THE BRITISH SYRIAN SCHOOLS AND BIBLE. MISSION
This interesting mission is a direct result of the massacres of 1860. I well remember the arrival of its founder, Mrs. J. Bowen Thompson, in the latter part of October, 1860. We had been for four months labouring early and late to feed the hungry and clothe the naked refugees, who had gathered in thousands in Beirut. The city and environs were crowded with widows and orphans. Large contributions had come from England in money, clothing, blankets and bedding. I learned that an English lady, who had been connected with the London Syrian Relief Fund, had arrived in Beirut anxious to do something for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the widows and orphans. We found her to be an intelligent and consecrated Christian widow, whose husband, Dr. Thompson, had died in the British Military Hospital at Scutari after service in the Crimea, and who had lived several years in the vicinity of Antioch, and who had come to aid in the relief of the suffering. We extended to her the hand of welcome and sympathy, and during 'all the nine subsequent years of her life in Syria it was our privilege to cooperate with her in her work for the daughters of Syria. She began at once her labours by hiring a house and gathering the widows and orphan girls to learn sewing and reading. She opened a laundry for the men of the British fleet, thus giving employment to many women. She engaged the services of experienced young women teachers trained in the American Mission "for such a time as this," and soon had a flourishing school. Her work extended to the homes of her widows and orphans, Hasbeiya, Damascus, Zahleh, etc., until in twelve years she had twenty-three schools, twelve in Beirut and eleven in the interior, with 1,522 pupils, seventy-nine teachers, and seven Bible-women. After her death, November 14, 1869, her work was carried on successively by her sisters, Mrs. Augusta Mentor Mott and Mrs. Susette Smith, and was greatly enlarged until there were forty schools, 3,000 pupils, and a corps of Bible-women. The mission is undenominational, although Mrs. Thompson and her sisters belonged to the Church of England, and their English lady teachers have regularly attended our mission services with their Syrian teachers and pupils.
These English and Scotch ladies have certainly evinced the most admirable courage and resolution in entering several of these places, without European society, and isolated for months together from persons speaking their own language, except when visited by the missionaries on their itineration or by casual tourists. And not a few of these consecrated women have laboured at their own expense and given largely of their private means to carry on the work.
Such instances as these have demonstrated the fact that where woman is to be reached, woman can go, and Christian women from Christian lands, even if beyond the age generally fixed as the best adapted to the easy acquisition of a foreign language, may yet do a great work in maintaining centres of influence at the outposts, superinteriding the labours of native teachers, and giving instruction in the English language. The young girls graduating from our Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli boarding-schools and the British Syrian Training Institution in Beirut, cannot go to distant places as teachers and ought not to go according to both foreign and Syrian standards of propriety without a home and protection provided for them. Such protection is given by a European or American woman who has the independence and resolution to go where no missionary family resides and carry on the work of female education.
The British Syrian schools are doing a good work in promoting Bible education, and the relations between their teachers and directors and the American Mission have always been of the most harmonious character. And why not? We are engaged in a common work surrounded by thousands of needy perishing souls, Mohammedan, pagan and nominal Christian, and the Lord's husbandmen ought to work together, forgetting and ignoring all diversities of nationality, denomination and social customs. There should be no such word as American, English, Scotch or German attached to any enterprise that belongs to the common Master. The common foe is united in opposition. Let us be united in every practicable way. Let our name be Christian, our work one of united sympathy, prayer and cooperation, and let not Christ be divided in His members.