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FURTHER GROWTH (1862-1865)

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Temporary converts - Systematic giving - Mr. Coffing's murder - The Nusairiyeh - The plan for a college.

THE opening of 1862 was marked by a mission vote of momentous consequence. It was to establish a college in Beirut with Rev. Daniel Bliss as its president, and on August 24th, he sailed with his family for America to raise funds for its support. In April Miss Temple left for the United States, and after her arrival she was married to Mr. George Gould of Boston. On The 27th of July, Rev. William Bird and family were welcomed back to Syria. They had been absent for two years, and took up their residence in Abeih, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Calhoun. In October Miss Mason opened a girls' school in Sidon and resided with the family of Mr. Ford. The Beirut Girls' Boarding-School also opened in October, taught by Mr. Michaiel Araman and Miss Rufka Gregory, with no support from the Board.

Early in January, during the rainy season, the city of Mecca, the Holy City Of 150,000,000 Moslems, was visited by a cloudburst with terrific thunder and lightning. It commenced at midnight and the swelling flood poured down from Jebel-en-Nur into the midst of the city, and filled up the sacred mosque, the Haram Esh Sherif, with water to the depth of sixteen feet, submerging the famous black stone, and with it thirty unfortunate men who were sleeping in the mosque. The greater part of the fine library of Arabic books was utterly destroyed, a loss beyond repair, as this library contained several books not extant in any other library in the world. Three hundred houses and shops were destroyed, 300 lives lost, and one-third of the city was in ruins. Was it an accident or a Providence, that the British Consul-General Wood of Tunis arrested an agent from Mecca with letters on his person proving that the Damascene massacre was concocted in Mecca? This coming in connection with the flooding of the Kaaba is a proof that sometimes the plots of the workers of iniquity return upon their own heads.

January 25th - At that date there were six hundred Protestants in the Sidon district, five hundred in Lebanon, two hundred in Beirut, forty in Hums, and thirty in the Tripoli field. A part of the Hasbeiya widows now decided to return to their ruined town and homes. They had a meeting at my house, and one of them, a consecrated Christian woman, addressed them in language which it almost broke my heart to hear. She comforted them with the words of Christ, telling them that He loves them and will be a father, husband, and brother to them, and if they love Him, will bring them home to rest in peace in heaven at last. She said, "Be patient and trusting; have faith in God; love one another and try to bear up under this heavy load of sorrow." I felt that this truly was the sweet fruit of the Gospel and I thanked God that some of these poor suffering ones had been taught to look to Jesus for rest and peace.

It was at this time that the mission voted to set apart Rev. Daniel Bliss to the principalship of the new literary institution.

A spasmodic Protestant movement took place at B'teddin-el-Luksh, near Jezzin. It was a characteristic Maronite device to stop the oppression of their priests. We sent a teacher and opened a school. The bishop and priest arrested and imprisoned several men and began their usual policy of force and excommunication. Colonel Frazier, H. B. M. Commissioner, interfered on their behalf, and they held out six months, when, having carried their lawsuit against the priests, they became reconciled and returned to Rome, and drove out Asaad el Ashshi, the teacher. This is a typical case. In at least a dozen Maronite villages of Lebanon several hundreds at a time have professed Protestantism, obtained a school, frightened the priests, secured their claims, and slid back again to the old sect with the blandest of smiles, as though they had effected a fine business transaction.

Such has been the case with B'teddin-el-Luksh, Cana, Wady, Shehrur, Deraoon, Mezraat-Yeshua, Kornet-el-Homra, and other places, until all that is necessary in a Maronite village, when the tyranny of the priests becomes too galling to be endured, is to threaten to become Protestants en masse, and then the clergy surrender. Yet each such movement lets in a little light, sows a few Bibles, teaches the children a few hymns and Scripture truths, and in most cases removes old prejudices against Protestantism. The people tell us that the very presence of Protestant missionaries in the land is a shield over the people against the extortions and oppressions of their clergy.

A new movement now took place in the Evangelical Church at Beirut which was a blessing to the people. An evangelical missionary society was formed on the systematic benevolence plan, every one, old and young, agreeing to give a fixed sum, however small, every week. The amount thus raised surprised every one. The officers were all Syrians. Similar societies were organized in Abeih, Suk, El Khiyam, and Deir Mimas. The great part of the Damascenes and Hasbeiyans, widows in the school of Mrs. Bowen Thompson, who were wretchedly poor, insisted on writing their names, and took delight in giving of their deep poverty for the spread of the Gospel. The cheering news from Hums that a multitude was seeking instruction, that two Greek priests had doffed their robes and opened shops, that three villages near Damascus were asking for teachers, and a general awakening in Zahleh, Shweir, and Aitaneet, inspired the Beirut society to assume the entire support of M. Sulleeba Jerawan in Hums. The letter from Hums signed by thirty-six men was very touching. They said that they had been taught by Mr. Wilson to study God's Word and they had done so for two years and now they longed for a spiritual guide, for, "We are as sheep without a shepherd. We are ready to suffer persecution and loss. Come over and help us." A month later hot persecution arose, imprisonment, beating, and anathemas. Many who were forced back into the Greek Church formed a Bible class and were aided by an enlightened priest, Aiesa, who largely aided the Protestant movement.

This was the first movement towards "Christian Giving" in Syria. One of the brethren said to me, "Truly the Lord has prepared our hearts for this." Another said, "There is a great preparation for this among the people, and it will be good to feel that we are giving to the Lord, and helping others as the Lord has helped us."

The Greek priests in Hums, having exhausted all their own means of persecution, had recourse to the Moslems of the baser sort, telling them that these Protestants are Free Masons or worshippers of the sun, who deny the existence of God, hoping thus to stir up violence against them. Mr. Jerawan went and remained for years as their leader and guide, and was at length ordained as their pastor, and in 1872, Rev. Yusef Bedr succeeded him. In writing to Dr. Anderson of these new accessions in Syria, I urged him not to expect too much from them. "The almond trees, now in full bloom, are loaded down with their mantles of snow-white blossoms, yet their fruit may be so small as hardly to repay the gethering. Yet, however we may be disappointed in human appearances, we know that the Lord's promises are not always almond blossoms."

The rehabilitation of the refugees from Damascus, Hasbeiya, Rasheiya, and other places, proceeded slowly. Not one Druse had been executed, and the people feared to return to their ruined homes and confront the murderers of their friends. Lebanon was more secure under a Christian ruler, Daud Pasha.

The Druse leaders, in order to educate their boys, set apart some of their "wukf " revenues and opened a boarding-school in Abeih, calling it the Davidic School, from Daud Pasha, and he was present early in February at its formal opening on Sunday.

The attractive feature of Abeih was the existence of the Abeih Seminary of Mr. Calhoun, a man held in profound reverence by the entire Druse nation. And the first principal of this Druse school was a former pupil and teacher of Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Asaad Shidoody.

Syria was now outwardly quiet. But nothing can give it permanent quiet but the prevalence of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ which is a religion of righteousness and peace. The great bane of Syria is the rnultitude and virulence of the conflicting sects. There can be no true peace until these hostile elementsare reconciled, and nothing can reconcile them but a common faith in Jesus Christ. Mohammedanism has ceased fur the present to be aggressive. Romanism, with its creature worship, can never appeal to Mohammedans. A pure Gospel can conquer both.

On March 20, 1862, the city of Beirut received from the Sultan three hairs from the beard of the Prophet Mohammed, to be placed in one of the mosques. The military was called out and marched with music and banners to escort the wonderful and sacred gift of the Sultan, while crowds of long-robed Moslems and filthy dervishes and sheikhs joined the procession which bore the holy relics to the Great Mosque. The whole Moslem population was excited, and the baser sort uttered threats against the infidels etc., but Ahmed Pasha kept the town in quiet. Some thought that Abdul Aziz sent it at this time, in order to counteract the rapidly increasing European and Christian influence in Beirut which is leaving the Moslems in the minority. Another more likely explanation is, that it is to effect a compromise between the Egyptian and the land route of the holy Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. The Egyptians wish the Hajj to go via the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The interior towns wish it to go via Aleppo, Damascus, and down east of the Jordan to Mecca. This raises Beirut to high religious rank, and as Damascus is "Bab el Kaaba " (or "Gate of the Kaaba"), so Beirut is the port of the Kaaba, and it became necessary to give it the needed sanctity by sending three holy hairs of the Prophet's beard. The effect on the Beirut Moslems was various. Some ridiculed them as spurious. Others insisted that the use of any relics of any kind is forbidden in The Koran, and say, "Are we to imitate the Christians in creature worship?" In 1890, two hairs from the same beard were sent to a mosque in Tripoli and received by the populace with frantic demonstrations bordering on idolatry. So Moslems as well as Maronites and Greeks hold to the veneration of the hair, teeth,' and bones of their saints.

The people of Hasbeiya were notified on returning to their homes that indemnity would be paid them for their losses, but no Christian testimony would be received as to the amount of the losses. They bring Moslem or Druse witnesses. As the leading Moslems of the Shehabs had been killed, and the Drum were the very persons who had massacred the Christians and sacked the town, the case was simply exasperating. The Druses knew that they would have to pay whatever was assessed, so they swore down the Christian losses to the lowest possible figure. It is hardly credible that Fuad Pasha could have known of this iniquitous procedure. But who could blame the Turks when the European Powers looked on in silence and suffered such things to be done!

On the 29th our boys' day-school was examined and the son of the sherif of Mecca was present and after listening with much interest, expressed his satisfaction with the work of the pupils. Dr. Robson wrote from Damascus that the Algerian body-guard of the Emir Abd el Kadir in Damascus has been reduced to a handful, and the emir says, "Damascus is like a fire in the desert smothered with sand. A blast of wind may kindle the flames again."

April 5th - A letter came from Mr. Calhoun, dated Alexandretta, March 31st, telling of the murder of Rev. Mr. Coffing. Mr. Calhoun was on his way to the annual meeting of the Aintab Mission, Mrs. Coffing and Dr. Goodell of Constantinople were in Antioch, and on reaching there, he received the sad news. Mr. Morgan and he set out at once, reaching Alexandretta after sunset March 26th, finding Mr. Coffing already dead. Mr. Coffing left Adana, Monday, March 24th, intending to reach Alexandretta Friday evening. The first part of the way he had a government guard of three men, but dismissed two and came on with his servant, the muleteers, and a single guard. Within three miles of Alexandretta, robbers in ambush in the jungle fired on the party. Two balls struck his left arm, shattering the bone and severing the large artery. The servant had a ball through his lungs and a chance native traveller had his arm broken.

Mr. Coffing was brought to Alexandretta that night to the United States vice-consul, Mr. Levi, and died at five o'clock the next morning. The servant died after four days of suffering. It was supposed to be the work of fanatical men from Hadjin, whence Mr. Coffing had been driven last summer, who had threatened his life.

On the 6th of April, the French admiral took the American consul of Beirut on his flag-ship, the corvette Mogadore, to Alexandretta to investigate the facts as to Mr. Coffing's murder. This act of courtesy was highly appreciated by all Americans in Syria. Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Goodell went immediately on to Aleppo and Aintab to the annual meeting. It was afterwards learned that the murderers were two Moslems from a village above Alexandretta. They had confessed the crime. The villagers for a time defied the government. The two murderers were arrested May 21st and one escaped. And in September, one named Ahmed was executed in Adana in the presence of five thousand spectators. He was beheaded and the Turkish executioner was seven minutes hewing off his head with a huge dull knife. Ahmed confessed the crime and said he was instigated by none but the devil.

The statistics of the Beirut church at this time showed thirty-seven members, a Sunday-school of one hundred and fifty, and a native missionary society of one hundred and seventy-five members, with weekly offerings of seven dollars and a half. I had a weekly singing-class of three hundred and fifty children. We had two boys' day-schools with ninety pupils, a girls' school of seventy, and a dozen boarders in the girls' boarding-school. Miss Mason opened her school in Sidon. Miss Temple sailed for America to enter one of the "united" states.

On Tuesday, May 6th, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, accompanied by Dean Stanley, entered Beirut and received an ovation unparalleled in Syria. The Damascus Road for three miles was lined by tens of thousands of Beirutians and Lebanon mountaineers, and he entered the city with the thundering of cannon firing a royal salute, amid the shouts of the multitude. After receiving and returning official visits, he visited the British Syrian Schools of Mrs. Bowen Thompson, and I had the honour to conduct him through them, and explain their origin in caring for the widows and orphans of the massacres of 1860. He expressed himself as much pleased with the school, and all present were delighted with the mild and modest demeanour of the Prince. In Damascus, Rev. S. Robson, who was in the midst of the massacre, conducted His Royal Highness through the ruins of the Christian quarter and narrated to him the story of those days of horror and blood.

My son William (now stationed at Zahleh) was born April 26th, while Dr. Goodell was here, and Dr. Goodell remarked, "It will be no more remarkable should this child become a missionary and preach in the Mosque of St. Sophia, in Stamboul, than it was when we were born, that we should come to this land and live to see what we now see in Beirut." At this writing, in 1908, that infant is the Rev. William Jessup, of Zahleh, Syria, who has a devoted wife and four daughters, and is labouring faithfully for the people of Lebanon and the Bookaa. He has not yet preached in the Mosque of St. Sophia, which is a church turned into a mosque, but he and his colleagues in Turkey are doing what they can to preach the Gospel to people of all the Oriental sects.

When in Beirut, Dean Stanley called on Rev. Dr. Van Dyck to inquire with regard to the translation of the Bible into the Arabic language. Dr. Van Dyck showed him the New Testament which was completed in April, 1860, and told him that the Old Testament was finished as far as job and considerable work done on the prophetical books.

Between Hebron and Mar Saba, in that howling wilderness, the party of the Prince was surrounded by a body of armed Bedawin Arabs. The Turkish guard made no resistance. The Arabs demanded the surrender of a certain Turkish officer they supposed to be in the party. On finding that he was not there they demanded money. The dragoman then said to them, "Do you not know that this man is the son of the Great Queen of the Angliz?" "Oh," said they, "is that so? then minshan Khatroo (for his sake or pleasure) we will let you off," and thus the future king escaped through the condescending permission of these barelegged robbers of the desert. They could have carried him off to the trans-Jordanic wilderness, in spite of the ridiculous guard sent by the Pasha of Jerusalem, but they allowed him to pass.

We took a step forward this month by requiring pay from the pupils of our day-schools. This was the first demand for payment in a mission school and the people have accepted the situation. It is a step in the right direction and there will be no retrograde.

May 13th we were visited by Rev. and Mrs. H. Guinness. I bought a bay horse of Mrs. Guinness for $39.80. He was strong, a good trotter, but a hard backed animal. I once loaned him to Dr. Van Dyck for a trip to Suk el Gharb. On his return, Dr. Van Dyck said, "Brother Jessup, I would like to buy half of that horse." "Why?" said I. "I would like to buy one-half of him and shoot my half." His hard trot, like a four-post bedstead, thump, thump, was most painful to the doctor with his distracting headaches, and he thought the horse ought to be abated.

Violent persecutions broke out against the Protestants all over the Lebanon and in Hums. In Lebanon, Daud Pasha proved a pliant tool in the hands of the priests, and Colonel Frazier, British commissioner, declared his utter disappointment in the narrow-minded, illiberal course of the pasha, who yielded slavish obedience to the priests. French influence was predominant, and the Jesuits were given a free hand in Lebanon, because it was the policy of Napoleon to support the papacy. As England, through the policy of Lord John Russell, had shielded the Druses from punishment, the nominal Christians of Syria, notwithstanding the munificent charitable aid of the English people, hated the Angliz, and as Protestants were known by the name Angliz, they were persecuted by the bishops and priests of the old sects in the most relentless manner. At B'teddin-el-Luksh, where the Maronite peasants had been ruined by the Druses and their houses burned, a large body who became Protestants were in turn driven from their newly built homes by the pitiless fury of the monks and priests. Daud Pasha, anxious to please France, gave full liberty to the priests to root out Protestantism, Colonel Frazier, disgusted and chagrined at finding himself unsustained by the Foreign Office in his attempts to secure religious freedom in Lebanon, declared his intention to resign and to labour for the removal of Daud Pasha. Two American young men, Rev. J. Hough, a classmate in Cortland Academy, and Carter, a brother of my Yale classmate, visited me in Beirut and went on through the Holy Land. While bathing in the Jordan, Carter was drawn under and swept away by the muddy current and his body after four days' search could not be recovered. Hough went on home in great sadness.

The withdrawal of troops for Montenegro led to an increase of murder and outrage, which the pasha checked by hanging two Moslem murderers in Damascus and a Druse murderer in Hasbeiya. And per contra, a Greek Catholic, who murdered a Druse near Deir el Komr, was hung at B'teddin, in the palace of Daud Pasha. News came of the murder of Rev. Mr. Merriam of Philupopolis by brigands. The English residents sent us a telegram forwarded from Alexandria, that "General McClellan had surrendered his whole army to Lee." As my brother Samuel was in McClellan's army, the news filled us with great anxiety although we did not credit it for a moment. We found all the British residents on the side of the South, and it became very difficult to have any intercourse with them. It was a great relief afterwards to find that the rumour was false and it was an equal relief to learn that my brother was safe and was about to resign and prepare for Syria.

In July the vowelled edition of the Arabic New Testament was issued from the press, marking an era in Bible work in Syria. Hitherto it had been printed without the vowels, so that non-Mohammedan children have found it very difficult to learn the Arabic correctly. Now the Christian schools can be supplied with this beautiful book and learn to pronounce the Arabic language as correctly as the proud Moslems who boast of their Koran.

The last act of the Anglo-American and German Relief Committee was performed August 11th. Sixty thousand piastres were voted for the relief of Hasbeiya widows and orphans in Sidon and Tyre, twelve thousand for medical aid in Damascus, ten thousand for needy cases in Lebanon, the surplus to be devoted to keeping up the Beirut hospital until the next January.

In the summer of 1862, I had the joy of seeing a children's hymn-book published at our Beirut Press, "Douzan el Kithar" ("Tuning of the Harp"). I wrote my musical friend, Dr. Charles S. Robinson of New York, who had aided me in bearing the expenses, as follows: "It has sometimes been a question with me whether the Arab race is capable of learning to sing Western music well. (This is partially due to the one-third intervals between the whole notes as against our one-half intervals.) The native music of the East is so monotonous and minor in its melody (harmony is unknown), so unlike the sacred melodies of Christian lands, that it appeared to me at one time that the Arabs could not learn to sing our tunes. It is difficult for the adults to sing correctly. They sing with the spirit, but not with the understanding, when using our Western tunes. But the children can sing anything, and carry the soprano and alto in ducts with great success. All that is needed is patient instruction. I have had more real enjoyment In hearing the children sing in Syria than in almost any other thing in the missionary life. They sing in school, in the street, at home, in the Sabbath school, in public worship, and at the missionary society meetings. There is a tide and a power in children's singing which carries onward the older people and not only drowns out the discords and harshness of older voices, but actually sweeps away prejudice and discordant feeling from older hearts." Sacred music has achieved great triumphs in Syria since those days. Thousands of copies of our hymn and tune books have been sold; the teachers of boarding-schools for boys and girls have trained their pupils to sing; pianos have become quite common; and the Oriental taste is becoming gradually inclined to European musical standards.

In Mohammedan mosques and Oriental Churches, a woman's voice is never heard, and when the voices of women and girls were first heard in the Protestant Churches, many of the old conservatives declared they would not allow it But that day has passed, and the women and girls now sing with both the spirit and the understanding also. I have often asked whether the idea of harmony in music is natural to the European or a matter of cultivation. It was not known in the early centuries but since its introduction it has become universal. In Asia it is still a stranger. The Arab scale, founded on an ancient Greek scale, gives nothing but melody, and that with intervals impossible to all European instruments but the violin. But education and cultivation are developing a genuine musical taste in the rising generation in Syria which is already bearing remarkable fruit. A Syrian teacher in Beirut and his wife had both been trained to sing Western tunes. Their second son in early years developed a passion for music, taught himself to play the piano, borrowed of Mrs. Jessup bound volumes of music of Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, and Mendelssohn and played them at sight. He then composed an oratorio with an orchestral accompaniment which was performed by the Anglo-American chorus in Beirut. With the aid of friends, he went to Paris, studied, supported himself by playing at evening meetings of the McCall Mission and the Y. M. C. A., entered the Conservatoire, achieved great success, and is now organist of the largest French Evangelical Church in Paris. His sister is organist of the Syrian Evangelical Church in Beirut. He is a modest young man of exemplary character.

Another Syrian boy, who was blind, went to London with letters of introduction to the director of the Upper Norwood Musical Institute for the Blind, made good progress, and is now piano tuner to a large music house in London. He excelled both in vocal and in instrumental music.

In September, 1862, Colonel Frazier, British high commissioner to Syria, resigned and left the country, universally esteemed. He had saved the country more than one outbreak of violence, and was a man of stern and sterling integrity. His health was impaired by his incessant labour.

On the 23d of September word came that brother Samuel had resigned his office as army chaplain after the battle of Malvern Hills, and would at once prepare for sailing to Syria. We were overjoyed and thanked God that the Board had the courage, in the midst of the dreadful war for the Union, to send out new labourers into the great harvest field. The apprehension of privateers on the high seas led us to write him to come on an English steamer to Liverpool and thence by steam via Gibraltar and Alexandria to Beirut.

The Board hesitated long before indulging in the expense of sending out a missionary by steam, and actually engaged his passage on a clipper bark, but rumours of danger on the sea compelled him to come by steamer. He was the first Mediterranean missionary to sail from America by steamer.

In October a Maronite student, Selim Toweel, in Abeih Seminary, passed through a remarkable experience. He entered the school a devout Maronite, full of suspicion of Protestantism, and had never had a Bible in his hands. In a few weeks he began to think and inquire, and for several successive nights had trances, Which excited greatly all the teachers and pupils. He was heard talking aloud after midnight. There was a dim light in his room and the students sprang up and came to his bed. He was sitting upright, his eyes wide open, but he did not notice them. Mr. Calhoun was called, and Selim went on with his preaching. He seemed to be addressing Maronite priests and waiting for monks and preaching free salvation in Christ. After waiting for their reply, he said, "You have now found Christ, pass on, the next." Then he preached to another and another imaginary convert, telling of his own spiritual change and experience and joy in his Saviour, the great change he had met, to the amazement of his fellow students, who stood listening and who tried in vain to rouse him from his trance. His language was eloquent and profoundly spiritual, but the next morning he had not the slightest recollection of what had occurred. After that day he was a consistent praying Christian, surprising all by the profoundness and clearness of his spiritual views, and was full of zeal for the salvation of his fellow countrymen.

In the latter part of 1862, the policy of Daud Pasha of Lebanon became more liberal. He appointed an Englishman chief of police and a Syrian Protestant, Mr. Naameh Tabet, to a secretaryship. From this time onward, Protestantism in Lebanon was at rest from the open assault of the ecclesiastics. Mr. Hanna Shekkoor was made kadi of the Protestant sect in Lebanon. The pasha issued peremptory orders for the construction of cemeteries in all the towns of Lebanon. Up to that time burials had taken place in plots adjoining the churches in the villages and, on each new interment, the bones of those previously buried were thrown out upon the surface to be exposed and trodden upon, and in every village skulls and bones were visible in the little burial places. The pasha forbade burying twice in the same grave.

On December 26th I addressed one hundred and twenty children at the Christmas festival of Mrs. Bowen Thompson's schools, and the same day over a hundred Arab orphan girls at the Prussian Deaconesses' Orphan House. As Mr. Hurter was absent, I had all the secular work; press accounts, post-office, purchasing, customs house, shipping and receiving goods, besides Arabic preaching. Mr. Bliss had gone to America but Mr. Bird had returned to Lebanon and we had the cheering news that brother Samuel Jessup was on his way to Syria and Mr. W. W. Eddy would return in the spring, and thus our ranks be full

again. At the close of 1862, the mission had six stations: Beirut, Abeih, Suk el Gharb, Sidon and Hasbeiya, Hums, Tripoli, and two outstations. There were nine missionaries, Dr. Thomson, Dr. Van Dyck, Mr. H. A. Jessup, Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Bird, Mr. Ford, Mr. Lyons (Mr. Bliss and Mr. Eddy in the United States), and Mr. Hurter, printer; five native preachers and sixteen teachers. Petitions for schools poured in from all parts of the land. The Sunday-school and Bible classes were full of interest. The pocket edition of the New Testament of five thousand copies was speedily exhausted and one thousand two hundred and thirty four copies of the other edition sold. A number of copies of the uncompleted Old Testament translation were subscribed for, the sheets being taken as they issued from the press. There were new zeal and interest in the native churches and the outlook was more encouraging than ever before.

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