpers. The Hungtung institutional work is supplemented by a Higher Grade School for boys, the pupils of which are largely drawn from the fourteen Elementary Schools scattered throughout the district. Mr. E. J. Cooper, assisted by Chinese graduates of Weihsien University, is responsible for this department. Many former pupils are in charge of village schools, the examining and superintendence of which is conducted from the centre. It is thus possible for the sons of Church members to obtain a thorough and Christian education in their immediate neighbourhood. The necessary demands for institutional work for the several counties mentioned throughout this book, are thus met by the two stations of Hungtung and Hwochow. United with these to form a General Allied Council to secure unity of action in all far-reaching enterprises, and to avoid multiplication of work (though each local church remains independent and self-governing), are the stations situated in the cities of Chaocheng, and Yoyang, now severally in charge of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Taylor and Mr. and Mrs. F. Briscoe, whose time is occupied with pastoral and evangelistic work.
Mrs. Hsi still remains in Chaocheng, and carries on her work amongst the women of that city. She, in company with Mrs. Liang and three others, has been chosen by the Church to be set apart to the office of deaconess. She is now sixty-four years of age, and her physical strength is visibly failing.
Mrs. Hsi's life and example is one of the treasures of the Shansi Church. She has served faithfully and long in active Christian work, and she recently told me that she is now giving herself to prayer and fasting more than was possible during the most active period of her life.
For this effectual share in the present conflict, for her love and friendship, and for her continued presence amongst us, we give thanks unto God.
* * * * *
Thus we believe the Church has been rooted and established, no longer propagated by any external energy, but whose seed is in itself.
The dream is so far fulfilled. More than thirty years ago Mr. and Mrs. Hsi, in faith, brought their small offering as a child once offered his barley loaves and laid them in the Master's Hand, Who gave thanks and blessed.
In these pages the story is recorded of the sower, the waterer, and the reaper, who laboured in tears and in joy.
Of the increase which God alone can give, no human record can tell, but told it shall be in the day when those from every nation, kindred, and tribe shall unite to ascribe honour and glory unto Him who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever!
|So have I dreamed! Oh may the dream be true! That praying souls are purged from mortal hue . . . And grow as pure as He to Whom they pray.| HARTLEY COLERIDGE.