Articles - A Visit To Keng-Tau by M. E. Barber, May 1987
A Visit To Keng-Tau.
By Miss Barber.
The last time we had a chat together, dear reader, I asked you to imagine yourself in Fuh-chow, but to-day I want you to stretch your imagination a little further and fancy that you are about to visit Miss Oatway and myself in out Mission station of Keng Tau, two days’ journey from Fuh-chow. I am on my way back to my Chinese home after passing my examination, and I am going to imagine that I have met you and that we are on board the Mission house-boat going down the River Min. Of course we both want to look about us! It is four o’clock in the afternoon, so we must make the most of our time as it will soon be dark. The first thing that happens is that we run into a huge raft. With plenty of yelling and screaming from the raftmen and our boatmen we are pushed off with no damages to record, and the adventure has enabled us to notice exactly how these huge rafts are piloted along by the men stationed upon them a few feet apart. A slow business it is getting such quantities of wood up this river, and the men look as if they rather enjoyed it. Then we pass a colony of boats–boats in which, small and uncomfortable as they are, whole families are reared–indeed, many a man and women know no other home bsides this floating little vessel so devoid of the ordinary comforts of life! Some of the boatmen, I see, are fond of flowers, and a few stricken blossoms are still holding up their heads in the January wind. There is a huge Chinese junk, painted fore and aft with devils and hideous pictures of Chinese deities–a great ungainly vessel.
Darkness soon blots out the exquisite mountains and the passing vessels, so we begin to think about supper. After all it has to be delayed for two hours, for our vessel is getting into stormy waters. Two hours later we get into the quiet river which will take us to our landing-place, and in the calm waters we get our evening meal and prepare for a good night. Breakfast is over by seven o’clock next morning and every one is busy preparing for a start. I am told, however, that my chair is so battered about I cannot be carried in it. I climb up the mud-bank to see, and there is my poor sedan-chair–the poles completely split, the top of it lying in the med, and the chair in a general condition of brokenness. I have my suspicions that this has been the work of the three coolies who, owing to a mistake, were called to carry me, but, as three men had already been called, had to be dismissed. I am very disappointed, for. fearing something of the kind, I had given the three men a day’s pay each. What is to be done? The chair must go back to Fuh-chow and I must go on, but I can’t walk twenty miles on this misty day. No poles can begot for my chair, but finally we succeed in getting a Native chair–very dirty and very uncomfortable, and with no lack of ventilation! But into it I get very thankfully. We see nothing much of interest on our way to our resting place for the night–Hok-chiang city–except, perhaps, the process of sugar-refining, which is carried on in the open yard of one of the houses by the roadside. The sugar-cane is now ripe, and here we see it being pressed between two huge stones which are revolving in opposite directions. Two patient oxen are steadily going round and round, turning the stones as they go, and the brown juice from the sugar-cane is running into a vessel prepared for it. As we go on we see our coolies buying pieces of the brown cake made of this juice and munching it with evident relish. We get into Hok-chiang city in good time. I forgot to remark upon our dinner-hour experiences in a native inn, where we were an evident astonishment to every passer-by, and where we had the unpleasant sensations attendant upon the fact that every mouthful was being watched and every tiny action commented on. At the church we get a hearty welcome from Mrs. Yek, a dear, bright Chinese woman, who loves to talk English to us’ she learnt her English and her nice ways at Miss Cook’s school in Singapore. After prayers in the church we go up to our rooms and prepare for a night on real Chinese beds–a few narrow planks resting on two trestles: every time one changes one’s position the planks squeak and crack, or seem to.
Next morning we have to wait until nearly eight for our coolies; then only two of mine come–the third man has calmly nove home a keep the New Year in his native villiage near by. We cannot get another man at either of the two villages where we stop for a rest, but at the third stopping place a third man is engaged–a poor, starved-looking, ragged object he is, too, and we do not feel surprised to hear that he is a confirmed opium-smoker. Fifteen miles further on we come to Ngu Ceng, where Mr. and Mrs. Min and three ladies of the Methodist Mission (American)are located. Here we have a friendly talk and exchange the few words which make our faith in the communion of the saints very glowing and experimental, and hurry on to the no longer distant Keng Tau. One hour more and we arrive at the little square white house which two people at least have learnt to love. It is surrounded by a wall as most Chinese houses are, and there is a delay before the big door is opened and we find ourselves in the yard. To the right of us are the servants’ snug little rooms; in front of us the steps leading to the house; and behind us a large native house, which is shortly to be opened as a girls’ school and of which Miss Oatway will be headmistress! Many dear girls are waiting to come to this school and be taught of Jesus and His love. The house–of course you want to know what it is like!–is very snug. Two bedrooms opening off the hall, which runs the length of the house, and on the other side of the hall a dining and sitting room and a room for our Chinese friends whoat present are coming every day to learn a little, comprise our whole domain, but a very well-arranged house it is, I can assure you, and very thankful are its two inmates for their good quarters. Servants are not expensive in China, and we are fortunate to have two who are the greatest help and comfort to us. The cook is an earnest Christian, and his wife, a sweet little woman, quite anxious to learn the doctrine. Miss Oatway and I enjoy teaching her much.
Now how I wish that our imaginary visitor was a reality. I am sure if any of my readers could come to see us and our golden opportunities of service for the Master, the dark little sport we call Keng Tau would be a dearly-loved corner of the Master’s Vineyard. Oh! wont’ you pray for us? Pray that we may be faithful, patient, wise. Pray that our Native Christians may be stirred up to seek the souls of others. Pray for the numbers who call themselves Christians, but who are a grief to the Master and to us! Pray for them, for they have a name to live and are dead. Pray also for the many who as yet have never heard of a Saviour’s love, and the, when definite, believing, prevailing prayer has gone up to God for this corner of His Vineyard, say to Him who died to redeem YOU, say to Him whose you are and Whom you serve, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? “It may be He wants you to go into some distant part of His Vineyard. If He does you are a loser by staying where you are.
May I close this letter by testifying to the intense and ever-deepening joy God gives me in this land? He is dearer, yea! and nearer than ever, and amongst my choicest blessings I set this as chief–that He has privileged me to live amongst the Heathen as a witness of His love towards them. Jesus satisfies! and never more wonderfully than when the cisterns of human love are so far away that it takes six weeks to dip into them! Beloved fellow-missionaries and Chinese “beloved in the Lord” are also “parts of His ways” of satisfying His own.
Source: CMS Awake!, Volume 7, Issue 83. 1897. London: Church Missionary Society.