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Among the Wild Ngoni
Chapter VIII. The Rain Question


MY journal for 1886 opens with this entry,— .“Jan. 3. In bed three days with fever.”

Notwithstanding the unwearied assistance rendered by Messrs Koyi and McCallum during the strain of nursing Mr Rollo throughout the week of his fatal illness, I was worn out, and I had a sharp attack of fever myself, the usual result of over-anxiety and fatigue. Thus began the year that was destined to be one of sorrow and of joy for those at Njuyu, and of the triumph of the Gospel among the Ngoni.

About this time the station went by the name of “Ekusinda-nyeriweni,” a term which cannot be translated in polite language. The name was given by Mombera, and although it was accepted as a bad one by the people, he did not mean it thus. It arose out of the frequent complaints which people took to him of our supposed evil powers. We were accused of ail the family disasters ; the non-success in battle; the death of cattle, and the running away of slaves, or whatever evil came among the people. Mombera, who as may be seen was a believer in us, became so irritated at their numerous charges that he said, “The people are surely comfortable now that they have got a “Ekusinda-nyeriweni.” The rebuke was levelled at them and not at us, but the name stuck to us for a long time, until we got a new name from the councillors which will be mentioned further on.

As we were treated with suspicion it was doubtful what effect our having brought a horse into the country would have. Messrs McCallum and Rollo had come up with a horse which was the first that the natives had ever seen. Before they actually arrived the commotion over this strange animal which they were riding was very great; and wild and absurd stories as to its appearance and behaviour went round the country. It was said to have only one eye, which when turned on one felled him to the ground; it was as tall as the highest tree; its feet crushed houses and people; its bounding step enabled it to jump over mountains and rivers; it had a tail which moved continually and smote people to the earth. Such were the wild impressions which this horse made on the ignorant people, who had only heard of it from others as it approached the villages. Although, when it was seen, the people became intelligently interested in it, we were in difficulties as to pasturing the animal. Complaints were lodged that we allowed it to go near their villages, so that child-bearing women could not come out, the belief being that the strange animal would lead to the birth of monsters. We were even advised not to allow it to come near the herds of cattle for the same reason. But gradually their fears subsided, and instead of being regarded as an evil thing, the people came long distances to see the wonderful animal.

Although, as mentioned in the previous chapter, Chisevi’s informing the chief about the youths who were coming to us and praying, had not led to an attack upon them as was at one time threatened, the persecution they had to suffer was so great that when they desired to be taught to read they were afraid to come by day, and so they came under cover of night. At first the three sons of Kalengo, a witch-doctor, who was our nearest neighbour, came. Their names were Chitezi, Mawalera and Makara. We spent several hours together every evening, and they made rapid progress in reading and writing. They were also instructed more fully in Christian truth. The devotion of these youths was most marked, and as we watched their minds opening under instruction, and their hearts and consciences coming under the deepening influence of God’s Spirit, we felt stronger and more hopeful in our work which was so liable to be stopped by the superstitious clamourings of the people. But Mombera was no doubt cognisant of all that went on, and it was noticeable that he began to look upon Chitezi as our man. He being the only one of the three who was married could be accorded the place of a man, and so Mombera and we had him as a common messenger on nearly all occasions of communications passing between us. It was a gratification to see the respect which Mombera paid to Chitezi even after he had thus cast in his lot with us. Chitezi’s father was much respected, and Chitezi himself had but lately been distinguished in several fights and had received some special marks of the chiefs appreciation of his courage and prowess. Yet his turning to us, while against the expressed desire of the council, did not lead to Mombera (who knew all) turning against him or us at that time. Many other things were known which betokened that the mind of the chief as an individual leaned towards our work, however much he spoke in public to the contrary. He had a dual nature,—on the one hand he was set to curse the work on behalf of his advisers, while for himself, he was, consciously or unconsciously, serving God’s purposes and helping it on in many ways. On many occasions we had to thank God for the presence of even the heathen Mombera on the throne.

When these youths met for prayer it was very touching to hear them plead for the enlightenment of their father the witch-doctor, and for their friends, their chief, and head-men. They had, as youths, understood the worship of the ancestral spirits, and appreciated the position of prayer in the new life. It was a powerful inspiration in this exercise when they apprehended God as Father, ruling, guiding, and sustaining the world, and the need and opportunity of coming to Him in calm as well as in storm, in prosperity as well as in adversity; because in the ancestral worship they did not require to think of the spirits except in case of sickness, famine or drought. It was very interesting to watch the development of their minds under the influence of the truth of Scripture, and how the mind, accustomed to slavery and the relative positions of master and slave, chief and vassal, which the system entailed, naturally assumed the same forms under the spiritual kingdom. While they acknowledged God as Father, under fuller instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the idea of Him as “Great owner of power,” “Owner,” “Chief,” was what came naturally to them, and by these terms they usually addressed Him.

It was an unspeakable relief to us when we had actual members of the tribe to consult with on the spiritual phases of our work, who were able to read the meaning of the many disquieting things which occurred around us in the behaviour of the people. We felt there was a bond between us not born of earth or earthly power, and in the exercise of prayer we could agree as touching anything we asked of the Father, and even then we could count six,—a European, two Kafirs, and three Ngoni, — as with one heart and mind desiring the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. There have been many joyous seasons in my experience of the work since, but none have left such an impression on my mind as those of the time we write of. Our anxieties were unceasing; our position in the tribe insecure; our efforts all but fruitless among the great mass of heathen ; our bodies frequently racked by fever and sickness; we had but occasional communications from home; but after dark the three Ngoni youths came to join with us in prayer for the work. They had staked their safety and their position in the tribe in accepting Christ. They had their temptations and their fears to relate, and we could hold common converse on the outcome of events, and encourage one another in our trying circumstances. Hallowed, indeed, were those hours in the stillness of night, and as we knew not what a day would bring forth, but continued in prayer, we are now able to look back and see how prayer was answered, and in that little sanctuary in the dear old house in Njuyu the faith of that little company has brought, by the mercy and overruling hand of God, a rich return.

There is one phase of Mission life and work which is not often written upon, but which ought to be mentioned. At home men and women are called to volunteer for the mission field prepared for sacrifice, and too often the idea of a sacrifice which must be made is the one most prominent at such times. It is a false position in which to put the work. Why not keep before the mind the advantages to one’s spiritual life in the work I am not the only one who has felt that the Gospels and Epistles, as well as the Old Testament Scriptures, have a fresher interest and newer meaning to us when we are teaching the simple minds of the heathen; and that the exercises of prayer and faith in the circumstances of the new life are more real and refreshing. One learns the simplicity and reality of trust in God when he hears a native, who may only have a few ideas or facts of divine truth, pouring out his heart to God in earnest request, and waiting with expectancy the answer to his prayer. Does God hear prayer? Our three lads had learned as much of the truth as enabled them to believe and ask, and one of many special objects prayed for, may be stated as it occurred and confirmed their and our faith in the presence and power of God, and His care of the work.

The occasion was when the increasing wealth and number of his wives compelled the chief to make choice of an additional royal residence. He had seven or eight royal kraals, and now he was to found another. It must be remembered that all this time the whole tribe, save the three youths whom we were instructing, were given to war and raiding other tribes. It was the custom in connection with the founding of a new kraal, to call up the army and make a raid on some tribe, setting the young warriors belonging to the village chosen as a royal residence in the forefront of the battle, in order to test their valour and ability to protect their chief in his new kraal. From what we were told we knew such occasions to be times of great excitement in the country, and the war following a very bloody one. The young bloods had to “wash their spears in blood,” and it was their ambition to have an important battle to prove their valour. Our boys were greatly distressed—especially Chitezi, who would have to take his place in the Hoho regiment under the Chipatulas who were our oppressors. The turmoil went on for some days, and we heard that the army was to be despatched to attack the Tonga on the Lake shore around Bandawe. On the day when the royal entrance into the new village was to be made, we hoped that some opportunity might be had for Mr Koyi to speak to Mombera to advise him against sending out the army, and we prayed that Mombera might be restrained from ordering war. We heard that Mombera had been debarred from entering his village by the armed youths, who demanded of him an order to go out and “wash their spears in blood,” that the chief had refused and was sitting outside determined to occupy the village without giving a pledge to order out the army. The armed escort that accompanied the chief to the new residence were in an excited state, and were threatening to fight the others who were resisting his entrance. As darkness began to fall we could see bodies of men rushing hither and thither among the villages beyond the river, and we feared that it would end in disaster. We decided that Chitezi should go over to quietly watch the course of events, he having volunteered to do so, and that we should continue in prayer for the prevention of war. He returned about ten o’clock and reported that after a time of great excitement the chief was ultimately allowed to enter, and the warriors dispersed. We ended our day of prayer by acknowledging in praise the goodness of God. The event made an impression on the minds of all, and our faithful three had their faith strengthened.

If it should seem strange that a band of youths should so oppose their chief, it must be remembered that war overruled everything else. An armed party could steal cattle or anything it wanted with impunity, and I have heard Ng’onomo, when dancing, calling Mombera a coward because he did not order the army out. It was an understood thing, and would be done in order to give evidence of a man’s readiness to serve his chief at any cost, and it was always accepted in that sense.

We were never long without some pressing trouble, and sometimes the anxiety was continued through many weeks. The anxious position no doubt frequently induced or accentuated the attacks of fever which all the members suffered from in those days, the attacks being more frequent and severe than those of later years.

The question of a famine in consequence of drought was agitating the minds of all in the tribe. A few showers fell in the November of the previous year (1885), and the people had planted their maize. It sprang up for a fortnight, and then, as the rains ceased until the 18th of January, the corn was burned up and the people began to be greatly excited. The usual period when rain may be expected is from about the end of November to the end of March, so that towards the middle of January, when the early sowing had been fruitless, and day after day the sun beat down from a cloudless sky and rendered cultivation impossible in the absence of rain, the excitement of the people, with famine staring them in the face, is not to be wondered at.

However irrational the native may be in his beliefs and practices he understands that there is no effect without a cause. In the worship of the ancestral spirits when they are supposed to cause evil by being displeased, the witchdoctor and the family or community recognise their responsibility, and possibly misconduct, towards the spirit of the house or the tribe. The practice of the witch-doctor is a fattening one, as he not only gets his fee but a good piece of the meat he recommends them to sacrifice to the displeased god. When we became “Ekusinda-nyeriweni ” we expected that the witch-doctors, as well as the people generally, would hold us to be the cause of the drought. For some weeks we were left ominously alone by most people, and especially by those about the chief, but our faithful three managed to keep us informed of what was passing in their meetings about the cause of the drought. We were indeed blamed, and particularly as I had erected instruments in the garden to control the weather. These (meteorological instruments) I was known to consult morning and evening and to write in a book what I was doing. At this time, of course, a book was in their eyes nothing but an instrument of divination, and as will be seen, they believed that it told us what was in their minds. They spoke about “The Book,” as the Bible was so often referred to by us, and they thought there was only one book.

We were not very anxious for a time. They were sacrificing cattle to their ancestral spirits— household and tribal—and although there was a general clamour about our being the cause of the drought we were not molested. But as the drought continued and their sacrifices were unavailing, more attention was paid to us and our actions. Some people would stand at the hedge looking into the garden, and discuss the probable action of the meteorological instruments to which they had seen me attending regularly. On one occasion old Maumba, a councillor of the chief, came to talk about the rain not coming and said, “'Why do you not give the rain? What does your Book tell you is in our hearts about you just now?”

At length a meeting of the doctors was called to ascertain the cause of the drought. Till then I hardly expected that the doctors had a good word to say of us; but when, in answer to the question whether we caused the rain to stop, they made a united statement that we had nothing to do with it, we were greatly surprised and pleased. The doctors were divided in their opinion as to the cause of the drought. One party made the cause out to be the strife between Mombera and Mtwaro his brother, as the spirits were highly displeased therewith. Another party said that the spirits were at war among themselves, and the rain would come when they finished. The third party said it was true that the spirits were displeased, but not on account of Mombera’s quarrel with Mtwaro, but because the tribe had given no heed to the message which we had brought to them. He instanced what seems to be a fact, that one of their fathers, who died while they wTere at Tanganyika, and who had never seen a white man, told them that in the course of their wanderings they would meet with white men who would be their friends, and to whom they must listen and be friendly. They were thus neglecting the advice given them, and the spirits were angry. It did not, however, occur to them that to obey was better than sacrifice ; so they renewed their offerings to appease the spirits, and after waiting for a time they were still disappointed. Several talked to us in a quiet, suspicious way, as if insinuating that we had better send rain to save ourselves. At length several councillors and a large number of men came over to us from the chiefs place. They came to ask us to pray to our God to send rain, as their own methods had entirely failed.

The councillor who spoke made an apology why they had not settled the question of schools. We asked him whether he had come to speak on that question or about the drought. He said it was the drought, so we said he did not need to introduce the subject of schools, as that had no connection with the drought, although we were glad to see that they still retained their sense that they had not treated the question as they ought to have done. We asked them if they came to us because they believed that we had the power of giving or withholding rain, and one of them replied, “We here to-day do not think so, but I cannot say that there are none who think so. We believe it is the spirits.” We said, “Why do you come asking us to pray for rain when you do not believe in our God?” “Oh,” he said, “just to see which is best.” We asked if they would give up their own beliefs, and permit us to instruct them in the Word of God if they found that our God answered our prayers; but no one replied. We then for more than an hour preached the Word to them, explaining how their ignorance made them think God was only to be sought when our own efforts failed. We pointed out that they themselves believed that when the spirits caused any calamity or, as they thought, withheld rain, they knew there was a reason for it, and the doctors were called to find out the reason, and in all cases it was in themselves ; and so, before they could expect rain, or what they wanted, they first offered sacrifices to satisfy the spirits; that we believed it was for something in us that God withheld his blessings, and so it was needful for us to repent; and that this feeling of the necessity of repentance and of a sacrifice proved that we were all similarly constituted, and that for us God had provided the sacrifice in the person of His own Son. It was a splendid opportunity for preaching and we had close attention.

We sympathised with them, and said we would make special prayer for rain in our meeting next day. They wanted us to go over and pray in the chief's cattle kraal; but we refused, for the reason that we wanted the people to come to our service on the station, and did not wish the Bible to be over at the chief’s on such an occasion, because they attached a superstitious importance to the Book. While we were engaged speaking, a war-party appeared on the road some distance from the house, and engaged in war-dances. We did not take any notice of it, although we knew it was a signal of defiance to us for something; and, as we afterwards learned, it was held in readiness so that if we had received them as they expected by saying, “You have refused our word for these years, why do you come now?” it would be called up to dance in front of the house, that being the only thing that the Ngoni can do when they are nonplussed. The councillors who were with us were uneasy, very uneasy, when the party came in sight, and no doubt felt relieved that we did not run for our fire-arms, like the neighbouring villagers, who were listening in the verandah, and who, on going home, found that their wives and children had fled up the hills behind the station.

We were never able to discover their real intention in coming with a regiment of armed men. It was only known to the councillors, and Mombera afterwards said he did not know either; but there may have been some idea of doing more than frightening us by it, because we saw another regiment making for Chinyera, where Mr Williams was at the time, and it remained in his vicinity for some time. Apparently some signal was made, and it returned to the chief’s kraal soon after the deputation withdrew. Great was the excitement among the Hoho people around the station, and notwithstanding their conduct towards us, they now declared that our cause was theirs, and that as they had brought us into the country they would have to die with us, as that had been determined, they said, by the councillors, should we not be able to give rain. That night, as during the evening, armed men had been gathering at the chief’s kraal, which was only a mile distant across the valley and in view of the station, so neither we nor the natives near us retired to rest. It was affirmed by all that we were to be attacked, and the natives set watchmen on all the ant-hills between us and the river. We did not so much fear an organised attack, as that some of the young bloods, excited by the war-dancing, might break out and fire the station, in the hope of really inducing war, and so “we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them.”

A touching word was spoken by old Kalengo, the father of our three adherents, who sat till far into the night with us at our house. He was a slave of the Ngoni from the Senga country, and had known the position of a slave in the tribe, till he became a witch-doctor. He feared the wild warriors who were collecting at the chief’s place, and said, “Well, I’ll go home to my own village now. If we hear the sound of war we will come to your house to die with you. We were nothing at all to anyone till you came among us; but at your house all are on the same level—we are not slaves.”

There was a large congregation in the church the next day, councillors and others having come from headquarters. Mr Koyi conducted the service, and expounded the ten commandments, as we do at every church-service. I addressed the people, telling them of droughts in South Africa, and such as we have at home sometimes, and the services held by Christians every year to thank God for the harvest. I read Isa. lix. 1-8, and connected that passage and Isa. lxviii. 6 with Malachi iii. 10, from which I spoke, Mr Koyi acting as interpreter. I pointed out what God desired in place of sacrifices, and as they would never think of praying to the spirits without first sacrificing, so we had to learn from God’s Word how we are to prepare our hearts to seek Him. A councillor who had killed a man just before then was present, and as I read, “Your hands are defiled with blood,” he cried out, “He is speaking out of his own head; that is not in the Book.” It showed, I think, that his conscience was not dead. So clearly did the Bible describe their thoughts and feelings that they believed that we knew from it all their thoughts.

None of the warriors had come to the service, and as they continued dancing at the royal kraal, we determined to watch again at night. About four in the morning slight rain began to fall, and we retired to rest. Next day we had agreed to hold another service to pray for rain, and at noon the people collected, some of the chief’s councillors being again present. At two o’clock, before the meeting had dispersed, heavy rain fell. This was the 18th of January, and seven weeks after the rain in November. The incident made a profound impression upon the minds of the natives, and no doubt indirectly, if not directly, advanced our work. The rain dispersed the assembled warriors, and the people again became engaged in planting operations, and quiet ensued for a time.

A few weeks after, on a Sunday, two councillors came to us with a sheep as a thank-offering for the rain. We refused the gift as we disclaimed having regulated the rain, and because, as we pointed out, they had sacrificed a score or more cattle to the spirits and received no rain from them, but confessed themselves beaten, while God, who had alone sent rain in answer to prayer, was to be paid by the gift of a sheep. They heard some plain-speaking and preaching and appeared glad when we allowed them to go, taking the sheep with them. The common people, who now began to be bolder in their attendance at the services, felt that we were being slighted too much by the councillors, and such an incident as the offering of the sheep was talked of far and near. It aided greatly in the furtherance of our interests, as all believed that by our prayers we could give or withhold rain, and considered that we should have accorded to us equal rights with the witch-doctors whose incantations had so signally failed.

The Sabbath meetings now became more firmly established, as the presence of the amaduna at the meetings held to pray for rain was taken by the common people as a recognition of them, and they were not afraid to come. The effect of the rain-question was to increase the interest of the people in the Book, and we were able greatly to extend our area of evangelistic work, and wherever we found the head of a village willing for a service to be held we visited his village regularly and preached. The attitude of the people towards us was more respectful and hearty, so we went on, rejoicing greatly. At the end of February there was a cessation of rain for about a week. Mombera had hanged a man for stealing cattle, and a deputation came to ask if we were offended at this and had stopped the rain. We again had the ear of the amaduna and tried to teach them the Word of God, and upbraided them for having left off attending the services.

That rainy season was a remarkable one, and the natives still remember and speak of it. Kain fell on one day in November, nine days in January, eleven in February, twenty in March, and four in April, i.e. on forty-five days, and only reached the exceptionally small amount of nineteen inches, yet the best harvest I have seen in Ngoniland followed. The rain fell in gentle showers and suited the character of the country. The natives say that they never had such a convenient rainy season, as it rained at night and did not prevent their work in the gardens during the day. The natives usually suffered from want of corn in the interval between sowing and reaping, as insufficient stores were made to carry them on to the harvest, and at the time of which we write, as the harvest was late there was great hunger. We had an opportunity of showing the Hoho people, who had been very troublesome and unkind to us, that we could warmly interest ourselves in their life and try to help them in time of need. We distributed a considerable quantity of beads among them, to enable them to trade with those who might have food for sale. I am afraid our kindness was not duly appreciated by all. The heads of the villages were called to the house, and beginning with the oldest we gave out the beads. The Chipatulas were consequently placed among the last and were very indignant and rude to us, as they considered we had slighted them in giving to others—and to slaves —before giving to them. The encouragement received from these men a little later on was not very marked. After their beads were used up, and the hunger still continuing, we offered to give them letters to our friends at Bandawe for which they would get loads of flour if they would send down their villagers, but we were told that we should get the Tonga who usually carry our goods to bring it up, and they would receive it. I do not quote these incidents as illustrative of all the natives, but for many a day it seemed that the people were unable to appreciate a kind act, and took it as an exhibition of our simplicity on which they desired to impose further.

In June we had to undergo one of our greatest trials when William Koyi was removed by death. Not till then had I fully felt the responsibilities of the work, or so great a sense of loneliness and helplessness among the Ngoni. In a brief biography of our friend I have tried to tell something of our loss by his death, and how I loved him, so that it is unnecessary to say more in this place.

While we were mourning the death of our comrade, Mr Williams and I were rejoicing that the restrictions on our work were being removed, and our position receiving more general recognition. It was while Mr Koyi was on his deathbed that there was a meeting of the chief, the sub-chiefs (his brothers), and their head-men. For some years there had been a feud between Mombera and his brother Mtwaro at Ekwen-deni, and the permission we had asked to visit the latter had always been refused. As he was heir-apparent it seemed to us advisable to make his acquaintance, and we regretted Mombera’s refusal. In the middle of 1886 the action of Mombera in having consulted us in regard to the rain, and seemingly having come under our power, stirred up the hatred of the other sections of the tribe. A desperate attempt was made by the disaffected in the council to overthrow the chieftainship of Mombera and openly follow their own ways. Again our prayers were heard, and after the turmoil of several days, the matter ended by Mombera and Mtwaro becoming reconciled, notwithstanding the opposition of some who desired the enmity to exist, in order to aid their effort to break up the tribe into sections. The four brothers pledged their friendship, and the kingdom was maintained intact. That and other matters were settled in open council, but the question of our presence and work was taken up in private by the chief, his brothers, and the councillors. This was no doubt owing to the presence of large armed escorts which had come with the sub-chiefs; in them the war instinct was active, and they were eager for the excitement of open discussion.

What was said and done in private we do not know, but we were informed next day by a deputation representing each party in the council, that we must understand that we were free to preach the Gospel, and teach the children in every part of the country. They expressed the hope that, iustead of confining our work to the people around one station, we would open stations in each of the principal divisions of the tribe. We learned afterwards that Mombera was accused of receiving goods from us, and that the principal thought in their minds was, that by having a resident white man at each sub-chiefs village they would also share in the spoil. There was full proof of this eighteen months afterwards, as will be seen further on; but it was evident also that the growth of popular feeling in our favour was proving an uncomfortable fact in the mind of the chiefs, and they were compelled to open the country to us. I wrote home at the time as follows:—“I can point to no particular incident closely connected with the happy change in the feelings of the people; but nothing more satisfactory can be said than that the cumulative force of the Christian life and teaching of those resident here has slowly but surely produced its natural effects on their minds. Various incidents, such as the rain question last January, could be cited as distinct stages of advance, but no part of our work has been without its power; and I believe that the patient waiting of the past years will be amply justified and rewarded in the results of the future.

“They do not desire to engage in war, and the only advocate for war at the council meeting was shouted down by the assembled councillors. Since Mr Koyi’s death a deputation of councillors came from the chief, on account of a rumour having been spread that since the country here seems to kill all our fellow-workers we would now leave. The chief sent them to say that we must not leave, but consider our position the same as if their special friend Mr Koyi had lived. To us a few days before Mombera said, c I understand your work to be such that if deaths do occur it will still go on. God gave us life, and He can take us away when He pleases, and we cannot say aught.’ We assured him that he had spoken rightly, and told him that though we should die there would be others who would carry on the work. Though teaching was proscribed, we have three youths reading the New Testament, and others coming on rapidly. Most of these are also earnestly striving to know God and walk in His ways, and from among these we will find helpers when we formally open school.

“ Our position and prospects are cheering. Mr Williams has agreed to extend his engagement for two years meantime; but as he must now reside here the station at Chinyera occupied by him will be closed, except on Sundays, when one of us will walk over and conduct services at one or more villages. A good climate and extensive opportunities for service can be offered here, and I trust the Committee will be able speedily to fill the place of Mr Koyi. We should with another helper be able now to itinerate, which is a method of work which would be greatly appreciated here by the people. To fully equip the station, an ordained missionaiy should be sent, for we have hopes that a native church will be very soon established here.”

Mtwaro had also a personal interest in becoming reconciled to Mombera and in professing an interest in us. Some time before he had sent a messenger to me requesting my presence at his kraal in order to treat an affection in his left knee-joint. I sent back the reply that I would gladly come to him if he would first obtain Mom-bera's consent, as I had been refused permission to visit him. He (Mtwaro) had heard of the medical work and desired the benefit of it in his own case. When we were permitted, as I have related, to visit Mtwaro I went to him, but medical treatment was unsatisfactory on account of the superstition of his head-men, who would not allow me to touch or examine the knee-joint. My visit enabled me to know the expectations of the people, and their begging for cloth was most irritating and trying, but was satisfactory in so far that the ice was broken and another door opened for our work. I was, however, not allowed into the village, but had to pitch my tent outside in the bush. In the middle of the night I found myself alone, with the hyenas sniffing round the tent at my elbow, as my men had crept away to the warmth of the huts. During the day the people crowded round the tent, and more than one hand could be seen pushed under the canvas at one time to pull out whatever they could grasp. With the exception of Mr John W. Moir who had visited him in 1879, no white man had met Mtwaro before at his kraal.

We were encouraged when harvest came round by finding among the people, in some of the villages where we conducted services, a desire to have a special meeting to thank God for the crop about to be reaped. They said God had given them the harvest, and they should thank Him for it before they began to reap. Thus for the first time in Ngoniland, on the people’s initiative, a heathen custom,—the feast of first-fruits,—was replaced by a service of praise to Almighty God. It was the more encouraging as it came from the villagers among whom the Word had been longest preached, and was in marked contrast to the ignorant talk of those who were not instructed. A large and hearty service was held, and then they set about gathering in their crops.

In August I left for Mandala and returned with my wife in the beginning of October. The reception accorded us on our arrival was very warm, and an explanation was given of the scanty respect shown on some former occasions. The chief said, “Yesterday you were a boy; today you are a man and can speak.” The Ngoni accorded the privileges of manhood, such as transacting of business, to married men, and as long as I was unmarried it was contrary to their habit to have to treat with unmarried persons whom they considered to be boys. It is undoubtedly the case that the married state has been more helpful to the progress of the work than the unmarried had been.

We were not long in starting a school when we obtained permission, and from the first we had two natives, who were able to read, to help us in the work. They were two of those who had been taught in the evenings and they proved a great help. After the first fortnight, the whole of the sixty children attending came and demanded their pay for learning the Book. When they found they were not to be paid, they refused to come, and again the Chipatulas showed their hand in preventing them from coming because we also refused to pa)7 them for allowing the children to come. The two native teachers, however, from among those in their village were able to collect twenty-two scholars, and so again the school went on, that being the number in attendance for nearly a year.

When the school was fairly started, Mombera sent the ominous warning, “You must not cultivate your garden merely in one place,” meaning that the jealousy of the others would be aroused if we did not immediately begin schools in their districts. We explained that on account of distance that could not be accomplished until we were reinforced from home, and went quietly on with our work at Njuyu, making efforts to extend our influence in the new districts. Our efforts in the latter direction revealed how much the questions of war and cloth were mixed up with their talk about schools and preaching, and discounted their professed acceptance of our work. It was increasingly evident that we could not rely on political changes, or edicts of councils to establish the work among them, and we therefore bore with their ignorant conclusions and temporal expectations, and strove to have the spiritual power in the work which would establish and extend it. As we had been long in getting a commencement made in school work, we determined that the schools should be evangelistic agencies, and the workers in them only those whose lives were consistent with their profession. The question arose regarding one who was a polygamist, although in other respects consistent, being allowed to teach, and his offer of service was declined until he should dissolve his polygamous connections. In after years the wisdom of this step was revealed.

The year 1886 closed with one school in progress and evangelistic work being carried on at six or seven centres. A new era had begun in Ngoniland.


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