2.28 Heart of Africa Mission

On giving his diary to my grandfather, Hayes Perkins instructed that it not be published until everyone mentioned therein had died.  Perkins’ candor concerning the misdeeds of powerful men, as recorded in this segment, undoubtedly informed that instruction.

February 21, 1914 – December 24, 1914

Buxton closed discussion of the tax medals with what seemed a repugnant bit of evangelical sophistry to Hayes:  “to do the lesser evil to gain the greater good.”

Hayes’ first mentions alcohol abuse at The Heart of Africa Mission on April 30, 1914, two months after his arrival there.  On that date Buxton informed Hayes that “I was unfit to leave a station alone with, so Studd could not go home at this time.  The reason is, I combat their liquor activities constantly, for if there be any sense of decency it should at least exclude drunkenness.”  Mombidi, who is Mangbettu chief of this region, demanded liquor from Hayes claiming he had already received liquor from Studd.  Even if Hayes suspected the veracity of Mombidi’s word, he knew from firsthand experience that Studd and Buxton, at the very least, tolerated drunkenness among the natives:  “Both these men sneered at me the first day I saw them for remarking at the sodden condition of the entire Mangbettu people.”  Hayes had arrived in the midst of the month-long orgy of dancing, singing, and drinking a sort of beer made from murru (a kind of millet) that ripens in the regional dry season.

In his history of the Heart of Africa Mission, Christ in Congo Forests,Norman Grubb, who married C. T. Studd’s daughter Pauline and came with her to the mission in 1919, writes that the station outside  Niangara was only intended as a staging ground for establishing missions deeper into the Ituri forest.  

Pauline (Studd) Grubb

Norman P. Grubb

Apparently the work of obtaining concessions in areas not already proselytized by Catholic priests pressed heavily enough on Studd and Buxton to overcome their fears of leaving the Niangara station alone in the hands of Hayes Perkins.  When the pair left on June 21, 1914, Mombidi immediately came round to Hayes demanding whiskey.  “He said he could see by the way they treated me I was of lower rank….  As he [Mombidi] was a chief and of equal rank with Studd and Buxton, then I was his inferior and must bring him gifts when they were absent.”   Hayes’ first responded incredulously, “It seemed so ridiculous I laughed, thinking he was jesting.”  But an hour later, Mombidi sent “six husky henchmen” with a demand for corn from Hayes’ garden.  He chased them off; they loosed a bull in his garden; the Azande gardeners chased the (bloody) bull back to Mombidi’s village; and Hayes “took the herdsman in hand, he being rather cheeky.”

By June 28, in an attempt to recover face with his tribesmen, Mombidi had forbidden any Mangbettu to bring any sort of food to the lone musungu (here meaning white man) at the mission.  For his part, Hayes ponders:  “I wonder if these two charlatans have been sweetening this old cannibal with booze to get a concession?  He [Mombidi] says so, as do his subjects.  When all Negroes agree on one thing, it is usually so.  I am inclined to believe it, but it is too unchristian for one to accept.”

Hayes writes that Studd and Buxton returned on August 1, 1914, “full of self praise of their achievements… in obtaining further concessions.”  They had taken the best native workers with them and now, “My men, whom they had with them on the trip, are cheeky and out of hand.  They too demand whiskey saying these two men who pose as missionaries freely gave them drink during the trip.”  These same men challenged Hayes later in the month as he tried to reassert control.  He quotes their reasoning: “You say that munsungu (whiskey) is bad for us.  These two men who are over you tell us it is good, and when we were at Wamba and Nala they gave us of it to drink freely.  We ourselves like it.  Whom shall we believe?”  This exchange prompted another of the assemblages by Studd at which the men were told to disregard anything Hayes said to them.

On October 6, 1914 Studd and Buxton left again in a great canoe with Bakango boatmen to take them to Bambili 160 miles down river.  To this point, Hayes could, with difficulty, dismiss the allegations of Mombidi and the other workmen as unfounded talk.  However on October 30 he writes of finding direct evidence “of this man’s utter perfidy and double dealing.”  In the absence of “the two apostles,” Hayes was entrusted with keys to every lock at the mission.  Ever since arriving he’d been short of tools and forbidden by Studd from opening several boxes prominently marked “Tools”.  So, in Studd’s absence, Hayes opened one of them – “not through inquisitiveness but to find perhaps a hammer or saw to aid in my work.  The first contained French cognac, the second Old Scoth Whiskey.  Now I see how Mombidi got his booze, how the boys acting as porters insisted liquor was given them.  There are seven of these cases, and at least two empty ones long ago noted.”

Hayes wrote a letter “resigning my commission,” counted his remaining 67 francs, and prepared to quit the mission rain or no.

His scant funding and the rains prevented Hayes from leaving for another two months.  In that time Buxton returned to Niangara traveling with the Reverend William Haas an American Baptist missionary with the Africa Inland Mission.  In a moment alone together, Haas asked Hayes why “I was discontented with this place and my companions.”  Hayes opened a case of scotch and poured a glass for Haas to smell – without drinking of course.  Haas then confessed that while traveling with Buxton at three meetings in the south “Buxton handed out liquor openly, saying there was nothing in the Bible against it, and that polygamy was not condemned in the Scriptures.”  Haas said he, “differed with them, and that is that.”  Haas’ inaction in the face of evident wrongdoing infuriated Hayes:  “Evidently Haas, like Buxton is willing to do the lesser evil that the greater good may come, so will compromise with these two advocates of a new faith which encompasses all the sins dear to the heart of man in this world and promises a haven of bliss on the other side of life in the skies.  They easily outdo Mohamed, who did at least adjure booze.”

Even after the 1914 contingent of new missionaries arrived on December 21, Hayes remained the sole voice raised against alcohol as a missionary technique practiced by Studd and Buxton at the Heart of Africa Mission.   Hayes denounced their practices to Richardson, one of the new arrivals and “the only real man among them.”  Richardson loudly confronted Buxton and applauded Hayes’ rejection of the 40 pounds Buxton offered “to carry me to the coast, which is of course hush money.”  Nevertheless, Grubb in Christ in Congo Forests records that Richardson and his wife stayed on at the mission until 1920.

So, the day before Christmas 1914, Hayes gathered up a group of porters and walked out of the Heart of Africa Mission a lone dissenter in both word and action.

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3 Responses to 2.28 Heart of Africa Mission

  1. This is a moving segment because we see Hayes come up against something much larger than he can change by his personal actions. Was Hayes mentioned in the Grubb’s book?

    • johnmmartin says:

      That seems to be the story of much of Hayes’ travel: looking for adventure doing good among honest hard working people and finding colonial abuse and expediencies of profit of one kind or another. Yes, Grubb put him in the index and included one parenthetical remark: “Within a few weeks they had asked the authorities for three concessions in the Upper Welle Province: Niangara, Nala, and Poko. ‘Oh yes, you certainly can have them’ was the reply, ‘but how many have you, to man these three concessions? ‘Three’ (for they had been temporarily joined by an American Hayes Perkins).”

  2. Noel Martin says:

    I would guess all of the people mentioned have passed? Wasn’t there also something with a copyright held by a museum or something keeping it from being published? Keep up the good work. I enjoy the new posts.

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