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The work in the Tripoli field has been carried on by two colporteurs, besides the work done in the mission depot. They have travelled together, partly for the sake of self-defense, as some districts are not very safe, and partly because one of them is more gifted in expounding the Scriptures and leading men to buy. They have worked about 220 days, and have travelled about 1,500 miles, visiting on an average a town or village each day, or some 250 in all, though many of these were places revisited. They travelled in the region north of Tripoli, largely in the Nusairi Mountains, where they sold the larger portion of the Scriptures disposed of. The sales, though not large, were fairly good considering the people they have had to work anong -ignorant, degraded, and bigoted. The Nusairi are little better than heathen in their religious belief. Though claimed as a sect of the Mohammedans, they are heretical, and have little of the doctrines of Islam. Their rites, so far as they have any worship, partake more of fire worship or sun worship than of the one God of Islam. The colporteurs in their reports frequently mention the discussions they were drawn into by these Nusairi, who found it very difficult to admit the divinity of Christ, or that he should die were he the Son of God. They have few schools, and it is no wonder that most are unable to read and that few should care to purchase Scriptures. The sales among them were chiefly books of the Old Testament, especially the Proverbs. The Maronites visited were more inaccessible, if anything, than the Nusairi. They are so much under the dominion of the priests that, they do not dare to purchase the Scriptures. In one village a priest ; took a Gospel and began reading it, not knowing what it was ; but when he discovered its nature he cast it aside in dismay, and called for water to wash his defiled hands. In one village the colporteurs were asked whether the Apostles used to eat and drink like other men. When assured by them that they did, and that Christ did likewise, the man who asked the question exclaimed, “What blasphemy is this !” and would have no more. These incidents serve to show the ignorance of the people, but sometimes it was more than ignorance they had to meet. At one village the priest contended with them and spoke against the Bible, and in order to silence them asked if they could perform miracles, pretending that the bishop could. The head man of the village proposed to slay the colporteurs and offer a cup of their blood as a sacrifice--a mild threat that they took with becoming gravity. However, it is evident that they had no easy task to sell Bibles among such a people, and we need not be surprised at their lack of success.
In the Sidon field there have been no colporteurs the past year and no distribution work, except that done by the mission depot in the city of Sidon. A colporteur has been engaged for the coming year.
In the Zahleh district also there has been no colporteur. Effort has been made to secure a suitable person, but so far without success. There is a very promising candidate in prospect, but he cannot be secured for some months yet. The sales from the depot have been small.
In the Latakia district the work has been chiefly restricted to the central station. One colporteur was employed during six months in the Swadia district by the Mission, but his sales were so small that they thought best to discontinue his work July 1st. The field seems a difficult one.
The people are largely Nusairi, to whom were sold most of the books disposed of. In the depot at Latakia the sales have been small. The region around Latakia has been closed to Bible work as well as all mission work by the extreme measures of the government. It was useless to send out any colporteurs, as they would have been imprisoned.
From a perusal of the above reports it will be at once perceived that the work of this Agency has not been carried on during the past year without encountering very serious obstacles. Colporteurs have to an unusual extent been hindered in their work either by their own illness or the illness of their families. We have not previously known a year when this has been true to the same extent. But in addition to ordinary sicknesses the ravages of cholera and the embarrassments of quarantine have very appreciably diminished the possibilities of systematic effort. And then to crown all, in regard to relations with Turkish officials, the year has been å stormy one. We have been obliged to make heavy drafts upon the time and patience and courtesy of the United States Legation. We are extremely grateful for what the Legation has done, and for all the aid it has rendered. But we confess to an increasing conviction of the need of a more vigorous support for the Legation on the part of the Washington Government.
We can scarcely be censured for looking forward to the uncertainties of the future with much apprehension. But our colportage is now thoroughly organized and in good working order. Much energy and much enthusiasm, on the part of those engaged in it, are consecrated to the work; and on the part of the people we think we cannot be mistaken in interpreting the indications as emphasizing their readiness to welcome and encourage Bible distribution more and more among all classes of the population in this empire.
PERSIA. From the report sent by Mr. Whipple the following particulars are gathered:
During the last twenty-five years Persia has suffered from two scourges of cholera, two of famine, one of black plague, and one of war. While these have had damaging effects upon business interests of all kinds as well as upon the distribution of the Scriptures, we have reason to believe that the people have learned some valuable lessons. One effect has been to break down deep-rooted Moslem prejudices against Christians in general, and missionaries in particular. Another is the gradual and manifest weakening of the Moslem belief in fatalism. During the first siege of cholera few of the “ faithful” fled from the city : in last summer's epidemic every one who could did so. Again, the exemption of Christian communities from fatal cases of cholera has
been most marked. In the Oroomiah field, with over two thousand church-members, not one communicant died of the cholera-only one in Tabreez, one in Teheran, none in Halmas. This leads the Moslems to question whether they may not be mistaken in their doctrines. They say to one another : “If these unclean infidels are spared so remarkably, while we, the faithful, are swept away like flies, what are we to think? God is great. Possibly they are correct and we are mistaken.” Such things lead us to believe that a rich blessing is in store for this interesting land.
Much difficult and faithful work was done by our colporteurs in 1892, though unfortunately corresponding results in the aggregate circulation of the Scriptures cannot be reported.
In the Teheran field one of our helpers, Meerza David, who has had charge of our book-room in Meshad for many years, has been removed by death. I have sent Meerza Yahyah there to take charge temporarily. He made tours previously to Khorasan, of which Meshad is the capital. Besides canvassing the regions north, west, and south of the Teheran field, he has visited in all about 160 villages, towns, and cities. Another colporteur confined his labors to the capital and its vicinity, including the villages and summer resorts on the plains and mountain side. The cholera in this region was very severe—at least twenty-five thousand died. Persians as well as foreigners fled, and the city was in the main deserted. Succor was given to the needy in the American hospital by the members of the Presbyterian Mission.
From Hamadan two colporteurs were sent on a three months' tour, in which they visited thirty-two villages, but were not able to sell many Scriptures because a visit of the Shah with an immense retinue had greatly impoverished the people.
On the three plains of Oroomiah a house-to-house visitation has been inaugurated to ascertain how many families had or had not the Bible, and to supply the destitute as far as possible.
The colporteur in the mountains of Koordistan makes lugubrious report of his hardships, tramping in deep shows or working in burning heat. For several weeks he with other Nestorian Christians was imprisoned in a filthy prison by the Turkish authorities, and they were nearly starved and frozen before they were released.
The usual canvassing has been done by our colporteur on the plains of Salmas. Two colporteurs whom I had sent to Ghilan, on the Caspian coast, returned in March, and one of them afterward went to Djulfa, to travel along the valley of the Aras on the borders of Russia. He had access to a large number of laborers congregated at a place on their way to Russia in search of employment. Late in the autumn I sent the same men to Resht; they will not return till spring, but write they are meeting with encouraging sales. After one of our colporteurs had visited Toptop, I had a call from some men from that region who came to ask that I would send that “seller of books” back to the place to explain to them the meaning of the books he had sold them. About thirty villages were visited in the mountainous country of Karadagh.
One of our colporteurs, who accompanied an evangelist from the Presbyterian Mission on a tour among the Koords in the Maragha region, witnessed the baptism of a prominent Koordish sheik, who has under his authority about 20,000 men. His conversion is the fruit of Bible distribution, for it was a Testament he bought from one of our colporteurs that taught him the story of Christ. His brother and other friends have come with him into the Christian fold.
TOURS BY THE AGENT. I visited Oroomiah in the spring, going from there to Mosul on the Tigris, opposite to ancient Nineveh. Thence down the Tigris on a raft of inflated skins to Bagdad, returning home by way of Kermansha, Hamadan, and Teheran. In the autumn I attended the annual meeting of the West Persia Mission at Haftdewan in Salmas, and went again to Oroomiah. These journeys gave me the opportunity of visiting all our principal stations, and occupied one hundred and ten days. I travelled on horseback about two thousand miles.
Twenty-three colporteurs have been employed, who spent 6,335 days in the Society's service and visited five hundred villages, towns, and cities. They sold 423 Bibles, 1,133 Testaments, and 1,211 Portions—2,767 volumes in all.
INDIA. The accounts received from the Madras Mission of the Reformed Church relate only to the distribution of the Scriptures made in the year 1891. The number of volumes put into the hands of the people is not given, but the secretary of the Mission says: “Please convey the hearty thanks of the Arcot Mission to the American Bible Society for its generous donation of funds, and for the liberal aid which it has always afforded us in carrying on our Bible work. Almost our sole dependence in that work is your Society, and we trust that they will give us another donation this year also.” Dr. Jacob Chamberlain writes:
In these days, when Satan is copying Christian methods, when “Hindu Tract Societies” are issuing publications by the hundred thousand, many of which attack the Bible most fiercely, telling all sorts of blasphemous falsehoods about it, and when the myriads of village schools are turning out unwonted hordes of readers, there is more need than ever to press the circulation of God's own word; and this we are glad to help you to do if you will place funds in our hands for the purpose.
From the Madura Mission of the American Board the Rev. II. C. Ilazen reports the sale and donation, in 1891, of 208 Bibles, 339 Testaments, and 3,796 Portions; and in
1892 of 284 Bibles, 279 Testaments, and 3,753 Portions.
As the Madras Bible Society has several colporteurs now at work in our field, our Bible work consists mainly in gifts to the very poor, and in selling at half-price to those of small means. Allow me to express the thanks of the Madura Mission to the Bible Society for the generous donations it has made to aid us, which have enabled us to place a copy of God's word in the hands of many poor people who would otherwise have been left without this heavenly manna. It has been especially helpful in the way of furnishing Bibles to the orphans and very poor pupils in our boarding schools.
There are many instances of these persons being led to the Saviour by the study of the Bible. The Bible Society's money enters into every part of our work, and is a help to us whichever way we turn. We endeavor to make the people pay for the Scriptures whenever it is possible, in order that they may prize and preserve the book; but the masses of the people are so poor that the price must be very low or they will not buy, Now especially, when famine is staring at us on every hand, the Bible sales must cease unless we can make the price merely nominal,
SIAM AND LAOS.
Mr. Carrington's report tells what has been done in the printing and circulation of the Scriptures on this field:
TRANSLATION AND PRINTING.—In addition to other labors, I have translated from the Hebrew into Siamese the Song of Solomon, and hope to review the translation again and again before it is put to press. Mrs. Dr. McGilvary and her son, Rev. E. B. McGilvary, are, I suppose, busy with Scripture translation in Laos, and by this time the Rev. Mr. Wilson may be through with the revision of his own Laos translation of the Psalms. As Mr. Phraner, by whom I sent to Cheung Mai 500 ticals for the printing of Matthew in pure Laos, arrived safely, I presume that work is already in the press, or will be soon.
For the printing in Siamese done at the press of the Presbyterian Mission much is due to the ability, energy, and carefulness of the manager, Rev. J. B. Dunlap. Twenty-three thousand Portions of the Scriptures have been printed, and this number would have been greater had not the removal of the press to a different part of the city caused a suspension of printing for some weeks. These Portions have all been in Siamese, and have cost the Agent a great deal of care. He las carefully examined every line, and himself corrected most of the proofs.
HOPEFUL SIGNS.—Among the hopeful indications for the immediate future, we note an increased readiness of the people, especially of the women, to buy the Scriptures. Siam is different from most Oriental countries in that the women have a large place on the farm, in the