2.33 Heart of Africa Mission

Volume Two of Here and There ends at the beginning of the dry season in northern Congo with Hayes planning a bitter, broke, and rash departure from C. T. Studd and the Heart of Africa Mission.  The beginning of Volume Three begins by tracing his path east and then north back up the Nile.

Thanks for reading along this far.  I’ll temporarily discontinue weekly publications to do a little advance work on Volume Three.

February 21, 1914 – December 24, 1914

September 19, 1914 Hayes wrote: “This experience with missionaries has been the crowning blunder of my life.  I entered into it with all the enthusiasm I was capable of giving, thinking to give a couple of years of my life for the advancement of human betterment.  I find myself counted as something less than a domestic animal, a servant to two charlatans wholly self seeking while pretending to be self sacrificing devotees of the cause of Christianity.”

One should not, however, conclude that Hayes’ experience with these “two wicked men who uphold drunkenness and polygamy and unjust taxation in order that their interest may be advanced” had soured Hayes on Christianity or missionaries in general.  In late November, after walking the 3 km into Niangara to treat Renzi (chief of the Azandes), Hayes paused, as was his custom, at the local cemetery where lie buried Belgians who brought Christianity to this region in an earlier time.  “When I look on the graves of La Haye, Van Der Vel and others who have given their lives that this country might be free from the Dervish yoke and from the blight of cannibalism I honor them with all my heart.”

By now, readers of Hayes Here and There appreciate Hayes’ confidence in his own abilities.  During Studd and Buxton’s second extended absence from the fledgling missionary station, Hayes records what can be read as a lesson for those he calls “the two apostles” on how mission work might succeed.  As soon as Studd and Buxton left, Hayes lined the men up and abolished forced attendance at morning and evening services.  “My words were received with shouts of glee.”  Instead, he offered to explain the bible to any interested men “as best I could.”

Surprised that the men accepted his offer, and no longer able to plead ignorance of Bangala, he and the men sat or squatted on their haunches African style about a fire “while I translate to them the Lord’s Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount and such simple things as Jesus taught his disciples in those days of long ago.”  The men sat rapt in silent attention.  Hayes says he didn’t feel “good enough” to be a missionary, “But if there be worthiness in Christianity it must be in the precepts laid down by Him who founded this Faith, and all I know is to give it to these men as Christ Himself taught to His disciples.”

On the morning of November 8, 1914, after several nights of fireside bible chats, the Azande workmen failed to respond to Hayes’ police whistle calling them to work – an unusual breach of discipline with Studd away from the mission.  Hearing a great commotion, Hayes hurried to the workers’ house fearing some kind of fight.  In fact, the Azande workers were holding “one of the most enthusiastic prayer meetings it has ever been my lot to hear.  Especially were they praying for their natural enemies, the Mangbettus.”  Hayes crept away allowing the Azandes to finish their raucous professions of love for their enemies and neither side spoke about the meeting or their tardiness when the men mustered for work half an hour late.

Hayes ends this passage on his reluctant missionary work by recording an unusual emotional response:  “It makes me feel ashamed, for they seem to have understood what I read to them from the Bible and to have the spirit of it in their hearts.”  Ashamed?  He writes no further explanation .

The same day Hayes recorded the comment about La Haye and Van Der Vel, he also wrote that he’d had a visit from Old Mombidi (chief of the Mangbettu, by now Hayes is on “excellent terms” with both tribes) who, looking to the east, saw Orion low on the horizon and quietly declared “Gara Akumi!”  (Hayes’ quote)  Hayes was finally free to leave;  “The dry season is here!”  (Hayes’ translation.)

Scorning the forty pound “hush money” Buxton offered, Hayes counted his scant 67.80 francs again.   Not much, but enough to hire three porters and his old cook Bundajuo for an ill-directed hike off toward mines rumored to be working somewhere deep in the Ituri forest.  A lone American traveling with only this tiny caravan and no funds at the outbreak of WWI in this part of Africa has to be called reckless to the point of foolhardiness.  Hayes  must have made the same assessment:  determined to leave come what may, he writes, “Death has no terrors after this pseudo missionary work.”

Volume II of the diaries ends very much as Volume I:  Hayes embittered by his experiences in colonial Africa, shaking the dust from his sandals and moving on.

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