2.25. Heart of Africa Mission

August 12, 2012

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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2.22 Rejaf to Loka

July 22, 2012

Finally!  On caravan, with porters, creaking ox carts, askaris with rifles, rumors of Lions, tsetse fly, sleeping sickness… – Hayes is living the image of Africa formed when he was ten years old hearing stories of Livingstone, Stanley, and Emin Pasha on the banks of the Coquille River in Oregon.

The terrain map shows Hayes approaching the African continental divide about to enter the drainage of the Congo River.

January 24,1914 – January 30, 1914

On his last night steaming up the Nile Hayes wrote:  “Eighteen days from Khartoum, every one of them filled with vivid interest.  I have lived more in these past eighteen days than in a year in a sawmill at Eureka or in Oregon.”

During these glorious eighteen days he had to provision for himself.  “It has been largely dates bought before leaving Khartoum.  Also fruits picked from some sort of tree on the Nile plains below the Sobat, these a strong laxative, even for Arabs, who warned me.”  Never mind that – “Now for the bush in its fullness. I am glad to see it, eager to learn what lies beyond.”

For the first time Hayes writes of traveling with porters.  He makes no mention of who pays the men or how much, but he roundly criticizes “the Bimbashi or major commanding the post [who] would not permit me to divide my large boxes into small loads fit for porters up to the Congo, this being against regulations.”  From reading Hayes’ diary thus far, one feels certain the thought of a bribe to the Bimbashi never entered his mind.  “I was entwined in the mazes of red tape until there was no escape, almost had to stay here for two weeks because of some slip in further red tape at Khartoum,” where authorities had neglected to certify him free of sleeping sickness.

Among several letters sent from Studd and Buxton, who are “350 miles west of this place” at Niangara, Hayes received “a small Bangala vocabulary, more than welcome, for I know not one word.”

Alfred Buxton

Charles Thomas Studd

Hayes’ apparent readiness to cool his heels for two weeks in sleeping sickness quarantine while learning the bits of Bangala Buxton had sent called the bimbashi’s bluff:  “Castle-Smith, the bimbashi, said the Khartoum officials were to blame for the lack of proper credentials, so passed me through the quarantine and I am encamped at the first rest house a few miles west of Rejaf.”  Once “All English speaking people are behind me now,” what does one say in Bangala to the caretaker of a Sudanese rest house after hiking all day through the bush?  Hayes tries:  “Ngai alingi kosumba koko.” (Hayes’ quote)  Without comment the master of the house brought a small chicken.  Very pleased with himself, Hayes next asked “Piastre boni?” and paid “Moko” (one) for his dinner.   “This gives me great encouragement, for these meaningless words set down here are a medium of communication between me and these people.  I will not forget that expression, and will learn many more as I proceed.”

Castle-Smith relented on the quarantine but not on redistribution of the loads.  “My porters are old men and mere boys.  One of my loads weighs 67 pounds, too much for a strong man.”  In fact, “All of them are heavy and I may not open one to lighten their burdens.”  Hayes is in charge – “As the lone European, I have the papers for the caravan” – maybe he thought distribution of loads would be checked at a subsequent rest house.  Though Hayes never described the full extent of his caravan, it included several wagons “drawn by bullocks, two to each cart.  A man leads each team, another by his side with a gun.”  Hayes writes that he’ll endeavor to put the 67 pound overloaded pack onto one of the carts.  Also walking with the caravan “is a comely Bari girl” – more to be said about this “temporary wife… billed as ‘Mr. Grogan’s servant,'” later.

Tsetse Fly

On a “dry stage of six hours from Moongo (elegant) to Gangi (bamboo)” traveling by night to avoid the heat and the tsetse flies “that carry the dreaded sleeping sickness,” Hayes and his convoy dug clean water from the sands beside a dry khor and passed a rusting steam truck abandoned by the Belgians.  “Leopold did what he could to exploit this country of its easily negotiable riches before turning it over to the British, which had to be done at his death.  As porters were difficult to obtain, he sent in several of these gigantic machines.”  [Hayes correctly identifies Leopold as personally exploiting this region – the Congo colony was Leopold’s private property.  Hochschild cites scholars who estimate roughly half the population perished during Leopold’s Free State period between 1885 and 1909 – about 10 million people.  Not surprising that Hayes could find only children and old men as porters in 1914.]

Five days out from Rejaf approaching the continental divide between the drainage of the Nile and Congo rivers, the column passed out of territory where “elephants, a few rhinos, eland, topi, waterbuck and many more” hid from the noisy caravan in the scrub or dry grass into country “all granite ridges with great prophyritic (sic) dykes crosscutting the quartzite reefs striking across country.  The soil is very poor.”  The few people living in this region eat mainly “dhurra, a sort of millet that is very nourishing.  My men carry a  bag of dhurra flower, from which they make a ball of cooked dough each evening.”  Hayes says fowl cost only five cents American; he can also get soggy sweet potatoes and a little rice, “so I live well enough.”

At Loka “chief station on the way to Yei,” Hayes see the first running water since leaving Rejaf 64 miles previously.  He records the date as January 30, 1914 – so the caravan had been making a little better than 10 miles a day.  The officer in charge of the station at Loka, Captain Vandelaar, passed them through “without too much trouble,” but warned of lions on the trail ahead.  No sign of them but Hayes writes eloquently about the feel of traveling at night on watch for lions, on caravan, in the southern Sudan, in 1914:

“There is something barbaric about this hamrah, or caravan.  To see each askari with a lighted torch of close wrapped grass beside the man who leads two bullocks, the fire lighting up the long horns of the animals and shining on the gun barrels; to hear the creaking carts, the cries of the men and sometimes the sad wail of a hyena gives it a touch of Africa not understood otherwise.”