2.28 Heart of Africa Mission

September 2, 2012

On giving his diary to my grandfather, Hayes Perkins instructed that it not be published until everyone mentioned therein had died.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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2.24 Aba to Niangara

August 5, 2012

Two Maps so you can see why Hayes has arrived at a place called The Heart of Africa Mission.  If you zoom in on the one showing the Welle river, you can see enormous stretches of white water.

February 8, 1914 – February 21, 1914

With fresh porters, Hayes made good time on the 50 miles between Aba and Faradje:  “I did it in three days. good time in Africa with heavy loads.”  This is lion country:  lots of tracks, lots of spoor, lots of roaring, but the porters laugh mimicking the lion’s roaring.  “This morning I was far behind the men, and a lioness emerged from the grass and sat on her haunches beside the road, looking like nothing more than a great Dane dog.    I stopped and returned her stare, and after a time she galloped away.”  The porters tell Hayes none of the lions in this area are man-eaters.

The great excitement for the Europeans at Faradje concerns an American elephant hunter named Pickering.  The Belgian officers at the post invited him to a friendly game of chemin de fer.  When Pickering learned that they had “combined against him,” first he shot the flagpole with his elephant gun.  Getting no results from that display, he shot toward the door of the station, “and after a few shots they hurriedly tossed out his goods, money boxes, ivory and all.”  Another pair of American elephant hunters, Pierce and Rogers, illegally shot an elephant in British territory and fled into Belgian territory where an over-zealous askari mortally wounded Rogers in the hip.  Hayes believes the British government paid Rogers’ family $60,000 compensation as they had no jurisdiction in the Belgian Congo.

At the tumble down Catholic mission at Faradje missionaries teach their faith.  “Naturally the people are wishful to add another god to their already numerous collection, especially one recognized by the superior musungus.”  Hayes notes that “musungu” has two meanings for the the natives of this area:  it denotes any white but also all strong intoxicants.  He writes, “I wonder if there be any connection between these two?”  (A friend just returned from Uganda says she was called “mzungu” there; “azungu” in Malawi.)

On February 10, 1914, his thirty-sixth birthday, Hayes records a travelogue of where he’d been on this date in previous years:  “The last one was in Southampton, and I had little thought of being in the middle of Africa.  The ones preceding were in Sydney, the Woodlark Islands, in New Guinea, Ellice Islands, NorthBend Oregon; at Little River, California; in Nigeria, at Seattle, and so on.  One shifts about.”

After two hard days march with “a wild turbulent crew” of new porters who also mock the lions – and Hayes’ fear of the wild roaring – the caravan arrived at “a vast wooded plain, with forest galleries on every stream” where the natives beg Hayes to shoot the marauding “mbongos” (elephants).  Based on the spoor, he estimates hundreds maraud in the vicinity but declines to shoot any – perhaps not properly armed.  He notes, however, “Ivory is the chief export of this country, but the white hunters will soon exterminate the herds if left to shoot as they are doing now.”

Areas infested by tsetse fly 1998

We know from his notes that Hayes received at least one bite from a tsetse fly: “These insects are scarcely equal to an American or Australian horsefly in size. They alight without bing noticed, and have driven their proboscis deep before one realizes their presence.  The bite is as painful as a red hot needle.”  Like any European traveler in central Africa in 1914, Hayes necessarily adopted a certain stochastic resignation:  “As few flies are infected with the germ of sleeping sickness, it is improbable any untoward happening will take place.”  He never subsequently reported suffering sleeping sickness.

If he wasn’t particularly afraid of tsetse fly, Hayes’ approach to the Heart of Africa Mission and C. T. Studd filled him with foreboding:  “I am drawing near my journey’s end and don’t like it.  There is an insistent warning of evil to come that will not be denied.… This always happens when I fall into hard places.”  In the center of the African continent what could one do with such a premonition but press on?

150 miles from Aba, after nine days “actual marching time,” Hayes and the safari arrived at the station at Dungu where the the Dungu and Kibali Rivers merge to form “the Welle, or Uele, as called by the Belgians.  Later on the river becomes the Makua, then the Oubangui of the French, or plain Ubangi of the British.  It is the great northern tributary of the Congo, and has a course of more than 2,000 miles.”  This is territory of the Azanedes; “They are a warlike people, hate the Belgians and would drive the latter out if they could.”

On a windy hill “above the fever” on the north bank of the Dungu River, two white representatives of the Africa Inland Mission direct construction of a new mission station.  “These men have recently been associated with Mr. Studd.”  They say Studd quarreled with the American, Charles Hurlburt, who heads the Africa Inland Mission and “suggest I will find Mr. Studd difficult to get along with.  This adds to my fears of strife to come, but it is too late now to remedy matters.”

Hayes had one last brief idyll before reaching Niangara and the Heart of Africa Mission.  “The Chef De Poste gave me a large canoe and a crew of Bakango boatman, so for two days we have been poling down the Welle.”  For the most part the men “dawdle and sing songs of the river.”  But approaching a stretch of wild water they put Hayes off to walk the shore, “saying they would be held responsible if a white man was lost, whereas nothing would happen if it was merely one of themselves.”  The reader gets the distinct impression that Hayes would rather have been aboard:  “These wild Bakangos stripped themselves of their scant clothing and drove the canoe into the white water.  Every man was crouched and yelling his best.  All knew their work, for with poles they warded off every rock thrust up through the surge of foam, kept their craft headed into the main channel and finally out into the boiling maelstrom and on into quiet water below… Triumphant yells rose high when they floated again in safety.”  (Welch, Conley, and Dimock cite Perkins as conversant with Buzz Holmstrom about African whitewater (incorrectly asserting Perkins made a small fortune mining in Africa) in The Doing of the Thing: The brief Brilliant Whitewater Career of Buzz Holmstrom.)

One more day watching crocodiles, hippos, and spur-winged geese while the boatmen loaf and sing before pulling into Niangara to be met by Buxton and Studd.