(FROM: PERIODICAL ACCOUNTS, 28, 1-19, 53-72)
In presenting a brief history of the Labrador Mission to our readers we follow the custom which has obtained for a lengthened period in this missionary publication. We do so in the hope that it may prove welcome and edifying to many who take a warm and intelligent interest in missionary work, and with the conviction that we thereby act in accordance with the sentiment of the Psalmist, "showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done, . . . that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God." (Ps. lxxxviii. 4,7.)
In the year 1771 the first mission station in Labrador was established at Nain.
At this early date but little was known of the country and its inhabitants, although the influential mercantile Company which derives its name from the enterprising navigator Henry Hudson, and the bay discovered by him in the year 1612, had for more than a century occupied trading posts in it. It seems that the Company's ships rarely, if ever, touched on the coast of Labrador on the way to and from their stations; only a few vessels from Newfoundland occasionally visited the southern portion of the country for the sake of carrying on barter traffic with the natives. These were called Eskimoes, a race distinct from the Indians who lived inland, and generally hostile to them. All accounts agreed in representing them as heathen of the worst stamp, treacherous, cruel and bloodthirsty in their dealings, with scarcely a trace of religion of any kind, enslaved by the darkest superstition, and entirely ruled by the powerful influence of their sorcerers.
In harmony with the character of the people was the aspect of the country according to the reports received, which subsequent experience more than confirmed. A bleak rocky country extending from Cape Webuck in the south to Cape Chudleigh in the north, comprises within Lat. 55-60 degrees N. and Long. 60-65 degrees W. the whole territory under the direct and indirect influence of the Labrador mission. The coast is indented with bays, none of them of large dimensions, and in many parts fringed with islands of bare rock, with scarcely any vegetation. Pinewoods are to be met with in the southern portion and in sheltered places further north, but the trees are mostly stunted /2/ in growth, and even in the most favoured spots the soil is scanty and unproductive. Add to this an arctic climate, mainly characterized by very severe cold [NOTE: a temperature of about twenty degrees below zero of Fahrenheit, or about fifty degrees below freezing, is by no means uncommon in the winter.] during a winter of at least six months' duration, causing the coast to remain frequently ice-bound till far into the month of June, and scarcely giving away to a genial warmth during the brief season of summer, and a picture is formed of a country and people, than which few could be found less tempting and inviting as an object of interest and a sphere of labour. Hence it is scarcely a matter of surprise that the missionary work of the Brethren's Church in this field, presenting as it did at its commencement many of the romantic and heroic features of missionary life, soon attracted attention and admiration, not only on the part of Christian people in many lands, but also among not a few who could faintly sympathize with the great object of the work, viz., winning souls for Christ. This interest the Labrador mission continues to enjoy down to the present day, and it is abundantly manifested by the many generous gifts, which the missionary-ship at each annual voyage takes out to the brethren and sisters as well as to the Eskimoes.
The difficulties encountered in the establishment and maintenance of an efficient work under the very peculiar circumstances of the country and people have proved very great and discouraging. The Eskimoes are a nomadic race, dependent for food and clothing almost entirely on their success in hunting and fishing. On land they find bears, wolves, reindeer, and especially foxes, whose furs are of considerable value, while the sea offers a great variety of fish (especially the cod), and seals, the latter animal being, as is well known, the mainstay of the Eskimo's life. The rivers too, though of small size, afford abundance of trout and salmon. To frequent the various suitable hunting and fishing grounds the natives have to leave the station for many weeks or even months at a time, taking their families with them and residing in their skin-tents, subject to hardships and exposures, under which any ordinary constitution would necessarily succumb. Thus for a considerable portion of the year the natives are removed from the watchful paternal care of the missionaries, their children do not attend the schools, and all are exposed to a variety of temptations to gross sin, to which some are always found to give way.
The language, too, is a great hindrance; it is so unlike any European tongue, that missionaries rarely feel at all home in its use, until they have resided for several years in the country. It would have been an immense saving of time and labour, if the attempt had at once been made to substitute either the English or the German language for the Eskimo, placing therewith a wealth of valuable literature within their reach to fill up a void, which must always make itself painfully felt to the missionary. Now the time for such a step seems past, as the nation is evidently dwindling away. [NOTE: The number of Eskimoes at the five mission stations decreased between the years 1856 to 1866 from 1204 to 1048 persons. To the north of Hebron there are heathen Eskimoes to the number of about 150 souls, and south of Hopedale a few more, who have intermarried with settlers and fishermen of many nationalities. The decrease in the number of the people is attributed to epidemic diseases, which have at times carried off many, and also to the fact that the persistent addiction of the people to European articles of food and clothing have tended to weaken the constitution, and deprive them of the power to bear the hard and exposed life, which is their appointed lot in the Providence of God.] A striking proof of the /3/ great disadvantage resulting from the linguistic obstacle is the fact, that only in the present year the Eskimo translation of the Bible will be completely in print, although the brethren have for many years laboured at the translation and revision of the work. It must be added, however, that the numerous and varied duties of an external character, which necessarily devolve on the missionary in addition to his calling as evangelist and pastor, leave very little time for literary pursuits.
In spite of these and other serious impediments, the mission in Labrador has proved under God's blessing a decided success, and it may be said that the Eskimoes are now a Christian people. It is true that there are still a few heathen in the far north, for whom it is hoped that in this year a station will be established with a resident missionary, and that among those who are called after the name of Christ there are some, who are averse from walking in His ways; in this respect alas! only too faithfully resembling the so- called Christian community at home. But by far the bulk of the people have from their early years learnt to know the truth as it is in Jesus, and many have become His disciples in deed and in truth, shewing forth in their lives and deaths "the praises of Him, who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light." (1 Peter ii. 9.) They in many respects resemble children with their pleasant and trying peculiarities, and those who labour among them need much grace to enable them to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," and as wise fathers with loving patience and gentle firmness guide and form their progress unto the perfect manhood in Christ Jesus.
A few words on the means by which this mission has been supported will here be not out of place, before we proceed to the history. [NOTE: All reference to the remarkable history of the Society's missionary ships, which for more than a hundred years have been permitted to perform their annual voyage to Labrador, without serious harm of any kind and without the loss of a single life, though often in the most perilous situations amid ice and rocks and raging storms, is here omitted, as the last Volume of the Periodical Accounts contained a reprint of an interesting narrative, detailing its most remarkable features. Originally this account was from the able pen of the late Secretary, Br. Peter LaTrobe. (See Per. Accounts, Vol. xxvii. p. 93.).] From the very commencement a barter trade with the natives was carried on, which under God's blessing sufficed to meet almost the entire expense. The missionary ship, which annually conveys the missionaries and their supplies, and forms the only channel of intercourse with Europe, takes out such articles as are required by the Eskimoes, and brings home their oil, furs, and fish. By this means the earnings of the poor natives are increased, a stimulus is given to their industry, and their temporal welfare is advanced, while at the /4/ same time the intercourse with the crews of fishing vessels, who come from Newfoundland to parts of the coast, and often prove dangerous and undesirable associates to the unstable Eskimoes, is greatly diminished. The brethren who are employed in this trade, are considered to be engaged in missionary service, they carry on the work solely for the benefit of the Eskimoes, and it is their strength and support in a position that is often very trying to flesh and blood to know, that they are helpers in the Lord's great work. The church of the Brethren has always held that efforts of this kind with a view to the amelioration of the position of those to whom they brought the Gospel, and their advancement in civilization are perfectly legitimate, and need no apology to Christian friends. Those who are best acquainted with the advantages arising from this system, especially for a country like Labrador, regard with regret the attempts, which have of late years been made by the Hudson's Bay Company to interfere with and hinder its operations. The Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel among the Heathen, which undertakes among its various incumbencies the sole management of this trade, is well aware that the day may come, when it will be impossible by this means to provide for the welfare of the poor Eskimoes and the support of the mission, and it is certain that then the Lord will graciously supply other ways and means for the attainment of these objects. For the present, however, the work will continue to be carried on in faith as hitherto, in the name of the Lord, whose blessing has thus far been vouchsafed in so striking a manner, that the hearts of all engaged in it have been continually filled with thanks and praises.
In the year 1750 a pious sailor, John Christian Ehrhardt, who was a member of the Brethren's Church, proposed to commence a mission among the Eskimoes in Labrador. At that time this form of Christian work was no longer a novelty, for the mission to the negro slaves in the West Indies, the natives of Greenland, and the North American Indians had been in successful operation for several years. Nine years previously Erdhardt had visited the island of St. Thomas as a sailor on board a Dutch vessel, and had there come in contact with Frederick Martin, whose name ranks high amongst the witnesses for Christ, who went forth from the infant church at Herrnhut. Through the simple, warmhearted preaching of this truly apostolic missionary the sailor was converted. [NOTE: Frederick Martin died in the island of St. Croix in the year 1750, after a most faithful and unwearied missionary service of fourteen years; he was favoured to see great success attending his labours in the islands of St. Thomas, St. Jan, and St. Croix, and his name is still held in high honour by the negroes.] In the year 1749 he went on a voyage to Greenland in the Brethren's ship Irene, under the command of Captain Garrison, where he spent a winter, and made himself acquainted with the work there. Here he heard of the heathen living on the opposite side of Davis' Straits, and was confirmed in his idea that they resembled the Greenlanders in their character, customs and language by the narrative of an Arctic voyager, who had visited the far north in search of the North-west /5/ passage. On his return to Europe he urgently requested the brethren, who at that time directed the affairs of the Unity, to send the Gospel to the poor heathen in Labrador.
The proposal was taken up, though not without some hesitation, [NOTE: Count Zinzendorf did not warmly advocate this undertaking, though he did not in any way oppose it. This circumstance is the more remarkable, as he was generally foremost in organizing and encouraging missionary efforts of every kind, wherever opportunity offered.] and after consultation with Matthew Stach, an experienced missionary, who came from Greenland to London to give his advice, it was determined in the first instance to attempt, if possible, to obtain access to Labrador through the instrumentality of the Hudson's Bay Company. The request was to send missionaries to the Company's trading stations was, however, not acceded to. A London merchant of the name of Nisbet came to the aid of the brethren in their dilemma. He resolved in company with two other brethren, Grace and Bell, to fit out a trading vessel, which was to visit that part of the coast not held by the Hudson's Bay Company, and Ehrhardt was, at the recommendation of Captain Garrison, appointed to take the lead in the expedition.
On the 17th of May, 1752, the little company of four brethren besides Ehrhardt, set sail from London in the ship Hope, which was chartered for the voyage. Their instructions were to land at the first suitable spot, put up a block-house, which they took with them, and apply themselves at once to the difficult task of mastering the language of the natives, and winning a footing among them.
The coast of Labrador was sighted on the 11th of July, and after some time a bay (subsequently called Cod Bay) was found where they could anchor. On landing they took possession of the country in the name of King George the Third of England, carving his name in the stem of a tree. Proceeding up the coast they met the first Eskimoes, a company of five men in their kayaks, on the 29th of July. These received the strangers with fierce cries, well calculated to excite fear and dread; but on hearing from Ehrhardt's lips the friendly salutation which he had learnt in Greenland, they were soon pacified, expressed their pleasure at the visit, and when invited on board, behaved in a quiet peaceable manner.
On the 31st July a fine sheltered bay was reached, situated in N. Lat. 55 degrees 30 minutes, with wooded shores, to which they gave the name Nisbet Harbour, in grateful remembrance of the seasonable help afforded by Mr. Nisbet of London. Here they landed, and after selecting a suitable site, put up their wooden hut and called the spot Hopedale. Ehrhardt then bid farewell to the brethren, and continued his journey up the coast, in hopes of meeting with more natives, and securing a home-cargo for the owners of the ship. A company of natives showed themselves on the 13th of September, and Ehrhardt went ashore with the captain and five of the crew, in a boat full of articles for barter. But not one of the company returned to the ship. After waiting off the shore for several days without seeing any trace of the missing ones, the ship had to return to the brethren at Nisbet Harbour, with the sad tidings that their late associates were no more. /6/ In order to work the ship home it was necessary for the four brethren to undertake the duties of the sailors who had been lost, and thus they had reluctantly to take leave of the country after a sojourn of rather more than two months, leaving behind them the house and a supply of provisions, in case the missing ones should still be living and able to reach the spot. The Hope left Nisbet Harbour on September 20th, and reached London by way of Newfoundland towards the end of November. In the course of the following year an American captain, touching on the coast, found the forsaken house in dilapidated condition, with a portion of the provisions, and also the remains of seven corpses.
Thus the first attempt at establishing a mission for Labrador failed at the very outset.
Yet Ehrhardt's work of faith was not altogether thrown away. The intelligence of the death of the brave sailor, whose warm love for the Saviour had impelled him to go forth with the Gospel news to the wild natives of Labrador, excited deep interest and sympathy in the Church at home, and doubtless stimulated to many fervent prayers on behalf of these savage heathen. A carpenter, Jens Haven by name, at once resolved to take up Ehrhardt's work, as soon as the Lord would open the way. When appointed to go as missionary to Greenland in the year 1764, he went cheerfully, but in a conversation with Count Zinzendorf, expressed to him the conviction, which never left him, that the Lord still intended him to go to Labrador. After spending two years in Greenland, where he learnt the language, and assisted in establishing the station at Lichtenfels, he returned to Europe, and proposed to engage himself as ship's carpenter or sailor on board one of the Hudson's Bay Company's vessels in order to reach Labrador. His plan was approved of, and "having been dismissed with prayer and supplication" he made his way with great difficulty to London, where he arrived in the spring of the year 1764. [NOTE: An interesting memoir of Jens Haven, chiefly written by himself, was published in Per. Accts. Vol. xvii. pp. 409, 456.]
At that time, Br. James Hutton occupied the post of Secretary of the Brethren's Unity in England, and enjoyed a remarkable degree of respect and influence even in the highest circles of society. An introduction to Sir Hugh Palliser, Commodore of the fleet, which annually sailed between England and Newfoundland, was procured without delay, and his proposal that Jens Haven should sail with the fleet was thankfully accepted. The preliminary arrangements were made without difficulty, and all seemed to progress most favourably towards the desired end. Nevertheless, a period of several years was to elapse before permanent footing was gained in Labrador, and Jens Haven and many others who were deeply interested in the undertaking had to pass through sore trials of their faith, and many disappointments.
In May, the fleet reached St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland, and by means of the letters of introduction to various government officials there, which the commodore had kindly provided, Jens Haven was enabled to obtain a passage in a ship bound for the coast /7/ of Labrador. It was, however, the end of August, before he reached Chateau Bay in N. Lat. 52 degrees. A few days later the first company of Eskimoes was met, whose astonishment was great when they heard themselves addressed by Br. Haven in the Greenlandic dialect, which they could understand. With loud shouts they bade him welcome, and invited him to come on shore to them. Remembering the fate of Ehrhardt and his party, the sailors hesitated to place themselves in their power, but the missionary hastened to the beach, where he was immediately surrounded by the natives, while the boat's crew pushed off again, and remained at a safe distance during the interview. The Eskimoes called Haven their countryman, listened to his message with some interest, and begged him to repeat the visit. The next day eighteen natives came to the ship in their skin-boats, and he accompanied them to the shore. When he read aloud the letter, which Sir Hugh Palliser had addressed to them, they were afraid, thinking that the paper, which said so many things, must be some mysterious living creature. The attempt to elicit from them some information about Ehrhardt's death did not succeed, though their demeanour showed that they knew more about it than they thought proper to communicate. Among them was Seguliak, the angekok or sorcerer, who seemed to have the authority of a chief. He was particularly friendly. Once when they began a dance in honour of their guest, accompanying it, in true heathen fashion, with terrible noises, Br. Haven sang a hymn in Greenlandic, whereupon they instantly ceased, and listened attentively to the end.
His hope to get further up the coast was not fulfilled, as the ship's crew were bent upon returning to Newfoundland. Arriving here on the 27th of September, he was able to report favourably to the commodore, who kindly assisted him to a passage back to England.
The success of this attempt to open up friendly communications with the Eskimoes induced the Brethren of the Directing Board to continue the effort, and Jens Haven was instructed to undertake a second journey, and, as far as possible, take the needful steps for a permanent settlement on the coast. Associated with him were three other brethren, John Hill, Andrew Schloetzer, and Christian Lawrence Drachart. The latter had been for many years in Greenland, first as missionary in connection with the Danish mission, a worthy successor of Hans Egede, subsequently as a member of the Brethren's Church, to which he became warmly attached. His influence upon the Greenlanders was so great, that the Danish merchants used to say, "the natives had no other god than Drachart, his presence in their midst sufficed to make the wildest gentle and good." [NOTE: Vide Croeger's Brueder Geschichte, Vol. ii. p. 144.] No more suitable man could have been found to send to the Eskimoes in Labrador. Although fifty years of age, he entered upon his work with youthful enthusiasm, and a degree of courage, which Schrautenbach, the able biographer of Zinzendorf, aptly compares with that of Leonidas.
The spring of 1765 saw the little missionary band crossing the Atlantic, with the British fleet for St. John's, whence they were /8/ forwarded in the Niger, a man-of-war, as far as Pitt's Harbour, near Chateau Bay. A trip further north in a small schooner, which two of the brethren undertook in search of Nisbet Harbour and with the hope of finding natives, was shortened by the refusal of the crew to proceed, and ended in disappointment. During their absence, however, on the 9th of August a number of Eskimoes had come to the ship, with whom Drachart had at once entered into conversation. They hailed him as their "friend," and introduced him on shore to their tents with every sign of pleasure and satisfaction at his visit, frequently exclaiming: "Fear not, we are your friends!" Without further delay he told them that he came from Greenland, and wished to tell them what he had told their relatives beyond the sea, of God who had created the world, and Jesus, who had redeemed them with his precious blood. They said it was a strange story, but that they would listen to what he had to say, because he was their countryman. When he told them how the heathen in Greenland had learned to believe in the Saviour, they exclaimed: "We will do as the Greenlanders have done; we believe all you say!" and striking their breasts, they gave him their hands to assure him of their sincerity.
The commodore, who had in the meantime arrived, had an interview with several of them, Drachart acting as interpreter, which was satisfactory. They listened attentively to his proposals with regard to keeping up the connection so favourably commenced, especially for trading purposes, and answered all his enquiries with readiness.
Among the Eskimoes assembled at that spot to the number of about 300 persons, there were several who had seen Jens Haven on his previous visit, and gave him a warm welcome on his return to Pitt's Harbour. Drachart and Haven mixed freely and fearlessly with them, and they in turn listened to the brethren's message with attention, repeating the pressing invitation to stay with them, promising to help them to build houses and treat them as friends, but urging them also "not to bring any Kablunat (Europeans) with them, but only innuit (human beings) like themselves."
Once the two brethren, being prevented by a violent storm from returning to the ship for the night, had to accept the hospitality of Seguliak, the angekok. As the evening advanced he began one of his terrible heathen dances, saying that the torngak (spirit) had come over him, but the brethren, to the astonishment of all, calmly sang their hymns, especially the favourite one: "O head so full of bruises, &c.," (Moravian Hymn Book, No. 102). In the morning their host said to them: "Now you can tell your countrymen in the East (Greenland), that you have slept in our tents: you are the first Kablunat who have remained over night with us, but you are our friends, and need not be afraid!"
This friendly intercourse with the Eskimoes continued till September 30th, when the ship left the coast, and the missionaries had to return to London.
Negotiations were entered into with the Board of Trade, in order to obtain ensured possession of a piece of land in Labrador, without which a permanent footing could not be established. The brethren /9/ Hill and Hutton had numerous interviews with Lord Dartmouth, President of the Board of Trade, Lord Hillsborough, the Secretary of State for the American Colonies, and Sir Hugh Palliser, all of whom assured them of their interest and support. There seemed, however, to be some suspicion entertained on the part of the authorities as to the real intentions of the brethren, and in spite of all attempts to induce the Government to come to a decision on their application, the matter remained in abeyance for four years.
The brethren Haven and Drachart spent this time in England, chiefly at the Moravian settlement, Fulneck, in Yorkshire. It is remarkable that they were here permitted to be instrumental in bringing the first Eskimo from Labrador to the knowledge of the truth, and seeing him baptized as the first fruits from among that nation. In the year 1769, Sir Hugh Palliser had brought three natives with him from Labrador, Mikak, with her little son, six years old, whose husband had been killed in a fight with English traders, and a youth of fifteen, called Karpik. Mikak experienced much kindness in various quarters in London, the Dowager Princess of Wales and other persons of rank being greatly interested in her. She was conveyed back to Labrador in a man-of-war. The youth was entrusted to the care of the two brethren, and gave such satisfactory proofs of his desire to be a Christian, that the brethren could proceed to baptize him. He was at the time dangerously ill of small-pox, and died the next day.
At length the desired object was obtained. An Order in Council, granted by His Majesty, King George III, and dated May 3rd, 1769, gave to the Unitas Fratrum and the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel among the Heathen, a block of land, containing 100,000 square acres to be selected in the vicinity of Eskimo Bay, and devoted to the establishment of a missionary settlement. The Synod at Marienborn sanctioned further proceedings in the work, and the winter was spent in making the needful preparations. In addition to the brethren Haven, Drachart, and Jensen, seven others were appointed to go out and assist in building a house and other work of the kind; of these three were sailors from Zeyst in Holland, and four from English congregations. [NOTE: Their names were Frech, Weinstrauch, Petersen, Gillray and Campbell, from London, Thornton (supercargo) from Fulneck, and Glew, the mate.] These, with six others, formed the crew of the first missionary ship sent out from London to Labrador. The vessel was the "Jersey Packet," a small sloop of eighty tons burden, under the command of Captain Thomas Mugford. She was purchased and fitted out by the "Ship's Company," which consisted principally of members of the Brethren's Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel among the Heathen. [NOTE: In the year 1797, this Society undertook the whole charge for the ship and the barter traffic, and has retained it down to the present time. Vide Periodical Accounts, vol. xxvii, p. 95; and xvi. pp. 7-14.]
On reaching the coast, the Eskimoes flocked round the ship in their kayaks, and were especially delighted to see their "little Jens," as they called him; his small stature, being a strong point of resemblance to themselves, was a great recommendation in their eyes, /10/ and they addressed him with affectionate familiarity, manifesting, however, at the same time, great respect for him. Br. Drachart met with a warm welcome. One man bound a thong round his arm, saying: "This shall be a sign that our love to one another shall not cease. I have not yet forgotten what you told us about the Lord in heaven, and I wish to hear more about it in future."
At Byron's Bay the ship cast anchor, and the brethren found more than a hundred natives. Mikak was one of the number, and was greatly delighted to see the visitors. To do them due honour, she put on her finest robes, a dress of white cloth, decorated with gilt ornaments and lace, and a gold medal with the likeness of the King of England, and paid a visit on board, accompanied by her father, who did his best to improve his appearance in a suitable manner by wearing a pair of English gloves with his seal-skin dress. The announcement of the brethren that they came with the intention of buying some land, in order to live there and preach Christ to them, was received by all with great delight. They promised to listen to the Word, and cease from theft and murder. "We love you," they said, "and our friendship shall continue as long as the sun shines; therefore select a piece of land wherever you like." Presents were then distributed in each tent as a sort of payment for the land which might be chosen, and the ship sailed on towards Eskimo Bay, with Mikak and her husband Tuglavina on board.
Natives showed themselves in considerable numbers at different points, and were more than once exceedingly wild and rude, giving much annoyance by their thievish propensities, so that some restriction had to be placed on their visits to the ship. A cannon shot night and morning announced the hours during which there was admission on board, and once a ball was fired against the rocks. These signs of superior power had the desired effect, and checked all improper advances. In general, however, the reception met with was very friendly.
At length, a suitable place for a station was selected on Nunengoak Bay, which afforded the advantage of a fair harbour, and the anchor was cast. Accompanied by Mikak and her husband, the brethren landed, and found there about 700 natives, and amongst them Seguliak, the brother of Tuglavina, in whose tent the missionaries had slept some years previously. Mikak's fine large tent, the gift of Commodore Palliser, was soon erected, and formed a good place for holding meetings, and the Gospel message was at once delivered, and well received. In the proposal to appropriate a piece of land for the Mission all ready acquiesced. "Build houses," they said, "and dwell among us, and you shall have the same rights as ourselves, for you are innuit too, and good people." Presents were again distributed, and on the 6th of August, the ground was taken possession of by placing four boundary stones, on which was carved the name of "George III. King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland." Two days later the ship left to return home. Mikak, and her relatives, who received presents in acknowledgement of their valuable aid in the negotiations, shed many tears at parting, and sent some rare furs as tokens of their gratitude to the Princess of Wales and the Duke of Gloucester. /11/ Several Eskimoes accompanied the ship as far as Chateau Bay, where the brethren visited the commander of the British man-of-war, interceding on behalf of the natives, who were to be severely punished for some murders alleged to have been committed by them. On hearing a report of their visit, the officer exclaimed: "That is God's work, not man's; God has evidently been with you."
On the 16th of November, the company reached London, glad of heart, and rejoicing at the Lord's goodness to them.
In the spring of 1771, a rather large ship, the "Amity," was purchased, and loaded with building materials and stores of various kinds. One brother was appointed to trade with the natives, in order, as far as possible, to raise the amount needed to cover the heavy expenses, but it was solemnly impressed upon him that the missionary work was always to remain the first consideration. Every aid was afforded by Lord Hillsborough, and Commodore Byron, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland, and other influential noblemen in the Government, and, after a farewell lovefeast in the chapel at Fetter Lane, in which the work and all engaged in it were earnestly commended to the watchful care and blessing of the Lord, the voyage was commenced on May 8th.
The brethren Haven, Drachart, and Jensen went out again at the head of the little band, with the brethren Brasen, John Schneider, and Joseph Neisser, Sisters Haven, Brasen, and Schneider, accompanying their husbands. These formed the mission conference. Besides them, there were several other assistants, among whom were the English brethren William Turner, James Rhodes, and Lister. It is interesting and instructive to observe from the diaries of the brethren employed in this service, how the greatest care was taken to organize as completely as possible, and also to provide for the spiritual wants of the missionaries themselves. Each brother had his own special sphere of activity marked out for him, though all were expected to put their hand to everything. One was the leader, on whom the direction of the whole rested; another, the warden, had charge of outward affairs, building operations, &c.; a third was appointed to carry on the traffic. Even apparently trivial matters, such as the writing of the official diary, were deemed worthy of attention, for a brother was appointed to this duty. Services were conducted with great regularity from the time of the ship's sailing, in the German and English languages, and these were often seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. To this care for arrangements in detail, and especially for the spiritual oversight and nourishment of all, may be traced under God, many blessings which have characterized this mission, as far as the labourers were concerned. The life of the soul had that support provided, which is greatly needed, when all the surroundings are degraded heathenism; and many human imperfections of character and disposition, for the exhibition of which the peculiar circumstances of the situation gave much opportunity, were kept in salutary check.
Great encouragement was derived from some of the striking passages of Scripture, which occurred in the Textbook during the voyage. On the 1st of July, when the ship entered the harbour of /12/ St. John's, the text for the day was: "Thy gates shall be open continually -- that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles," (Isa. lx. 2); and on reaching their place of destination, August 8th, it was from Exod. xv. 17: "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in."
The selected spot, which was called Unity's Harbour, lies in N. Lat 56 degrees 55 minutes W. Long. 62 degrees. It is thirty miles north of Eskimo Bay, and is reached after a passage between numerous rocky islands, extending for about the same distance out to sea. A good anchorage was found, and there was an unusual quantity of wood in the neighbourhood, and a good supply of water. On nearing the goal great masses of ice surrounded the little ship, as she endeavoured to make headway against a furious north-easterly gale, and for a time she was in so perilous a situation that escape appeared impossible. But the hand of the Lord graciously warded off the danger, and at length the desired haven was reached.
On the 10th the company landed, and Br. Drachart in earnest prayer dedicated the place to the Lord and his service, giving it the name of Nain.
By the end of September the building of the mission-house was so far advanced as to admit of two rooms being occupied, but Mikak's tent was again their church, Mikak herself having appeared soon after the arrival of the brethren, and received with great joy the royal presents which they had again brought for her from England. A good number of natives were living in their tents in the immediate vicinity, and were very glad to exchange their furs for many useful articles which the ship had brought. Of these some listened with pleasure to the Gospel message, while others seemed completely deaf to the call. On one occasion when Drachart spoke of our Saviour's great love in becoming man and dying for our sake, several were deeply moved; but one man remarked: "There is nothing wonderful in God's loving me, for I have never killed a European!" The auditory was continually changing, as one family after another went away to hunt reindeer and catch seals. The prospects for the work were, however, in general, as hopeful as could be expected, when the ship left the coast to return home. She sailed on the 26th September, several brethren accompanying her for some distance in boats. For the indulgence of the very natural longing for home and its delights, and fears on account of their isolated position in the midst of savage heathen, and cut off from all human aid, there was little opportunity. Abundance of work had to be done, and the brethren set themselves resolutely to do it. Building operations had to be continued, and provisions of various kinds to be made for the winter which was now close at hand.
Soon one Eskimo family built a winter-house at Nain, and expressed the intention of remaining at that place. It was a man called Manuina, with his two wives and some children, of whom several were suffering from sickness, which the heathen medicine men had not succeeded in removing. Their primary object in coming was to see if Br. Brasen, who knew something of surgery, could /13/ help them, but this proof of confidence in them was hailed with joy. Three other families followed the example, and the gospel was preached to them, as occasion might offer. Then they built an Eskimo house to accommodate casual visitors to Nain, and this served as the church as well.
Before Christmas Manuina came spontaneously to Br. Brasen "to speak with him about God in heaven," giving him at the same time some arrows, which he said the Eskimoes always carried about with them, in order to be prepared for any murderous attack. It was evident that the gospel had made an impression on the man, and the missionaries were greatly encouraged. It was no wonder that their hearts were deeply moved when they closed the services of this eventful year by partaking of the Lord's Supper.
In the following year (1772) many trials were experienced. In May they were informed that a plan had been formed by several men to murder all the missionaries, but this only stimulated them to proclaim with greater frequency and zeal the message of peace through Jesus Christ, and to show by their treatment of the natives that they wished to be their friends. The venerable Br. Drachart was particularly useful by his warm-hearted, simple preaching of the gospel.
But the summer passed away, and the ship did not arrive, and when the month of September came to an end without any tidings of her, the brethren sorrowfully abandoned all hope of her coming, and made up their minds for a winter of suffering and privation. They succeeded in shooting some reindeer, and taught the Eskimoes to catch salmon in nets instead of spearing them through holes in the ice. The Eskimoes manifested their attachment to them by giving them the assurance that "they would provide them with food that they might not die of hunger."
At length, on the 30th of October, when ordinarily the coast is already unapproachable, the "Amity" appeared, and was welcomed with indescribable delight and gratitude to the Lord. She had sailed from London in the middle of April, but had been so delayed by bad weather and great quantities of ice, that she did not reach Newfoundland till August. The intelligence of her arrival brought the Eskimoes quickly from the whole neighbourhood to Nain, and they too were greatly pleased. Their appearance and behaviour was so improved, that the sailors exclaimed: "They do not look like the old robbers and murderers, they have become good sheep already!" [NOTE: A similarly favourable impression as to the effect produced by the labours of the missionaries was made on Lieutenant Curtis, who was sent by Commodore Shuldham, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland, to see the settlement of the Brethren, and warn the Eskimoes not to visit the southern part of the coast on pain of severe penalties. This officer acknowledged that he set out with strong prejudices against the missionaries, but he was so surprised at the improvement of the natives already effected through their instrumentality, that he reported most favourably of the undertaking, which he declared to be "a work of God."] After a stay of one week the ship returned home, and reached London after a most favourable voyage of only three weeks' duration.
As a proof that some impression was made on the minds and /14/ hearts of the Eskimoes, the case of one is mentioned who died on a distant island, saying he "wished to go to heaven, to the Lord Jesus, who loved men so very dearly." His widow, Niriarsika, told Br. Drachart the circumstance of his death, and said, "she too wished to go to the Saviour." Several natives were much moved by this incident, and they spoke of the deceased as "the man whom Jesus had taken to himself."
In the year 1773 a visitation was held by Br. Layritz, a member of the Unity's Elders' Conference, which was of great benefit to the infant mission. "Nain is already a pulpit," he writes in his report, "from which the gospel is preached to hundreds of Eskimoes. The name of the brethren and the purpose of their coming is known in all parts of the coast. Three are receiving instruction previous to being baptized. A proper church is urgently needed to accommodate the hearers. The arrangement of trading with the natives is most useful, for they are preserved from much injurious intercourse with the traders who live in the South, &c." After a stay of three months he returned to Europe.
During his visit the brethren Haven and Rhodes had accomplished a very important reconnoitring expedition up the coast, making their way as far north as Nachvak, and touching at Kangerdluksoak, where Hebron now lies. The name and fame of Br. Jens Haven had spread to the furthest point reached, and his influence was often strikingly manifested. Once an angekok came into the midst of a group, which was listening to him, and tried to disperse it by noisy violence, but on Haven's sternly rebuking him, and calling him a murderer, he confessed that he had been guilty of great crimes, and promised to alter his conduct. Subsequently he frequently visited him, and begged the missionary to be his friend. At another place, some Eskimoes, who had been sent away by Haven on account of their bad behaviour, returned with the very humble request that he would again love them, saying "they could not bear him to be angry with them."
A result of the visitation of Br. Layritz and the voyage just referred to, was the resolution to form a second station by means of which a larger number of Eskimoes, who were scattered along the coast, might be reached. In order to select a suitable spot for this purpose, the brethren Haven, Brasen, Lister, and Lehman set out in a small sloop in August 1774. Haven had a remarkable presentiment of an impending disaster, and -- quite contrary to his usual experience, -- would have been glad to stay at home, if duty had not directed otherwise. His fears were fully realized, for the little vessel was wrecked, with the loss of two lives. Of this incident he gives the following account: -- [NOTE: Vide Memoir of the Life of Br. Jens Haven. -- Periodical Accounts, Vol. xvii. p. 458.]
"It had snowed the whole night, and was very cold. A brisk gale sprung up from the north-east, which inspired us with the hope that we should soon reach Nain. September 14th, towards four p.m., we all at once found ourselves in shoal water, which surprised us exceedingly, as we were in the usual channel between Nain and Navon, /15/ more than a league from the nearest island. We tacked about immediately. Scarcely had we done this, when the vessel struck on a rocky bottom, which, as we afterwards learned, is dry at spring-tide. The boat was lowered immediately, in order to take the soundings round the ship, and, as we found deep water at the prow, we proposed casting an anchor forwards. There was too much sea, however, to allow us to row out with it; we therefore let down a small anchor to steady the boat during this operation. But no sooner was the large anchor on board the boat, than the sails got loose, and drove it before the wind; so that it took the men half an hour's hard rowing to get back to the sloop, and reach the rope which we threw out to them. After the anchor was cast, we endeavoured to wear the ship off, but finding that the anchor drove, and that we had now only four feet of water, we were obliged to desist till the tide should turn, and commended ourselves meanwhile to the mercy of God. We had, however, but slender hope that the ship would hold out so long, as the waves broke over us incessantly, and we expected every moment to see it go to pieces. We secured the boat as well as we could, by means of three strong ropes, two inches thick, and, in full resignation to the Lord's will, determined to stay in the sloop till morning, if possible. The wind roared furiously; every wave washed over us; and the foaming of the deep was rendered yet more terrible by the thick darkness of the night. Towards ten o'clock the ship began to roll most violently, and to drive upon the cliffs in such a manner that everything on board was turned upside down, and we could not but fear that the timbers would soon part. Shortly after ten the rudder was carried away by a huge wave, which broke over the whole vessel, and covered us as with a winding-sheet. Our two sailors entreated us to take the boat, if we wished to save our lives. We represented to them the danger of braving so rough a sea in so small a boat; and that, supposing it could outlive that, it must inevitably perish in the breakers on the coast, which we could not avoid in the darkness. We begged them to stay by the ship as long as possible; perhaps we might maintain the post till daybreak, and, at all events, should it come to the worst, we had the boat to fly to. They appeared to give in to our arguments; but we were obliged to watch their motions lest they should slip off with the boat. We waited in stillness what our dear Lord should appoint for us.
"By two o'clock in the morning of the 15th, the sloop had shipped so much water, that the chests on which we sat began to float, and we were obliged to leave the cabin and go on to the upper deck, where a fearful scene presented itself. The middle deck was entirely under water, and the waves were rolling mountains high. All were now convinced that it was time to leave the vessel. But here we were met by a new difficulty. The sea was so rough, that, had we brought the boat alongside, it would inevitably have been stove in. We therefore drew it astern, and, climbing one by one down the anchor shaft, jumped into it, and through the mercy of God, we all, nine in number, succeeded in reaching it. We now found that we had taken this step only just in time, for two of the three ropes by which the /16/ boat was moored had already given way, and the third held only by the strand, the others having parted, so that we should very soon have lost the boat. Our first business was to bale out the water which the boat had shipped in no small quantity. Oars being useless in such a sea, we let the boat run before the wind, which it did with incredible celerity. We attempted in vain to get under the lee of different islands, as the breakers drove us off from the coast whenever we approached it. At length we thought we saw a prospect of finding harbourage between two islands, but we were again interrupted by rocks and breakers. The boat filled with water, which kept us constantly at work, and as there appeared to be no other resource left, we resolved in God's name to run the boat on shore, which was about twenty yards distant, but begirt with cliffs on which the waves were dashing furiously. We darted rapidly through them, when the boat struck on a sunken rock with such violence, that we were all thrown from our seats, and the boat instantly filled with water. The captain, John Hill, and the two sailors, threw themselves into the sea, and swam to land, which they gained in safety, and from whence they reached out an oar to assist the rest in landing. Br. Lister was the first who neared the shore, but he was driven back into the sea by the violence of the waves. On approaching the rocks a second time, he found a small ledge, by which he held on, till the oar was extended to him by his companions on the strand. I had been thrown out of the boat by the first shock, and resigned myself to the Lord's gracious hands to do with me what He pleased. After swallowing a large quantity of water, I was hurled back into the boat, and as it drifted to the shore, I succeeded in grasping the friendly oar. At the same time, the Esquimaux pilot clung to my legs, and thus we were both drawn up the rocks together. Br. Brasen thrice gained the rocks, and twice caught hold of the oar, but he was so exhausted, and encumbered besides by his heavy garments, that he could make no effort to save himself, and finally sank. Br. Lehman was heard exclaiming, as the boat struck, `Dear Saviour, I commend my spirit into Thy hands!' We all thought that he had got on shore, but it pleased the Lord thus to take him to Himself. The rest of us who had reached dry land were rescued for the present from a watery grave, but we found ourselves on a bare rock, half dead with cold, in so dark a night, that we could not see a hand before us, -- without shelter, without food, without boat, -- in short, without the smallest gleam of hope that we should ever leave this fearful spot alive. We knew that no Eskimoes were likely to come this way, as they had all resolved to winter to the south of Nain. The cold was intense, so that we were obliged to keep ourselves warm by constant motion. When morning came, we sought for our boat, but in vain: a few fragments of it which had been washed on shore, was all that we could find, and we concluded that it had gone to pieces. We also met with a few blankets, some broken biscuits, and other articles, which we collected very carefully. At low water, we discovered the bodies of our two brethren lying close together on the strand, but they were quite dead. They were safe from all trouble, and had brethren surviving to bury their remains, while we had no other prospect than /17/ to pine away with hunger, and then leave our bodies to be entombed by birds and beasts of prey. About seven o'clock in the morning, we had the joy to see, first the prow and then the stern of our boat emerging from the water. But our joy was damped on dragging it to land, for the planks were torn off from both sides of the keel, and the few ribs left were in splinters. Happily, however, the prow, stern, and keel, were yet entire. We now set ourselves to repair the boat, impracticable as it seemed with such a lack of materials for the purpose. Yet we contrived to lash the blankets over the open spaces, sewing to them, in addition, all the seal-skins we could muster from our upper and nether garments, including even our boots. We spent three days in these miserable repairs, and, on the 18th, launched our boat for Nain, which, by the help of an Eskimo party that we met not far from the settlement, we succeeded in reaching the same evening."
After further careful examination of the coast a suitable spot for the SECOND STATION was found on an island in the bay of OKAK (English, Tongue), lying about 150 miles to the north of Nain, in N. lat. 58 degrees 20 minutes. The locality afforded a good supply of fresh water, a good harbour, abundance of fish and some wood, and these advantages had a tendency to attract a considerable number of natives to the place, and keep them there for a good part of the year. Previous to the selection an Order in Council had been issued on March 9th, 1774, which gave to the Brethren possession of a second block of land, measuring 100,000 square acres, for missionary purposes. The natives having expressed their full approval, the ground was appropriated in the King's name, and the missionaries at Nain, having in the meanwhile completed the new church there, busied themselves all through the winter in making the wooden house which was to serve as the abode of the labourers at the new station.
In the summer (1776) Br. Haven, with three other brethren, went to commence the work there, and by the month of OCTOBER they were able to take up their residence in the new house. The veteran Haven writes that their first months at Okak were the most blessed and happy period of his life; he had opportunity afforded him of preaching Christ crucified sometimes four or five times in one day, and to hearers who were, as a rule, very willing to listen, and not without visible good results.
In the meantime the BAPTISM OF THE FIRST CONVERT in Labrador had taken place at Nain, on February 19th, 1776. The man's name was Kinminguse: he was an angekok, and had come to the station four years previously, when it was apparent that the preaching of the gospel made a deep impression on him. This baptism, which took place simultaneously with the solemn dedication of the new church to the purposes of divine worship, caused a great sensation among the natives, who flocked to the place in such numbers that the church could not contain them. During the summer about two hundred resided there in 37 tents, and the number of winter residents gradually increased, all more or less desirous to avail themselves of the privileges of Christian teaching, which was afforded, and some being added to the church by baptism. At the new station a little /18/ company of six persons were baptized in 1778, and the missionaries were greatly encouraged. They devoted themselves with much self-denial to the care of their charge, visiting them by boat at their fishing places, and even attempting to accompany them inland on foot or in dog sledges on the reindeer hunt. The latter expeditions were abandoned on account of the severe hardships, which were too great for ordinary European constitutions, and because the object of the missionary's presence was only very partially gained.
Encouraged by the success of their efforts, the missionaries decided to establish a station to the south of Nain, and after mature deliberation fixed on a spot at Avertok, where the first attempt had been made in the year 1752. It is situated about 150 miles from Nain, in N. Lat. 50 degrees 30 minutes. Before winter set in, -- thanks to the energetic labours of Br. Haven, who was again appointed builder, -- the first mission house, made of timbers sent prepared in the mission ship from England, was ready to receive the family of brethren and sisters, who were sent to occupy this position. The Eskimoes belonging to the district were decidedly less friendly than their countrymen further north; the evil influence of intercourse with dissolute traders living in the south was painfully evident in their words and general behaviour. Many ridiculed the gospel message, others were angry when the truth was told them with all plainness. They had been willing to receive the brethren, and had readily sanctioned the appropriation of the needful land, but now it seemed as if their object had been to obtain the advantage of the ship's annual visit, and the accommodation of the trade, not to ensure for themselves an opportunity of being taught the way of salvation. At first the position of the missionaries was very trying and disheartening, but grace was given them to act wisely, with great patience and much kindly sympathy, and the number of hearers gradually increased. This third station received the name HOPEDALE.
On the completion of the first building operations here, Br. and Sr. Jens Haven felt that their working days were over; old age and hardships told upon them, and their strength seemed exhausted. It became necessary for them to retire from the field of labour, which was very dear to their hearts, and in which the Lord had permitted them to see abundant fruits produced by the preaching of the gospel. During the two years of their labours at Hopedale -- their last in Labrador -- they were much cheered by the eagerness with which the Eskimoes listened to the cheering message of pardon and peace in the blood of Christ. Returning to Europe in 1784 he had still to wait for twelve years before the summons came to enter into rest with Jesus. [NOTE: Of the last years of this original and indefatigable missionary, who may well be called the "Christian David of the Labrador Mission," his biographer writes as follows: -"His conversation was profitable even to persons of rank, who never failed to call upon him when they visited Herrnhut, and none who came hither with a view to profit for their souls neglected to converse with him; for it was plain that what he said proceeded from the experience of a heart living in constant communion with God, and rejoicing in His salvation. His manner was always undisguised, plain, and without any fear of man; but, whenever he was conscious of having given way in expression to the natural impetuosity of his temper, he acknowledged his fault with great concern, and begged pardon for it. He never failed daily to offer up prayer and supplication for all children of God everywhere, for the Church of the Brethren, and in particular for the Missions among the Heathen, and especially that on the coast of Labrador. He thought and spoke much of departing to the Lord; and his joy was great indeed when he meditated on the promise given by our Saviour in his Word concerning the bliss of his redeemed ones, when, delivered from all the sorrows and vicissitudes of this earth, they shall see Him face to face." Upon a slip of paper found after his decease, were these words: -- "I wish the following to be added to the narrative of my life: -- On such a day, Jens Haven, a poor sinner, who in his own judgment deserved eternal condemnation, fell happily asleep, relying upon the death and merits of Jesus."] For the last six years he was totally blind, an affliction of a /19/ very trying nature to a man of his lively energetic disposition, but he bore this and other severe bodily sufferings with the most exemplary resignation and cheerfulness, to the great edification of all who visited him. At length he gently fell asleep in Jesus, on the 16th of April, 1796, in the 72nd year of his age. Br. Drachart, his faithful and zealous fellow-labourer, for many years had preceded him to rest, having departed this life at Nain in the year 1778. /53/ There now followed a period of sore trial for those engaged in the missionary work in Labrador. European traders frequenting or residing at various points on the coast south of Hopedale, put forth every effort in order to withdraw the Eskimoes from the influence of the missionaries. As inducements, articles of food and luxury, and especially intoxicating liquors were offered to the natives, and the indulgence of every evil passion was encouraged rather than checked. Once entangled in the snares of these traders, they were employed as tools to work out the destruction of their countrymen, who, following their advice, left in large numbers from all three stations to go southwards.
One of the most active and successful agents in this truly diabolical work was Tuglavina, who, in order to show that baptism might be had in the south as well as at the mission stations, and thereby to remove possible objections on the part of some who were inclined to become Christians, submitted to be baptized by an English clergyman at Chateau Bay. On a visit to Nain in 1784, he presented in his whole appearance and conduct a warning example of the terrible condition to which a man can sink, who has often listened to the preaching of the Gospel and received an impression of its saving truth, but who determines for the service of sin to resist the Spirit by all the means in his power. He boasted that of nineteen baptized Eskimoes, who had followed him to the south, five had already lost their lives, one of them having been murdered by himself. That the missionaries still had some influence over this poor heathen was evident from the following incident. Full of conceit, and conscious of his power over his countrymen, he one day presented himself to the brethren at Nain arrayed in an old military uniform, thinking by the same means to impress them but was surprised to meet with an unexpected reception. The missionaries sternly ordered him to leave the house instantly, and not come again except in his native seal-skin; the proud man at once broke down, laid aside his fine costume, and appeared in humble garb to express his sorrow and beg for pardon.
The result of the influence thus brought to bear on the natives at the mission stations, was very sad. A spirit of indifference and levity was generally diffused, and much opposition and defiance was shown to the missionaries. Between two and three hundred persons seem to have withdrawn themselves from their guidance and control, of whom several were baptized converts. Those who remained at the stations were affected by the prevailing evil spirit. There were seasons when the sealing and fishing labours of the natives were attended with a very poor result, and the natives at once made the most unreasonable demands to be supported by the mission, while they manifested the basest ingratitude for the benefits conferred upon them. /54/ At the same time the Eskimoes took all the produce of the chase to the southern traders, so that instead of the missionary ship's returning from her annual voyage with a full cargo, the sale of which sufficed to meet the expenses of the work, hardly anything was brought home, and serious apprehensions were entertained as to the pecuniary means for continuing this mission.
Under such circumstances it is not a matter of surprise that the brethren were greatly troubled and discouraged, especially when they saw that the evil influence continued potent in spite of all their faithful and solemn warnings and exhortations. Occasionally, however, they were cheered in the midst of this dark season by witnessing the power of the Gospel in the salvation of souls. One pleasing instance of this may be mentioned. A woman, subsequently called Esther, having, when quite a child, visited at Nain with her parents, was so deeply impressed with what she there heard in the meetings, that she used to withdraw to a quiet sheltered spot behind rocks or blocks of ice, and pray in all simplicity to Jesus. She was afterwards forced to become the third wife of an angekok, from whom she suffered the most cruel treatment; after his death her two children were murdered before her eyes by an enemy of his in revenge for some past misdeed of their father. In her wretched position she fell in with a baptized woman from Okak, who brought her to the station. Here she soon learned to read and write, and gave such satisfaction by her conduct and her reception of Christian truth, that she could be baptized in the year 1789. Several proposals for marriage, which were necessarily connected with an occasional absence from the station, she resolutely declined, saying she would never again leave the place, where she had found peace and happiness: "I rely on my Saviour," she said, "for He is my Father; He is ever near me, and I can tell Him everything; and I am quite sure He will never forsake me." She died after a brief illness, having shortly before said to one of those present at her bedside: "The Saviour has purchased me with His blood; whether I live or die, I am His."
A letter from the pen of the venerable Bishop Spangenberg, written in a strain of warm fatherly concern and with many earnest exhortations, was read at all the stations in the autumn of the year 1789, and made a deep impression on several of the baptized Eskimoes, to whom it was addressed. At Hopedale especially many expressions of sorrow for their backsliding were heard, and resolutions formed to keep aloof from sinful practices and the beguiling influence of Kapik, the powerful angekok at Avertok. Two years later, however, the migration southwards was as numerous as before.
Peter, the first baptized convert at Nain, received a touching private letter from Br. Spangenberg, imploring him to return to the Lord with all his heart. On hearing it read to him, he remarked that all was true that was written there; still, he was resolved to spend some winters in the south, before trying to reform.
One of the missionaries, writing of this first period of the mission, after deploring the fact that so little abiding spiritual fruit was perceptible as the result of the labours of the brethren, and that there was so much "hypocrisy" manifested, which he designates "a leading /55/ vice of the Eskimoes," by no means attributes all the blame to the poor natives. "It is not to be denied," he writes, "that we committed many mistakes, though with the best intentions, in our treatment of individuals. They became candidates for baptism and were admitted in some cases to the Holy Communion without having been truly awakened. We are ready to allow, that they had often strong religious feelings and convictions; that they were aware that they had need of conversion, and cherished many good desires and resolutions in regard to it; but solidly awakened they were not. It may be asked, why we did not take more pains to ascertain their true state of heart, and all we can reply is that we did not rightly understand the matter, that we were working in a kind of twilight or dawn. We knew, indeed, how the grace of God had wrought in ourselves, but we were ignorant, to what extent a heathen might be affected by a real awakening and mourning on account of sin and the enjoyment of the love of Jesus in the heart; for we had never seen and conversed with a thoroughly converted Eskimo. Many a time were we made anxious by the duplicity and relapses into sin of the baptized, and our Saviour knows best, what distress and perplexity were thereby occasioned us, little as we were able, with all our care and watchfulness, to prevent what we so greatly deplored." [NOTE: Periodical Accounts, Vol. xvii. p. 69.]
Before the century closed, however, there were visible the first signs of the dawn of a brighter day.
Tuglavina, the main instrument for evil among the Eskimoes, turned from his wicked ways, and died, as far as man could judge, in the Christian faith, in the year 1798. A few years previously he had returned to Nain with failing health and strength, accompanied by his family, and begged to be allowed to remain near the brethren. He became a communicant member of the congregation, and gave in his whole demeanour satisfactory evidence that he was in full earnest seeking pardon for his sins in the blood of Christ. With those who tried to lead him back to his old ways he would have nothing to do, but warmly commended to all faith in the Saviour as the only way to procure rest and peace.
Kapik also became a convert. A remarkably atmospheric phenomenon, which occurred on the 12th of November, 1799, seems to have made a singularly deep impression on his mind. [NOTE: A multitude of balls of fire, some of which had an apparent diameter of half a yard, were impelled towards the horizon from every quarter of the hemisphere, and had the appearance as if the whole of the starry host was in motion. This phenomenon was likewise observed by the missionaries in Greenland, also by Humboldt in Cumana. -- See LaTrobe's "Rambles in N. America," Vol. ii. p. 312.] Almost beside himself with terror he hurried to the brethren at Hopedale, roused the Eskimoes from their sleep, and cried out in great anxiety: "Let us all turn to the Lord with our whole heart, and be converted." With thankful hearts the missionaries embraced the opportunity to show him his sinful condition in the sight of God, and direct him to the Saviour, and before long he who had done all he could to injure the cause of Christ, was himself a Christian, beseeching others /56/ to repent and believe the Gospel. He became a communicant member of the Hopedale congregation, and died in 1811.
At the close of the year 1800, there were at the three stations 110 baptized converts, and 228 persons in the care of the missionaries. One of the latter, Br. Reimann, who had only been for three years employed in Labrador, lost his life in a mysterious manner in December of this year. Having left Nain to shoot ptarmigans, he was overtaken by a very severe snowstorm, and no further trace of him was ever found. Search and enquiry proved vain; it was supposed that, blinded by the beating snow, he had lost his way, and getting on thin ice, had broken through and been drowned.
With the early years of the present century there came at length the longed for "time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord," when those who had sown in tears were permitted to reap with joy an abundant harvest of souls. This REVIVAL took place in such a manner that it was manifest to every one as the Lord's work and not man's. It commenced at Hopedale, where the state of the people was so discouraging that serious thoughts were entertained of abandoning the place altogether; and the instrument in God's hand for kindling this blessed fire, and revealing his almighty power to save was not any one missionary, nor the missionaries as a body, but a wretched degraded woman, so sunk in every vice that she was almost universally despised and shunned even by her own countrymen. In the winter of the year 1804, Br. Kohlmeister preached on the text: "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost;" and the words of our Saviour came home to the heart of this heavily burdened "chief of sinners" with marvellous power. "I am the very worst of all," she said, "but if He came just to seek the lost, even I can be saved." Buried in thought she remained seated in the church, when all had left it; then hurrying forth to the solitude of the bleak hills around the settlement, she cast herself on the ground, and wrestled with the Lord in earnest prayer with deep agony of soul. Her prayer was heard, Jesus her Saviour drew near and spoke pardon and peace to her soul; and she, clothed with a new robe of spotless purity and "in her right mind," turned her face homewards, and spent the night in the porch of one of the huts, usually occupied by the dogs, as though in her humility she felt unworthy of associating with others. The change was complete, the evidence of "the new creature in Christ Jesus" was visible to all who saw her, and her mouth overflowed with thanksgiving for what the Lord had done for her soul.
In a very short time, her testimony, accompanied by the blessed influence of the Holy Spirit, made a deep impression on her neighbours. "All wondered, some doubted, not a few scoffed. Among the latter were several of the baptized -- established believers, as they deemed themselves; genuine pharisees, in fact, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. With such an outcast as this poor woman they would have nothing to do. Meanwhile others, who began to feel that they were poor and miserable, and had need of a Saviour, heard her testimony gladly; and thus a real /57/ awakening was produced, first among the publicans and sinners, and then among the pharisaical professors. Even of these some were led to ask with deep concern: What must I do to be saved?" [NOTE: See Br. Kmoch's Narrative. Per. Accounts, Vol. xxi. p. 362.] The fire of the Lord once kindled, spread from house to house: the children too experienced a visitation of the powerful grace of God; as at Herrnhut in the year 1727, the whole congregation partook of the blessing vouchsafed. The missionaries were now occupied in spiritual labours from morning till night: some came to confess their sins and be directed to Him who pardons freely; others solicited instruction about the one thing needful; others again hastened to tell of the Lord's joy and comfort that was poured into their souls, and to thank them for bringing the precious glad tidings of Christ and His salvation to their solitary coast. Adults and children could often be seen on their knees near the station, praying with great earnestness. In every hut the sound of singing and praying was audible, and the churches could not contain the numbers that flocked to hear the message of salvation, and often received it with deep emotion and many tears of repentance and joy. "It was indeed," writes Br. Kohlmeister, who was at the time residing at Hopedale, and labouring with great blessing, "it was indeed, a Pentecost, such as the Labrador missionaries had never before witnessed, when, after thirty-three years of patient waiting, the promises of God began to be fulfilled, according to the Daily Word (in the Text-book) which cheered them, when they first set foot upon this coast: `Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thy inheritance.' (Exod. xv. 17.)"
In February 1805, the awakening extended from Hopedale to Nain, chiefly through the influence of two young men of most dissolute character, who had gone to Hopedale to carry out some evil designs. On arriving there, they were at once struck with the changed atmosphere by which they were surrounded, and so deeply impressed by what they saw of the wonderful spiritual life from above in those who had been their associates in evil doing, that they were soon driven with deep anxiety to seek pardon and peace from the Saviour. Truly penitent, they too became partakers of the grace of God, and returned home praising Him for His great salvation. Their testimony, confirmed by their entirely altered conduct, was blessed by the Lord to the awakening and conversion of many souls, who were encouraged to hold fast in the faith and love of Jesus by the visit of several Eskimo brethren and sisters from Hopedale.
From Nain the revival spread to Okak by means of letters which the missionaries received from their fellow labourers and from some of the Eskimoes at Hopedale, and which they communicated to the congregation. Earnest and affectionate exhortations, contained in letters from native helpers in Greenland to the baptized Eskimoes, strengthened the desire of many for the enjoyment of a similar outpouring of the Spirit, and the simple narrative of two converts from Nain, who with the glow of their first love told of their blessed experience, was accompanied with wonderful effect on all who heard it. /58/ They were followed by a large company of native brethren and sisters from Nain, who ceased not to commend the love of Jesus with so much affectionate earnestness that the hearts of many were deeply moved, and they were led to seek pardon for their sins.
In all three congregations great grace abounded. The witness spirit was poured forth on the people, and they testified with power to one another and to strangers of the blessed condition of a poor sinner who has been brought into communion with Jesus. Their testimony was accompanied with the Divine blessing. Many families who had left the station from indifference, or been excluded for gross sin, returned to share in the new life from above, and even heathen drew near in larger numbers than hitherto, and participated in the wonderful blessings that were showered down upon the work. It could be said with truth, that there were here three living congregations of Jesus, whose great object it was, to live by faith in the Son of God. Nor did the missionaries go away empty during this visitation; their faith was greatly strengthened, the sinking hands and the feeble knees were invigorated, and they profited so much from what they heard and saw, that their subsequent ministrations, both private and public, were rendered more profitable to their people.
After some time, the excited feelings calmed down, but the fruits of the Spirit's work remained unaltered; the congregations increased in grace and knowledge, as well as in number. In the course of ten years the number of Eskimoes under the care of the brethren at the three stations was doubled, amounting to 457, of whom 265 belonged to the classes of communicants, baptized and candidates for baptism.
During this period the outward prosperity of the natives was unusual. Every year there was such abundance of seals that in many cases heathen Eskimoes were provided from the liberality of their Christian countrymen. The anxiety as to the support of the mission by the barter traffic, which had been commenced for this purpose, was also graciously removed, as the ship took home every year a full cargo. In the year 1811 it comprised 100 barrels of seal oil, 2000 seal skins, and 2750 furs of foxes.
The great blessing vouchsafed to the work at the three stations soon awakened the desire to extend its influence. To the north of Okak there were heathen who had never heard the Gospel preached, to them the invitation of grace was to be conveyed; there were also members of the Okak congregation whose fishermen's calling took them northwards for a considerable distance to localities scarcely accessible to the missionaries from the station, for these it was very desirable that a new station should be formed in their neighbourhood. Besides, as the population of Okak increased by the addition of many converts, the supply of provisions afforded by the neighbourhood became too scanty, and rendered it necessary to attract some of the natives to another locality on the coast.
It was therefore resolved to establish A FOURTH STATION to the north of Okak.
Several years, however, elapsed, before the resolution was carried into effect. In the year 1811 an exploratory journey was undertaken /59/ by the brethren Kohlmeister and Kmoch, accompanied by several baptized members of the flock at Okak, in all nineteen persons. A large boat with two masts, commanded by its owner, Jonathan, a faithful Eskimo of tried character, was the habitation of most of the little company for three and a half months, and was wonderfully preserved in the midst of great perils in an unknown region, hitherto quite unexplored, and very dangerous for navigation. A few natives accompanied the boat in their kayaks. Jonathan was delighted to help in the mission work; "Jesus out of great love died for me," he said, "surely it would be nothing very great, if we were to sacrifice our lives in His service."
They set sail from Hopedale on June 28th, accompanied by the prayers of the congregation. After being exposed to great danger of being crushed by the huge fields of drift ice which they encountered, they reached the bay of Nullatatok, where they rested for a few days. On July 16th they landed at Nachvak, which was the furthest point reached by the brethren Haven and Rhodes on their exploratory tour in the year 1773. Here they met with quite a jubilant reception on the part of some fifty Eskimoes, who were deeply impressed by the Gospel message, which was delivered with warmth and earnestness by Jonathan and his son Jonas as well as by the missionaries. Further to the north, the bold cliffs falling precipitously to the sea raised their heads more loftily and imposingly, the population became more sparse, and vegetation almost disappeared. The whole scene was truly awe-inspiring with its absolute barrenness and intense gloom. After doubling Cape Chudleigh -- the most northerly point of the Labrador peninsula -- they steered in south-westerly course along the coast until they reached the Ungava district. Here they found several Eskimoes, who had never before beheld Europeans, and were filled with astonishment, but manifested a friendly disposition. About a hundred miles from the Cape the mouth of the large river Kangerdlualuksoak was reached, where a suitable site for a station was selected and marked by a mound of stones. On attempting to continue this journey, they encountered such a series of fierce storms, that all the natives except the captain recommended the return home, especially as the month of August was already far advanced. The missionaries went ashore, and laid the matter in earnest prayer before the Lord, beseeching Him to direct them by the use of the lot to that course which was in accordance with His mind and will. The result was, that the voyage was continued. On hearing the decision Jonathan exclaimed with great delight: "Yes, quite right; we will go wherever Jesus directs us, and He will bring us safe home." At length, on the 24th of August, the mouth of the river Koksoak, the extreme limit of the expedition, was reached. The river is described as in breadth equal to the Thames at Gravesend, and situated about 250 miles from Cape Chudleigh, in N. lat. 58 degrees 36 minutes. The natives, comprising fourteen families, were at first very timid and shy, but when they found that the missionaries addressed them in their own language, and that the crew was composed of their own countrymen, they became more friendly. Their interest in the Gospel message was very striking, and it was /60/ particularly pleasing to witness the eagerness with which they conversed on this subject with the baptized Eskimoes, especially Jonathan and his wife, for they were greatly impressed by seeing examples of true believers in their own countrymen. On leaving the spot on September 1st, after having ascertained that it afforded many advantages for a permanent settlement, the natives accompanied the travellers to the farthest point of the river, reiterating their request that they would soon come again, because they wanted to hear more of the "good words of Jesus." On the 4th of October the company reached Okak in safety. [NOTE: It is to be regretted that a very interesting account of this voyage, compiled by Br. C.I. LaTrobe, and published in 1814, has long been out of print. Dr. Chalmers was much interested in the effort, and attracted considerable attention to it by a very characteristic article, which he contributed to the ECLECTIC REVIEW of January and February 1815.]
The result of this journey was, that proposals for the establishment of a new station in the north, beyond Cape Chudleigh, were sent out to the Mission Board. The needful negotiations with the British Government were, however, not attended with the desired results, the main obstacle being the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company, which -- it was maintained -- would be injuriously interfered with, if a Moravian mission station were founded in the Ungava district. Eventually it was proposed to establish a settlement south of Cape Chudleigh, about 100 miles north of Okak. In the year 1821 a British man-of-war anchored in Nain harbour, the captain of which, Sir William Martin, was instructed by Sir Charles Hamilton, Governor of Newfoundland, to examine the mission work in Labrador, and report upon its results. Sir William and his officers spent a Sunday at the station, attending all the services, and were much impressed by the whole demeanour of the Christian Eskimoes. The captain's report was so favourable, that the same ship, commanded by Captain Booth, returned in the following year to Nain with an autograph letter from the Governor of Newfoundland. It was couched in very friendly terms, and accompanied the order of the Government, giving possession of the land required for the fourth station. This embraced the bays of Napartok, Kangerdluksoak and Saeglek.
At length in the year 1828 a log-house was erected at a suitable site, accessible from Okak both by land and water, and having the advantage of a good landing-place. Eskimoes living in the vicinity, who knew the brethren, gave willing assistance in this work. The new station on the Kangerdluksoak Bay received the name HEBRON. Timber having been collected and prepared, in the year 1830 the work of erecting the necessary buildings was actually begun. In July the missionary ship arrived in company with the Oliver, which was chartered for the conveyance of materials for the buildings. The voyage had been so favourable that the two ships were never separated from one another from shore to shore. By the end of a year a little flock of about a hundred souls was assembled, chiefly composed of those who had belonged to the congregation at Okak, and in 1832 the first baptism of heathen Eskimoes from the far north took place. /61/ In the meantime the work at the old stations was being consolidated under the manifest blessing of the Lord. On the 9th of August the jubilee celebration of the commencement of the mission took place with great rejoicings at all the stations. There were then 584 persons in the care of the brethren, of whom 471 were baptized converts, and of these a goodly number communicant members. Fifteen brethren and ten sisters were engaged in the service of the three congregations. The old inclination to keep up communication with the "Southlanders" was by no means eradicated, which is hardly to be wondered at, as these did their utmost to attract the natives by seductive professions and promises. From the Hopedale congregation, which was most open to the temptation, several families were at different times induced to go south, to the great pain of the missionaries. Most of them returned after awhile, repentant and begging for re-admission.
The general state of the congregations was very pleasing. Br. Kohlmeister, the superintendent of the mission, on closing his service of thirty-four years in Labrador, was able to report as follows in the year 1824: -- "The work of God in the hearts of our dear Eskimoes proceeds in the power of the Spirit and with rich blessing, and I may with truth assert, that they grow in grace, and in the love and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The congregation at Okak obtains a great increase from year to year by the arrival of heathen from the coast to the north of the settlement. The number of heathen Eskimoes in the neighbourhood is indeed decreasing, but Okak may yet be called a `mission among the heathen.' Nain and Hopedale are now CHRISTIAN settlements, all the inhabitants being initiated into the Christian Church by holy baptism, except a few children, and no heathen live in the neighbourhood. The endeavours of the missionaries in these two settlements are particularly directed to instill into the minds of the youth, the principles and precepts of vital Christianity, and to see to it, by the grace of our Saviour, all the souls committed to their charge, become more firmly grounded and established in faith and love, and walk worthy of their high and heavenly calling."
Great attention was directed to the work of educating the young, and the steady persevering efforts of the missionaries were accompanied with very good results. Although the vocation of the natives prevented the children from attending school for more than half the year, very pleasing progress was made, and there were few of the young people who did not learn to read and write. Some children of four or five years showed great aptitude and read very well, and visitors from one station to another were often the bearers of as many as fifty letters, -- many of them well written and edifying, -- from Eskimoes to their friends and relatives. Their love of music and capacity for playing musical instruments soon became apparent, and both were carefully cultivated by the brethren. The first organ, a present from the congregation at Herrnhut to the church at Nain, was a source of great delight and boundless admiration; before long /62/ an Eskimo organist was able with good taste to accompany on the new instrument the sweet and hearty singing of the congregation.
By degrees the necessity for an Eskimo literature made itself increasingly felt, and the want was met by the very best of provision. Portions of God's Word were translated by the missionaries and printed at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society. [NOTE: To this noble Society, as also to the Religious Tract Society, a large debt of gratitude is due by the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel among the heathen and by the natives of Labrador, for the readiness and liberality with which they have met every request for assistance in printing the Bible and various tracts in the Eskimo language.] The gratuitous distribution of these gave very great pleasure indeed, and a good use was made of them. During the long winter nights, and when far away from the stations, at their hunting-places, the New Testament was diligently read, the young people or children reading aloud, while the elder members of the family, who had become converts at an advanced age, and had not mastered the art of reading, quickly mended their fishing tackle or hunting gear. The result was most beneficial. "Ever since the arrival of this most precious gift," writes Br. Kohlmeister, "we have observed a great change in our people. Their understanding of the Word of God and the doctrines which it contains, has greatly increased, and the influence upon their moral conduct is manifest. The reading of the Scriptures kindles new life in their hearts; they frequently come to ask the meaning of a sentence or word, and the conversation which ensues is by the Holy Spirit made useful and blessed to their souls."
A Harmony of the Four Gospels, the History of our Saviour's Passion, a hymnbook, and some other small works, were also printed in the Eskimo language by the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, and proved most useful.
The great change in the people was particularly manifest in the seasons of outward trial and distress, through which they had to pass. In the year 1827 the measles spread rapidly from Newfoundland all along the coast of Labrador. Not only children, but whole families were attacked by the disease; at Nain, of 206 inhabitants, 175 took the complaint, and 21 died. The missionaries did all they could for the poor sufferers, until their strength and their medicines were exhausted. Formerly, the services of the angekok would have been in great requisition, and all sorts of abominable and superstitious rites would have been restored to with a view to appease the wrath of the evil spirit, who was supposed to send the plague. Now, nothing of the kind was thought of, and, while in most cases a spirit of Christian resignation was manifested, in regard to those who fell victims to the disease the brethren had good reason to believe that they departed this life to be for ever with the Lord. Ten years later the scourge of famine terribly afflicted the poor Eskimoes. The winter from the year 1836 to 1837 was one of almost unprecedented severity; the ordinary supply of food entirely failed, and in spite of all the help which the brethren were able to afford, the famine reached a frightful height. Even the skin-coverings of the tents, boots, and other articles of a similar description were eaten by the starving natives. Of the all but indispensable dogs almost all died; at /63/ Okak only twenty survived out of about three hundred. Some years later (1851) a similar period of distress occurred, during which the missionaries at Okak alone distributed no less than 70,000 dried fish among the poor people; and again, in 1855-6, when several Christian Eskimoes actually died of starvation at a distance from the station. During the former visitation the condition of the heathen in the north was terrible beyond description; one man killed his wife and five children, and fed upon their bodies.
Distress of this kind is unhappily to a great extent due to the sad lack of provident habits among the Eskimoes. They are only too prone to live carelessly from hand to mouth, eating almost incredible quantities, when plenty reigns in their abodes. Prodigality is as much a national failing among the Eskimoes as miserly avarice among the Kaffirs. Under the influence of Christian teaching some improvement has taken place, and there are not a few who, by careful economy, have become owners of good boats, and loghouses with pictures and looking glasses on the walls, and iron stoves to warm them. But such cases are still exceptional. The rule is, to part with their fish and blubber and furs to any trader, who can supply them with various European articles of food, without bestowing a thought on the possible exigencies of a failure of their native food supplies in the long winter. This childish thoughtlessness is a source of great concern to the missionaries, and introduces much unpleasantness and difficulty in business transactions.
At Hebron the mission work did not at first meet with that degree of success which had been anticipated. The heathen in the north, for whose benefit especially the settlement had been formed, appeared to grow less and less impressible; the nearer the light of the Gospel was brought to them, the more they seemed resolved to cling to the darkness of heathenism. Of those who came hither to dispose of their produce very few listened to the exhortations of the brethren; the majority refused to hear their message, actually closing their ears with their hands, saying they "had still enough to eat in their own country." Even the inhabitants of Saeglek, who were only half a day's sledge journey distant from Hebron, and therefore in tolerably frequent contact with Christian Eskimoes as well as with the missionaries, persisted in adhering to their miserable savage mode of living. At this spot, which lies beyond a headland, easily visible from Hebron, there resided an aged sorcerer, called Paksaut, who was the great mover in all abominable works of darkness. His appearance was savage and repulsive in the extreme; he had four wives in his tent, and his hands were stained with the blood of many murders and other deeds of violence. Every attempt to make an impression on this man and those around him seemed worse than useless, and the brethren Schoett and Barsoe, who visited the place in the year 1847, returned to the station with the impression that there was no hope whatever that these dry bones could ever live.
How great was the astonishment of all at Hebron, when in February of the following year the sorcerer himself made his appearance in company with another man, and declared his intention to /64/ turn to Jesus. In March, thirty-two more followed from Saeglek, expressing the same resolve, and the brethren recognized in this remarkable movement a fulfilment of the prophetic word, to which, when they were on New Year's Eve following an old custom of selecting a text by lot, their attention had been particularly directed: "And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people." (Zech. ii. 11.) The persevering prayer of faith was answered in a manner and at a time which were very unexpected, but the experience was most encouraging, and tended greatly to strengthen the faith and renew the zeal and energy of the labourers.
In the course of the summer the number of those who abandoned their old heathen lair to live as Christians at Hebron increased to ninety, and great activity was displayed in preparing tents for their accommodation. A special class was commenced for these newly arrived Eskimoes, and very zealously attended by men and women of all ages. It was no easy matter to maintain order and discipline among the scholars, and to impose silence on the elderly females was simply impossible; nevertheless, the much tried teachers were permitted to see some satisfactory results of their labours. By the spring of the next year eight persons were able to read fairly, and all could repeat several texts of Scripture and hymns. They diligently attended the church services, and in their general deportment and conduct, the cleanliness of their persons and houses, &c., a considerable improvement was discernible. Twelve persons were baptized in a very solemn meeting, at which the Lord's presence was sensibly felt, and a deep and joyful interest manifested by all. Often, indeed, while out of doors the terribly wintry storms raged wildly, the nearness of the Lord our Saviour was experienced in a very striking manner. Old Paksaut soon became changed in manner under the new Christian influence which was brought to bear upon him; his old savage wildness was quite laid aside, and he became kind and gentle towards all who came in contact with him. The change of heart was of slower growth, but took place at last in the year 1853, and touching indeed was the sight of the old sorcerer and his wife Komak, as they knelt to declare their allegiance to none other than Christ Jesus, and receive the rite of holy baptism: every eye was filled with tears of deep emotion.
By degrees the Christian influence of the little flock at Hebron spread into the most remote regions of the north. Eskimoes from the coast as far as Cape Chudleigh, and even from Ungava Bay, came to Hebron, and heard the blessed invitation of the Gospel addressed to them. Their primary object in coming was to dispose of their produce, but not a few of them were found of the Lord when they sought Him not, and becoming possessed of the pearl of greatest price, cast in their lot with the people of God.
The results of the change produced by Christianity on the savage nature of the Eskimoes was evidenced in a very pleasing manner, when in the year 1849 the crew of a ship belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, which had been lost in the ice, came to Okak. Taking refuge in two boats they rounded Cape Chudleigh, and made their way southwards along the coast of Labrador. One of the two was /65/ lost with all on board. The other, containing the nine survivors, in a most deplorable condition from the effects of cold and hunger, was driven by the wind among the islands near Okak. Here they were soon seen by Eskimoes in their kayaks, and they prepared for the cruel death, which from heathen natives they had every reason to expect. To their great astonishment they were welcomed with kindly warmth, and the offer of aid to bring them ashore, where they were again surprised to find the women singing hymns at their work, and readily offering them whatever food was at their disposal. Unable to walk, they were carried to the mission- house, where they received every attention, the missionaries performing several surgical operations on severely frost-bitten limbs. The men, who were worn away to skeletons on their long journey of 800 miles by boat, wept tears of joy at their unexpected deliverance, and thankfully availed themselves of the opportunity to return to England with the Harmony. Br. and Sr. Herzberg, who were retiring from the mission service in advanced age, continued their assistance on board, and had the satisfaction of seeing all safely landed, with the exception of one boy, who died on the homeward voyage.
The history of the Labrador Mission during this period would scarcely be complete without a brief reference to undertakings, all of which concerned the Eskimo nation, though only one of them was in direct connection with this field of labour.
In the year 1857, in response to an invitation received from the superintendent of the factories of the Hudson's Bay Company, Br. Elsner undertook a sledge journey to Indian Harbour in Eskimo Bay, about 300 miles to the south of Hopedale, in the hope that an opportunity could be found of commencing missionary operations in that neighbourhood. He was very hospitably received at the factory near the mouth of the North-west river, but found that the population was small, and chiefly composed of Indians, whose places of residence were scattered over a wide tract of country, and often in places difficult of access. The natives were in a position of complete dependence upon the trader at the station, which would seriously interfere with regular missionary work. Hence no further steps were taken in this direction.
Previous to this Br. Miertsching, a missionary from Labrador on a visit to Europe, took part, at the request of the British Board of Admiralty, in the expedition under the command of Captain Collinson, in search of the North-West Passage. He was engaged as interpreter, and while attached to Captain McClure's ship, the Investigator, had in this capacity several opportunities of intercourse with small companies of Eskimoes. In some cases these showed hostile tendencies, which had to be met with courage and firmness. Br. Miertsching approached them in his sealskin dress, and spoke to them in their own language, occasionally alarming them by replying to their shower of arrows by the discharge of his pistol. On finding that they could understand Br. Miertsching, they soon laid aside their fears and shyness, and became very friendly. On Wollaston Island the natives appeared quite unwarlike, behaving like children, and only declaring repeatedly that they were full of /66/ fear. The North-West Passage was discovered to the south of Melville Island on a tour over the frozen sea, during the winter of 1850-51, but the ship was detained in the ice, until in the spring of 1853 the position became so desperate, owing to the spreading of scurvy among the crew and the prospect of starvation, that it was resolved to abandon the vessel, and seek safety in a long journey overland. Br. Miertsching was ordered to conduct one company southwards to the nearest factory of the Hudson's Bay Company, which was at a distance of a thousand miles. But the amount of provisions falling to his share to be dragged along on sledges through an unknown land could not with all economy suffice for more than one-third of the journey. At this critical moment the Lord graciously sent aid. Lieutenant Pim, with some men of the expedition commanded by Captain Kellett, whose ships (the Resolute and Intrepid) lay in the ice near Dealy Island, discovered the long sought for "Investigator," and guided the rescued crew to the two ships. These had also eventually to be abandoned, and the large company journeyed on foot to other vessels, which brought them in safety back to England in the year 1854. [NOTE: See Periodical Accounts, Vol. xxi. p. 265; also Sketch of the Life of Jan August Miertsching, by Daniel Benham: W. Mallalieu & Co., London.]
In the year 1857, Br. Warmow, a missionary from Greenland, accompanied Captain Penny from Aberdeen to Northumberland Inlet, [NOTE: Cumberland Island extends from about the 65th to the 68th parallel of North Latitude, while its southern angle is in the same longitude with Cape Chudleigh, the most northerly point of Labrador. For further information concerning this effort, see Periodical Accounts, Vol. xix. p. 19; Vol. xxii. p. 451; Vol. xxiii. p. 87, 130.] a bay situated on the west of Cumberland Island, to the north of Labrador, and not far from the opening of Davis's Straits. In that place Eskimoes were to be found, and it was hoped, that something might be done to christianize these heathen. Br. Warmow's report was, however, not favourable to the commencement of a mission in that place. The natives numbered not more than three hundred souls, and these were entirely under the control of whalers from England and America, whose influence -- especially in the introduction of spirituous liquor among the poor natives, -- was proving very injurious, and evidently leading to their rapid extermination. Br. Warmow spent a winter there, and won their love and confidence to such an extent, that they expressed great regret at his departure, while he on his part was quite prepared to devote himself to their service, if the directing Board had felt itself justified in continuing the effort under such unfavourable circumstances. Br. Warmow returned to England in the autumn of the year 1858, and has since then been labouring in Greenland. To convey the blessings of the Gospel to these scattered portions of the Eskimo nation, residing on the borders of Davis's Straits and of the Arctic basin, numbering in all several thousand souls, is at present out of our power, but we earnestly hope that the day may yet come, when from one or both of our Arctic mission-fields, Christian natives, established by grace and constrained by love, may go forth to these their countrymen and win souls for Christ. /67/ During the LAST TEN YEARS the history of the Labrador Mission has been distinguished by several interesting features. Some events worthy of a place in this brief chronicle have occurred, the sphere of labour has been widened, and some important changes in the mode of carrying on the work have been introduced. These matters have, however, so recently been brought to the notice of our friends in the pages of the Periodical Accounts, that a very cursory reference to them will be sufficient.
In the year 1861 Br. Levin Theodore Reichel was commissioned by the Unity's Elders' Conference, of which he was a member in the Mission Department, to proceed to Labrador for the purpose of holding a visitation of that field of labour, no similar visit having taken place since that of Br. Layritz in the year 1773. Br. Reichel spent more than three months on the coast, remaining for some time at each of the stations; on his return, many important matters which had been discussed in conference with the missionaries were again the subjects of long and anxious consideration with the Committee of the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel. To these belonged the need of a new station between Nain and Hopedale, the importance of entering upon a new sphere of labour among the "southlanders," or settlers, the advisability of modifying the trade system on the coast.
A FIFTH STATION, in the locality mentioned, was found very desirable for the benefit of members of the two southern congregations, who frequented the neighbourhood during a large part of the year for hunting and fishing purposes, and also for the purpose of keeping off strange traders with their evil influences for the natives. A spot was selected in a pleasant situation on a small bay with wooded beach, and on the completion of the first house there by the Brethren Elsner and Rinderknecht in 1865, the new station was called ZOAR. A goodly number of natives had soon taken up their abode here, and a good spirit prevailed; they were very thankful for this provision for their spiritual welfare, and manifested great appreciation of the means of grace. Several settlers, too, were attracted to the place, and the first persons baptized there in the year 1867, were the Eskimo wife of an English settler, and a man, who was one of the last, if not absolutely the last, professed heathen in this part of the coast. The Lord's blessing has been graciously vouchsafed to the work at this station; it has prospered both outwardly and inwardly. The increase of the auditory, especially at certain church festivals was so considerable, that the large room in the missionary's house proved quite inadequate for the requirements of public worship, and a church became absolutely needful. In September of last year the foundation stone of a small church was laid, the expense of which is generously provided by a Christian lady in England.
For some time previous to the visitation the relation existing between the missionaries and the southlanders had materially improved. Of the latter some made friendly advances, requesting the missionaries to baptize their children, and visiting at the stations, when the congregations assembled for the celebration of the great festivals of the Christian Church. The missionaries on their side, /68/ no longer feeling the necessity of holding aloof from their neighbours, as the dangerous influence of the settlers over the natives was no longer, or only to a small extent, exercised, were glad to visit these southlanders at their own stations, and do them good, as opportunity might offer. This Christian work grew in extent, and also in importance in the estimation of all who were acquainted with the circumstances of the people. The settlers are a rapidly increasing body, and it seems not at all improbable, that at no very distant date their number will exceed that of the Eskimoes; hence it is a matter that might well form the object of serious and persevering effort to bring the parents under the influence of the Gospel, but especially to rescue the rising generation from the condition of wildness and ignorance, in which they are permitted to grow up. To carry on a work of a permanent and regular character is all but impossible, owing to the distances to be traversed between the houses of these settlers, and the difficulties connected with travelling in Labrador during both summer and winter, but the labours of the brethren O'Hara and Rinderknecht, who have been successively appointed to this laborious and trying field of activity, have not been without blessed results.
The modification of the trade system, which has taken place within the last few years, consists in the separation of the offices of the trade agent and missionary to a greater extent than had hitherto taken place. This was done, not because any doubt existed in the minds of those who have the direction of the mission or the trade as to the lawfulness of their connection from the highest point of view, but merely because a change of feeling on the part of the natives, in some cases arising from gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the objects of the trade, which made the position of the trading missionary often very trying and difficult, seemed to indicate the expediency of adopting the plan of appointing agents, who should go forth in true missionary spirit, to carry on the trade in support of the mission and for the benefit of the natives, as a service for Christ, no less than the direct missionary calling. Br. C. Linder ably superintends this branch of the work. The features of the Labrador trade have in course of time, also considerably changed, competition with trading coasters having raised the price of all native produce, (of late years) while the prices realized in the home-markets have fallen. In spite of every exertion and faithful economical management it is no easy matter to raise the amount annually required for the support of the mission. Whether the new plan will prove successful, or really advantageous to the mission, time will show; but we trust that the Lord's blessing will continue to be granted.
One very useful result of the visitation is the arrangement for holding biennial General Mission Conferences, at which deputies from each station meet. Down to the present time three have been held, and proved decidedly beneficial to those who attended them, while at the same time attaining the objects for which they were deemed desirable.
The increasing number of fishing schooners visiting the coast of /69/ late years has brought for the missionaries additional anxiety, and occasional annoyance, but it has also provided new scope for their efforts for Christ. For several weeks in each year there has been opportunity afforded for preaching the Gospel, or distributing tracts among the crews. Sometimes the visits of the missionary on board have been welcomed, the word of reproof or exhortation thankfully received, and the preaching of Christ crucified eagerly listened to. The sowing was performed in faith, the harvest is in the Lord's hands. In some few cases only, Roman Catholics showed strong opposition, and resented the well-meant kindness of the missionaries.
Shipwrecked crews were welcomed and helped onwards on three occasions, each of them presenting some features of interest. Five survivors of the Kitty, which was lost in Ungava Bay, where the remaining men of the crew were murdered by the natives, reached Okak after a voyage of sixty days in an open boat, and were scarcely alive when rescued. Another company of six, under the guidance of a Christian captain, was saved by some Eskimoes from Hebron, and sent on from station to station, until they were able to proceed home in a ship of the Hudson's Bay Company. The kind sympathy and substantial aid received at the mission settlements were much appreciated, and called forth many a warm expression of gratitude. Only once was there a complete absence of anything of the kind, when some deserters from a whaler came to Okak: they had murdered one of their number to appease their hunger, and their whole conduct at the station was from first to last disgraceful and painful in every respect, so that the brethren were thankful when they were sufficiently restored to proceed on their journey. There is reason to believe that in the case of some of the rescued men the endeavours of the brethren to point out the primary importance of making sure the soul's salvation were not without some result, in spite of the difficulty in communicating with one another for want of acquaintance with both the German and the English language.
Seasons of trial and trouble have not been spared the poor Eskimoes during the last few years. In 1859 a distemper spread among the dogs again, and carried off large numbers: at Nain, of a hundred only six remained alive; at Hebron, of 200 only ten. Robbed of their sole beast of burthen, natives who had previously been in comparatively easy circumstances in the possession of a good team of dogs, became greatly reduced; they had to labour hard to convey to their distant homes the produce of the hunting or sealing operations, and often had to leave a portion of their booty behind for want of strength to draw the burthened sledge. In the winter of 1862-63, after a poor summer for the natives and an early setting in of the winter, an epidemic complaint broke out at Hebron. It first appeared in the form of influenza, and seemed to merge into a typhoid fever of a character which defied all the skill and experience of the missionaries. In about five months one-sixth of the entire population of Hebron had fallen victims to its attacks. In the first eighteen days twenty-six persons died and were buried in the same grave. Among those thus removed were several useful heads of families, whose ability in providing for their wives and children could ill be dispensed with at a /70/ period of unwonted distress. Fifty persons died at Hebron, but the end of many was peace; the missionaries at the bedsides of the poor sufferers, in the midst of indescribable external wretchedness, were rejoicing witnesses of the wonderful power of the Gospel in all those who receive it in sincerity. In the year following the complaint appeared at Nain and Okak, but nowhere in quite so virulent a form as at Hebron.
Very pleasing proofs of the fruits of Christian life have not been wanting for the encouragement of all who in earnest prayer and in strong faith looked to the Lord for the manifestation of His mighty grace in the poor degraded Eskimoes. Prominent among these were some chapel servants, or native assistants, true pillars of the church, examples to the flock in many respects, though none of them immaculate. To these belonged Frederick, the grandson of the once notorious angekok Tuglavina, for many years the determined enemy of the cross of Christ. Frederick distinguished himself by a life of conscientious service, and he died rejoicing in his Saviour. Another similar character was Nicodemus, who in his early years accompanied the brethren Kohlmeister and Kmoch on their exploratory voyage to Ungava Bay, and in his old age still rejoiced in the privilege of helping in the service of the house of God. Boas, surnamed the Captain, a man of unusually large size and great natural talents, which gave him a powerful influence over his countrymen, died at Okak in 1867. For 38 years he had been an active and useful native helper, taking a share in the church services, in discourses, &c., in a very able and acceptable manner. Valuable assistance in the schools has also been rendered by several Eskimoes, especially by some females; the men, unfortunately, still regarding teaching as a very unmanly occupation, which is only to be adopted in a case of emergency.
We must not omit to refer in this place to the evangelistic efforts of two Eskimoes who went forth spontaneously in the year 1867 to preach the Gospel among their heathen countrymen in the far north and along the shores of Ungava Bay. Accompanied by their families they travelled many miles along the coast, and lived for some time in the midst of the heathen, suffering no little persecution for Christ's sake. Obliged to flee from Ungava Bay in order to save their lives, leaving their boat behind them, and making their way overland to Hebron, they were located near Nachvak, where one of them unhappily fell into the hands of an unscrupulous agent of the Hudson's Bay Company, who by making advances to him from his store succeeded in getting the poor man into his power, and then seduced him to take part in sinful amusements. The result was, that he felt he could not remain at the place where he had brought dishonour on the cause of Christ, and returned to Hebron with many signs of sorrow and repentance. This comparative failure of the first effort of Eskimoes to spread the Gospel among their own people still living in heathenism, will, we trust, not be allowed to interfere with an early repetition of the same; the men were inspired by the right motive to the work, the constraining love of Christ, and in His service they shrank not from self-denial and suffering, but it seems clear that they lacked some qualities of character and disposition which /71/ are essential for Europeans as well as natives to the effectual execution of pioneering missionary operations.
An attempt to establish a filial station to the north of Hebron for the sake of the few remaining heathen Eskimoes between Hebron and Cape Chudleigh has up to the present time not succeeded, partly owing to the efforts made by the Hudson's Bay Company to prevent the natives from trading with the missionaries, partly in consequence of the stormy weather, which in the course of last summer on no fewer than twelve occasions prevented the coasting schooner from making her way northwards with Br. and Sr. Weitz, who were called to occupy this solitary advanced post. The effort will be renewed in the current year, and will, it is earnestly to be hoped, prove a success. The spot selected is in the bay of Nullatatok, and a movement emanating from the London Ladies' Association, and warmly seconded by brethren and sisters and friends in America and on the continent of Europe, has resulted in a fund which will meet a considerable portion of the expense connected with the commencement of this station.
In the year 1865 a new church was opened for public worship at Hopedale, a neat structure of sufficient size to afford ample accommodation for the congregation and the numerous visiting families of settlers. Br. Kruth, who for a goodly number of years had superintended with skill and energy the principal building operations at more than one station, was called home to rest with the Lord shortly before this last work of his was completed.
In a similarly unexpected manner the late Br. Freitag, who had held the office of superintendent of the Labrador Mission for seventeen years, departed this life in the year 1867. In failing health he came home in the Harmony after having resigned his office into the hands of Br. Theodore Bourquin, and reached London in safety, apparently not worse in health in consequence of the voyage. Two days after landing he gently fell asleep in Jesus, having to the very last spoken with the deepest interest and affection of the work in which he had been engaged for a period of thirty-six years.
Since the year 1771, 85 brethren and 68 sisters have been engaged in the service of this mission; besides these, 17 brethren were engaged in the preliminary journeys in the years 1752, 1765, and 1770, (of whom five were subsequently permanently employed in the regular mission service,) and eleven brethren have been appointed to the trade service. Of the total number of brethren 19 have departed this life in Labrador, 52 have returned to Europe, and 25 are still labouring in Labrador.
May the abundant blessing of our Lord and Saviour be graciously vouchsafed to all their labours. As far as the proclamation of the Gospel to the natives of Labrador is concerned, it certainly cannot be said, there remaineth much land to be possessed, seeing that all have heard it, or have an opportunity of hearing it; but it does remain true as regards the completion of the conquest. The Eskimoes may be said to be no longer rebels, but subjects of the King Christ Jesus; the grand object which has been kept in view for a hundred years and more may IN A MEASURE be considered attained; they are, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, a Christian people, /72/ to whom the life and service of a well-regulated Christian community are no longer either new or of small value. Compared with their ancestors of a hundred years ago, the present natives are vastly changed indeed; they are wonderful instances of the powerful working of the grace of God through the influences of His Word and Spirit, and we can only look on with thankful wonder at what God has wrought. Still, there is work for the missionary in Labrador, similar in character perhaps to that of the minister in a nominally Christian congregation at home. Consolidation is wanted in every direction; the young Christian life needs careful tending and guidance, to preserve it from dangers which intelligent experience alone can discern and avoid. Christian service has to be urged with its imperative claims on every believer, and judiciously directed in its modes of operation; the tendency to be Christ's in name but not in heart, to be satisfied with formality instead of seeking for a continually deepening spirituality, has to be combatted with never-failing watchfulness and great faithfulness in prayer. The attainment of these great objects, and the crowning of a century's "work and labour of love," in dreary Labrador, we look for and pray for.
May the Lord, in whose name and for whose glory this work is being carried on, to this end anew stir up the flocks gathered from among the Eskimo nation by that same divine life-giving power of the present century, and may He continually and increasingly grant to those who feed these flocks the spirit of wisdom and of a sound mind, with unchanging faithfulness, undaunted perseverance, and loving devotedness to the cause of our Lord and Saviour. A work thus blessed with spiritual gifts in those who give and those who receive, must and will prosper.