A Trial Of Faith.

After this, meetings were held at Hastings, Reading, Eynsford, Bayswater, Hampstead, Tooting, Wimbledon, Coleshill, Kensington, Ware, and many other places; all much of the same character–money was collected, and photographs and articles of birchbark sold. The Chief excited much interest by recounting the circumstances of his own conversion to Christianity. “When I was a little boy, not older than that little fellow there,” he said, pointing to a child in the assembly, “I was very badly off. My mother was dead, and my father loved the fire-water. I was often cold and hungry, and at night would sometimes crawl into the wigwam and lie down beside my drunken father. After I was grown older, a preacher came into our neighbourhood and began to preach the Gospel to the Indians, and I used to go sometimes to listen to him. I thought the words he spoke were very wonderful, and I was so much impressed by them that I took every opportunity I could of going to listen. As for my father, he would not go to hear the preaching, and he did not wish me to go, but I used to go secretly without telling him. One, evening I was going as usual to hear the Missionary speak, wending my way alone through the dark lonely bush. My path led me out into a clearing where I could see the distant horizon, and the sun was setting in great splendour, the heavens all lighted up with gold and crimson. Suddenly, like an arrow, there darted into my breast the words which I had heard the preacher use about the last great day when the Saviour would return again in glory surrounded by all the holy angels. I sank upon my knees, and there and then offered up my first prayer to God. The next morning I called on the Missionary, and told him that I wished to become a Christian, and a short time after that I was baptized. Some time after this I was very sick, and my life was despaired of. My father, though disapproving of my having accepted Christianity, was nevertheless very fond of me; he was much grieved that I was sick, and I noticed that he had begun to think more seriously of the Christian religion, for I had often spokeome a Christian; I had also prayed constantly to God that He would change my father’s heart. One day my father came to me as I still lay sick upon my bed, and he said to me, ‘My son, Buhkwujjenene, I do not know whether you will get well again or not, for I know you are very sick indeed, but I wish to tell you this, that I have resolved to become a Christian, and to-morrow morning myself and all your brothers and sisters are going to the Missionary to be baptized.'”

It was a sore blow to us when word came from the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society that the Committee had decided not to continue the Garden River Mission.

It was to me a great trial of faith to be told that my choice lay between accepting a more lucrative post in Rupert’s Land or relinquishing connection with the Society under whose auspices I had first gone forth. What was I to do? How could I break the distressing news to my poor friend Buhkwujjenene? I went down upon my knees, and laid the matter before my God in prayer. And very soon the answer came. A letter was put into my hand which said, “A friend will guarantee you L100 a year if you will remain at your post at Garden River.” How I thanked God. I felt it was His hand directing, and I at once accepted the offer. The Colonial and Continental Church Society guaranteed a yearly grant, and I was sure that we were being led by God, and that all would be right. I could meet my poor Chief now with a bright face and a light heart. I could tell him that all was well; that the Garden River Mission would be permanently established, and that the “big teaching wigwam” should (D.V.) be built.

The next thing was to organize an English Committee and to open a subscription list for the support of the proposed Institution. Among them were the late Ven. Archdeacon Hunter, of Bayswater, and the Rev. J. Halcombe.

A circular which was issued stated that the Chief had been greatly encouraged by the sum of money (L740) already collected towards the object he had so much at heart, and that the object of the Committee was to further the good Chief’s wishes by the erection of an Industrial School at Garden River, where children both of Christian and of pagan parents from all parts of the Ojebway territory, would be received, clothed, boarded, educated, instructed in Christian truth, and also taught to farm and to follow useful employments. The Committee did not expect to do anything great at once, but to begin with small things, and gradually extend their work as the way might open. The amount required for the annual support of the Mission would be at least L600. It was expected that the Canadian Government would make a grant towards the support of the Institution when once fairly started, and the hope was expressed that many friends would be found both in England and in Canada to assist, so that the poor Indians might not be left destitute and uncared for, but rather learn that it was the wish of their white friends, while sending them the good tidings of salvation, also to help them to become prosperous and happy in this life, and enable them to maintain their rights as original owners of the soil.

These steps having been thus satisfactorily taken and money sufficient collected to make a commencement, it seemed unnecessary to keep the good Chief away any longer from his home, and one day in the first week in August we put him on board a steamboat in London Docks and started him off for Quebec. He preferred thus to go alone rather than wait to accompany our party a month later, as he wanted to get home to see to his cattle and crops and make provision for the winter. I gave him a letter, with full directions as to time of trains, &c., which he could show to any one, and Indians are always clever in finding their way about, so that I felt no anxiety about him. When I met him afterwards at Garden River, he pointed to his little log cottage, and said that was better than all the great houses in England. However, he retained very pleasing recollections of his visit, and often has he since asked me to write a letter for him to one or another of the good friends whom he made while in the country of the pale faces.

When we started on our homeward voyage, about a month later, we took with us a young man from the Rev. D. B. Hankins’ congregation at Ware, named Frost, to be school teacher at the Institution when built, and also a man and his wife from a farm in Kent as servants. On board the steamboat we fell in with a family of emigrants, and persuaded them to accompany us to Sault Ste. Marie. The man was a carpenter by trade, and helped us in many ways, but the following year he fell ill and died. We then took the widow into our employment as laundress, and she is with us still. Our two younger children who had been with their nurse at London, Ontario, during our absence, now rejoined us, and we were soon once more settled and ready for a second Algoma winter.


Topics:
Missions, Ojibway,

Collection:
Wilson, Rev. Edward F. Missionary Work Among the Ojebway Indians. London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1886.

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