2.25. Heart of Africa Mission

This map is taken from Love at First Tooth: Family and Missionary Politics in East Africa and Congo 1913-1934 by Robin Johnson, dedicated to Elizabeth Ann Thompson Flinn who joined the heart of Africa Mission in 1915.  Niangara appears near the top of the map just south of the Sudan border.

February 21, 1914 – April 5, 1914

Personnel at Heart of Africa Mission Niangara, Congo as given in an appendix to Norman Grubb’s Christ in Congo Forests (1945)

1913 1914
Mr C T Studd 1913-31
Mr A B Buxton 1913-27
Mr H Perkins 1914-15
Miss Irene Flangham 1914-31 (Mrs Davies)
Miss L Chapman 1914-28 (Mrs Buck)
Mr S J Richardson 1914-20
Mrs S J Richardson 1914-20
Mr A J Bowers 1914-14
Mr E W Coles 1914-18

First impressions are so important.

Twenty-two year old Alfred Buxton had interrupted his medical studies to join C. T. Studd in foundingThe Heart of Africa Mission in 1913.  On meeting him, Hayes wrote: “Buxton is a tall, callow youth, apparently out of place in the bush.  It is easy to see he knows his position of family and breeding is superior to most folks, and this will not sit well with me.”  (Buxton married Studd’s daughter Edith in 1917, but broke with his father-in-law in the 1920’s to pursue his own missionary work in Ethiopia and Somalia.)

C. T. Studd Africa 1910

Fifty-four year old C. T. Studd had renounced his family fortune and his place as foremost cricketeer in England to pursue missionary work for fifteen years in China, beginning at age twenty-five, then six years in India and finally, against doctors advice, in the Congo basin.  On meeting him, Hayes wrote:  “Studd, so called pioneer and founder of this  mission is decidedly a self-centered man.  He is about five feet eight inches in height, of sallow complexion and has a thin beard and the dreamy eyes of a fanatic.  One could easily imagine them as the eyes of an opium eater.”  (Studd, a regular user of morphine in his last years,  continued his zealous missionary work until his death at 70 at Ibambi, Congo.  The Heart of Africa Mission Studd founded persists under the name Worldwide Evangelization for Christ (WEC).)

Buxton and Studd together receive this summary:  “Both [Studd] and Buxton are aware of a special dispensation from the Almighty to evangelize the world, beginning with the Dark Continent, and do not propose to let anything stand in their way doing it.”  On his second day at the “splendid” location for the Heart of Africa Mission, Hayes overheard Buxton asking Studd “whether I (Hayes) should not be relegated to a table by myself.”  Three white men alone in the jungle working out seating arrangements according to London class lines – Hayes doesn’t say what they decided, but the conversation alone told him where he had arrived.

Nevertheless, three days later Hayes wrote, “What’s the use grouching?  Do the best you can boy.”  In London he made a two-year unpaid commitment to the mission and says that upon arrival he threw every pound he had into the community chest as a gesture of good will.  Now he sets about building tables and chairs from slabs rejected from a Belgian sawing operation nearby and organizing his half-dozen Azande workmen to clearing the brush readying the ground for planting.  By now Hayes is competent to direct the workers in the Bangala language.  “Buxton criticizes all I do with all the wisdom gained in 22 years of pink tea fights, under the supervision of nurses and governesses and at school.  The practical experience I have learned in a life time about the world means nothing.”

On March 8, Hayes wrote:  “Studd has been disciplining me this week.  To do this he put me on two meals a day, one at seven in the morning, the other eight at night,  me working at hard labor in between.”  From eating bananas “or anything I could get to satisfy my hunger,” and sleeping on a camp bed with “six inches of water under it,”  lumbago sets in.  Hayes is sure he could cure himself using his own head but “Studd seemingly considers me a human guinea pig to experiment on.”

A week later, endeavoring to throw off the pain of lumbago, Hayes hiked to a nearby Mangbettu village to visit Bukinda, a small chief contracted by Studd to build a new house for the mission.  “I photographed Bukinda sitting in the midst of fourteen of his wives.  His village is scrupulously neat and clean.  the houses are decorated with designs of red, white and black … these colors stand up well, and are arranged in every sort of design, with some sort of attempt to paint men and animals, especially leopards and horses, as murals on the outer walls.”  (I know of none of Hayes’ photographs surviving.)

With Hayes not traveling, his diary becomes a little disjointed.  A paragraph or two on European explorers to the region:  Benjamin Gosling, who traveled with Boyd Alexander, lies buried at Niangara, Schweinfurth, a Russo-German explorer came through in 1870. –  Then a bit about the history of African rulers:  Munza, who was “a sort of Napoleon in his way, for he gathered all the small tribes into his empire and made them Mangbettus,” was also a notorious cannibal. – Comparisons between the local tribes with whom he lives:   The Mangbettus are ingenious crafters who make fine chairs, houses, and musical instruments; contrasted with the Azandes who “are willing to work at anything to advance themselves.”  Hayes will hire only Azandes “much to the dislike of the Mangbettus who own this side of the river.”  – But entries always returns to carping about Studd and Buxton:  Studd paid Bukinda 150 francs, about $30, for 75 men working six weeks to build his house.  Studd got a fine house; Hayes got the fallout from the unpaid workmen:  “Every one of them reproaches me, for I supervised the work.”

By the middle of April Hayes writes “I am considering leaving this place when the next dry season comes.  No one could make it in the rains.”  As the roster above indicates, Hayes lasted at The Heart of Africa well into 1915 but not without considerable conflict with, “These two men [who] spend most of their time writing to London telling of their exploits, misrepresenting the country and in every way publicizing themselves to gain further fame.”

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