Andrew Murray's Work for Women in Africa

Ellen C. Wood

"Wanted, for Livingstonia Mission, 100,000 new missionaries!" Such is the call sent home by the Scotch missionaries in Nyassaland, Africa, and they continue: "Our title is literally true. At present we are surrounded with great opportunities for extension. Where from the arrival of the white man with God's message, there has been stolid indifference, or even fierce opposition, to-day there come deputations of old men and young, saying: 'We too would learn; send us teachers.' And we sit before them and say: 'Fathers, brothers, would that we were able! But you must wait and God will send His messengers some day.' And they say: 'We have waited. Why do you despise us? And our heads are bowed as we reply, 'Brothers, sometime you too will hear.'"

Is this call too extravagant? Think of the millions in East Central Africa decimated by the Arab slave trade. Think of those in the great Congo "Free State." How can their need be uttered?

"Years ago," writes Mr. Cameron of the B. M. S. of England, "when the angel of death seemed to be let loose in Congo, and each succeeding mail brought news of death, the churches counted the cost and resolved that the work should be carried on. The call for men was never more urgent than it is now, for the need was never so well known as it is now."

But with the name "Central Africa" comes the thought to many—"How can I give my son to die in the fever stricken districts of that great land?"

"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear," and may we not say that to Rev. Andrew Murray of Wellington. He has made known a way to reach these millions without this terrible loss of life.

It is said that the term of service in Central Africa for the missionary from over the seas rarely exceeds six years, but the white natives of South Africa, acclimated for generations, are but slightly affected by the dreaded fevers.

Fifty years ago Rev. Andrew Murray, the second, was ordained by the Dutch Reformed Church, and given the Transvaal and Orange Free State for his pastorate. He says, when asked what first roused his interest in education: "I was in charge of five congregations in the Orange Free State and could not visit some neighborhoods more than twice or thrice a year. At the large gatherings for service I often had fifty or sixty babies to baptize, and in two successive years I paid two six weeks' visits to the Transvaal, and each time baptized over six hundred children. I felt deeply what a responsibility was resting on the church for them."

This interest deepened, and when a copy of the "Life of Mary Lyon" was lent to him, he realized that in all South Africa there was no school for the Christian training of young women, and he wrote to Mt Holyoke College to ask if any graduate there would come to Wellington and organize a school to meet this need. Miss Ferguson and Miss Bliss responded and the school opened in February, 1873. Mr. Murray says: "We had in our call for pupils said that we should be glad if some who had already left school were to join us, to be helped in their preparation for devoting their lives to their fellow men. The response was beyond our expectation. The school opened with fifty pupils, of whom the larger number were filled with high purposes. Their presence helped at the start to create an atmosphere in the school home, of which the influence was felt in following years."

The following words from Miss Ferguson show how earnest was the spirit among the forty boarding students.

"They first gave themselves unto the Lord. It was a blessed time. There were sixteen who were His and then one after another they came until all of our forty were on the Lord's side. Then they came and said, 'May we gather the children on the street for a Sunday school?' and so they began to tell the sweet story." Since that day Huguenot Seminary students have in this Sunday school gained practical experience to fit them for future work.

The Seminary so begun has grown, until more than four hundred and fifty students are to-day studying within its walls, and four hundred more are accommodated in four branches, all under the direct care of the original founders.

From year to year the standard of work was raised to enable the students to meet the demands the government made in its examinations for teachers, for many of the students expect to support themselves after leaving the Seminary.

The girls come from all parts of Africa south of the Zambezi River, some from busy towns, others from lonely farms far out on the Great Karoo. Some return to their own homes and gather around them classes of little black children. More than six hundred have gone out as teachers, many into large schools where their earnest Christianity has done much for the pupils. Young women who have taken high rank in examinations, have accepted small salaries in small places that they might do the Lord's work.

Side by side with intellectual advancement has gone quiet but deep and earnest effort to bring every pupil to a saving knowledge of the love of Christ. Miss Bliss says of Miss Ferguson, "During these years she has been the means, in God's hands, of leading a great number of her girls very tenderly and wisely to the Saviour's feet, and of training them for whole-hearted service."

"'O Chally, Chally,' said a dying African woman to Du Chaillu, the great traveler, as he ministered to her, 'won't you tell them to send us the gospel just a little faster!” Amid the spiritual life which Mr. Murray and his helpers fostered in the Seminary such calls as this were heeded, and one after another pledged herself for direct mission work.

Fifty-one students have gone into the field, seven to the Lake Nyassa district, from which country comes the appeal which heads this article. Within the years during which this station, Mvera, Lake Nyassa, has been opened, six foreign-born missionaries at the Scotch station, Livingstonia, have passed over to their reward, while none of those from South Africa have succumbed to the fever; and of the fifty-one in mission work but few have suffered severely. Does this not prove to us that Mr. Murray has opened a way by which Africa may be evangelized?

Francini Malan, one of the graduates, says after several years in Banyailand: "When I went to Banyailand five years ago I did not know what the heathen were: now I know; I did not know what food one must eat: now I know; I did not know what fever is: now I know; but God has laid on my heart such a longing for the souls of those poor Banyai that I must go back to them, though it means leaving my baby girl. The romance of mission work has gone, but the reality of heathenism, the command of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit remain, and I could not abandon the work if I would and would not if I could."

As years rolled on it became evident that the women of South Africa were ready for higher education, and as Mt. Holyoke has become a college, in 1898 a college department was added to the Huguenot Seminary, and students can now fit themselves to occupy the highest positions in the land, places which have heretofore been held by Europeans or Americans. But a very small number can avail themselves of this privilege, for coming as most of the students do from farms or small towns, they do not possess enough money to take long courses. Even in the Seminary and Training School many can stay but for a year or even a term, going back for a year's teaching to enable them to come for another term or year. A fund from which a deserving pupil can obtain financial aid has been started, and when a better training enables her to secure a better salary she is asked to pay back part or all of the sum loaned her. Friends in America are assisting in these scholarships and more such aid would be warmly welcomed by Mr. Murray and Miss Ferguson. Mr. Murray also established in 1877 a training seminary for missionaries. Here a much simpler course of study is required than for ordinary pastors. The students are ordained simply as missionaries and they do a work which could not be carried on by any other agency. The income from Mr. Murray's books is largely devoted to the support of this school.

From this training school some six missionaries go out every year.

David Brainerd said (and it applies to many of these students): "This I saw, that when a soul loves God with a supreme love. God's interests and his are become one. It is no matter when nor where nor how Christ should send me, nor what trials He should exercise me with, if I may be prepared for His work and will."

We may have a share in this great work of Mr. Murray's, which is but slightly sketched here. The school offers educational opportunities at very low charges, and what has been said of scholarships for the college applies equally to the Seminary.

Taken from Record of Christian work, Volume 18, edited by Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, pp. 232-234.