2.33 Heart of Africa Mission

October 7, 2012

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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2.30 Heart of Africa Mission

September 16, 2012

When left alone by Studd and Buxton to mediate between Azande and Mangbettu at the mission, Hayes tries a more pragmatic approach than that of  the “two apostles”:  digging a well for fresh water, then a fence into the river to protect those going to the river from crocodiles – and of course cultivating the gardens to share the largesse.  Nevertheless, when a fist and spear fight breaks out between twenty burly Mangbettu and Hayes backed by somewhat fewer Azandes, a reader marvels again that Hayes survived his adventures.

February 21, 1914 – December 24, 1914

Just before Studd and Buxton left on their first trip looking for new mission sites south and west of Niangara, Hayes wrote, referring to the three hour morning and evening evangelical exhortations Buxton lead, ” ‘services’ continue and these have driven the workmen into my arms.  Now they realize who is their friend, and if I was alone I could win the confidence of the people about us.  They half trust me now…”

Trust or no, Europeans give the orders at this station in central Africa.  In June, the middle of the rainy season, the Welle River rose high enough to overflow the station’s spring.  When Hayes directed the men to start digging a well on higher ground hoping to intersect the underground watercourse before its outlet at the spring, “The men don’t like the job, say finding water in such a manner is impossible.”  But Studd didn’t contravene Hayes’ order, so the men grumbled and kept digging.

As the rising river fouled their fresh water source, the accompanying turbidity increased the danger from crocodiles who, Hayes explained, can’t see their natural prey in the muddy waters, so stalk humans “with infinite cunning and patience.”  Hayes blames the “shiftless Belgians” for four deaths from crocodiles on the riverbank at Niangara in the week of June 8, 1914.  Following a design he saw the British build on the Nile, Hayes and his men constructed a protective fence extending into the water.  Rather than build such a fence of their own to protect the residents at Niangara, the Belgians “send long lines of chained prisoners here to carry water to the town,”  leaving those who seek water from the river at Naingara to their unprotected chances.

The crocodiles took a fifth victim, not attributed to the Belgians, that same week.  Hayes called him “Poor old Tikima, a genial Mangbettu.”  Seized by a crocodile while setting a fish trap, Tikima grabbed for the side of his canoe.  “…It was a long time before he weakened and was dragged under, so the attacking crocodile must have been small.”

Mangbetu musician, early twentieth century

Right after Studd and Buxton left, the well-diggers hit water “and now my men are proudly proclaiming their magic to the natives of the surrounding country, how they found water beneath the earth.”

While the Azande workmen boasted, the Mangbettus came to Hayes making “friendly approach.”  They say they can see “that these two men (Studd and Buxton) treat me as rotten as they have them (the mangbettus).”  The Mangbettus bring their daughters offered as temporary wives in a show of good faith.  “If a normal man said these girls were not a temptation he would be a liar.…  I might if inclined have a harem here that would make that of Brigham Young look like a second rate affair…”

But enough of that – “the garden is maturing, the palms are hanging full of yellow fruit, my recently planted fruit trees, the many bananas and plantains and pineapple re growing.  This alone makes me happy.”

Schweinfurth’s drawing of Azande Warriors circa 1874

Shortly after his initial cordial approach, Mombidi (a minor Mangbettu chief) came to Hayes demanding alcohol.  Hayes’ refusal resulted in the loss of all Mangbettu goodwill and a row about the Azande workmen on the Mangbettu side of the river.  Mombidi demanded the Azandes return to their own territory attempting to enforce his order with twenty men who entered Hayes’ house “and insulted me before my men.”  In the resulting scuffle, “I jabbed with a spear at their feet, cutting one severely.”  A melee broke out inside the house.  “There were not so many of us as of the Mangbettus, but we were on our own soil and they were the invaders.  I have a badly swelled hand, for Negro heads are solid.”

By mid July, 1914, Hayes and his Azande workers had made the mission station beautiful.  On a clear African morning, Hayes stood amid cultivated gardens beneath young palm trees gazing across the well-cleared shores to the Azande country on the other side of the Welle River listening to the incessant talking of the drums.  “They have a drum system as good as telegraph, sending messages five hundred miles in a day.”  Most native people understand the drums; a young boy listening can tell Hayes what a chief will be sending to market on Saturday and the characteristics of any European within three days of Niangara.

Much to Hayes’ dismay, the drums foretell the return of C. T. Studd and Alfred Buxton on August 1.