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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2.27 Heart of Africa Mission

August 26, 2012

More on the down side of Mission work with C. T. Studd in the Congo.  Hayes says he declined an offer to lead armed rebellion against the Belgians in the north of the Congo.

February 21, 1914 – December 24, 1914

Hayes other two criticism of C. T Studd’s missionary practice carry considerably more weight – perhaps even for those who share Studd’s evangelical Christian fervor.

On March 24,1914, slightly more than a month after his arrival at the Heart of Africa Mission, Hayes writes:  “Quarreling with Studd again.  The Belgians, having cleaned the country of ivory and rubber, products easily negotiable, seek some other method of exploiting the natives under their hand.  They have secured the permission of the various signatory powers who presented them this vast territory the right to tax the natives.”  Though he describes the tax as exploitation, he can manufacture a rationale for it:  “Now one can understand the Congolese contributing to the government who gives them protection against an aggressor and the plague.”  Perhaps Europeans medicines helped the Africans, and the Belgians, commanding native troops, did protect the Congolese from slave raids from the north as would any prudent colonialist.  Furthermore, it is likely that Hayes was ignorant of the extent of the Belgian genocide already perpetrated in the Congo by 1914.

But, even granting Hayes’ rationale for the Belgians imposing the tax, he knows that outright fraud ought to be recognized and loudly denounced by any representative of Christ.  “As the natives are all illiterate they cannot read the date on these tags the Belgians hang about every male neck to act as a receipt for tax paid, so they have gone back five years or more, collecting taxes on the men who were mere boys then, on others who were not in the Congo , but in French and British territories.”  Studd sent several of the Azande workmen to pay the five franc tax “a month’s pay for a laborer” and predictably, “They returned with medals reading 1909 instead of 1914.”  In March Hayes writes, “I kicked, but Studd forbade me to speak of it again.”

Hayes recorded a second confrontation with Studd about the tax tags on August 13, 1914 using considerably stronger language:  “Studd’s asinine ways came to the surface again this morning.  He is a born cad his broad skull base shows this.  It is about the tax graft.”  Hayes does not elaborate on his own conversations with the native workers, only Studd’s response.  As with the harangue Hayes received in March for criticizing Studd’s under-payment of the Mangbettu house builders: “Again he lines up the men, telling them he is boss, to never obey anything I tell them unless sanctioned by him.”  While his hard-won authority with the men falls to pieces a second time, “Both Studd and Buxton agree the tax robbery… is unjust.  Yet for expediency’s sake they condone this abuse, to make themselves solid with the Belgians.”  A British missionary speaking out against worldly injustices in Belgian territory would undoubtedly have jeopardized his work of saving souls.

Renzi “Paramount Chief of the Azande”

Hayes next diary entry concerning the tax medals, from November 1914, concerns native resistance.  “Renzi, paramount chief of the Azandes, is encamped near here.  Rumor has it he is planning war against the Belgians.”  Hayes remarks that “but for [Renzi] it is unlikely Belgium would have the foothold she has in this territory now.”  As a younger man Renzi had thrown his Azande warriors to the side of Belgian commander Louis Chaltin against forces of the Mahdi the at the battle of Rejaf when “the Dervishes had almost beaten the Belgian force.”  Now, as Hayes doctors “a dry ulcer afflicting [Renzi’s] leg from knee to ankle,” Renzi chats of “dickering with the British officers in the Sudan, offering to clear all the Belgians out of the country and install the British instead.”  Renzi makes no idle offer to the British:  “The Belgians are afraid of him.  He has 12,000 warriors ready to attack at a moment’s notice.  Renzi’s complaint is these new taxes dated back for years…”  Who knows what reception Renzi might have gotten had the British and Blegians not recently allied against the Germans at the outbreak of World War I?

And finally on December 9,1914, Renzi thanks Hayes for healing his leg with the offer of ten wives, but as to war, “Renzi  will not commit himself, but his sub chiefs are outspoken.  They say if I will lead them they will wipe out the Belgians at Niangara and let the English occupy the land.”  Declining leadership of a rebellion, the ten wives, and struggling to communicate the intricacies of the nascent war in Europe, “I tell them the three allied powers [France, Britain, and Belgium] will combine to crush them, that they had best keep the peace and remain as they are.”  A Belgian officer tells Hayes that “every [native] soldier in the Niangara barracks would go with Renzi if the latter rebelled.”

Those whose souls C. T. Studd would save find the tax fraud so onerous they contemplate armed rebellion against the Belgians – and Studd remains silently complicit.  One assumes that had rebellion erupted, Studd, Buxton, and Perkins (given his refusal of the proffered “position as prime minister at Renzi’s court”)  would have been among the first non-Africans killed.

Hayes third specific condemnation of Studd concerns booze.  Little surprise it’s his most forceful.